Barnes & Noble may replace Titan bookstore

Editor’s Note: This is the second of a three-part series exploring the potential impact of budget cuts on the services and resources available to students, faculty and staff at Lane Community College. Check out Edition 8 for a report on the Center for Meeting and Learning, which is also on the “chopping block” for elimination.

Much like Food Services, as highlighted in the previous edition, the Titan Store and the Bookstore are facing major cuts or a possible corporate buyout.

The Titan Store is losing six-figures annually–it’s facing a projected loss of $350,000 for 2019–as they have for the last five years. It faces an uncertain future that will likely consist of additional cuts that could affect students and staff.

The projected loss–much like that for Food Services–is “probably a bit inaccurate, but not by a large amount,” according to Tony Sanjume, the director of Retail Services.

The reason for this loss is the same as it is for Food Services: a lack of enrollment and subsequent sales.

“Overall, the low enrollment is a contributing factor, so if we could increase enrollment at LCC, then we would see some of our difficulties go away,” Sanjume said. The department, he says, also needs to make it so “payroll [is in] alignment with our sales.”

He argues that this is feasible “if we reduce the equivalent of one to one and a half full-time employees from our permanent staff while also budgeting strict limits on our part-time staff that is set as a percentage of our sales. I believe this can best be done by sharing the hours of two existing full time employees with other departments at LCC.”

There are no plans to completely eliminate the Titan Store, although that comes at a cost to students and faculty.

Instead, Sanjume says that “we may see the lines grow a bit longer,” adding that the limiting of their payroll as proposed to the Board of Education at the January 2019 meeting will possibly mean that “less backup [will be] available to cover the times when the lines are longest, such as [the] middle of the day when classes let out.” Another possible outcome is that certain products will be eliminated depending on future contracts and whether or not the Titan Store is outsourced.

What products will be eliminated is anyone’s guess at the moment. However, one would certainly hope that the essentials–personal hygiene products, menstrual products, etc.–are not at risk. LCC has a sizeable homeless population that calls the woods right outside campus their home. For them, the Titan Store, among other LCC services are critical to everyday life.  

Regarding the Mary Spilde Downtown Center, the Titan Store there “is operating as a service to the students who take downtown classes and for the students who live there. It also serves the downtown staff,” Sanjume said. However, he warned that “it would not be viable as a stand alone store at this time” and that they would “need to see an increase in daytime classes being offered at the downtown center for it to be successful.”

Nothing has been decided for the downtown center as of yet.

Attached to the Titan Store is the Bookstore. Facing the possibility of a corporation coming in and taking over, it is beginning to seem like it can look forward to an equally, if not more so, tumultuous future.

It’s currently safe financially. Sanjume stated that “the bookstore still has a positive fund balance–think of it as a rainy day bank account–but the college traditionally takes money in excess of our operational end balance to help out the college’s general fund.” The general fund being what has kept Food Services operating. Due to this constant drain, he says that their currently positive fund balance “will likely go away after this year.”

“The bookstore still has a positive fund balance–think of it as a rainy day bank account–but the college traditionally takes money in excess of our operational end balance to help out the college’s general fund.”

Tony Sanjume, Director of Retail Services at LCC

But that isn’t the only thing plaguing the bookstore. There have been mounting complaints by both students and staff regarding textbook availability and the ever-increasing prices for them; many having to resort to online retailers such as Amazon or CampusBooks which can lead to the student having to rush and catch up with the rest of their class.

Comic by Quentin J. Piccolo

There have also been complaints by employees–both former and current–about unethical and controversial practices.

Janusz Malo, a current LCC student who recently quit working in the bookstore, said that one of the worst practices were their markups.

He explained that if, for an example, a textbook company sells the bookstore a bunch of books at a discounted bulk rate, the bookstore puts the price for each at retail value.

Students and staff have also complained that their books never arrived, or did so very late. Malo said that often the staff were “told to lie to customers and say their books are on the way when in fact they haven’t even been ordered yet” and that higher-ups have repeatedly forgotten what was ordered and what wasn’t. Making matters worse, he said that “they don’t keep data as to what students will buy or not buy.”

“[The staff were] told to lie to customers and say their books are on the way when in fact they haven’t even been ordered yet.”

Janusz Malo, LCC student and former Titan Store employee

A current bookstore employee, speaking with The Torch on the basis of anonymity out of fear of possible repercussions, corroborated these accusations.

There is a proposal currently being considered by the Board on whether to have Barnes & Noble–the largest book retailer in the United States–come in and run the store.

When asked how a Barnes & Noble “takeover” would impact the operation and its many products, Sanjume made it clear that Barnes & Noble “runs a full service bookstore” and that he believes “they will sell and provide almost identical services.”  However, he did warn that “they will use different vendors in some instances.”

“Barnes & Noble needs to buy out the bookstore.”

A current Titan Store employee

How it would impact employees is another issue. There are currently two ways this could go.

The first potential impact, Sanjume explained, is that “full-time staff remain LCC employees and Barnes & Noble reimburses the college for that expense, but the rest of the staff will become Barnes & Noble employees.” The second option would be that “Barnes & Noble takeover all employees.”

Regardless, there is support for the buyout from low-level employees as some feel that LCC “is running that place into the ground,” as Malo stated. The anonymous current employee agreed saying “Barnes & Noble needs to buy out the bookstore.”

Currently, the Board is looking at the proposals for the Titan Store, however, Sanjume says that “it is up to them to devise a timeline” and that “they could vote or table it for later.” He plans to attend to the February Board of Education meeting to “speak against leasing.”