On any given day, you can see a near innumerable number of strange things on campus, from students unicycling to class, to a guy in a red sweatshirt screaming at you about your sins, and even a girl putting a hat on a squirrel. Recently, however, some students may have seen something even stranger: a human-sized blue bear walking around campus committing atrocities like ruining Oreos, and eating food at the HUB while staring aimlessly into space.
This giant blue bear is Bookie the Bear, likely the absolute creepiest-looking mascot you will ever see in your entire life. From its Teletubby-shaped head, to its eyes that seem to stare at nothing in particular, and a smile that screams “I have no idea why I’m smiling, but I want you to like me because look, I’m smiling.” Bookie — which is also a horrible name for a mascot, considering it’s also something you call a guy who deals with gambling, usually illegally — is the downtown Student Book Store’s mascot, and recently took over the popular store’s twitter account. The week featured actions like trash picking, skiing, taking a picture with Coke on our Pepsi campus, and trash picking a second time.
While at first, Bookie seems like he/she is just a big, creepy bear mascot, it’s more than meets the eye: The mascot has existed for more than 20 years, with quite the history. According to Michael Woytowich, the Student Book Store’s Director of Promotions, Bookie first emerged in the 1990s to help with SBS’s now-defunct balloon business.
“We used to have a balloon delivery service, a lot of the students would call in and get [balloons]on birthdays or graduation. You could actually buy stuffed animals and we could stretch the balloon open and put presents inside the balloons,” Woytowich said. “We would have Bookie the Bear do room deliveries and he was out at Arts Fest and he was just a fun presence.”
Bookie underwent a change 15 years ago, after the costume had enough wear and tear to warrant a new one. The old Bookie, Woytowich said, was “boxier,” leading to the current edition. However, Bookie has only recently resurfaced, after the book store took a break from using him once they closed down the balloon operation.
Despite Bookie’s creepy look at first glance, Woytowich said that the Student Book Store has actually received a positive response from the student body when the two went around campus for their #BookieTakeover a few weeks ago.
“When we were walking on campus one day for Bookie Takeover we were getting stopped for selfies, and people were taking pictures, and they didn’t even know really who he was or what we were doing,” he said. “They would ask us what we were doing which was kind of what our hope was, to drum up excitement about the bookstore.”
Probably the best part of all this talk is that SBS plans to use him in its already fantastic television commercials, which are among the best of the local Centre County ads. He’s even snuck into a few already, and served his purpose well — when it all comes down to it, the Student Book Store knows Bookie may not be the most normal-looking mascot, but that’s not expected of him. The store sees Bookie as more of a comedic presence for the Student Book Store, which, if you think about it, isn’t too far off from what the mascot has been.
Is a creepy looking bear mascot climbing in a dumpster on campus one of the weirder things you’ve ever seen? Probably. But in a weird way, its creepiness and absurdity is pretty funny, and it did enough to catch the attention of at least a few students. Bookie the Bear may not be the type of symbol that garners the praise of everyone who sees him, but for the comedic embodiment of a bookstore aimed at college students, he may just be the perfect mascot.
Photo: Student Book Store/Twitter