Outsourcing the Book Store:

A Barnes & Noble Superstore

With last week's announcement* that Penn's Book Store will be replaced by a Barnes & Noble superstore, the Penn Reengineering Project's concept of "outsourcing" University services became a reality. Under an agreement that trustees approved on April 19, Barnes & Noble, the nation's largest bookseller, will take over management of the present bookstore July 1 and operate it at the present location while constructing a 50,000-square-foot store on the 3600 Walnut site. The estimated construction time is two years.

Penn and Barnes & Noble will share the costs of construction and the building will belong to Penn, Dr. Judith Rodin said in announcing the plan. Roughly double the size of the present store, the new one will carry some 130,000 book titles, 2000 periodicals, and an academic technology center plus a music department and a cafe. (See other goods and services.)

It is to be open late in the evening, a move that Public Safety's Tom Seamon applauded at Council Wednesday as part of a larger plan for increasing safety by increasing activity on Walnut.

Also at Council, questions were raised about the future of present bookstore staff (see report). The response was that three have already been hired, and Barnes & Noble is to give first consideration to Penn staff, as Executive Vice President John Fry said in the news release. Three have already been hired, Dr. Judith Rodin noted at Council.

Later Marie Witt of Business Services said that information packets were sent out Friday to the staff, giving pay scales and benefits information in preparation for meetings of staff members with Barnes & Noble representatives on May 6 and 7. Staff who move to Barnes & Noble positions are to receive their current salaries plus any July 1 increase; current vacation or Barnes & Noble vacation packages, whichever is greater; and health plans in which pre-existing conditions are waived. Retirement plans are to vest the staff's present years of service as well. Information is not yet available on tuition benefits for staff or for their children, Ms. Witt said.

Tuition benefits was one of two points raised by the Council Committee on the BookStore at a preliminary discussion of outsourcing, said Dr. Carl Aronson, the committee chair. The other was to preserve the academic tradition, "to ensure that it meets the intellectual needs of the community."

Dr. Lynn Lees of Penn Faculty and Staff for Neighborhood issues (PFSNI) also asked that the University community's needs be kept uppermost. "I hope this will not inadvertently have a detrimental impact," she said, urging consideration of the variety in bookselling that includes the Pennsylvania Book Center on Walnut Street and A House of Our Own on Spruce. PFSNI has urged the University to consider the impact of its real estate activities not only on the immediate campus but westward as well, Dr. Lees said.


* Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News, and The Daily Pennsylvanian Tuesday, April 23. The University's press release is in this issue. The artwork above is from a tote bag on file at Almanac for several years.Ed.


Volume 42 Number 30
April 30, 1996

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