Bookstore Adapts to Serve Students During Pandemic

Gabby Minor, a work-study at CWI's bookstore, pauses before delivering books during her shift on Thursday, Sept. 3.
Gabby Minor, a work-study at CWI's bookstore, pauses before delivering books during her shift on Thursday, Sept. 3.
September 11, 2020

With scorching heat in the 90s, Gabby Minor swiftly crosses the blacktop with a mask and an arm full of books to a student using the College of Western Idaho (CWI) Bookstore's curbside pick-up. This was one of many trips Minor, a work-study majoring in Business at CWI, made during her 10-hour shift on a recent Thursday at the Nampa Campus Micron Education Center (NMEC).

“I can’t express my gratitude enough for the work ethic of our team and dedication to their fellow students,” said Jason Stokes, CWI Bookstore Manager. “Retail on a regular day can be unforgiving. When extreme conditions are added to the mix, it takes something extra to keep going. They were real troopers.”

With COVID-19, the Bookstore had to develop a new strategy this fall to distribute books while keeping students and staff safe during the busy weeks leading up to the start of class, known as “rush.” Stokes split Bookstore employees into two crews of 10 and had them work on separate days to isolate the teams if there was a positive case of coronavirus. The two teams worked 10-12 hour shifts, and staffing levels were a third of past years.

The Bookstore’s curbside pick-up is on the west side NMEC, and to help during the hot summer days, frequently reaching 100 degrees, the team used two large umbrellas to block the sun and had cases of water on hand to help staff like, Minor, battle the heat.

“It’s been tough getting used to the new system, but my co-workers are great and I enjoy helping students,” said Minor while quickly logging information into a Bookstore computer.

Stokes underscored how proud and thankful he is to staff members for meeting the challenge while working with 20 fewer employees each day.  

He added, “It was nearly impossible for the 10 employees working to keep up with the more than 10,000 students we are serving regarding communication. The phones and emails were relentless – I really can’t thank our students enough for their patience and understanding.” 

Stokes never imagined they would have a harder start to a semester than when they first opened the store in 2009, completing the entire process in two weeks. “I never thought it would be more difficult than that, but I was wrong, this semester surpassed it,” he said.