For a hundred years the Washington State University student-owned bookstore, affectionately known as “the Bookie,” has served as a social hub, a source of funds for the student body and, of course, the place to get textbooks and supplies.
Since it opened in 1914, the Bookie has had several homes and sold thousands of books, baseball caps, fancy fountain pens, and frozen treats. But many former students remember best those iconic Bookie bags, the Cougar gear, and the coffee. Even though the bookstore doesn’t hand them out any longer, many also remember those crisp Bookie bucks that filled their wallets at the end of each semester when they sold back their books.
In April 1914, the Associated Students at the college voted to invest $2,000 in a co-op bookstore on campus which would sell books, supplies and, as an Evergreen ad from that year noted, “hot chocolate, milk shakes, ice cream, soft drinks, and sandwiches.” The Students’ Book Corporation (SBC) became an instant hit for students who saved 10 percent on all student supplies.
The original Bookie operated in a small wood-frame building on the present site of Wilmer Hall until 1923, when a new brick building was constructed next to the music conservatory and financed by the Associated Students for nearly $30,000. A larger two-level red brick bookstore was erected in the same location in 1954. The Bookie remained there until 2008, when it moved into its present location in the remodeled Compton Union Building. Now there are also branch Bookies at WSU Tri-Cities, Spokane, and Vancouver.
The old Bookie’s coffee shop, with its soda fountain and high-backed booths, attracted droves of students seeking coffee or Cokes and company. It was a de facto student union before an official one, the CUB, was built after World War II. A 1936 Evergreen story reported the shop sold 600 cups of coffee on an average day.
The original store sold pennants and other spirit gear, just as the current Bookie sells Cougar clothes and paraphernalia. The Bookie also continues its tradition as a coffee and meeting place, only now with a Starbucks inside the bookstore.
Around a table there, Leslie Martin, Bookie manager and an employee for 17 years, reflects with SBC board chair and doctoral student Richie Liu and undergraduate director Lindsay Elhart on what the Bookie means for WSU’s students.
“With e-books and online stores, the role of the college bookstore changes all the time,” says Martin. But the Bookie has always been focused on saving the students money by finding the lowest priced textbooks, and now offers a textbook rental service, she says. Students also still realize a 10 percent discount on all textbooks. Even though bookseller Barnes & Noble, Inc., now manages the store, it has always been owned by students.
The Bookie returns a 10 percent dividend to the student body, says Elhart, a senior in finance. Last year, the SBC gave $85,000 to the Associated Students of WSU, which used the money to install traffic crosswalk lights along Stadium Way.
In honor of a hundred years of service, the student-run SBC board presented a $100,000 dividend to the WSU student body this year. And in April, the Bookie staff handed out free ice cream and retro baseball shirts bearing the old Washington State College logo. There’s reason to celebrate, says Liu. It’s all with the purpose of reminding the campus that students own the bookstore and reap its benefits.