Big bookstore on the block

U of W’s never ending expansion program now includes a bookstore, but will students lose out when selling their used books?

The now-empty shelves of the U of W Bookstore will soon be relocated to a renovated location in the Greyhound bus depot. The bookstore was only one of the expansion projects approved in the 2009/2010 Capital Budget. Mark Reimer

Downtown Winnipeg is getting another facelift: soon it will be home to one of the largest bookstores in the area, a brand-spanking new art gallery and more classrooms.

The bookstore –serving students, area residents and office workers – along with classrooms and other services will be in a newly-refurbished space in the Greyhound bus depot.

“The opportunity for students, staff and faculty will be better and the quality of the layout will be better,” U of W’s acting vice president of finance and administration Bill Balan said of the bookstore.

The classrooms and relocated Plug-In Institute of Contemporary Art Gallery will be housed in a new three-storey building constructed to a minimum Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver Standard. The building will stand at the corner of Portage Avenue and Colony Street, in the spot formerly occupied by United Army Surplus Sales.

The projects were part of the $75 million operating budget recently approved in the 2009/2010 Capital Budget.

The University of Winnipeg Bookstore will keep its current name even though it will be managed by new partner Follett Higher Education Group. Follett is a family-owned bookstore provider that manages more than 800 bookstores in the United States and Canada.

“We bring a lot of strength that will benefit students, especially with the used book program,” said Follett’s regional manager Kim Quarrie. “We are looking forward to partnering with the student government and are looking to benefit all students.”

Quarrie didn’t have details about the new bookstore’s used book prices, and said they do not offer individualized programs for each university or college institution.

She is confident, however, about some of the bookstore’s new products.

“We are going to expand the merchandise selection and we want to know from the students if we do have the right selection.”

Balan said Follett will only make minor changes, like “managing [the bookstore] through a managing contract and they will be moving into facilities three times the size of its current location.”

One of the key changes will be the use of online sales.

“As students register, students go online to place their book orders and they get delivered to their home or for pickup at the university,” Balan said. “The university could not have developed the online program because it is an expensive process. What is so great is that the long lineups in the bookstore will be eliminated and they will have a larger inventory.”

University of Winnipeg Students’ Association (UWSA) vice president advocate David EisBrenner is unsure whether Petrified Sole, the student-run used bookstore, will be affected.

“We’ll have to wait and see how Follett does used books,” he said.

For their part, some students seem sentimental about their used bookstore of choice.

“I always go to Petrified Sole to sell my books and texts and it’s the first place I go to find a cheap book,” said third-year U of W communications student Nicki Dola.

“I hope the new expansion project doesn’t affect Petrified Sole because that place is great for students who don’t want to go to the Cash for Books stand and get $15 for a $150 text book.”

“We are glad that the student government offers a service like Petrified Sole,” Follett’s Quarrie said. “We currently have $100,000 of inventory in used books where the students can have daily buy backs.”

Follett’s four newest partners are the University of Winnipeg; Southern University at Shreveport, Louisiana; South Louisiana Community College in Lafayette, Louisiana; and Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado. The Assiniboine Community College in Brandon, Manitoba is also a newer partner.

Published in Volume 63, Number 29 of The Uniter (July 16, 2009)

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