University Store on Fifth

Issue Date: 
August 20, 2013

Transitioning from a campus bookstore to a community resource

Faculty and students returning to campus are in for a surprise when they enter the former book center on Fifth Avenue to purchase textbooks or stock up on supplies.

More windows, more floor space, a café featuring Starbucks coffee, piped-in music, and cozy reading nooks The new University Store on Fifth features a number of study areas (above) and display shelves that can be moved to make room for special events. The store is home to the Espresso Book Machine (below), a digital book production system that prints bound paperbacks in just minutes.give the newly named University Store on Fifth more of the feel of a community bookstore than a mere campus bookshop.

The $9.4 million renovation occurred over the past year while the bookstore operated from a temporary location on Forbes Avenue. Among the improvements at the new site are spaces for technical support for customers.

“This technology area is what I’m most excited about,” said store manager Debra Fyock, gesturing to the separate Dell and Apple stations and a central area manned by staff from Pitt’s Computing Services and Systems Development. Whether students need quick help configuring their wireless connection or finding their schedule on, Fyock calls the service an integral part of campus life.

“It meshes so well with everything else we do here,” she said. Another staffed station on the lower level of the store will be available in early October to help customers resolve computer hardware issues.

Fyock said surveys seeking input prior to the renovations were sent to Pitt students, faculty, and staff. A lot of their suggestions were taken to heart. “Just about all of our students requested more study spaces, an easier way to find things, tech assistance, and a place to get a cup of coffee,” she recalled. The café now tucked in a corner offers beverages, salads, and snacks.

A large skylight funnels bright sunlight to the area above the relocated stairway, providing an atrium-like ambience. Windows have been added and soft music is piped through the sound system. Reflecting responses to the customer surveys, the store is maintaining its wide selection of calendars and books for general reading, which are displayed thoughtfully throughout the store.

Upon entering through the new doors, one sees books and maps of local interest—a book on Pittsburgh film history, for example, or a book about the Pittsburgh Steelers or transplant pioneer and Pitt Distinguished Service Professor of Surgery Thomas E. Starzl. The children’s section, followed by an area with books for young adults, are nearby. So are current best sellers, a section called New and Noteworthy, as well as magazines, cookbooks, and calendars.

The health section features books next to an array of scrubs and lab coats. More clothing is in the back of the store—Pitt gear, including items for women who are more fashion conscious. Pitt’s Espresso Book machine, which can print, align, mill, glue, and bind a book in an average of 7 minutes, complete with a full-color cover, is located in another rear corner of the store, and on the store’s lower level, thousands of textbooks, arranged by class, and two more information desks.

There are now five checkout stations in two separate sections of the store to ensure an even traffic flow. One other change that customers may welcome: they will no longer be required to stash their backpacks in small lockers inside the front door.

Fyock said many new furnishings are on wheels so they can be moved to create additional room for events such as book signings. “We are more than just a campus bookstore,” said Fyock. “We want to be a community resource.”

Visit for store hours and more information.