When the bookstore at Carlow University transitioned over the summer to Barnes & Noble College management, it transitioned fast. “We cracked open the first box on Monday, and opened the store three days later, on Thursday,” recalled Store Manager Paula Cahall. “While my team was unpacking and setting up, the equipment was being installed. It all happened so quickly.”
Fortunately for Cahall, her team was experienced and dedicated. “We had several store managers from the area, as well current management — and even Carlow students help us get ready,” said John Kwiatkowski, a Barnes & Noble College regional manager who worked on the transition. “We had to be completely set up for both online and walk-in customers. It was really a smooth transition given that it happened within a very short period of time. The team did a phenomenal job.”
Located in the heart of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Carlow University is named after Carlow, Ireland, a connection made through its founders, the Irish Sisters of Mercy. The private, Catholic university embodies the heritage and values of the Sisters who sought to engage its diverse community in a process of life-long learning, scholarship, and research.The bookstore supports that mission by offering a variety of learning materials, merchandise and guidance to help students succeed academically.
Next year, the Carlow University Bookstore will move from its current location — sandwiched between a frozen yogurt shop and a pizza restaurant on a block of retail stores — to the newly renovated University Commons, an 82,000-square-foot space that previously served as the campus’ Grace Library Building.
With a year-long renovation scheduled for completion in Fall 2015, the new building will become the center of campus life and learning at the University, with space for student services and clubs, technology support, library, art gallery, and the office of the president and provost. The new bookstore will occupy a prominent place on the first floor. “When the bookstore relocates to the Commons, it will have much more space — three or four times what it has now,” explained Pat Cunningham, Carlow’s vice president for finance and administrative series. “The architects and Barnes & Noble team have had discussions about creating the most effective use of space.”
While both the Barnes & Noble College team and the school are looking forward to next year’s grand opening, the bookstore is already garnering praise for its comprehensive offerings and streamlined processes. “Students say that getting their books is so much easier,” said Allison Cox, Carlow’s Student Government president, who works at the store. “Students can place an order — they can even do it online — and we grab the books for them. It’s a really an easy process,” she said. “Everyone’s so excited for us to move into the new Commons next year, because the space will be much bigger and carry a lot more merchandise.”
In the meantime, the bookstore is doing outreach to students and faculty, informing the campus it can fulfill a variety of academic needs. When nursing students needed specific equipment for their classes, the bookstore team produced DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice) kits, packaging them in an easy-to-carry pack. “It was quite extensive,” said Cahall. “There must have been eight or nine pieces, from eye charts to reflex hammers. There wasn’t much time, so we created an assembly line and got it done.” Cahall is also researching lab coats and goggles for the biology and chemistry departments. And when the Campus School, a pre-K through grade-eight school located on Carlow’s campus, needed books for its students, the bookstore was able to quickly fulfill a large order of Tuck Everlasting.
Book signings have also increased awareness about the bookstore. When Kerry Weber, managing editor of America (a national Catholic magazine) and author of Mercy in the City: How to Feed the Hungry, Give Drink to the Thirsty, Visit the Imprisoned, and Keep Your Day Job, came to speak to students about her experiences weaving Corporal Works of Mercy into her busy life, the bookstore ensured that the books were available and ready for signing.
Students are now singing the praises of more affordable options offered at the store. “We rented more than 1,300 books in the fall semester, and I’m hoping to get that number to grow,” said Justin Sines, bookstore assistant manager. “We also have digital editions of many of our books on our Yuzu digital platform,” he added. “There are lots of opportunities for students to get everything they need and save money here.”