“Chestnut Hill wanted a bookstore that was involved in the campus community, not one that simply sold books,” explained Store Manager Cristina Lo Piccolo. No doubt, bringing students into the fold is an auspicious first step. For Lo Piccolo, creating a community is part and parcel of Barnes & Noble College’s business model, so the mandate came as second nature.
“The administration wanted a store team that was more personable, one that interacted with students and faculty, rather than one that sat back in their offices,” she said. “My computer is out on the floor. I can see everything and, better yet, I’m available for my customers as a resource.”
Even while the bookstore on the Philadelphia campus was under construction in July, the team set up a tent with merchandise for Chestnut Hill’s Griffin Days, part of its orientation for new students. “We sold out of our merchandise in two days,” Lo Piccolo says. She also found several new hires for the bookstore at the event. “We had a lot of students come into the tent looking for work opportunities. I hired three of the orientation leaders during Griffin Days and then three more after that. And best of all, they’re all coming back next semester!”
While faculty and administration alike told Lo Piccolo how pleased they were to see student employees — something new to the bookstore — she says that hiring students is, “second nature to me. I was a student employee at the Holy Family University Bookstore, here in Philadelphia, and then I worked my way up to manager.”
Bookseller Eric Marcinka was one of those students Lo Piccolo met during Griffin Days. “I enjoy the job a lot. It’s convenient to be working right on campus, and I like helping people get what they need,” he said. According to Marcinka, many students believe that the store has been expanded, when in actuality, a better design and layout has created a more spacious and open feel.
“It’s also a lot more welcoming,” Marcinka explained. “Booksellers and managers greet you when you come in. Students are able to help you find books as well as answer questions about classes and professors,” he added. “There were no undergraduate employees here before, so that wasn’t an option.”
The bookstore also added a comprehensive rental and digital program, which offers students a variety of textbook options. It also stocked new apparel and merchandise, and expanded the convenience offerings. “I’m constantly asking students what they want to see in the store, whether it’s candy or supplies or convenience items,” Lo Piccolo stated. “After all, they’re the ones making the purchases.”
“A lot of people come in between classes to get food,” Marcinka added. “I know one student who comes in every day to get snacks before class.”
The benefit of employing and training student booksellers has not gone unnoticed by the Chestnut Hill College administration. “These students have been well trained on their jobs and are capable of being ambassadors for the bookstore,” explained Lauri Strimkovsky, Senior Vice President for Financial Affairs and Chief of Staff. “And the new signage and the special events, like Christmas cookie decorating, bring students into the bookstore at times other than textbook purchase time.”
Other events have run from the serious (a book signing by Jay M. Winter, Ph.D., a Yale history professor and chief historian for the PBS series “The Great War and the Shaping of the 20th Century”) to the sublime (an ugly Christmas sweater competition) — all helping to bring together students and faculty in creative ways.
“We couldn’t be happier with our decision to move to Barnes & Noble College and what they have delivered,” said Strimkovsky. “At Chestnut Hill College, all with whom we work are ‘Partners in Mission’ and Barnes & Noble is now part of that larger group. Cristina and her staff are responsive to students, staff and faculty. I only see this expanding going forward.”