A number of years ago I ran across a cartoon which showed a lady amidst shelves of books speaking to a librarian, â€œI have never been in a place with so many books and not be able to get a cup of coffee!â€
We can all chuckle about that, however more and more libraries across the country now have cafes. As a matter of fact, the newly-remodeled Pelletier Library on the Allegheny College campus has a cafe called The Wrecking Ball.
Libraries traditionally have separated food and drink from their major resource, books. Frankly, food and print materials do not mix well. Food not only stains but causes books and magazines to deteriorate. Publications with glossy paper are coated with a material made of clay and if they get wet, will turn into a single, solid brick.
Librarians have traditionally been taught in library school (yes, there are such places) that food and drink should be forever separated from books. Managers of book shops have never been indoctrinated with this philosophy, so we now have a society expecting to ave a double mocha cream el grande latte available while they peruse the latest Grisham.
We are not the only library asking this question. A quick Google search returns 1,830,000 hits for the search terms â€œlibrariesâ€ and â€œcoffee.â€ I also found numerous blogs written by librarians about cafes in libraries. And it is not just college libraries reporting this trend. There are countless public libraries as well as public high schools writing about coffee bars in their facilities.
All of this explanation leads to the question â€“ â€œShould Meadville Public Library have a coffee bar?â€ Our latest user survey posed that question and 20 people responded in the affirmative. However, to really get a good answer, we need to poll more people. Starting the first and running the whole month of May, we conducted a poll here at the library. The question was simple: Should the Meadville Public Library have a coffee bar? Yes or No. Patrons voted at the Main Floor and Fiction Circulation desks. Votes were also collected on our web site at www.meadvillelibrary.org.
We plan to post the results on our web site and present the results to the Library Board. The question is, do patrons think libraries should embrace change and offer refreshments to complement the relaxing atmosphere or should libraries strictly control the environment in order to protect their materials and furnishings?