June 21, 2004

Computer store moving to DUC


By Eric Rangus

Computerstore@Emory will be relocating from its trailer behind the Dobbs Center to the Emory Bookstore, where the new computer center will open, Aug. 1.

Follett, which manages the campus bookstore, will assume responsibility for the computer store and create a space for the new services. The result will be a store that will provide the Emory community a single point of service for purchases of personal computers, books and other related products.

The merge is a return home of sorts. The computer store began as a counter in the Emory Bookstore more than a dozen years ago. When food services vacated a modular unit behind the Dobbs Center, the rapidly growing computer store moved in on a temporary basis. "Temporary" lasted more than a decade.

"There has been a careful review of the computer store's mission and operations," said Ron Taylor, associate vice president and associate dean for campus life, the division under which the computer store falls. Taylor said a work group had been formed in the fall to look at the computer store, and the new setup comes out of that examination.

"Its service components--hardware, software, computer peripherals--have been divided up," Taylor continued. "There are some models nationally for this."

All institutional hardware purchases will be administered directly by Emory's purchasing department. Individual computer purchases and service calls will continue to be managed through the new bookstore computer center. Other details, such as institutional software purchases, are being worked out.

Follett will obtain academic pricing on computer purchases as well as manage repair and warranty issues for purchasers. Software from the Information Technology Division (ITD), such as LearnLink software, will be distributed at the bookstore cashier, and computer store inventory will be selected in cooperation with ITD to ensure compliance with Emory standards.

"Every available service will be repeated in the new incarnation," said bookstore liaison Bruce Covey. "There might be a small adjustment in who to call for what, but all sides want to work together. No one in the bookstore will say, 'Go away,' if a customer asks for a service that is provided elsewhere. They'll say, 'Let us help you,' and they will do what they can."

Purchasing, which negotiates prices with suppliers, always has taken care of institutional purchases. This has taken place either directly or though the computer store, which often acted as a middleman. Under the new structure, purchasing will handle all institutional buys directly. To make the process as smooth as possible, the two computer store employees who handled a majority of the purchases, manager Wade Sanner and buyer David Wright, will join the purchasing department. Even their phone numbers will remain the same.

"The order process will remain the same," said Rex Hardaway, director of purchasing. He added that all Emory Healthcare computer purchases also will be administered by the purchasing department. "The only difference is that departments will deal with purchasing directly instead of through the computer store."

While faculty and staff may have a few more numbers to call, the merge should make lives considerably easier for students, who now will have just one place to go for book and computer supplies.

"It's a big positive," Covey said. "When they come back to school, students have so many things to worry about. Now that everything has been combined into one stop, that's one less thing they have to do."

According to Wendy Smith, director of Emory Bookstores, Follett currently manages computer stores at other universities such as the University of Georgia and Vanderbilt. The Emory bookstore/computer store combination will be modeled on those stores, she said.

No structural changes to the bookstore have been made as yet, but new fixtures will be purchased and space allocated--perhaps in the area overlooking McDonough Field--to make room for computer-related stocks.

"We wanted to keep the transition as seamless as possible," Covey said. "The computer store will be keeping its name, it will have the same phone number and the same website, and hopefully when people call they may be talking to the same person."

Computer store employees did not automatically transfer to the bookstore, Covey said, however all were offered jobs either with Emory or Follett.