The Coop Bookstore, Still Going Strong

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


Written by Chris Carr

In the basement of Johnston Hall—room 037, to be exact—if you follow the line of plucky first-year students you'll find two things. At one end, you'll find an exasperated student who woke up too late and has to start their day at the end of the line. At the other, you'll find the helpful and incredibly knowledgeable staff of the Co-op Bookstore.

The Coop Bookstore has been around for a century. That's not an exaggeration, started in 1913 the Guelph Campus Co-op is the oldest student coop in Canada. Throughout their time at the university they've helped arm thousands of students with low-priced books and friendly one-on-one service.

It's part of the Guelph student fabric,” says Debra McKay, Manager at the Coop Bookstore, “It's a Guelph thing, a tradition of sorts.” Some would say the coop bookstore is the best-kept secret on campus. It sits in a basement, only accented by a modest sign, tastefully depicting its hours of operation with a kind of chalky whisper.

The co-op model is something its members credit with it's success, “You have democratic control of the business,” says Kirsten Middleton, Assistant Manager. “One of us is not as strong as all of us.”

The benefit of an organization structured this way is that their is no single person benefiting from the income of the sales. This in turn brings prices of books down, without sacrificing quality. It also keeps the staff at the Co-op Bookstore as happy as its patrons, since they are part of a community aimed at bettering the lives of students.

The co-op model, once the people understand it, is something they love. It becomes familiar and comfortable to know where the money from their books is going.” says McKay.

The co-op model, “Lends itself to our principles, not just the bottom line.” reiterates Middleton.

Even if they are a little over-worked, they remain happy with their philosophies. When asked how many students they help each semester, Middleton responses, “Sometimes it feels like all of them,” complete with a pleasant smile at the revelation.

The Co-op Bookstore has also kept up with the fast-evolving trends in books. They offer all formats, when they can, in order to give the student body exactly what they need to succeed.

In keeping with their over-all goal of being a positive force on campus, the Save-a-Bag program at the bookstore has been a hit with students. The program gives students the opportunity to, instead of taking a bag for their books, to make a donation to one of three charities in Guelph. The UofG Conservation Fund, The Guelph Centre for Organic Farming and the—student favourite—Old Growth Forest Restoration Fund are the three charities students can pick from this year. However, they may change, says McKay. But, “they all have an impact on their carbon footprint,” Says McKay.

So in order to save a little money, a little chunk of the planet or to save yourself from moral dilemmas, the Coop Bookstore is a place for students, by students and, most importantly, not above students. So this fall, take a spot in line and meet the generous faces behind the Coop Bookstore counter, you'll be glad you did, for many reasons.

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