With Zulu grass necklaces and prayer flags on its shelves, the Bowdoin Bookstore is no run of the mill college store. Though some school bookstores are operated through larger companies that are unaffiliated with the school, the Bowdoin's bookstore and textbook annex are run by the College. According to Director of Dining and Bookstore Services Mary Lou Kennedy, this kind of operation allows both the college and students to reap the benefits.
The bookstore and textbook annex have been "self-operated for as long as [they have] been on the college campus," said Kennedy. "History has shown that works quite well."
Profits from the stores go directly back to the College, but not necessarily to the shops themselves. In fact, the money generated can be channeled anywhere from financial aid to student organization budgets.
"The net revenue flows right back into the operating funds of the College," said Kennedy.
In addition to providing a source of revenue for the College, the stores' independence allows the staff to cater to what students want. If students or faculty members cannot find what they are looking for, they can suggest it. Assistant Director for Bookstore Operations Cindy Breton said she is "always open to new ideas."
"We can't always do everything, but we can look into it, research it," she said.
Recently, as a result of student requests, Breton ordered hats for ultimate frisbee, Nepalese paper, and Vineyard Vines belts and ties, among other items.
This flexibility also extends to Michael Tucker's role as textbook course materials and general book manager.
"My freedom comes from buying textbooks from many different vendors," he said.
Though it is sometimes difficult to do so in the textbook world, Tucker seeks to provide students with the most affordable textbooks he can.
"My freedom being able to shop [from] different vendors helps us help the students. We can choose who we want to buy from," he said, adding that 55 percent of the textbooks he purchased this semester were used.
Tucker researches each of the approximately 1000 titles he receives from professors each semester, to see if he can find a cheaper edition or alternative. Sometimes he suggests that professors substitute a cheaper title for a more expensive one.
"There's a lot of dialogue between myself and the faculty," he said. "We all kind of work together."
In addition to considering student needs, the bookstore also considers the environment.
When Tucker receives lists from faculty members, instead of ordering each individual shipment right away, he fills up a virtual truck so that all the books are delivered at once.
"Instead of getting 30 shipments, we get one shipment," said Tucker. "It saves fuel, saves shipping charges."
Breton has also stocked the bookstore with several environmentally conscious products. Recently, she purchased paper made using wind power, as well as "Maggie's T-shirts," which were suggested by a student who was looking for organically grown clothing.
Additionally, Breton has also made the "World of Goods" products?items that are committed to long-term economic sustainability and fair trade?newly available in the bookstore.
All first years also receive a Bowdoin Bookstore canvas bag the first time they puchase books, and can use it for all future purchases instead of using plastic bags.