I've gotten used to the idea of seeing coffee shops in bookstores even though I've never been tempted to pony up five bucks for a coffee and a table that I could use for reading. Call me cheap, but I'd rather add the five dollars to my book budget rather than add the effect of all those extra calories to my already poor diet. What I never expected to see was high school libraries opening up their own coffee shops in an attempt to remind students that there is actually a place called a library in the same building that they wander around in all day long.
Some say that it's working. Others think it is a bad thing.
Coffeehouses are springing up in high school libraries around the country, marking a big departure from the days when librarians sternly prohibited food, drinks and talking....
Some health advocates wonder whether high school students really need any more caffeine, or the calories in that caramel mochaccino.
But school officials say these coffee shops are promoting reading and studying by attracting teenagers who might not otherwise hang out in a library.
The coffeehouse trend comes at a time when many school systems around country are removing junk food and soda machines....
"They're already providing horrible school lunches. Now they're adding to that with 800-calorie drinks," said Susan Levin, a registered dietitian with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. Many students load up their coffee with sugar and cream or buy dessert-like coffee drinks, Levin said.
Terry Shrader, Centennial High principal, said the Parent Teacher Student Organization considered whether it was a healthy idea before opening the cafe.
"Then they came in one morning and watched how many students walk through the door with Starbucks or those Vaults, caffeinated drinks," he said. "There's not any increase in the amount of caffeine they're drinking."
John Witmer, who has run a before-school cafe at Hastings High School in Houston since he became librarian in 2003, said it is extremely popular with the 2,800 students....
Before the coffeehouse opened, "they were running about 6,000 visits per year to the library and checking out about 3,000 books," he said. Now, "we're running about 65,000 visits and checking out about 45,000 books."
He has used the money earned to eliminate library fines, he said.
But 17-year-old Aaron Nall, a senior, said he doesn't think his fellow students read any more because of the cafe.I'm not ready to buy into the theory that something like this increases real library usage, and I can imagine how irritating all the extra noise must be to students who are actually there to use the library. But, on the other hand, you can't really protect people, high school students, included, from themselves and I doubt that they are consuming many more calories or much more caffeine than they would be consuming without having access to a mini-Starbucks in their school. I'm neutral on this one.
"I think this place is more a social scene than anything," he said. "And it makes it loud if you're trying to use the library."