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Jessica Ballou, Published May 13 2012

It's My Job: ‘Always something different’ for Barnes & Noble manager

FARGO – In the sixth grade and beyond, Mary Schimke always had a book in her hand between classes.

She was scolded by her teachers for finishing books before the ending was assigned on more than one occasion during her academic career.

She just couldn’t help it; she loved reading.

After graduating from college, she taught high school English in Harvey, N.D. She moved to the F-M area last summer and worked her way up to the community relations manager job at Barnes & Noble in Fargo.

Q: How would you describe your job?

A: It’s fun, and I’m always doing something different.

There are a wide variety of things that I do. I work with almost all the departments of the store.

What do you love most about your job?

I think it is the variety of things. I love being around books.

Barnes & Noble has a good reputation for being strong in customer service and (carrying) high-quality products.

No matter what I do or where I go, I try to bring that high-quality customer service with me.

People love the café. No one kicks you out; no one bothers you. We just ask customers to contain their stuff to one table.

I think people come here because of that atmosphere. I think it’s what brings people back.

What is the most exciting aspect of working for a bookstore like Barnes & Noble?

I think watching technology change and watching how the Nook has changed the book industry. I find that really exciting.

People want everything at their fingertips, … and with the Nook, they have everything right there.

It’s fun to watch people change. We listen to what people want, and then we find a product to fit those needs.

If I can’t offer them a product they want, they’re going to get it somewhere else.

That’s the teaching part of me enjoying the Nook … knowing the product I sell people really is something that’s useful and good and that helps (others) learn better.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

I think it’s honestly that technology changes so quickly that I’m not always able to give the customer what they want.

We need to constantly evaluate (people’s) needs and give them a product they want.

I have to know all the parts of the business well to be good at what I do. I have to know the answer or know how to find it.

This is the most fun job I’ve had. I have the most eclectic people I work with.

I can’t imagine a better place. I don’t hate getting up for work in the morning.

I do a lot of travel. … I get to meet authors.

I never really know what the next day will bring.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Jessica Ballou at (701) 241-5509