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Meeting the Competition and Then Some

Meeting the Competition and Then Some

New Howard University Bookstore Aims to be Community Asset

The traditional campus store may have online textbook sellers nipping at their business, but at least one historically Black institution is responding by making its new campus store a Black cultural and community center in addition to putting its catalog online.   
 Earlier this month, construction workers scrambled to put final touches on the spacious new Howard University Bookstore. Inside, furniture with Afrocentric designs, plush carpeting inscribed with “HU” lettering, African American art paintings, elegant wood paneled bookshelves and bookcases, and numerous TV monitors are giving this bookstore a special look and feel rarely found in a run-of-the-mill campus store.
The facility, which boasts state-of-the-art audio, data, and video equipment, has had the university community buzzing for weeks about its opening late this month. Not only do campus officials expect the facility and its operation to ease the textbook-buying experience for students, they see it as a community center, becoming one of the premier sites in Washington, D.C., and the nation for showcasing African American authors and scholars.
“We intend the bookstore to be a gateway for the local community,” says Howard University President Dr. Patrick Swygert. “We also see it as a focal point for African American writers and authors.”
The store, which has 15,000 square feet of retail space, has two floors and is adjoined to a cyber cafe that will be complete with computers and computer connections. The store and cafe occupy the bottom two floors of the building that used to be the old Howard University Hotel. Total renovation cost of turning the old hotel into a campus store, cafe, and office building is in excess of $4 million, according to a university spokesperson.
Antwan Clinton, director of the Howard University Bookstore system, says the new facility allows the university to consolidate four of the campus’ five stores into one location. He adds that the textbook and merchandise sales operation will be available entirely online for student access. 
“We’ll be offering the same service as the online textbook sellers. We can do the same thing and more,” Clinton says.
Clinton adds that the store’s location on Georgia Avenue, a busy Washington, D.C. thoroughfare threading through many of the city’s Black neighborhoods, is expected to boost the revitalization of the business district intersecting Howard University.
Howard University officials are also planning to hold official university functions there, and will have the capacity to broadcast TV programs from the store. In addition to book signings, the store will play host to school receptions and academic conference events, according to Clinton.                 

— Ronald Roach

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