My “New” Kentucky Home: UK Bookstore Returns to Student Center

July 24, 2018





Administrators at the main branch of the University of Kentucky in Lexington like to call the student center the “living room of campus,” but for nearly three years that important gathering place has been under construction. The building has been undergoing a renovation from the ground up that forced its occupants, including the UK Bookstore, into makeshift spaces.


The renovation coincided with the University’s decision to partner with Barnes & Noble College to manage its campus bookstore, which proposed moving the bookstore to a temporary residence in a tent erected behind the school’s Memorial Coliseum in 2015. The arrangement sounds rustic, but it managed to create a comfortable environment for shoppers while staying open for business, according to the store’s General Manager, David Lang. “It was secure, and it had heating and electricity,” said Lang. “It was like something you might see on television at a golf tournament.”


However deluxe the 11,000 square-foot tent might have been, it couldn’t compare to the new 33,000 square-foot UK Bookstore, which opened its doors last spring. The bookstore was the second student service to move back into the center — the first was a dining hall — much to the delight of customers and store associates.


Worth the Wait

Since its opening, the store has been attracting excited crowds — including students, faculty, alumni and UK sports fans. The expanded two-story space includes a 70-seat Starbucks, an Apple Store and repair shop, a Marketplace for convenience foods and a Nike Store with the state’s largest selection of logoed Nike gear. It also houses the only escalator on the Lexington campus. “The first weeks have been amazing,” said Lang. “Students have been walking in holding their phones up, recording everything they see. They say, ‘This is what a bookstore is supposed to look like!'”



After last spring’s ribbon cutting, Lang said many graduating seniors expressed frustration that the store had opened right before their departure. Most had been buying books and logoed gear from the tent during their time in school, so the store decided to offer UK seniors special deals at graduation time to make up for it. “We felt sorry that they missed out, so we gave seniors a special discount and they really appreciated it,” he added.


Community Hub

In an article in the campus news, UK President Eli Capilouto praised the store as a vibrant academic and social hub for the campus community. “This facility will be a hub of activity and student life for our campus,” he said. “It will be a gathering place for students, a resource for their academic interests, and a place that welcomes our community and delivers on the UK spirit.”


When the student center reconstruction is complete this fall, the complex will house a “social staircase” with seating for hundreds, a movie theater, a credit union and more. But the UK Bookstore is already fulfilling a critical role as part of the campus “living room.” The large coffee shop with ample community seating, the unmatched selection of Nike UK logo gear and the variety of convenience offerings make the bookstore a natural place for students and visitors to gather.


The UK Bookstore contains a Nike Store with the largest selection of logoed Nike gear in the state of Kentucky.


The store hosted its first faculty author signing in June and has many more planned. It has also become a popular meeting spot for campus organizations. The university’s police force hosted an event called “Coffee with a Cop” as a part of LBGTQ month in June. The community meeting was so successful the police have scheduled three more events for the coming year.


Tess, a student bookstore associate, said she and her peers love the change. She said the new store gives the campus a distinct, personal feel and offers students more of the services they need — like technology sales and repairs. She said the variety of trade books for sale gives students who need a study break a nice alternative to academic reading. “Everyone is really impressed,” she said. “They’re really surprised because they didn’t know what a professional Barnes & Noble could look like. A lot of parents and alumni are completely blown away. They say, ‘It didn’t look like this when I was here. Now, you guys have an escalator and a jumbotron!’”


Faculty Connection

The new store also gives Lang and his team greater opportunity to connect with faculty, who have been stopping in to admire the new store. He sees communication between faculty and bookstore personnel as an essential component of his job. When faculty make students aware of the bookstore’s affordable options, students are more likely to buy their course materials on campus, where they have access to professional guidance and excellent service. This, in turn, contributes to academic success, which can hinge on having the correct required course materials at the beginning of class.


The UK Bookstore includes over 21,000 general reading titles, including reference, bestsellers and campus authors.


Above all, Lang believes its critical to let faculty know the bookstore offers price matching. Whenever he meets a faculty member in the store, he takes the opportunity to ensure the professor knows about the program. “Students trust their professors,” Lang said. “If the teacher advises them to go to the bookstore, they’re much more likely to do so.”


Once faculty know about price matching, he says, they are usually delighted to send students to the campus store, where they will find the correct editions in stock before the start of class and where they can easily make returns. “It’s very important for us to let faculty know that we are partners in education,” says Lang. “We’re not just someone knocking on the door with another task for them to complete in the form of a textbook adoption.”


In all, Lang said it’s important to be aware of what’s happening on campus — whether it’s an OER initiative or an important basketball game — and the new location increases his ability to do that. “We’re just really excited about the new bookstores,” said Lang. “We’ve been waiting for it for three years.”


College store retail intervention

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