On the sunny afternoon of August 31, four Allegheny tour guides sat in the Admissions Office doing homework to the sound of construction drills droning through the window. The office supervisor walked in.
“Would someone go to the Print Shop and drop this off, please?”
“Sure,” said Paul Roveda, ’13, standing up to take the delivery. The supervisor thanked him and walked away. Roveda turned to leave, stared at the window for a moment, and then quietly asked,
“Where is the Print Shop?”
Allegheny College Printing Services is located on the bottom left side of Oddfellows Hall and has been there since 2006, according to Manager of Printing Services Mark Pritchard. The office prints frequently for Admissions, Conference and Events, Public Affairs, Athletics and several more departments on campus. They print posters for theater performances, student recitals, and Single Voice Readings. They produce student publications like Overkill, department publications such as Film Criticism, and Greek alumni letters like the Beti Chi Banner. They print student comprehensive projects [comps]. They have printed and bound 1,450 student course packets so far this year. And no one seems to know they’re here.
“I’ve worked to get our office onto the Admissions tours because not every college has their own print shop,” Pritchard said. “It gets time to print comps and students don’t know we exist.”
Pritchard insists his office is the best choice for students to print their comps.
“The comp copy for your reader is free and it’s free to bind your original copy,” Pritchard said. “If you want copies for mom and dad, those are extra, but off campus, you’d have to pay for everything and that can get expensive.”
The fact that the Print Shop operates right on campus adds to the personal nature of the job.
“We know how departments want their jobs done,” Pritchard said. “We know how professors want their orders and you’re not going to have that with anyone else. At Staples, they’re not gonna care less.”
The busiest times of the year for the Print Shop are comp season and the three to four week period before students arrive on campus.
“We get swamped with course packs, logistic forms, parent letters, all that stuff,” Pritchard said. “There’s been a lot of short notice projects too. Someone might want something with time-sensitive information when we’re really busy. It happens a lot. The volume of work keeps growing so we hired one more student this year.”
The office gets through those hectic weeks by working together and being able to do each other’s jobs.
“We all have specialties, though,” Pritchard said. “I answer the phone, I order all the paper and supplies, billing, layout, color, I run posters, I sweep the floor…”
The list goes on.
Matt McKay, ’11, has worked at the Print Shop for three years. He walked into the office in the fall of his sophomore year and asked if they needed anyone to help out with physical labor.
“I never dread anything when I go there since I know how everything works, but in the beginning I was nervous about messing up a poster or something like that,” McKay said. “I like working at the Print Shop because I always get to see students when they stop in and I get to run errands and visit different buildings and people. Also, I know the workers well now and it makes for a comfortable atmosphere.”
The atmosphere does remain surprisingly comfortable, despite the collection of humming printers packing the office. One looks like a rocket ship. One looks like a meat grinder. There’s a booklet maker. A trimmer. A folding machine which folds brochures left, right, at angles, up, down, and over like Wonka’s Great Glass Elevator. Their newest toy is a four-color envelope printer with the exotic brand name Xandú stamped along its side. Its nickname is “Moonwalker,” according to Customer Service Coordinator Roxanne Free, because of its spindly legs. It cost $16,000.
“But it’s worth its weight in gold,” Pritchard said, beaming at it.
Then there’s all the paper.
“I think we bought 22 tons of 8.5×11 copy paper last year,” Pritchard said, walking past a wall of sheets in every color and stock. “And that’s not counting all the other sizes and types we have.”
They laminate. They cut. They mount. They bind. They are the masters of the Baum Cut 31.5 and the EPSON 98-80. They print swanky resumes and business cards, as well as flyers for churches and businesses in Meadville.
Holding up a postcard for the Meadville Medical Center, Pritchard lowers his voice in a mock-seriousness.
“They send these out to the rich and famous,” he said.
Publications Manager of Public Affairs Bernadette Wilson started working at Allegheny in 1985 when the Print Shop manager was Alma Brown. She has since worked with two other Print Shop managers before Pritchard.
“Mark has been much better than other managers,” Wilson said. “That’s nothing against the others, but Mark is very efficient and very good with computers. He makes my life much easier.”
Wilson had nothing but praise for the print shop.
“They did this,” said Wilson, holding up a postcard for the upcoming Angélique Kidjo performance. “And they do everything else. That office is full of great people; Roxanne has been here as long as I have, maybe longer. They’re very cooperative, very helpful, and they always have good advice for our projects. We have a very good relationship.”
When Pritchard started working for Printing Services in 2003, the office was located in Cochran Hall, today known as the Tippie Alumni Center. He began as Assistant Manager to then-manager Chuck Witherall. Pritchard took over as manager in 2006, but his experience in the world of print began much earlier than that.
“I started in 1984 as a helper on a press for Seneca Printing in Franklin, Pa.,” Pritchard said. “I was pressman first and then went to work as a stripper.”
“Yes, a stripper,” Pritchard grinned. “That was the job title. I stripped film negatives, that sort of thing. It was called conventional tabletop stripping.”
Pritchard’s explanations of traditional printing methods and equipment such as traps, shrinks, and exposure frames are drowned out by a loud whirr from outside his office. A printer has begun a job, but Pritchard is used to the racket.
“We got a new black printer with a bell,” he said.
Even with plenty of new, digital printers, Pritchard doesn’t feel the sense of a lost art, but rather appreciates their efficiency. He keeps up with the technology by going to print conferences (most recently in Charlotte, N.C.) and by reading with the literature: piles of magazines entitled “Quick Printing” and “In-Plant Graphics” sit by his desk.
“It’s much quicker now and more profitable,” Pritchard said. “Allegheny is very fortunate to have this equipment. I can’t say enough about the administration for allowing us to buy all of it.”