RMU reimagines the bookstore


Photo Credit: Joseph Espinoza

Hannah Shiflett, contributor

For the last 17 years, students have been familiar with Barnes and Noble as a place of employment, purchasing textbooks, school supplies, and spirit wear. However, this summer the bookstore on campus will no longer exist. Taking its place will be a new store that focuses on selling supplies and spirit wear.

Brian Edwards, the Chief Brand Officer at RMU said the contract RMU had with Barnes and Noble was going to be coming to an end this year. As a result, RMU asked the question “Do we renew the contract or do we explore what other options there are?”

RMU President, Dr. Michelle Patrick, has been streamlining the goal of enhancing the student experience. This included rethinking “what does a modern bookstore on a college campus look like,” said Edwards in a briefing.

The bookstore in Nicholson “takes up a massive amount of space and we think it should be better put to use for students,” said Edwards. “Nicholson is really the heart of campus, and we feel like there aren’t enough multi-purpose spaces that belong to students, so we’re looking to expand that.”

Beginning in the Fall Semester of 2022, RMU launched a new program called the RMU Book Bundle. At a fixed rate of $27 per credit, students can have all of the required textbooks for the classes they are taking. This has allowed students to have the textbooks they needed at an affordable price. However, students do have the opportunity to opt out of the program every semester including the summer.

With the RMU Book Bundle in place, students can order textbooks online and have them shipped directly to their homes. As a result, students no longer have to wait in line or pick up their books from the bookstore. However, Edwards stated, “We understand the bookstore isn’t just for books, but a place where people go to get their RMU gear or other supplies and merchandise.”

The creation of the RMU Book Bundle and the need to have more space for students in Nicholson has led to the reduction of the bookstore. According to Edwards, the bookstore is not entirely leaving but is rather evolving into a spirit wear store for students to buy their gear and other supplies.

As the bookstore is reshaping into a spirit wear store, RMU has decided not to renew the contract with Barnes and Noble and instead partner up with Follett Higher Education Group. Follett has 1,200 bookstores located in several universities, including CCAC and the University of Pittsburgh At Johnstown and Bradford.

According to Edwards, Follett is working with RMU to have “some mobile stores that can pop up at different events on campus or different locations based on what’s going on so people have more access to merchandise.” Follett will also be the provider of the textbooks for the Book Bundle and supply the spirit stores as well.

The reimaging of the bookstore will be taking place this summer. This will also include the creation of other spirit stores in Nicholson as well as possibly the UPMC Events Center. While these stores are being created, “Follett will be hiring for both full-time and student workers,” said Edwards. “All current bookstore employees as well as students and non-students are encouraged to apply,” he added.

“It’s going to be something exciting for everybody to look forward to,” said Edwards. “We all very much appreciate Barnes and Noble’s partnership over the years and we’re grateful for everything that they did.”