I recently had a meeting with my boss about many things, mostly having to do with technology because I’m the emerging technology/web 2.0 librarian. We talked for quite awhile and as we were wrapping up she asked me if there was anything else I wanted to discuss. I looked down at my notes where I had scribbled: Coffee Cop. I took a deep breath.
Every library I’ve ever worked in has struggled with the idea of food and beverages in the library. Traditional thought follows the line that such items would be banned to protect the books, carpet, furniture and computers.
I know that my current library has been very strict about enforcing the no beverages/no food in the library except for one small area of the library we call the cafe area. The cafe area has easy chairs, the magazines, a fireplace, some small tables and chairs, a counter top with stools and even has a small pod coffee pot that dispenses a cup of coffee for $1.
By not allowing anything other than bottled water in the rest of the library, we have essentially been put in the role of Coffee Cop. People wander in with their Dunkin Donuts cup and their laptop and we pounce on them and tell them they need to drink their coffee in the cafe area.
The problem with our current set of rules is that it creates an adversarial relationship immediately upon our customer entering the library. “Hey, you can’t have that in here.” This is a problem. There are so many folks bringing in coffee that it is a daily occurrence, sometimes several times a day. Is this how we want to greet our customers?
What are we worried about? The carpet? It can be cleaned or a square replaced. The keyboards? They are relatively inexpensive. Books? We allow books out of the library …in fact, we encourage it and god knows what people do with the books at home. I myself have eaten meals while reading, read in the bathtub, taken books to the beach and propped a cookbook up on the counter for reference as I cooked. There just isn’t a compelling enough argument to justify creating an unwelcoming atmosphere.
I stated my case and my boss said she’d think about it and that we should talk about it as a group.
In an atmosphere where we fear decreased funding and we are looking to our customers to be our voice. I say, welcome them into the library with open arms, coffee and all.