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January 26, 2012

Senate Matters: Wish list

Wish list

The entryway is spacious, inviting and free of lockers. Clear signage, good lighting and a clean contemporary design make navigating the wide aisles easy and pleasant. You browse the book section with its impressive range of scholarly titles in your academic discipline and many others, plus literature, poetry, biography, travel, reference, art and local history. There also are works by Pitt and local authors, popular fiction and leisure reading. You choose several books, then consult the electronic book finder and head to the e-book station to download another title to your iPad. You pass cozy nooks with comfortable chairs where other shoppers sit and browse through books of interest.

Eye-catching displays draw you into the general merchandise area. On other visits, you’ve shopped the impressive selection of Pitt-themed items, including apparel, gifts and home accessories. Today, you stock up on art supplies and greeting cards, lingering so as to enjoy the live performance by a local flutist in the nearby programming area.

Noticing a colleague in the comfortable coffee shop, you stop to say hello and end up joining her for a bite to eat.

Before leaving, you take a few minutes to browse in the multimedia section for CDs and DVDs. On your way out, you wave at your neighbor and his young daughter who are shopping in the excellent children’s section.

Your students tell you they are very pleased with the reorganized and clearly labeled textbook and course materials area. And everyone is delighted with the improved checkout process. Lines are shorter thanks to a better queuing system, more registers, self-service registers and a separate checkout for non-student customers during busy times.

Welcome to Pitt’s redesigned Book Center, as envisioned by those who responded to a recent survey.

The survey was available to everyone who logged on to the portal between Oct. 4 and Nov. 7, 2011. It was unstructured, inviting open-ended comments and suggestions. Of the 108 people who submitted comments, 53 (49 percent) were faculty, 34 (31 percent) were students and 18 (17 percent) were staff.

The Book Center will continue to operate in its current location through commencement this year. In May it will move to a temporary location that has not yet been determined. The target date for moving back into the current location once the renovation is complete is March 2013.

The survey was a collaboration between the University Senate and the administration, implemented by Computing Services and Systems Development. The most frequently requested features were a coffee shop, a more shopper-friendly textbook and course materials area and Pitt-themed merchandise. Respondents also wanted a periodicals section, a restroom and a variety of non-book merchandise such as high-quality writing implements, reasonably priced stationery, calendars, software and medical/lab supplies (including lab coats with monogramming).

Suggestions for store layout and organization included a separate area for supplies and apparel, higher shelving and a store layout guide posted at each entrance. Respondents also expressed a preference for classical background music and staff who are professionally attired and courteous. In addition to performing musicians, suggestions for programming included book signings, guest author readings and book clubs.

So what happens to the ideas expressed in the survey? According to Eli Shorak, associate vice chancellor for Business, “The information and suggestions from the survey have been shared and in many cases have been integrated [into the renovation plans]. As an example, lockers have been relocated to the lower-level text area and will be larger. The good news is that many of the suggestions simply reinforced what we were planning and allowed us to refine and expand certain elements.”

Book Center manager Debra Fyock concurs. “The suggestions we received from faculty validated some ideas that were under consideration and helped us form new plans that we would like to implement.

“The feedback from the survey was invaluable and very much appreciated. We recognize how important our role is in providing services, merchandise and, in some cases, space, to reinforce and enhance the ‘University experience’ for faculty, students and staff.”

According to Shorak, the project now is moving into the design development and cost-estimating phases.

Patricia Weiss is vice president of the University Senate. Julie Gismondi, project manager for Business Operations, summarized the survey data for this column.

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