Thursday, November 01, 2007

High School Coffee Shops

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 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."
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.


  1. My community library is getting an actual Starbucks put in it next year. Fortunately, I'll be gone by then. It's so frustrating when a small library (and this one is really small) becomes a social center!

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  3. My my, you are attracting the spam these days!

    It's kind of hard to argue with those library numbers. Books and warm drinks just seem to go together.

  4. I drink Fair Trade coffee. I admit it, I am a junkie. I wish our library would put in a Starbucks. It's hard to believe it could get any louder.

    How I would have LOVED to have a coffee bar in my HS library! I think I was the only one drinking coffee back then though.

  5. I agree, Eva. I'd hate to see my library end up as a coffee shop with books. That's OK for a retail setting but I don't understand the reason that real libraries decide to take that approach. Regular patrons will likely not be very happy with that choice...for long.

  6. I've become a spam magnet of late, Sylvia. For a long time, I didn't have to worry about that at all. I wonder what happened...

  7. Carrie, I just don't understand the connection, I guess. I like the smell of coffee but I think it would be irritating in a library setting...and all the extra noise involved just doesn't make it a good trade off for me. Library patrons can already be rude enough with their noise level without giving them the perfect excuse to be even louder and more disruptive. :-)

  8. hi there sam. been a-lurking on your blog for a bit now ... the coffee culture has invaded our libraries! ha! i actually like the idea, but for highschools i think this a little too much!

  9. Hi, Aloi...good to finally hear from you then. :-)

    I just can't make myself like the idea of having a noisy, smelly coffee bar in a public library. It just seems so counterproductive to me, somehow.