“Books make great gifts because they have whole worlds inside of them,” noted author Neil Gaiman. “And it’s much cheaper to buy somebody a book than it is to buy them the whole world!”
For many pediatric patients at the Riley Hospital for Children, located in Indianapolis, Indiana, those books can seem like the whole world — providing entertainment, distraction and a view to the outside.
The staff at the Barnes & Noble at IUPUI (Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis) bookstore knows all about the power of books. That’s why this holiday season, next to the cash registers, visitors to the bookstore will find a vast display of books perfect for donation to the local Ronald McDonald House, which is dedicated to helping children with illnesses and supporting their families. “Last year, we collected 350 books for the Ronald McDonald House, which helps to restock the Riley Hospital for Children’s library,” explains Neil Scarborough, General Manager of the IUPUI Bookstore. “This year, we’re doing the book drive and a toy drive. It’s all about doing good for the community.”
To make that happen, the store brings in a large collection of bargain books for both children and adults. “After all,” he says, “many parents and other adults are sitting right alongside with those kids at the hospital.”
The books for donation are just one way the bookstore shares the spirit of the holidays. “We’re a two-floor store in the campus center, and our top floor, where shoppers enter, is all set up for the holidays,” explains Scarborough. The bottom floor houses textbooks and school supplies. “We’ve constructed a winter wonderland complete with a picket fence, ivy and lights,” he continues. Surrounding the holiday decor are displays of gift ideas, from coloring books for nieces and nephews to sweatshirts for mom and dad to show their school pride.
While IUPUI’s on-campus locale means that the majority of its customers are students, faculty and staff, the Barnes & Noble at University of Rochester bookstore, which is located in a retail and restaurant development called College Town, has a community and campus focus. “That means our holiday prep and seasonal activities are a bit different than stores located right on campus,” says the Barnes & Noble at University of Rochester bookstore General Manager, Frank Tallarico. “We offer toys and games, while also ramping up general merchandise offerings such as spirit apparel and our famous college ugly holiday sweater. We have three different designs in stock this year and they just fly off the shelves. We should be sold out by mid-December!” he adds.
Local shoppers often pick up jigsaw puzzles, adults games and coloring books. “We’re continuing to ride that trend,” Tallarico says. “We like to offer our customers a selection of gift items at a wide array of price points with everything from a coloring book to a Sphero Star Wars BB-8 App Controlled Robot.” The store also finds its selection of college tree ornaments in high demand. “We display them in their ‘rightful state’ – decorating a birch tree with LED lights built into the stem. It helps people imagine them on their own trees,” Tallarico states.
A campus-to-College Town shuttle brings UR students directly to the bookstore, where they enjoy ongoing holiday activities, from an ornamental egg carving to a holiday treat tasting with local vendors offering samples from cheese to chocolate, as well as samples from the bookstore café. And like IUPUI, Rochester’s store is also hosting a book drive for the Honoring Owen Book Collection, an organization that benefits the Family Resource Library at the local Golisano Children’s Hospital.
Another event, “Deck the Town,” features ice carvings, horse-drawn carriage rides, photo opportunities and store specials. That afternoon, the bookstore has a special guest: Santa Claus is coming to College Town. “Students and families will be here to see Santa, so we’ve got to make it very festive,” Tallarico says. “We’ve only had one major snowstorm this year, which is rare for upstate New York. We’re trying make up for that. We won’t be bringing in a snowmaker, but the snow is coming!”
While the holidays are in full swing, the bookstore is also busy preparing for the beginning of the spring semester. The first business day after Christmas, the IUPUI bookstore staff breaks down the seasonal décor and puts away the holiday gift merchandise. “We immediately start getting ready for spring rush,” Scarborough says. “We’ll set up extra registers — we go from five to 13 registers to accommodate our returning students — and school supplies are put on display. Within 48 hours of returning from the holidays, the store will be transformed, and we’ll be up and ready to go.”
After all, he admits, there are a lot of moving parts. “We juggle two different mind frames. In the fall, it’s all about textbooks and school supplies. Right now, it’s about general merchandise and the holidays. Then it’s back to textbooks and school supplies. It’s about what’s front and center for the students at the time.”
The Barnes & Noble at University of Rochester bookstore doesn’t get to enjoy the benefit of school-break down time. “With people in the store between Christmas and New Year, we can take care of textbook rental check-ins, processing online orders for new textbooks, and make shipments to other stores,” says Tallarico, who agrees with Scarborough about the forward-thinking mentality of bookstore managers. “We’ve started talking about commencement … and it’s not even December!”
Already in the process of determining when caps and gowns should arrive, Tallarico is currently working with UR’s student government on a graduation fair in partnership with the commencement office, career center, senior class council, alumni relations department, as well as diploma frame and class ring vendors. “We’re always thinking seasons ahead,” he says with a laugh. “In our position, we have to do that.”