Though the campus bookstore may look the same on the outside, big changes have been made behind the scenes. Effective December 1, 2012, the university no longer owns the bookstore.
Bookstore manager Derek Myers said the school has been in partnership with Tree of Life for about three years.
“Tree of Life is a small Christian company based in Indiana that essentially oversees the textbook industry and general merchandise at smaller Christian liberal arts institutions,” Myers said.
Myers explained that the company once consulted the bookstore, but has taken over all store business.
“Think of it as Tree of Life leasing this space and paying for the rights to be Malone’s bookstore,” he said.
Myers said that with a change like this, certain logistical changes must occur.
“The biggest thing that students might see is that there will potentially be more limited access to how you can charge your student account, because the government regulates what Malone collects on student accounts,” Myers said.
“Most likely, it will be two weeks before your class start date and four weeks after your class start date that you’ll be able to charge to your student account,” he said. “Whereas currently, you can charge at any point in the semester for textbooks and office supplies.”
Myers said that Tree of Life has not changed the way pricing is done, but that there may be more promotions for the bookstore around campus.
Before this change, the university had to spend around $300,000 to $400,000 each semester on books and slowly receive that money back as students purchased course texts.
“Malone has had smaller enrollment numbers for the last few years, they are aware of budgets, and it’s not the best economy,” Myers said. “The outsourcing essentially frees up that expense towards textbooks each semester.”
The transition has also meant a decrease in the size of the staff. The company has taken over accounting and merchandise ordering.
“We’re focusing on customer interaction and faculty interaction, so we have less need for labor in the bookstore,” he said.
Bookstore sales associate Kathy Secrest has worked for the university since graduating high school, but is now considered a Tree of Life employee.
“It’s bittersweet. I’ve been employed by Malone for 35 years,” Secrest said. “But I’m also excited about the next chapter and working with Tree of Life. I think it’s going to be exciting. It’s a good company, and I’m really impressed with all the people I’ve met from Tree of Life.”
Secrest works closeIy with professors as they order books for their courses, and the majority of her responsibilities have not changed with this transition.
Secrest said that she thinks that students will be pleased with the results of these changes.
“You aren’t going to see a lot of changes,” she said. “They’re trying to make this transaction go as smoothly as possible for everybody.”
Sophomore nursing student Jessica Fogle has been an employee of the bookstore since August 2011. Student workers were informed about the changes in early November.
For Fogle, one of these benefits is that she can remain employed by the store even when she moves off campus for the Spring 2013 semester.
“They will be able to hire me under Tree of Life as an employee, so I’ll be able to keep my job,” Fogle said.
Fogle said that she thinks the change has been a positive one.
“No one’s going to think differently of the bookstore. Students shouldn’t even notice a change,” she said. “There will be some benefits for students as well as people who work in the bookstore.”
“The bookstore is going to stay the same,” Fogle said. “It’s still the Malone University bookstore, but the company Tree of Life is taking it over.”