University stores are demonized on many campuses: “The bookstore is only out for profit,” faculty and students say. At Bloomsburg University Bookstore, nothing could be further from the truth. Manager Laura Heger stays enmeshed in student life, working actively to build the store’s reputation as a campus service through dialogue with customers.
For Heger, interacting with students is the best part of her job on the Pennsylvania campus of some 10,000 students.
“I love the students. That’s my favorite part. I love interacting with the students. I love talking to the students. I love trying to be a help to the students,” she said.
This year, the bookstore opened in a brand-new location, nestled in a university dormitory that houses about six hundred undergraduates with a nearby food court. The locale not only increases foot-traffic, it makes for lively conversation among students and associates.
“It’s a beautiful store,” Heger said. “It’s a nice busy environment to be in. There’s a lot of student traffic. They’re always in and out.”
At Bloomsburg, the student government owns the bookstore, so all revenues are invested back into the school. It supports student activities and other important parts of campus life.
“We fund many of the organizations, clubs, trips, concerts and improvements done on campus,” said Heger. “We’re contributing a nice size portion to the building we’re in.”
The bookstore provides a variety of services like finger printing and Western Union, which are geared much more to offering students essentials rather than driving profits. One customer favorite, in-store pick-up, saw a boost this year, when the store joined the MBS Rentals program. Now, it can offer rentals through its website.
“In-store pick-up increased quite a bit this semester because we switched to MBS Rentals,” said Heger. “I would say that the majority of our textbook orders are pick up in store.”
The new location inspired Heger to hire more temporary employees for rush this year, so the store could give students a nurturing experience.
“Service at rush is something we really amped up this semester in the new location. We had extra employees on hand in the textbook department to answer student questions,” said Heger.
Since moving to the new location, the store has also developed a full-fledged convenience section, featuring popular dorm foods and drinks, in addition to cosmetics and over-the-counter medicine. One item that’s been especially popular has been the innovative, low-cost E.l.f.© makeup line.
“E.l.f. has been really popular. A lot of the students are really excited about it,” said Heger.
Heger gleans insights about products to sell and services to offer from conversation with student employees and customers. She even takes a few classes on campus herself, something that helps her view the bookstore from the perspective of the students and the faculty.
“It’s been very eye-opening for me to see the experience from the student side and relate it to what we do here in the bookstore. That’s very useful,” she said. “I have an open-door policy with all the students who work here. I really enjoy them coming in and talking to me about their lives and what’s going on. I will bring them in sometimes and ask them, ‘Hey, What do you think about this? What do you think about that? Do you think we could sell this?’ We have fun.”
Heger's time in the classroom makes her an especially good source for campus information. People call the store with questions about the university. Newcomers, freshman and their parents ask for help with navigating the campus terrain.
“We tend to be an information hub for people. People call us because they don’t know who else to call at the university. Parents will ask a lot of questions when they’re in with students. We help new freshman find their way. “
With its focus on service, its new location and convenient offerings, Bloomsburg University Bookstore is ideally positioned to ensure students find all the assistance they need.