Campus Bookstore Renovations Aim to Create ‘Social Hub’

An artist's rendering of outdoor space outside the renovated UConn Bookstore on Hillside Road. (Rendering by Barnes & Noble College)
In addition to a new entrance from the outdoor seating area along Hillside Road and a full-service Starbucks café, the UConn Bookstore will feature 3,000 square feet of public seating on the second floor. (Rendering by Barnes & Noble College)

The most dramatic transformation students will notice when they return to Storrs this fall will not be among the many building construction projects making progress throughout the summer of 2017. It will be the renovations to the 45,000 square-foot UConn Bookstore in the center of campus.

In addition to a new entrance from the outdoor seating area along Hillside Road and a full-service Starbucks café, the UConn Bookstore will feature a comfortable public seating area of 3,000 square feet on the second floor overlooking Gampel Pavilion and the future site of the new Student Recreation Center, accessible directly via a new stairway.

Len Oser, general manager of The UConn Bookstores, says the changes – at a cost of $3 million, to be paid for by Barnes & Noble – aim to make the bookstore a gathering place for students, faculty, alumni, and visitors.

“We want this to be a much more exciting and engaging social hub,” says Oser. “It will be a place you’ll want to come to not just before a basketball game, but to have a cup of coffee or meet a friend. It will be a world-class bookstore with all the amenities, and be a great place to hang out, meet friends, and do some work.”

The first floor of the renovated UConn Bookstore will have a more open look, with the removal of the glass wall near the entrance at the corner of Hillside Road and Jim Calhoun Way. This also will provide additional seating at the new Starbucks café. An Apple Store, with computer purchase and repair services, and UConn branded clothing and gifts, will be located on the first floor. New graphics on the first floor will focus on the UConn brand, Husky spirit, and various photos of students and student-athletes from various sports.

Oser says with students increasingly ordering textbooks online or in a digital format, less floor space is required on the second floor for those books and it can be dedicated for other student needs, such as school supplies and residence hall accessories. The renovated store will feature “the Glossary,” an area focused on skin care and beauty products popular with college-age students, including brands like Bliss, Butter London, Smash Box, Clinique, Burt’s Bees, and more.

The public space on the second floor will be available for events and activities of up to 100 people, or partitioned for use by smaller groups. Multipurpose furniture will allow reconfiguration of the space as needed. Tables with USB outlets will be available so students and others can charge their electronic devices.

Another new service will be a Send-Station kiosk, which allows a student to have the dimensions and weight of a package measured for shipping by either UPS or the U.S. Postal Service. The kiosk is being piloted by a collaboration between Barnes & Noble College and Stamford-based Pitney Bowes.

Many of the renovations and product changes reflect shifts in the retail industry generally, Oser says, and in college bookstores specifically, where online book purchases or rentals have increased dramatically. Two years ago, these accounted for between 10 percent and 15 percent of sales, whereas during the past two semesters, almost half of the books were ordered online by students, he notes.

Oser says students now can rent textbooks for a semester at up to 80 percent off the price of the book, including digital rentals. Students can highlight rented textbooks for studies and then return them after final exams. Last fall, the UConn Bookstore rented 17,000 books, and another 14,000 for the spring semester, saving students hundreds of thousands of dollars, he says.

There will be a grand re-opening celebration of the bookstore, just after the start of the school year.