Reading a lifetime


Coline Sperling Buy Photos

Thirty-eight years ago, the building that houses the IU Bookstore’s second location didn’t exist.

In that time, a check-cashing store out of the third floor of the bookstore’s Indiana Memorial Union location came and went. None of the IU memorabilia the store sold made any mention of the men’s basketball team’s 1976, 1981 and 1987 national championships – they were nothing but wishful thoughts. Barnes and Noble had nothing to do with the store – it was solely operated by IU.

But there was always Paul Hazel.

“I love coming to work – almost – every day,” said Hazel, the director of the IMU Bookstore. “Nobody loves coming to work every day.”

After working in the bookstore since the summer of 1969, the IU workdays Hazel looks forward to are numbered. He will work his last day as a bookstore employee on Feb. 15, after 38 years with the store, 43 years working with books and a lifetime in Bloomington.

With about 2,300 instructors placing orders, more than 5,000 titles circulating the shelves and more than 35,000 students roaming the store, every semester brings new people into the store and new challenges to deal with. Hazel said he loves going out onto the floor to help students find the textbooks they need.

“Helping find books, getting books, answering questions,” he said, “that relationship with students, with customers, with faculty – that’s my favorite part of this job I’ve had all these years.”

Jack Spencer, executive director of administration for auxiliary services at IU, said throughout the last 38 years, Hazel has shown a dedication to his job and the bookstore. Spencer has known Hazel for about 30 years and was around when Hazel became director of the bookstore.

“Paul’s just a fantastic guy,” Spencer said. “He loves people, he loves students and he loves his job.”

Hazel said he used to assure students every year that even though prices were rising, the cost of textbooks would increase less than all the other costs of school. That stopped about eight years ago, he said.

Among other factors, Hazel blames technology and the increased use of color photos, clickers and CDs for the increase. But faculty and publishers need to keep students’ budgets in mind, too, he said.

“The thing that has always been a mystery to me is how they can put out a new edition of ancient history,” he said. “I honestly never got a straight answer to that.”

Hazel said his favorite time of year is graduation day, because everybody in the store and on campus is happy and excited. He also said he enjoys working during Alumni Weekend, where he’s had former students tell him stories of he they met their husbands and wives in the bookstore or used to meet with them there between classes.

Men’s basketball national championships are some of Hazel’s favorite IU memories. Hazel said since the bookstore begins selling national championship memorabilia the day after the game, the printers make national championship shirts for both teams in the tournament, and then disposes of the shirts for whoever ends up losing the game. The shirts for the winning team are in the store the next morning.

For the 1981 championship, the t-shirt printer gave Hazel and his wife IU national championship t-shirts before they left for the game in Philadelphia. They wore the shirts under their sweatshirts, and once the team won, they took off the sweatshirts and were the some of the first people to sport the shirts. He said all the fans kept asking where they got the shirts, and the bookstore was a mad house the next morning.

Hazel’s friends said some of their favorite memories of working with Hazel included staff golf outings. Jack Hudson, who works on retirement plans for IU, has known Hazel for 20 years. Though their work-related interaction was always limited to the staff golf trips before now, Hudson is now working with him at IU to develop Hazel’s retirement plan.

“I accidentally hit his favorite golf ball into the water, and he is still mad about it,” Hudson joked. “It was a Titleist, and he found it.”

One of the biggest changes for the bookstore since Hazel started was the construction of the bookstore in Eigenmann, which has been around for about five years. They added the store because students said they wanted it – and because they wanted a place with free parking and longer hours. The store eventually ended up being “too successful,” he said, because they did not predict the large number of textbooks students would demand in the store.

“It was a phenomenal success. We were scared to death to spend that kind of money,” Hazel said. “That’s one of the things that I’ve been invested in that I’m very proud of.”

Hazel’s 38 years in the bookstore have been a challenging experience, and a lot has changed, he said, but he’s loved – almost – every day of it.

“I love students,” he said. “I love the challenge of finding square pegs for round holes.”

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