PSA: More Libraries Need Cafés

Change is inevitable. And yet, we often deny and fight it every step of the way. Because all the information and entertainment we could ever want is available for download on our phones, tablets, and laptops, we arguably never really need to step foot in a library again. Unfortunately, instead of innovating and creating new reasons for people to venture into these once beloved public buildings, municipalities are simply slashing budgets, which could mean that — one day — libraries might cease to exist.

Barnes & Noble, as well as a multitude of local bookstores, have proven that reading and drinking coffee or eating a scone go hand-in-hand. And while libraries are losing funding and becoming less and less relevant, the demand for specialty coffee is steadily increasing. Adding a café, then, would seem to be a logical solution that could raise funding and revitalize the popularity of a local library. This enhancement could target the writer, the reader, the information seeker, the remote worker, the college student, and even kids (remember, cafés have treats) to help make libraries a go-to destination for nourishing both the mind and the body.

Countering the objections to library cafés

Traditionally, libraries have not allowed (or have strongly discouraged) bringing food and beverages inside. This is primarily in an effort to preserve the books. Food obviously attracts pests, which can damage library materials, while spilled beverages can ruin computers, books, and clothing.

However, any library book that you check out will be subjected to potential food and beverage damage once it is inside your home. This means there is really not a significant increase in risk involved by having food and beverages available in a library — as long as proper care and cleaning is involved. Plus, at bookstores such as Barnes & Noble, in-store coffee shops have not seemed to create problems by damaging merchandise.

Regarding the benefits, a library could charge a café rent to help cover budget slashes. Moreover, chains could support public libraries by donating food and/or beverages, which could help the community by serving those who may be facing food or housing insecurity with a bite to eat and a safe place to sit. Having quality beverages and food items on hand may also entice people from new demographics to visit a public library, especially if the library is within easy walking or commuting distance to neighborhoods and workplaces. Finally, if refreshments are available, more people are likely to attend library events, increasing awareness of these vital public spaces. It would seem the pros of library cafés far outweigh the cons, making it time for local libraries to be given an upgrade.