When students need to pick up a book for class, they only need to take a quick walk Uptown and stop in one of the three bookstores that line Court Street, but some Athens residents think a larger book provider should set up shop in town.
Some residents have started a petition to get a Barnes & Noble bookstore in Athens. The closest Barnes & Noble is a 64-mile trek from Ohio University to Pickerington. The petition, which is 60 signatures away from its goal of 200, will be delivered to Athens Mayor Steve Patterson once completed.
“With Barnes & Noble being within walking distance from campus, everyone could benefit and have a lot more options when it comes to buying books, board games, music, paper, etc.,” the petition read.
According to the petition, more bookstores will create higher literacy rates within Athens, one of the poorest counties in Ohio. As of 2013, youth literacy rates in the county are at 88.9 percent.
Heather Wolf, who created the petition, declined to comment.
“I signed it because I thought it could bring more opportunities for jobs and better options for books,” Kaitlynn Fisher, an Athens resident, said. “I hate that there isn’t a book store here like that, just Little Professor and the two college bookstores (Follett’s and College Book Store).”
Little Professor Book Center, 65 S. Court St., declined to comment.
“I can see where people would be looking for (Barnes & Noble), but realistically, most people’s needs can be met by what’s already in town,” Jimmy Bulow, an employee at Follett’s Bookstore, 63 S. Court St, said.
Not all students and citizens are thrilled about big business coming to town. Some are worried big companies will drive local stores out of business.
“Building (a Barnes & Noble) would certainly impact the small businesses in town, like the Little Professor, which are already suffering with the boom of online shopping as it is,” Addy Kruse, a sophomore studying chemistry, said.
Patterson said concerns about big business would depend on where the store would be built.
“It depends on where they wanted land,” he said. “We’ve seen a lot of bigger box (stores) being put in on East State Street. I think that’s fine. There’s a large populous out here and mind you, no bookstore, so that might work.”
Wal-Mart Supercenter, which has a small selection of books, is located on East State Street.
Patterson had not heard of the petition, but he recommended the petitioners take it to the Athens County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau rather than himself.
“That’s more in their wheelhouse to think of new entities to come in, but I would certainly entertain the idea,” he said.
Despite some student’s wishes, there are no definitive plans for the bookstore to move into the area anytime soon.
“There are no current communications between Barnes & Noble College and Ohio University,” Paula Eardley, vice president of Campus Relations for Barnes & Noble College Booksellers, said in an email. “Should the University desire to explore the possibilities of a working relationship with Barnes & Noble College we welcome the opportunity.”
Originally published for The Post on Jan. 30, 2017.