Wednesday 14 December 2022 2:39pm
The University Bookshop was happy to be able to make use of the counter that used to be in Vic Books Pipitea in Wellington.
A new look, more versatile and accessible University Book Shop (UBS) is being warmly welcomed.
The beloved Dunedin bookstore moved back into its original building on Great King Street last month, following an extensive refurbishment.
UBS manager Philippa Henshaw says staff and customers alike have been “overwhelmingly” happy with the new layout of the store.
An atrium at the back of the store lets more light in, while the service counter now runs along the righthand side of the shop instead of being situated in the middle.
Putting the counter along the side meant there was more space for shelves and a greater number of display tables, she says.
“These floating island display tables enable us to give prominence to more books from a larger range of genres than can only be seen when the spine faces out from shelf.”
The entrance way is at the centre of the front of the building which allows customers to be “drawn through the shop to that light” at the back, Henshaw says.
An atrium above the children's section at the back of the shop has made the it lighter and brighter.
“Opening it up has made the store lighter and brighter, while still maintaining that lovely, independent bookshop vibe of being able to browse around things.”
The shop used to be split over the ground and first floor of the building.
“A really important factor for us, for staff and the general public, was to improve accessibility through the store. So now we’ve got it all on one level, and people with prams, people in wheelchairs and people with mobility issues will find the shop easier to navigate.”
There is a new wheelchair lift at the front of the store alongside the entrance steps.
Up until a couple of years ago the building, which was constructed in 1910, was still in a “fairly original” state in some areas including staff and inventory areas.
There were also large parts of the warehouse area upstairs which were unused and underutilised.
Henshaw says when OUSA bought the building, UBS worked with it to reimagine how the shop would look on one floor.
The first floor is being converted into apartments.
There is a lot more space between bookshelves and tables in the shop than there was previously, which customers appreciate following COVID-19.
It took two to three years of planning before UBS relocated to the H D Skinner Annex across the street for 18 months while construction took place. Scaffolding at the front of the building will remain in place until construction on the first floor is completed.
Unfortunately, during the COVID-19 lockdown Vic Books Pipitea in Wellington closed permanently. While this was sad for the Wellington community, some of the store’s shelves and its counter were shipped to Dunedin to be used in the UBS refurbishment, Henshaw says.
As a result of COVID-19, customers were much more aware of their personal space while shopping, and the extra space within the store accommodates this.
She was also “really excited” to get events back in the shop.
A book launch would be hosted soon and Magic Book Chat will soon restart for the children’s book club.
“The ability to engage with the writers in the shop again is fantastic. The bookshop is a lot more flexible now in terms of its ability to continue as a vibrant hosting venue for the literary community.”
-Kōrero by Koren Allpress, Internal Communications Adviser