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Friday, January 14, 2011

I Said I Wanted to Work With Books, part II

It's behind me now, so I can say with authority that I know what it takes to have a successful textbook rush at a great university.

Necessary items include:

The heaviest books ever printed. Preferably, they will magically find their way all around the sales floor and it will be up to the customer service desk people to break their wrists returning them time after time to their rightful place.

At least one student who asks for "that purple book."

A circular customer service desk so that the public can come at the workers from any angle. This also has the advantage of normally requiring the customers to walk halfway around the circle in order to be close enough to one of the computers.

A maximum of two computers working at any given time for looking up textbook availability and location.

A textbook buyback station that can clearly be seen through the floor-to-ceiling windows across the rotunda. Ideally, said windows will be closed off except for emergency and event access, so that anyone who's made it down to the textbook section will have to take their used books back up the stairs, out the front door, around a few unmarked corners and back down the rotunda staircase to get within a few feet of the buyback station.

Mysterious photocopies ordered by the professors that are kept hidden in a restricted area until an initiated individual asks for them by name and course number.

Five different kinds of "clickers" that have never been sorted and all end up filed under M.

Several professors who call to check up on the textbooks for their courses, who are invariably mistaken for students with online orders unless they preface their request with some form of the phrase "the course I'm teaching."

At least one student who investigates all the books for his courses very thoroughly indeed, making full use of the customer service desk, and then tries to find them all cheaper somewhere else.

A large cohort of student workers coming and going at all times. About half should be confident and experienced, and half should have started at the bookstore yesterday. They should be generally friendly among their fellow students, until it gets close to lunch or quitting time, when they should strongly identify with a narrow core group of pre-selected peers.

An almost as large group of retired or underemployed people who love textbook rush and come back every semester, to a 25-cent raise each time until their wage equals ten dollars per hour. Every last one of them should, at some point, regale you with fascinating stories of past textbook rushes or a well-traveled past. If it's your first time at a bookstore, one of these temporary workers should remind you strongly of your husband, because he has dark hair and a very positive attitude, but mainly because you like being around him.

Absolutely zero possibility of any of the employees reading any of the books, although at least one of them really wishes she could.

So, dear readers, armed with this knowledge, go forth and sell textbooks!