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Barnes & Noble to run USF bookstores

Officials hope it leads to construction of a bookstore and three-story parking garage on the St. Petersburg campus.

Published June 17, 2003

ST. PETERSBURG - The University of South Florida is turning over management of its bookstores to Barnes & Noble, a change that could have a significant impact on the school's St. Petersburg campus.

Administrators in St. Petersburg hope the arrangement will eventually lead to construction of a two- or three-story bookstore on USF's downtown campus. The store would be managed by Barnes & Noble College Bookstores Inc. and would be integrated with a three-story parking garage designed to accommodate an anticipated student boom.

"We've had a need for expanded space for the bookstore, and if there are additional services they can meet, that's a great opportunity," said Jeff Mack, director of auxiliary services for USF.

Details of the project still have to be negotiated. Administrators warn it could be several years before a new Barnes & Noble opens downtown.

The decision to contract with the giant bookseller makes USF the latest college to forgo independent operation of its on-campus store. Lease agreements have become more popular as schools look for ways to increase efficiency and boost their bottom lines, said Laura Nakoneczny, a spokeswoman for the National Association of College Stores.

At least 25 percent of the nation's college bookstores have lease agreements. The remainder are privately run or managed by co-op associations.

On the Tampa campus, Barnes & Noble will take over management of the main bookstore, which opened six years ago, and the Health Sciences Center Bookstore, which serves USF's medical complex.

USF Sarasota/Manatee and New College of Florida, which already had a contract with Barnes & Noble, will sign a new five-year agreement.

Barnes & Noble will move into the existing USF St. Petersburg bookstore July 1. The three-year contract calls for the bookseller to purchase the existing inventory and fund a $60,000 renovation. USF-St. Petersburg will receive 7 to 9 percent of sales.

The company also must provide an annual $3,000 scholarship, jobs and internships on the bookstore staff and an Internet site where students and faculty may purchase books.

USF St. Petersburg administrators are hoping the agreement with Barnes & Noble will spur construction of a new store and parking garage at Fifth Avenue S and Third Street.

The store would sell textbooks, provide a place for students to connect to the Internet and offer a wide selection of school supplies. It would carry many of the same offerings as its other stores, including magazines, newspapers and books.

If built, the store and garage would come at a propitious time for the St. Petersburg campus.

The school just finished hiring 60 new professors, expanding its faculty by 45 percent. Student applications are up 60 percent over last year, laying the ground for an enrollment boom.

But the changes aren't good news for everyone.

Bayboro Books on Seventh Avenue S has been competing with the campus bookstore at USF St. Petersburg for 20 years, especially in textbook sales.

Owner Susan Comas said she isn't concerned that Barnes & Noble will soon be managing the competition. But a new store, she said, could hurt sales.

"I guess we're going to have to wait and see on that one," she said.

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