Penn State Bookstore takes over once-popular HUB lawn

When they found out that significant renovations were coming to the HUB-Robeson Center, staff members at Penn State’s campus bookstore knew they would need a new home.

They never could have guessed where they would end up.

As part of the addition and renovation project, 28 trailers were brought in and joined on the nearby HUB lawn, creating a 20,000-square-foot facility that is now the university’s official bookstore for the next year. The Penn State Bookstore is owned and operated by Barnes and Noble.

“We knew these renovations were going to happen eventually; it was just a matter of when,” said Steve Falke, director of stores for Barnes and Noble College, who has been involved in the planning for about two years. “We’re looking at it as a one-year situation before we ultimately move into a bigger and better facility.”

Penn State’s Office of Physical Plant also was involved in the move.

“This is a fairly innovative approach,” said spokesman Paul Ruskin. “Other than a few people being disoriented trying to find the place, we haven’t had any complaints about the setup.”

Ruskin said it took nearly a month to move in all the trailers and set up the temporary unit. The biggest challenge was finding the space to put everything.

“We wanted to keep the bookstore central so that students and faculty could find it easily,” Ruskin said. “The problem is that there’s nowhere, other than up by the stadiums, to put it except for the lawn.”

The old HUB bookstore had about 28,000 square feet. Falke said that the biggest challenge has been working around the loss of 8,000 square feet and deciding how to consolidate.

The bookstore eliminated most of its general reading department, which includes books that aren’t considered textbooks. Because of limited storage, the bookstore is keeping less stock and needs to replenish inventory more quickly.

“Our sale numbers are staying basically the same as last year,” Falke said. “There was a slight drop during the first weekend, but that can mostly be attributed to the away football game.”

Falke said he anticipates moving back into the remodeled HUB in July. The bookstore is expected to grow to 35,000 square feet as part of the $4.6 million HUB renovation.

The new bookstore facility will have large glass walls by the east entrance, which Falke said will increase the store’s visibility. Even with the smaller space, Barnes and Noble retained all 30 full-time employees because it will need to hire even more when the new facility opens. The store also employs 15 to 50 part-timers.

The obvious problem now for students is using the once-wide HUB lawn. The area, popular for sunbathing and congregating, has been at least partially closed for construction since 2010, when work on the Biobehavioral Health Building began.

Ruskin said that his office will make sure the HUB lawn returns better than it was before.

“The lawn will be regenerated and replanted, as well as some new landscaping and sidewalks,” Ruskin said. “Trust me, Frisbees will return to the HUB lawn eventually.”

HUB employees are taking care to inform students of the project’s progress.

Signs direct students to the new bookstore and update them about the project’s stages.

“I ordered my books from the bookstore online and was able to pick them up just fine,” said first-year student Aaron Weber. “When you go inside, the place is just so impressive. You can’t even tell it’s a trailer.”