If you have a question about Barnes & Noble College, Adam Basinger, Corporate Marketing Manager, will either know the answer, or be able to guide you to someone who does. Responsible for driving the strategy surrounding the Company’s new business and renewal RFP (Request for Proposal) responses, his love of the archival process is regularly exercised in helping answer essential questions around the future of higher education and the bookstore’s role. Recently, Basinger spent five minutes with us answering some questions of our own in a wide-ranging conversation covering the value of selling pagers, the present day lessons Ulysses S. Grant can teach us, and the questions we’re just not asking about the true value of college.
What was your first job?
I had a number of them. Since the age of fifteen, and throughout high school, I worked at a local greenhouse growing Mums, then I sold pagers in a mall kiosk and sealed driveways over the summers. Those early jobs didn’t have a lot in common, but they all taught me the value of hard work — and that I definitely wanted to go to college! It wasn’t until I went to George Mason University for grad school that I got a job at the bookstore, and I’ve been here, more or less, ever since.
How do you describe your current role at Barnes & Noble College?
As unofficial archivist. When colleges are interested in partnering with Barnes & Noble College, they’ll have questions for us and I’ll usually have the answer — or know where to find it. That kind of research and curiosity is really a passion of mine.
What are you working on right now?
We have a really interesting request for information from a regional community and technical college system. Something like that can really challenge how you respond in developing a thoughtful response in both written word as well as the format.
How do you think the college experience has changed since you’ve joined Barnes & Noble College?
The speed of change is just breathtaking. When I joined the company, an email address was optional for one of our stores. If you contrast that to now, where you can obtain courseware on your mobile device, it just shows the complexity of that change — and some of the challenges that might bring.
Barnes & Noble College has undergone tremendous growth, particularly recently. What are the factors you think that are contributing to that?
I think that goes to the speed of change issue. We’ve had a lot of success from some prominent institutions last year and that tells me that even those leading school are looking for someone who can help them keep up with those challenges — and that they’re looking for someone with the kinds of resources and industry knowledge they’re finding they really need right now.
In your view, what are the biggest concerns you see facing education today?
The conversation is all about cost and the return on investment of a college degree: How much debt are you going to accrue, what’s the earning potential at the end of that particular career track and is it all worth it? There’s less conversation around what’s important to the student — and that seems the most important focus to me, personally. What it is that you’re going to school to learn, and having an honest conversation around that, I think speaks more to the real value of education.
Why, in your view, is Barnes & Noble College such a great campus partner?
We’re so well placed, with so many touch-points across the country, that when a trend starts happening, we’re positioned to move on it. If you think about textbook rentals for example, we heard the question early enough so that by the time it really became a necessity for the bookstore, we already had it in place. You could say the same today for Price Match and OER Courseware, and although our niche is typically as an auxiliary service, we can help the school in their mission well beyond that, tackling retention and recruitment goals the institution may have.
Where do you think the biggest opportunity lies for Barnes & Noble College for the future?
The promise of our LoudCloud learning platform is exciting. I’m still a big fan of the textbook, but I think with the opportunity of analytics and the ability to examine exactly what the student is getting from the class, that’s going to be a game changer. It’s also another way of getting the focus back to determining if a student is actually getting the best value from their academic experience.
What would you be doing if you weren’t doing this?
I’d probably be in a library stack somewhere, making sure that someone can find that particular book they need. Or, if money were no object, spend some time trying to complete the baseball card collection I started as a kid!
Favorite part of the store?
I like browsing the textbook aisles, particularly at the beginning of the semester. It’s so interesting to me to see what’s being taught and the range of titles carried in the store.
What’s a characteristic you find most prevalent in Barnes & Noble College people?
It’s the idea ‘of course we can.’ You’re not going to hear ‘your problem doesn’t fit our model,’ or that it doesn’t make financial sense. We’re very much about creating solutions and, if you need help, the attitude is always going to be, of course we can.
Favorite book, or book you’re currently reading?
Biographies — usually on historical figures. It’s easy to get caught up in the hysteria of the day, and that kind of reading can give some perspective and, I think, comfort. I recently finished the personal memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, and there are some pretty amazing comparisons to the present day.
Most valuable thing you’ve learned at Barnes & Noble College?
That if someone needs help, it’s an opportunity to build a relationship. We’re all busy, but if you just help out, you might get that back one day when you really need it.
Best day at Barnes & Noble College?
The longevity of the people who work here is one of the cornerstones of the company, and two years ago, I celebrated my 15th year at the Annual Meeting awards ceremony — at the same time as my closest friend, Doug Bunk (General Manager at Tidewater Community College Bookstore). That would be a really hard night to beat.