The BGSU Bookstore has had a long tradition on campus. The actual opening date is uncertain, but the earliest records of operation begin in the year 1939, when the bookstore was located on the third floor of University Hall. The library paid for the construction of the store through rotary funds - monies accumulated from fines and profits.
U - Hall 1939 - 1959
In 1946, BGSU experienced an enrollment surge due to the newly created GI Bill. Pre-war enrollment of 1,600 students increased to 3,956 by 1946. In the fall of 1947, the student population reached 4,472 which caused not only the University to find a way to make room for its rising population, but the Bookstore had to come up with creative ways to accommodate its growing number of customers.
At this time, customers came to a window - now the Joe E. Brown Box Office - to request the items they wished to purchase. With only four permanent staff members, including the director, Paul Shepard, business became hectic at times. The bookstore's solution to growing lines was to block off the access to the halls in University Hall and create two separate lines for students to purchase their school supplies - one for the veterans and one for non-veterans. In this post-war era, some items, such as pencils and notebooks, were difficult to obtain. Dictionaries often sold out, and another copy wouldn't be available until the following year when a new edition was published.
"Rush" - the busy time at the beginning of each semester - was so challenging that Bookstore employees would advance customers to the front of the line if they would help bring stock from the storeroom. The employee work area was so small that extra paper, supplies, and textbooks had to be stored elsewhere. Employees jokingly referred to their work area as the "cage" due to its cramped conditions.
University Union 1959-1968
The Bookstore moved from University Hall to the first Union when it opened in 1959. With more space to operate in, the Bookstore was able to expand its selection of merchandise to include monogrammed sweatshirts, jackets, and t-shirts, car decals and Bowling Green stickers, monogrammed stationary, laundry and facial soap, stuffed animals and dorm supplies such as study lamps, blotters and bookends.
Saddlemire Student Services 1968-2002
In 1969 the Bookstore moved from the Union into the newly constructed Student Services Building, also known as Saddlemire. The Bookstore more than doubled in size at this new location which allowed for 13,250 square feet of display area with the ability to expand into the glass-enclosed circular forum during peak book-selling and buyback periods. The 2.2 million dollar building was quite the marvel, and won an award for "outstanding use of concrete construction." The Bookstore also became quite well known, and was featured in The College Bookstore Journal due to its unique home. According to the BG News, it was the largest bookstore in Northwest Ohio at this time.
The extra space afforded the store in Saddlemire came just in time as the University ran on quarters instead of semesters for awhile, which meant the Bookstore experienced more book selling and buybacks in a shorter time period.
At this point the bookstore had twelve full time staff members, including director Paul Shepard, textbooks supervisor Otis Sonnenberg, and supplies supervisor and future Bookstore director John Buckenmeyer. The rest of the staff was made up of part-time employees and students. during the 70's and 80's the Bookstore merchandise reflected and shifted with the times. The store sold its own imprinted shopping bags, and also offered cigarettes (smoking was not banned on campus until 1989.) Vinyl LPs and 45s, Ziggy humor greeting cards, herb pots, tea pots, Chia pets and astrology books were all must have items.
Without the advantages of today's technology, cashiers had to write down each credit card purchase, including the customer's name, address, and social security number. To ensure an 8 a.m. opening, the employees came in two hours early during peak sales times to manually check out each cash register, and replace the punch tape. The switch from manual to electric typewriters offered a major improvement for workers. The Bookstore's strict dress code prohibited female employees from wearing slacks and required blouses, sweaters, jackets, heels, and skirts or dresses. Male workers had to wear a tie, and if they came to work without one, an extra was kept on hand for just such an emergency.
Bowen Thompson Student Union 2002 - Present
Saddlemire remained a great facility for the Bookstore, and it remained there for 33 years. By the late 1990's space again became inadequate for the still growing business. Plans were made to demolish the Alice F. Prout Residence hall along with the old University Union and build a new Union that could be a centralized gathering place for the University community. The Bookstore now resides in the Bowen-Thompson Student Union, which opened in 2002. Now at peak business times over 25 cash registers are available to use to keep the long lines moving steadily. Currently the Bookstore uses 21,250 square feet between two floors. The second floor houses textbooks, general books, music and DVD's. On the lower level the store offers art and class supplies, gifts, a wide variety of imprinted clothing and gifts, and a broad selection of electronics.
Over the years the Bookstore has evolved into a nationally recognized operation. The primary role of the Bookstore has always been to support the academic mission of the University and enhance the educational process by providing textbooks, general books, instructional and general purpose materials to meet the needs of the University community. Since 1939 the Bookstore has expanded and grown and will continue to progress with the times.
Sources: Articles from The Key Yearbook, BG News, The College Store Journal and College and University Business. Past and present bookstore employees.
Special thanks to the following people for all of their help with this project:
Wendy Buchanan- Manager of the Peregrine Shop and Trade Book Department
Connie DiPuccio- Lead Associate
Kathy Dollman- Retired Employee
Tammy Frank- Retired cashier
Michelle Franz- Assistant Web Design
Andy Grant- Systems Administrator
Elaine Green- Accounts Payable
Ann Jenks- University Archivist
Jeff Nelson- BGSU Bookstore Director
Terry Otley- Retired Cashier
Sandy Perry- Former Cashier Supervisor
Maryann Rife- Retired Employee
Jane Schimpf- Assistant Vice President of Auxiliary Services
Paul Shepherd-Retired Director
Aaron Turner- Editor-in-Chief, The Key Yearbook