If your bookstore carries black shoeshine, brass polish, and waterproof writing pads for use during field training exercises, you just might be at The Citadel. “Because it’s a military college, The Citadel’s students have very specific needs,” explains Bookstore Manager Andrew Beckwith. “But on the other hand, they’re still college kids, and they’re looking for all of the fun, trendy items — like cool iPhone covers and ear buds — that every college student is interested in. We have to make sure we cover all of those needs and interests.”
And that black shoe polish and brass cleaner? “Our students have Saturday inspections, as well as Commandant’s inspections and President’s inspections,” says Colonel Alan Coker, The Citadel’s director of auxiliary services. “That’s important to our students, because a good inspection determines that they get leave time. Barnes & Noble College keeps them in the Brasso!” And what are some of the other distinct offerings? Citadel freshmen — referred to as knobs because of their shaved heads — require an orientation manual that’s both printed and electronic. The bookstore team uploads the manual to a USB flash drive bearing The Citadel’s logo, which knobs wear around their necks for safekeeping and easy access.
“Those USBs look like dog tags and bear The Citadel emblem,” explains Col. Coker of the handy tool that includes the Guidon (a required training handbook for freshmen), Blue Book (which covers the rules of cadet behavior), White Book (which details Cadet basic skills, operational procedures and other programs) and Red Book (which summarizes the fourth-class, or freshmen, system). “Freshmen don’t experience the typical college orientation,” Beckwith says. “They’re here a week before the upperclassman for a highly regimented orientation that’s more like a boot camp.”
New cadets are divided into 20 companies and come to the bookstore with their entire company — academic cadre and upper-class leaders — to get their books. “We work with the cadre to teach them how to help students successfully pick up their textbooks on Book Draw Day,” Beckwith continues. “They get access to all of our options: new, used, digital and rental.”
Barnes & Noble College brought its popular rental program as well as a bookstore website to the campus, which previously did not have these flexible textbook options. “The response has been fantastic,” Beckwith states. “Sales are up and the Commandant, the leader of the Corps of Cadets, has been very complimentary.”
“A great thing about the bookstore here at The Citadel is that they understand our military culture. We’re probably one of the few bookstores where the freshmen cadets – the knobs – line up and have all of their books issued,” Col. Coker explains. This year, the bookstore will distribute books to 700 new cadets in a single day.
The bookstore serves another role, as well: as a de facto welcome center. According to Col. Coker, thousands of tourists visit the school each year and visit the bookstore, armed with plenty of questions. These can range from the date of The Citadel’s establishment to what year women were first admitted to the school, which has been recognized by U.S. News & World Report as the top public college in the south for institutions granting up to a master’s degree for the fourth consecutive year.
“Our bookstore team knows the answers. They’re ingrained in the culture,” he says. “Barnes & Noble College is The Citadel. When I have directors’ meetings, Andy is one of our members. He’s part of our team.”