A conversation with Rebecca Conn, new MIT Press Bookstore manager

Conn takes the helm at the Bookstore as we celebrate our first year in a new location in Kendall Square

We are excited to welcome Rebecca Conn this month as the new manager of our MIT Press Bookstore, just in time for Independent Bookstore Day on April 30. Conn joins the Bookstore as it settles into its new home in the heart of Kendall Square.

Conn is a veteran bookstore manager, having previously spent a decade with Barnes & Noble College, working at the MIT Coop and Harvard Coop stores in Cambridge. With experience in a range of areas within bookstore management, from commercial trade books to textbooks, inventory management to event coordination, and more, Conn is positioned to thrive at the MIT Press Bookstore’s new location.

Read our conversation with Conn below, and learn more about the MIT Press Bookstore.

A photo of Rebecca Conn from the shoulders up. Conn wears an orange and red flannel shirt and silver-rimmed glasses with a red tint. She stands against a wall of white-washed bricks.
Rebecca Conn, manager of the MIT Press Bookstore.

MIT Press: You’ve worked in bookstores for over a decade, focused on collegiate and scholarly areas of the bookselling world. What has drawn you to that particular niche?

Rebecca Conn: Like many people who work in the book world, I became a bookseller because of my love of reading. I read a lot of scholarly books, including works on technology and society, art, and philosophy, so working in the collegiate and scholarly bookselling world was a natural fit for me. Doing so allowed me to learn about disciplines I didn’t previously know very much about, and I have enjoyed the opportunity to learn how to connect students, scholars, professionals, and the just generally curious with the best books in their fields. I’m both honored and excited to further develop my expertise at the MIT Press Bookstore.

MIT Press: What are you most looking forward to in your new role?

Rebecca Conn: I’m looking forward to working with the wonderful teams both in the Bookstore and at the MIT Press to develop the Bookstore into the fullest version of itself: an enterprise that serves as a hub of knowledge and discovery for the Cambridge community.

MIT Press: The MIT Press Bookstore has been known since its founding in 1980 as a place of community and knowledge-sharing. How do you hope that the Bookstore will impact the Cambridge community in the years to come, especially in light of the new location in the heart of Kendall Square?

Rebecca Conn: Although I’ve only just started at the Bookstore, I’ve noticed that when people come down the staircase into the store, their demeanor undergoes a change. There’s a moment where they pause on the steps, look around, and their faces light up. For some, it’s the embrace of the familiar, a bookstore they’ve cherished for years. For others, it’s an instant of discovery, basking in the technical and specialized books they’ve perhaps never seen on the shelves of another store before. And for still others, it’s a combination effect: They’ve been to the Bookstore before, but didn’t know that it has a beautiful children’s department, or science fiction, or cookbooks until that day. 

So, in a way, I believe the community impact is already happening. Nestled in our new location in E28, adjacent to the soon-to-open MIT Museum, the just-opened MIT Museum Shop, and the MIT Welcome Center, I believe the Bookstore is positioned to become a destination of discovery and connection for the community, where they can pique their curiosity with smart, insightful books and events with world-class authors, artists, and thinkers from MIT and beyond.

MIT Press: What’s special to you about university publishing, and in particular, selling those books to dedicated readers?

Rebecca Conn: University publishing is where so many new, important ideas come to find their voice and, ultimately, a home in the hands and minds of readers. Having a space like the MIT Press Bookstore, where readers can find highly specialized texts on physics, computing, linguistics, and many other disciplines, alongside works of fiction, experimental nonfiction, and children’s books, allows us to provide a resource to a group of dedicated readers at and around MIT.

MIT Press: What are some of your all-time favorite MIT Press books?

Rebecca Conn: There’s so many to choose from! Here’s five that I personally love to reread and recommend: 

MIT Press: What do you see as the future of the MIT Press Bookstore? How do you hope to help shape the store over the coming years?

Rebecca Conn: I see the future of the MIT Press Bookstore as a destination for learning, questioning, and exploring the world through the promotion of writers, readers, and thinkers of all ages, disciplines, and walks of life. I want to work with our Bookstore staff and the team at the MIT Press to conduct community outreach, develop a robust event schedule, and cement the Bookstore as a jewel at the heart of Kendall Square.

Learn more about the MIT Press Bookstore