I attended a fairly large university with its own bookstore. Now, I frequently take classes at UCLA, a huge university with its own bookstore and shopping mall right on campus. Recently, touring campus in the east with my son, I noticed a hybrid-the independent bookstore that serves the local college campus. This combo comes in various forms. In Amherst, two small indies have a back section for college classes. At Harvard and Columbia, the stores are barely disguised Barnes & Noble stores. At Brown University Bookstore, both the indie and the campus bookstore get their full due.
At Brown University Bookstore, one floor is for trade and another floor for textbooks, school supplies and tech support. This may be the first independent bookstore I’ve visited where I could buy a computer, and I’m not referring to an ebook reader. Mixed in is a cafe offering great smelling coffee stuffed with people and discussion, and I visited during spring break. Here’s the real advantage for the indie, I’m guessing that because of the varied interests of the university students, the non-fiction sections are beefed up. Topics such as history, literary criticism, science, philosophy that get minimal shelf space in a standard indie are presented in much greater depth at Brown University Bookstore. Of course, you can’t turn a corner without finding an opportunity to purchase a Brown t-shirt/sweatshirt/mug/pencil/notebook.
The store keeps it’s indie feel. The staff is friendly and helpful (at the B&N/Harvard store the only thing I heard an employee say was “next”). There are author events that support the local community and interests. The full children’s program includes special activities and weekly readings. A friend recently observed that what she didn’t like about college was being surrounded by people the same age all the time. I think mixing in kids with the college bookstore is a treat for everyone.
I’m quite impressed with the combination of current literature for students and the depth of the non-fiction selection for the general public offered at Brown University Bookstore. It is a terrific crossroads for the campus and the community.
244 Thayer St.
Providence, RI 02912