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IU students share their campus job experience at the Friends of Art Bookstore



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The COVID-19 pandemic has made a typical day in the Friends of Art Bookshop less busy than in previous years. The shop must operate at limited customer capacity, and there are fewer people on campus this year. Courtesy Photo

A typical day at the Friends of Art bookstore used to start at 9 a.m. with set up, bagels and coffee before the first rush of students came in for their morning classes. But even with the coronavirus pandemic altering every aspect of student life, three students are still showing up to work. 

The Friends of Art Bookshop is described as a welcoming environment and a cornerstone to the fine arts community at IU by student employees. The Friends of Art Bookstore is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and is located on the second floor of the Fine Arts Building.

Grace O'Brien, a junior studying theater, drama and East Asian languages and cultures, has been working at the Friends of Art Bookstore since she was a freshman. 

“I had never been there,” O’Brien said. “I never heard anything about it, but I just applied because, again, I loved art.”

After stepping out of her first interview, O’Brien said she knew it was the place she wanted to work throughout college.  

Before the COVID-19 pandemic , her work days typically involved assisting customers with products and working behind the register. 

“A huge thing is making everyone feel welcomed,” O’Brien said. “So usually when it's super busy, it's really just talking with people and helping them find stuff they need or, you know, pointing in the right direction of different books they may want.”

Currently, the COVID-19 pandemic has made a typical day in the bookshop less busy than in previous years. The shop must operate at limited customer capacity, and there are less people on campus this year. 

This has made shifts look much different for the student workers because there are fewer customer interactions and a larger focus on menial tasks and cleaning. 

“Not much has changed in terms of what we do,” O’Brien said. “It's just the amount of people that we see that has changed a lot.” 

O’Brien has been a staff member since her freshman year due to the supportive and flexible work environment at the bookshop. 

She said during in-person classes, having the shop on campus made it convenient for her to run from classes to work. She also said management was willing to work around her class schedule which made balancing school and work easy. 

“I'd say that the people really make the environment of the bookstore one that I wanted to keep being involved with, because I mean I've met so many cool people just from working there,” O’Brien said. “I don't think I would have ever run into them if I hadn't been in that spot.” 

Daria Johnson, a sophomore studying comprehensive design and sociology, also has experienced the strong community and supportive environment of the Friends of Art Bookshop while working there. Before the COVID-19 pandemic , Johnson typically assisted customers during morning rush periods and set up the shop.

“This bookshop specifically is kind of like a heart piece to the fine arts program and the building. Because we’re actually involved with the major, you know people who are in our school, you know some of the students that come, it’s kind of like a family,” Johnson said.

Johnson has been working for the bookshop for a year as a part of IU’s work-study program and described the shop as “aesthetically eclectic” due to the range of items and styles in the shop. 

Ashley Less, a senior in the environmental and sustainability studies program, has also experienced changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic while working at the bookshop.

“It's always something you think about, because you are in a public setting, but I feel like we do a pretty good job at keeping on top of cleaning things and always wearing masks,” Less said.

Less began working at the bookshop and has been for two years now after wanting to stay involved with the fine arts community on campus. 

“I personally really enjoy art, butit's not my major so I felt like it was a good kind of way for me to keep in that community and mindset and still be around the fine arts,” Less said. “I also really enjoy books, so I felt it was a perfect fit.” 

Less said the variety and authenticity of products sold at the Friends of Art Bookshop combined with the relaxing atmosphere sets the bookshop apart from other stores on campus.

“A lot of the things there have a lot of heart put into them,” Less said about the artwork. “They’re from people who really love their work. It's a very authentic, personal environment.”

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