Campus News

New Textbook Center Offers Improved Space and Services

Story posted October 30, 2006

For members of the Bowdoin campus community accustomed to the old dark, cramped Textbook Annex previously housed in the basement of Moore Hall, walking through the door of the new Textbook Center in the basement of Coles Tower has been a delight. With bright light bouncing off the "polar white" and "spring green" walls, gleaming orange countertops, blond-wood furnishings, roomy aisles, and easy-to-locate displays, the new Textbook Center's improved aesthetics and usability offer a whole new experience.

But the journey from Moore to Coles took a year of planning and hard work leading up to and during the summer of 2006. How did the move and transformation come about? And what does the weight of nine African elephants have to do with it? Michael R. Tucker, Course Material and General Book Manager, shares the story below.

Although the distance between the old Textbook Annex in Moore Hall and the new Textbook Center in the basement of Coles Tower is just a few hundred yards, it took the planning, perseverance, and plain hard work that one might need for an Everest ascent to make the move.

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The new Textbook Center had its official grand opening at the start of the Fall 2006 semester.

The daunting task of moving the textbooks across College Street began in June 2005. With the renovation of the first-year brick dorms beginning, the Textbook Annex's days in the basement of Moore Hall were numbered. A temporary move while Moore was being renovated was not an option. New laundry and storage facilities in the basement, as well as the addition of an elevator in Moore, made it impossible to keep the Textbook Annex there.

Director of Capital Projects Don Borkowski formed a committee comprising students, faculty, department coordinators, and various administration officials to study options for a permanent home for the textbooks.

While ideas included renovating fraternity houses, building an extension off the back of David Saul Smith Union, and putting a modular unit on the quad, a Bowdoin student suggested the storage space in the basement of Coles Tower. Site surveys confirmed this was the best location for the new, as-yet-to-be named textbook store.

The proposed space, while conveniently adjacent to the largest residence and dining halls on campus, presented a plethora of challenges. Water seeped up through the asphalt floor, the lighting was poor, and the ventilation worse. Since the space was being used for student storage, the logistics of moving students' belongings was another challenge.

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The Coles Tower basement before...and after.

The College engaged Barr and Barr, Inc. of Framingham, Mass., to renovate the space. Adam Mancini from Barr and Barr and Bowdoin's Senior Capital Projects Manager Greg Hogan oversaw the project's day-to-day operations. The architectural firm of Richard Renner Associates of Portland developed floor plans, fixtures, and lighting schematics, as well as paint, carpet, and finish colors.

Timing was tricky. The textbooks had to be moved out of Moore in time for the residence hall renovation to begin; and the new textbook space had to be finished in time for the start of classes for the fall 2006 semester.

Because Bookstore staff envisioned the new space as the central location for every Bowdoin student's course materials needs, it was decided that it would be named the Textbook Center in Coles Tower.

In the interests of recycling, sustainability, and cost control, many of the old fixtures and equipment from Moore were reused in the new space. Several large book storage units, bookcases, display racks, signage, and equipment were repainted, retooled and otherwise recycled to complement the new space and to conserve the College's resources.

The pure physics of moving large and heavy quantities of textbooks into and out of the basement of Coles Tower proved to be one of the most daunting challenges. About 2,000 boxes — or 50 tons — of books are moved each year. This is the equivalent of the weight of nine full-grown African elephants.

Since the Textbook Center would be sharing the Thorne Hall loading dock with Dining Service, the committee worked to ensure that neither operation would be compromised. An overhang and storage shed were built on the loading dock to protect both food and books from inclement Maine weather and to store large incoming and outgoing freight shipments during the busy times of textbook rush prep and buyback. The College's carpenter shop devised and built custom-fitted pallets to accommodate the older, smaller Thorne freight elevator. Delivery schedules and locations were coordinated.

Students had an early introduction to the new Textbook Center at the spring 2006 semester-end buyback. Though not an official grand opening, buyback allowed students to find the new space, sell back their books, and see where they would be buying their textbooks the following fall. Students praised the size of the space, ease of navigation around the fixtures, colors and lighting, and convenient location.

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State-of-the-art point-of-sale stations mean quicker check-outs.

Promotion of the new location was a high priority leading up to the Textbook Center's official August 30, 2006, opening. The Bookstore held a preview sale for all residential life staff, as well as an open house for all first-year students. All first-years received free canvas bags promoting campus recycling and sustainability, with artwork drawn by Bookstore Associate Mary Foye. Hi-liters, candy, and Bookstore gift card raffle tickets were also given out.

With the move, the Textbook Center increased its selling space from the 1,760 square feet in Moore Hall to 2,531 square feet in Coles Tower. The new space also has more linear shelf feet than in the old location, 1,016 versus 974.

Other improvements include improved aesthetics in the waiting area; cubbies near the front door, similar to those in the dining halls, to dispense with the old bag check system; easier navigation and handicap-accessibility inside; high-speed thermal printers and larger point-of-sale stations, designed by Richard Renner Associates and custom-built by Maine artisans Cyrus Chilton Cabinetmakers, providing for a speedier checkout; wireless Internet access on recycled iMac computers for the students' convenience; more school supplies, foreign language dictionaries, calendars, and computer peripherals; and new "emotional red" book sale bins, stocked with remainders and non-returnable titles, for bargain hunting.

The new space will also allow more cross merchandising between the Bowdoin Bookstore in David Saul Smith Union and the Textbook Center, as well as opportunities for books signings and other events.

The Textbook Center is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., while classes are in session.

Story posted 11/08/06.

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