Principal Terry Shrader Centennial High School in Williamson County (Tenn.) Schools recalls a news story about a public library building its own coffee shop to attract more community members, increase circulation, and compete with local bookstores. The concept sparked his interest.
“I talked to our librarians and PTSO about it, and everyone thought it would be a great idea,” Shrader says. In August 2007, the school opened the Cougar Caf?, a coffee shop inside the library that is open before, during and after school.
“It was a success from day two,” adds Shrader. “The caf? has improved the atmosphere of our library immensely by making it more student-friendly and studentcentered.” And students on both sides of the counter have benefited. “The caf? is entirely run by volunteer students from our marketing class. They manage it ike any other business, budgeting, interviewing and choosing vendors, product testing and research, setting the hours of operation, every detail,” he says. Revenues from the caf? become $500 college scholarships for each of the roughly 15 volunteers on staff.
Have there been problems with cleanliness in the library as a result? “In the past year and a half, we’ve had one coffee spill. The students have been careful and appreciative,” he says.
While there are no statistics on the number of public school libraries adding caf?s, Ann M. Martin, president of the American Association of School Librarians, says full-time shops like the Cougar Caf? are relatively rare. “I do love the idea” of library caf?s, Martin says. “It’s all about marketing [the library] and making students comfortable.” She adds that high school students like to sit, socialize and work together on projects, “and they like having something to drink while they do it.”
If a school or district decides to create such a caf?, there are other factors to consider. Federal school food regulations, for example, state that schools with federally funded food programs cannot sell coffee or tea during breakfast or lunch, but they can be sold at other times during the day, says Martin. Other obstacles—like finding the staff, funding and time to create a caf?—must be considered, she adds.
While it is unclear how popular library caf?s are becoming, Shrader says, “there is a lot of interest across our district, and at least one of our other six high school libraries is already set to open their own.”