WSU Magazine — Spring 2011
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From Bookstore to Campus Stores

100 years of meeting students' needs

Jon McBride, University Communications

In 1911, a small, one-room bookstore served the Weber Academy campus. Today, 100 years later, the bookstore’s three locations and online store serve 24,000+ Weber State University students, as well as faculty, staff, alumni, the community and a whole lot of impassioned Wildcat fans.

What a difference a century makes.

When J. Farrell Shepherd was hired as the Weber College Bookstore manager in 1946, the bookstore — a 30-by-30 foot room on Weber College’s original campus in downtown Ogden — was outfitted with two shelves. The most expensive book, an auto repair manual, sold for $18.95, Shepherd recalled.

That’s a far cry from textbook prices in 1935, when they ranged from $2.25 to $4.33, prices that outraged the faculty, sparking them to ask the bookstore to refund money to students.

Prices aren’t the only things that have changed in the 100-year history of the bookstore.

Shepherd himself witnessed the addition of a soda fountain in the late 1940s. “They cooked food all day long,” he said. “The fountain was like a soda and ice cream fountain … drinks a nickel, sandwiches a quarter.”

And students of the late 1960s saw an emergence of new technology sold in the bookstore. In 1969, a Union Building expansion allotted 20,000 square feet to the bookstore, providing space for new items such as typewriters and tape recorders for sale or rent.

Today the bookstore is much larger, encompassing the west wing of the Shepherd Union with two additional locations in the Kimball Visual Arts Center and at Weber State University Davis. You can’t get an ice cream float, but you can get the newest MacBook Pro, WSU golf balls, WSU sweatshirts, and of course, textbooks.

Even the name has been amended to better reflect the variety of merchandise available in multiple locations. The bookstore is now officially Weber State University Campus Stores.

New Technology

Over the years, one of the most significant changes has been in the area of technology. Now, with mobile technology developing at a rapid pace, Campus Stores is doing its best to keep up.

“I don’t think there’s anything more dynamic right now than where college stores are,” said current bookstore director Tim Eck. “It’s a fascinating time. Stores really have to compete at a level that we’ve never had to before. We have to think smarter and have a much clearer vision.”

Recently, Campus Stores added in-store textbook rental kiosks. Students can save money by renting select textbooks for a shorter period of time. According to Eck, it’s only the beginning of technology’s impact on Campus Stores.

“Technology is changing everything,” he said. “We’re around the Corner from everything being digital. Maybe instead of selling books, we’ll be selling the instruments for students to read those books. We’re working with faculty on integrating the use of that technology.”

Teaching and learning from laptops, iPads and smartphones are already happening on campus.

New Competition

Not only have local competitors popped up over the last few years, students also have the ability to buy textbooks online from a variety of sources. Those options offer some real challenges for Eck and Campus Stores.

“It’s a hard sell,” Eck said. “It’s always something we’re struggling with, trying to convince our student body that ‘yes, sometimes you might end up spending a little more, but those proceeds end up getting recycled back into the university.’” For example, the bookstore helps fund a number of endowments, scholarships, labs, performances and other projects campus wide.

“Without that, students may end up paying higher fees and higher tuition costs. So we’re trying to fill holes where nobody else can,” Eck said.

Meeting Students’ Needs

Whether providing a social outlet and eatery like the soda fountain or selling the newest technology, the bookstore has always strived to meet students’ needs, even by offering them a place to work.

The bookstore has a long legacy of employing students, going back to 1922 when a young J. Willard Marriott managed the bookstore as a student.

Campus Stores currently employs more than 40 students — the majority of whom are hired as freshmen and stay until they graduate.

“We get them as freshmen, train them, and by the time they’re seniors, they are doing remarkable things,” Eck said. “We have students who are so sharp and so ready for the workplace because we’ve given them a laboratory to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom. We put a lot of trust in them.”

An example of that trust is in the bookstore’s social media presence. Well before businesses were realizing the power of social media, the bookstore was utilizing Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. That presence was student driven and continues to pay off.

“We get their energy, creativity, and smarts,” Eck said. “It pays off on both ends. The fun thing is really seeing the students evolve.”

Cause for Celebration

Throughout the year, Campus Stores will hold a number of events and a few big announcements to celebrate its 100th anniversary. It will unveil a special legacy gift to campus in September.

“This kind of a milestone is worth pause and reflection for any business,” Eck said. “But our real focus is on building the foundation for the next 100 years.” Although it’s hard to tell what the future holds, he is confident in what Campus Stores represents.

“Campus Stores is often one of the first places people visit when they step onto our campus,” Eck said. “It has to reflect the quality and commitment of the university. I take that seriously. That’s a big part of what drives us.”

Information for this article was gathered from Richard Sadler’s Weber State College … A Centennial History, The Signpost and the Weber State University Archives.
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