Popping into the Curry Student Center’s bookstore to order textbooks and pick up a Northeastern bumper sticker for mom and dad is as time-honored a tradition as move-in day itself.
The bookstore gets so busy that on the first day of class last year, it sold almost 8,000 items, says Tim Meisel, who manages the on-campus branch of Barnes & Noble. That figure doesn’t include people who were just browsing, so foot traffic was substantially higher.
But that was before proper distancing measures went into effect to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
While the bookstore remains closed (in part because of a lighting upgrade expected to save $15,000 a year, but also to prevent overcrowding), in-store pickup is no longer an option. In response, the university created a window in Ell Hall where items purchased online can be picked up.
There, on the lower level, near the copy center, is a room with a long red counter behind which are rows of red containers sitting on black shelves. Attendants in face coverings retrieve purchased items.
People can still order online everything they would normally buy in the bookstore, such as hats, coffee mugs and T-shirts, and either have them shipped or take advantage of the newly designated space to get them in person.
“In different times it would be referred to as in-store pickup, but now it’s out-of-store pickup,” Meisel said.
The plexiglass-enclosed window opened this month to accommodate law students returning to class, so legal books have been a popular item so far.
In a sign of the times, new for sale this year are protective face coverings. An item expected to be a hot-seller is the Northeastern-branded face mask for $7.98.
The website has processed more than 12,000 orders for textbooks, notebooks, hockey jerseys and many other items in a five-month span from mid-March to mid-August.
When the bookstore re-opens in the fall, it will have a number of COVID-19-related safety measures, including continuous disinfecting, hand sanitizer stations, plexiglass surrounding the cashiers, and signs and floor decals directing people where to stand. It will also have reduced occupancy in keeping with public health guidelines for retail businesses.
The online order pickup space is just one of the proactive efforts the university is taking to promote safety on the Boston campus and in the surrounding communities. A larger mailroom, for example, was built temporarily in Matthews Arena on the Boston campus for an expected surge of packages and boxes containing students’ personal belongings.
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