A Day in the Life of Bookstore Manager Donna Huebner: ‘She’s not intimidating at all’

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donna huebner
Donna Huebner stands outside of the Occidental Book Store in Los Angeles, CA. Frida, February 18, 2022. Gray Davidson/The Occidental

Some might think of the Occidental College bookstore as a quick stop for an Occidental sweatshirt or license frame; but for the manager of the bookstore, Donna Huebner, it is where she has worked for 27 years. According to Huebner, the bookstore handles many tasks ranging from onboarding new students to planning commencement ceremonies, to providing goods like care packages and balloons.

Huebner said since her first day, she has always loved the excitement and bustle that comes with working at the bookstore, especially at peak seasons like the beginning of the school year, or graduation in the spring.

“I absolutely love the excitement and the busyness of everybody coming in and out and choosing clothing that everybody in their family is going to wear,” Huebner said.

donna in the bookstore
Donna Huebner organizes and stocks the shelves in the Occidental Book Store in Los Angeles, CA. Frida, February 18, 2022. Gray Davidson/The Occidental

10:30 a.m.

Huebner said she depends on her staff to make sure the store is opened because she stays late most days to get more done after hours.

At the beginning of each day, Huebner talks with her employees and sets an agenda for the day.

“I try to check in with the students regularly,” Huebner said. “[To] see how they’re doing because their studies come first, and to make sure that they’re doing well.”

Leslie Garcia (sophomore) said Huebner welcomed her to Occidental with open arms.

“[As a freshman] it was really intimidating because I never spoke to anybody from Oxy,” Garcia said. “But during the interview process, she was really friendly and welcoming, and I got to know that within the next few days of working with her.”

Sam Saunders (first year), one of Huebner’s recent hires, said while she and the other student employees handle customer service, Huebner is always there to help out.

“If people come in with an issue, we try and solve it,” Saunders said. “If we can’t, we get Donna — she gets up, she does her thing.”

donna in the bookstore
Donna Huebner helps a student out with a bookstore job application in the Occidental Book Store in Los Angeles, CA. Frida, February 18, 2022. Gray Davidson/The Occidental

While her student employees are busy working at the register and maintaining the sales floor, Donna tackles the more administrative tasks.

“I take care of ordering anything with the college logo on it,” Huebner said. “The clothing takes a lot of time because in most cases you have to order three to eight months in advance. It’s kind of a guessing game. I also take care of regular gifts, so things like the Hydro Flasks, which are very popular among the students.”

oxy hoodies
Newly stocked tie dye Occidental pullovers on display in the Occidental Book Store in Los Angeles, CA. Frida, February 18, 2022. Gray Davidson/The Occidental

Saunders said Huebner clearly cares about her student workers.

“I was out for a week and was not super responsive because I had a relative pass [away], and she was really checking in on me,” Saunders said. “[She cared about] more than just the business so that was very nice.”

Jack Bartlett (first year) said he has heard from several people that they are intimidated by Huebner.

“But then you meet her, and she’s not intimidating at all,” Bartlett said. “She came out one day and was like, ‘Have I told you all of my funny knock knock jokes that I saw on Tik Tok?’ And I was like, ‘No.’ And then she told all of them.”

Saunders said Huebner can recreate a number of accents.

“A British [accent] or a New Yorker [accent],” Saunders said. “She’s really driven with her work also. She has a really good memory. She knows where everything is, and how to do everything. I don’t know how she does that.”

donna at the grad fair
Donna Huebner helps a student at the Occidental Grad Fair ’22 in Los Angeles, CA. Thursday February 17, 2022 Gray Davidson/The Occidental

Huebner said she could not do her job without her students. She loves to talk to students about their lives and school work.

“Their minds are expanding every day, and so they’re very interesting to talk to and to work with,” Huebner said. “They’re interested in a wide variety of things in college, more so than they would be after they graduate.”

Noon

On the slower days, Donna said she usually has time to enjoy the atmosphere of the Academic Quad. Sometimes she takes a walk or sits on a bench under a tree with an iced mocha with whipped cream from the Tiger Cooler during a late lunch break.

“Some days I’m so busy, I barely have time for lunch,” Huebner said. “[Some days I’m] able to step away for a short time and enjoy the beautiful flowers and birds.”

Huebner said her slower afternoons do not mean she has less work to do but that she can get away with focusing on just one thing.

“I have so many hats that I wear,” Huebner said.

donna at the grad fair
Donna Huebner helps organize and construct the Occidental Grad Fair ‘22 in Los Angeles, CA. Thursday February 17, 2022 Gray Davidson/The Occidental

8:30 p.m.

Huebner said her official scheduled time ends at 6:30 p.m., though she often stays until about 8–9 p.m to catch up on paperwork, emails or restocking merchandise.

Huebner said she will always love working at the bookstore with the help of her student workers.

“You can’t ever get bored when every day is different,” Huebner said.