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GRCC bookstore changing hands

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The line of students waiting to enter the GRCC Bookstore and Student Life Office during the 2021 Raider Rally (Anthony Clark Jr./The Collegiate)

This summer Barnes and Noble will be taking over operation of the Grand Rapids Community College bookstore according to a five-year contract GRCC signed with the bookseller. 

GRCC’s contract with Follett, the company that has managed the bookstore since, expires in June. 

Over the next coming weeks GRCC will start the transition process. The final day that Follett will be operating the bookstore will be on June 3. From June 6-10, the bookstore will be closed for the transition and will reopen on June 15. The contract officially begins on July 1 while the contract for Follett ends on June 30. 

With Follett’s contract coming to an end, GRCC sent out a request for proposals to any potential companies interested in operating the GRCC bookstore, with Barnes and Noble and Follett being the only two to respond who had an on-premise bookstore. A third company reached out, but that business was completely virtual. After an interview process and going through the request for proposals, GRCC chose to go with Barnes and Noble. 

“The bookstore team that we put together to work on this process, including members of my finance and admin team as well as faculty as well as some our support staff across the institution, determined that we really wanted to maintain some sort of on-premise, so we really looked at Follett and Barnes and Noble,” said Vice President for Finance and Administration Lisa Freiburger. “(We) compared the two request for proposals and the team, based on a very specific rubric to evaluate, scored Barnes and Noble higher than Follett thus we made the change.” 

GRCC President Bill Pink emphasized that just because there was a change, doesn’t mean the college was unhappy with Follett. They just ultimately decided to go with Barnes and Noble following the selection process. 

“It was part of our normal process,” Pink said. “It didn’t have anything to do with, ‘We’re mad, let’s do something different,’ it was a part of the normal process to review and then you sometimes find through your review… something that seems to work better for you.”

During The Collegiate’s recent interview with Freiburger, GRCC Communications Director Dave Murray was also in attendance. Murray said students can expect to get a different retail experience with the change. 

“One of the things they talked about was creating a different type of retail experience,” Murray said. “Follett and Barnes and Noble are the two big companies around the country that do this, usually it’s one (or) the other in colleges, so they both have a lot of experience in doing this. Barnes and Noble, of course, with its other bookstores… are really good at the retail part of it, so I expect students will be able to see a little different type of setup and somewhat orientated approach in the new bookstore.” 

One change that could affect students is employment at the bookstore. Employment is up to the company, so currently the bookstore is employed by people under Follett, and GRCC doesn’t have any say when it comes to student employees. This means that student employees might have to reapply if they are interested in continuing when Barnes and Noble takes over. Because managers are under Follett, they will be relocated and will lose employment at GRCC. 

One manager has already left GRCC following the news, and has moved to another Follett store according to Freiburger.  

GRCC’s current acting bookstore manager, Hugh Jenkins, said in an email to the Collegiate that, “there is not a lot we can contractually say about the situation other than Follett will miss having the opportunity to serve the outstanding staff and student body of GRCC.”

In the contract it states, “Barnes and Noble College will provide exclusive custom publishing services for Institution course packs. Such services will include the development of course packs for faculty members, securing the appropriate copyright clearances, printing and binding of course packs, and distribution and sale of the course packs in the Bookstore.” Until now, course packs have been printed by the college’s inhouse print shop, GRCC ePRINT. When asked about how this could affect GRCC ePRINT, Freiburger said that it wouldn’t have much impact as she believes Barnes and Noble will continue to go through the college’s printing services. 

“We have negotiated as part of this that our services will continue to print those course packs because we can do it less expensively for students,” Freiburger said. 

GRCC ePRINT Director, Danelle Sedore said that in a meeting she was told that Barnes and Noble would try to stay local for their printing services. Barnes and Noble and GRCC ePRINT will try to come up with a mutually agreeable rate. Sedore says they have yet to get to that point. 

“In the conversation they said they would like to stay local if that is financially feasible for them, so currently they are looking at what we charge and services we provide and what they would like to provide to have us maybe print the course packs,” Sedore said. 

Sedore says that it will just be a matter of time to see if there are any major effects on GRCC ePRINT, but she knows that it could cost them some revenue because Barnes and Noble will do file preparation instead of GRCC ePRINT. 

“I know they do want to do all the file preparation, so with us not doing that, that would definitely reduce our revenue because we’re not charging for that service now,” Sedore said. “As far as what other kind of negative, it’s too soon to really say.” 

Continuing through the Barnes and Noble contract, it says that Barnes and Noble will pay GRCC annually 10.1% of all Gross Sales up to $2 million, 12.1% of all Gross Sales from $2 million to $3 million, and 14.1% of all Gross Sales over $3 million. In contrast, the Follett contract, paid GRCC 10% of all Commissionable Sales up to $3 million, 11% of any part of Commissionable Sales over $3 million but less than $5 million, and 12% of any part of Commissionable Sales over $5 million. 

Based on estimated numbers, Freiburger doesn’t believe there will be much change in the commission for the college. 

According to the contract, Barnes and Noble will be given $99,000 to “design, construct, equip, and install fixtures.” Barnes and Noble is expected to make changes to the current bookstore, but Freiburger doesn’t know where those funds will be allocated and that is up to the company to decide where they go. 

GRCC was offered a $50,000 signing bonus, and Freiburger is unsure of where GRCC will use these funds as of right now. 

Barnes and Noble will be giving $10,000 for annual textbook scholarships compared to $20,000 with Follett. Even though there is a smaller amount, Freiburger said that it wouldn’t affect GRCC students.

To find more information about the GRCC bookstore, visit here.

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