UConn’s selection of Barnes & Noble College to operate its campus bookstores is paying off through significant savings to students and more than $9 million paid to the University in just its first few years.
The partnership is generating $4.5 million in the current academic year, building on another $5 million that B&N College provided to the University in 2016-17 under the terms of its contract. More than $4.25 million has gone directly into scholarships so far, with the rest paying for projects such as renovations and capital projects in the university-owned spaces that the bookstore leases.
The UConn student body also saved about $661,000 in fall 2017 by getting rented, used, or digital books in many cases rather than new textbooks, according to newly compiled figures – a savings that is expected to increase yearly, as more of those options become available.
The benefit to UConn students is also growing in other ways, as B&N College teams with the UConn Foundation to launch an initiative in which customers can add a donation to their purchase at the register to benefit the UConn Students First Fund, which helps those experiencing unanticipated hardships.
The project kicked off in January for a one-month trial period and will resume again later in the semester to continue raising money for that vital fund.
The partnership between the University and B&N College dates to 2016, when the Board of Trustees approved an agreement in which the company assumed responsibility for all of UConn’s bookstore locations at Storrs, UConn Health, and the regional campuses.
Our bookstore locations are a significant part of the student experience, and the revenue generated directly supports affordability. — President Susan Herbst
In addition to the financial commitments that the company made to UConn, it is also hosting scores of community events, sponsoring and/or donating to many campus initiatives, and employs almost 200 student workers annually – most of whom joined B&N College after having worked for the UConn Co-op, which previously ran the stores.
UConn President Susan Herbst says B&N College’s efforts to reduce textbook costs, operate economically, and make the bookstore a hub of campus activity have been greatly appreciated and widely noticed.
“Not only do we have outstanding bookstores through our relationship with Barnes & Noble, we are also able to put millions more into student financial aid,” she says. “Our bookstore locations are a significant part of the student experience, and the revenue generated directly supports affordability. We could not be happier.”
B&N College’s agreement with UConn went into effect on June 1, 2016. The company operated the Storrs location in its previous form throughout the next academic year, then started a series of renovations immediately after the spring 2017 commencement and continued throughout the summer.
“We literally had jackhammers working on the first floor the very next day,” says Neil LeBeau, regional manager for B&N College.
“We don’t close the stores during renovations because we want to be open to the communities we’re serving,” he adds. “At UConn, there was a great plan in place for the different phases, so we were able to minimize the disruptions and serve the campus customers, summer camps, orientation groups, and other guests who visited.”
Meanwhile, the company also revamped the second floor of the Storrs location to place school and dorm supplies closest to the textbooks, moved the Apple Store and computer repair operations downstairs, and greatly expanded the selection of UConn-branded clothing and other items on the first floor.
In an attempt to make the location as easily accessible as possible, the company also added a front door on Hillside Road and expanded the patio with more seating, while also creating space for the new Starbucks location inside and a 3,800-square-foot community room on the second floor.
Leonard Oser, general manager of the UConn Bookstores Group for B&N College, says the bright, welcoming community room is proving a very popular spot to gather with others or relax.
“There was a lot of office space and back-of-house space that we didn’t need upstairs, so taking that away and converting it to public space provided a nice bright area where people can see the campus activity right in front of them through the windows,” says Oser, who can be found regularly greeting customers, helping register clerks, and doing other work on the sales floor.
The company has also invested significant time and money into work at the Storrs Center location and other campus bookstores, notably the opening of the UConn Hartford location, which also houses a Starbucks. When it opened in August in conjunction with the new campus, it became the first full-service bookstore downtown since the last one closed in the early 2000s.
“That has been a very exciting project,” says LeBeau. “We want that store to be viewed as a resource and venue not only for the UConn campus community there, but also for the city and the entire greater Hartford area.”
A café was also opened at UConn Stamford, where the bookstore’s operations were more conveniently and efficiently grouped in the first-floor space, and its former second-floor area was given back to UConn and transformed into a learning lab.
B&N College has contributed to the UConn community in many other ways as well, including participation in and/or financial sponsorship of several events and initiatives, including the Huskython dance marathon fundraiser; new student orientation, the UConn Visitors Guide, the Connecticut Children’s Book Fair, and many others.