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« Do We Become the Kids We Teach? | Main | Good Lookin’ Libraries – a Key to Survival? »

A Jolt of Java @ Your Library

Below is the collection of responses I received from a request I posted to two listservs - MEMO-L and LM_Net. I asked for librarians’ experiences in placing coffee shops (or services) in school library media centers. (This was done last February, but the topic surfaced again and seems relevant.)

(See also A Jolt of Java Revisited with more postings and pictures.)

My original interest stems from looking at how other institutions have responded to competition from the Internet (if one can buy a book online, why go to a bookstore?), and to see if any of these strategies might work
with school library media centers. I was doing this in preparation for a new talk “E-Books, E-Learning, E-Gads!” that debuted at the SCASL last spring. I asked for and received a picture of students enjoying coffee in a Minnesota high school library!

Obviously, there were already better minds than mine working along similar lines as you can tell from the responses below, including Shonda Brisco who wrote an article on the topic over a year ago and Gail Dickinson who has even prepared a whole bibliography about library coffee shops for her classes.

Thanks to all who responded. Here goes…

Oh, try to pick the librarians who will and who will not survive the Flat World Library Corporation proposal from their responses.


I didn’t see your original request but saw the responses. I started the “Books Rock Cafe” this year in my middle school by turning my workroom into a real cafe! I raised $6000.00 to do it and it is truly a reading incentive program and not designed to make big bucks!! The Media Center is now the heart of the school!!! Circulation doubled, students are meeting their classroom reading goals, and faculty hang out more in the media center more and collaborate more on instruction with me! It is a LOT more work on my part but well worth the time and effort. My media center is a place where everyone gathers to discuss great books! I even have parents checking out books, taking AR test and volunteering to help more. We have watched our low level students who never read anything begin to read, our higher level students have gone from 100 AR points per 9 weeks to over 300 points a 9 weeks and morale is up among the staff!!! Again, this is not for profit $$$, everytime a student reads a book and earns 5 AR points their reading teacher rewards them with a 15 minute Cafe pass during silent reading…everyone receives a free bag of gourmet popcorn when entering the cafe and then they can purchase many other great items such as hot chocolate, juice, crystal light, brownies, cinnamon rolls, cookies etc.. Parent sent money in and we have debit cards…students have money on account just waiting for them! Teachers can purchase coffee and cappucino and anything else…most want the popcorn! Sale of the other products help fund the free popcorn. Staff members buy gift certificates for each other and as rewards to their students. We also have three bookshelves full of the hottest paperback books for sale…our students hate to wait for their hold to come through and parents like coming in and picking out a book for their child.
I can honestly say it’s a lot of work but it also helped us in being selected as one of South Carolina’s Exemplary Reading Schools this year…that’s my main goal–READING and it works.
This is in response to your inquiry in LM Net about cafes in media centers. Last year my school won a $25,000 grant from our district to open a cafe in our media center. We call it the Beans, Books and Brains Cafe and use a conference room connected to the media center. I have to give most of the credit to our Business Department head who sought out a partnership with Barnie’s Coffee. They were remodeling a store and sold us their old furnishings at quite a discount. They also sold us the coffee machines and machines to make freezes. (Our most difficult task was running water into the cafe. Our county gave us trouble about redoing some plumbing!) Best of all, they took our students and trained them so that they are trained exactly like regular Barnie’s employees. The CEO of Barnie’s Coffee International came to the grand opening and gave us a check for $5,000 to purchase paperbacks for the cafe.

Kids work in the cafe before school and during all three of our lunches. The kids have been to Barnie’s corporate offices and one of our accounting students keeps the books, rolling the profits over for more product to run the cafe. My favorite part, of course, is that we have book racks where kids can exchange paperbacks. We also have newspaper and magazine racks that kids can peruse. We recently won a Teacherrific Award for this project (a Disney Award given for innovative programs in the counties surrounding Disneyworld) and hope to use it for a grant from ALA for innovative programs. This collaboration between the library media center and the business department has been so positive. It has been great getting to know the kids working there and meeting kids who usually do not frequent the media center.

Next time you are in Orlando (I came to one of your sessions at FETC) stop by and see us.
Timber Creek High School
1001 Avalon Park Blvd
Orlando, FL 32828
Article in Jan 2004 Library Media Connection by Shonda Brisco, “Dewey or Dalton? An investigation of the lure of the bookstore.”
Oh my goodness! coffee machines in the school library… it used as a fund-raiser? who runs the business? volunteers? or? what happens when someone is burned by hot coffee? who is liable? do we need to create”social hours” to get students to use a library? makes one wonder what this world is coming to? are the public libraries and university libraries offering the same? for years I have heard from college librarians that the public schools are not teaching “library etiquette” regarding talking, eating, socializing, now what will they say? uffda!!
Though not explicitly stated in Information Power (1998), a coffee shop and services in the media center would (might?) fit appropriately in Chapter 5 “Information Access and Delivery” under Principle 3 “The library media specialist provides a climate that is conducive to learning.” (Please see pages 87-88) Also note the statement from page 88, “The library media specialist exercises leadership in making students feel welcome — both because their physical surroundings are appealing."
We opened an LMC at our High School recently, and have plans to expand in the next three years. Our Superintendent told us to dream big, so my dream (in addition to a full computer lab actually adjacent to the LMC — capable of all document and media production) is to have a coffee shop either adjacent or in the LMC. Please send me everything you find out about the endeavors of others in the area. I want to have a solid presentation when I approach the planning committee — I’ve dropped hints, and I think it seems like a fairytale to the administration, but I see it as a reachable, common-sense goal to improve the atmosphere of my Barnes and Noble-esque intellectual gymnasium that they call the Library Media Center.
Ah ha, the Barnes & Noble strategy. Interesting short-term tactic, but does not address how we must redefine our role or the role of our program if we wish to continue being relevant……it don’t take no master’s degree to pour java…or check out a book. If the best we can do is serve coffee, we deserve to fade away. O.K., I am off the pulpit….good luck with your talk!
We have a teacher’s coffee group that has its base in our Media Center “back room”. We have an annual fundraiser once a year (I got this idea from SLJ) called “Thanks A Latte.” We (parent volunteers help) sell pretend lattes (hot cocoa with LOTS of marshmallows) for middle school kids and a cookie for $1.00 in our Media Center turned into “Starbooks Café”. We do this in conjunction with having the book fair set up so it’s a Barnes and Noble type of atmosphere. The kids love it! We just did this last week, with every student visiting through their Language Arts or Reading classes, and had our most profitable day ever.
The first year I was in this library, I allowed food and drink, and it was a fairly horrible experience. Students stuffed leftover food in the stacks, drinks were spilled on tables and never properly cleaned up–maybe it works in some places, but I am much happier this year allowing only water.

If a student wants, however, I let them finish a drink in my workroom, because that’s where I let myself drink. I enforce the rule equally for staff, faculty, and students.

Maybe I had so many problems partly because I work alone, without an aide. Maybe if there were more of us patrolling, or if I had a separate area for a coffeehouse, it would work.
….students are not allowed to eat or drink in the library (per orders by the administration and the maintenance staff). The one time that I did have EVERYONE in the library–using it, browsing for books, sitting and reading–was my first year here when I invited everyone to the library to see all the new materials that had been added. It was just before the holidays in December…we had food, drinks, books…and not ONE spill by the students!
I have an “almost” - my library is located just above the student center, which has a small deli/coffee shop. There are two sets of stairs directly from the student center into the library. When I started this job last August I had every intention of allowing students to bring in their café goodies because I thought it would make the library more appealing – fewer rules. I quickly found out that my policy meant that I became Mom, cleaning up all of the empty cups, muffin wrappers, crumbs, you name it. The are now “no food in the library” signs posted all over, particularly at the top of the stairs and on the tables where kids sit. This means they only bring food in sometimes, and at least they know why I harass them when they bring food in. That being said, I am pretty tolerant of coffee in the morning and I rarely say anything about it. How can I criticize a student who comes in early or sits at break writing a report and drinking coffee? I do draw the line at pizza/fries/yogurt/cup of noodles however, and I’m not fond of Gatorade and Snapple bottles because they leave sticky rings on the tables.

So far there has only been one major spill, and it was the assistant librarian who did it! I don’t think it is a bad idea at all, but there are issues to deal with as a result.
We have a coffee machine in our library - but we don’t have photos of students using it, yet. Good idea.
I noticed that there will be a session at the Texas Library Association conference on this very thing. You probably will not be attending, but often after the conference the handouts are available online. Some of the librarians that are participating are Lucile Dade (Carrollton Public Library), James Lutz (Texas Christian Univ.), John Witmer (Alief ISD). You might be able to contact them personally about this. I know that the former director of the Texas A&M libraries, Fred Heath, opened a coffee shop at the entrance to the main library several years ago. I think it has been a great hit. I have thought this might be fun to try too, but have been preoccupied with other needs. I look forward to watching for the posts
All the High Schools in Irving ISD do it. We were the last to get on board. Some of the middle schools do it - some for students and some for staff only. The Middle schools have a Saturday program at Barnes and Noble called “Java Makes Me Jump.”
I opened up a shop after Christmas break, and it’s been great! It was super busy for the first two weeks, but things have leveled off now. It’s brought MANY kids in who wouldn’t normally darken my door in the mornings.

Here are a few details: open from 7:30 - 8:00 a.m. only, sell cappuccino, coffee, prices range from fifty cents to a dollar, one student volunteer per week helps out (paid in drinks), and all drinks stay in the coffee shop (a former storeroom) or head out the door (no drinking in the main library).

I have chess, checkers, and a jigsaw puzzle spread out on the tables for kids to work on while they sip. I also have a wonderful student artist painting a mural for me on one wall.

It’s definitely a work in progress (a little dinky right now), but I love that it’s created more traffic all day! People come in at all times to see the latest on Miguel’s mural or work a few minutes on the puzzle.
When you get replies to this could you pass them on to me? I’m thinking of doing the same thing. Last year I found a company that would supply the machines and supplies to the library for no cost–just take their money from the machines. Our public library does this and it has been good for them. They have more than 30,000 patrons a month–I’m sure it isn’t the coffee, but I’m sure it doesn’t hurt the traffic there either.
I am in the midst of working towards placing one in our SMALL media center on a trial basis. (We are renting the equipment and borrowing small round cafe tables from the drama dept. that we will cover with vinyl tablecloths.) I am convinced this will draw more students into the IMC. I have had a couple of teachers come up to me in a very negative fashion and am expecting more as word gets out. However I do have full support from my head principal.

We are currently waiting for an estimate on the water line which must be installed so have not formally announced plans to the students or staff. We will then rent a cappuccino machine with two flavors and a third head for hot chocolate. If thing work out well, we will purchase our own equipment and fun seating. If our plans become reality I will email you again.
I attended your sessions at the joint KLA/KSMA conference in September at Louisville, Kentucky and thoroughly enjoyed them. We started a coffee shop this fall at Tates Creek High School in Lexington, Kentucky and are thrilled with the addition! This was the brain child of my partner, Amber, and our clerk, Cindy. Amber has pictures, not staged, of students reading in the coffee shop area so I will pass your query on to her. In the mean time, tell me exactly what you would like to know and I will respond. I could probably write a 500 word answer with no sweat, but I want to couch my response in terms of what you need to know. I respectfully submit our experience proves a coffee shop is a GOOD idea.
We have been hosting a monthly morning coffee in the library. WE don’t have coffee machines. Each time (Jan & Feb) the coffee was sponsored by a student fundraising event. In Jan we raised $1200. for the Tsunami project (21,000 school total), and Feb the German club raised $300.00 for their trip to Germany. Unfortunately I don’t think anyone took any digitals. We are planning another on April 1 for the Red Cross. Will take some then if you still need them. The coffee has been a very positive activity. We see kids who don’t ordinarily come to the library. We also play music, seems to get them into the area. It runs from 6:55 - 7:25. We serve Krispy Kremes (3 kinds), coffee with flavored creams, and cocoa. We always sell out of cocoa! We sell each item for $1.00. Let me know if you want any more info.

I don't have a Coffee Shop - being I'm in an elementary school it might
raise some eyebrows...but I do host groups of 4th & 5th graders in the
library for lunch every single day.  I tie into reading - a certain number
of AR points gets you a free pass out of the cafeteria. 

Here's my blog post on the concept:

Last year I only did it with 4th grade, this year it's both 4th and 5th
grade since the 5th graders convinced their teachers they wanted to keep
doing it. 

Guusje Moore

A Bibliography of Coffee in the Library Resources compiled by Gail K. Dickinson, PhD School Library Media Program 249-6 Dept of Educational Curriculum and Instruction Darden College of Education Old Dominion University Norfolk, VA

Libraries with cafes
Hastings, Texas
Lexington, Ky
Las Vegas, NV
Shawnee, Kansas
Knop, Kathi and Chris Larson. “Coffee, Anyone?“ Book Report 21.1 (May-June 2002): 24. Wilson Web Database. Online. 21 Mar 2003.


PLA conference session 2003
Carts, Cafes, and Coffeehouses: A Report on Food in the Library

Trelease, Jim, and Stephen Krashen. “Eating and Reading in the Library.”
Emergency Librarian EBSCO Database. Online. May-June 1996: 27.

Kornman, Becky. “Café Middle School.” School Library Journal Feb. 1998: 49.

Stewart, Ken W. “The Library Blend: One Media Center’s Alluring Brew.”
School Library Journal Aug. 1997: 26-29


List below kindly sent in by Sara Johns... 

Coffee in the High School Library? Heck yes! Gosh! <>
By Gruntled(Gruntled)
The AP has a fun story on high school libraries opening coffeehouses. Young people today are not in the library habit as previous generations (mine) were. The school gets more kids to come to the library, the business students learn to ...
Gruntled Center -  <>

School Libraries Lure Students With Coffee <>
By Madeline Holler
Some school libraries are conceding to the ubiquitous water bottle or can of Red Bull and letting kid patrons sip while they read in order to attract more students. Other schools are taking advantage of unquenchable thirst and setting ...
Strollerderby -  <>

Reinvent This Library! <>
By Kristin
Your principal is so enlightened that the money is budgeted to you without restriction — you can use it however you see fit to improve the students' experience in the school library media center. After buying a digital camera to capture ...
School Library Media Blog -  <>

Jamalco donates books to ten school libraries <>
The libraries of 10 primary and all-age schools in Clarendon are now better equipped through a recent donation of books by Jamalco. The beneficiary institutions are: Osborne Store and Chandler's Pen Primary and Junior High...
Jamaica Star Online -  <>

Coffee shops in high school libraries <>
By David Fahey
American high schools have begun to install coffee shops in their libraries to attract students to the vicinity of books. For a story which starts in Franklin, Tennessee, see here.
Alcohol and Drugs History Society -  <>

I think there are plenty of librarians who won’t need to worry about being replaced by an online library service.

Hmm, let’s see sticky rings on the library tables OR a job…

Experiences with running a coffee shop in the library?

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Reader Comments (11)

I love the idea of a coffee or hot cocoa in the media center, but how do you keep the atmosphere calm and quiet. I think half my school would show up in the beginning for the novelty of it, but my libary would not hold that many kids in an orderly environment. Do you limit the number and how do you manage that?
November 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSandra Wimberley
Hi. I read most of the comments and think it's a great idea to have a coffee shop in the library. We have one at our high school and elementary campus. Now we don't allow students to go to the coffee bar, just faculty members. We're a small 2A school and normally the faculty helps out with the coffee bar by bringing whatever supplies we need, coffee, filters, creamers, sugar, etc. We've had ours going now for a year. Last year I did all the baking for it. I haven't done as much this year. The teachers love going to the coffee bar, as we also offer hot chocolate and hot apple cider.
I would like some more ideas of how to get kids into my library though. so if you have any ideas/incentives, I'd appreciate the info.
January 4, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa Dockens
We are building a new high school that will open in the Fall of 2008. Two other local high schools have coffee shops in their media centers and I think it's a great idea! While planning the new facility I mentioned the idea to the principal and the architects. They thought it was a joke. We now have a new principal and he approached me about the idea.He wants to create a Borders type atmosphere. I'm all for it. In our current building there are four computer labs in the library. It is never quiet and "libraryish". I don't care if kids move the chairs, listen to ipods or sneak snacks. The result is that the Media Center is always full, fun and vital. Work gets done, research goes on, students feel welcome and hang out in the library. I am looking forward to the new facility which will be so much better. It will be state of the art with a TV studio, radio station, balconies, four computer labs, wireless laptops, sofas, armchairs, tables, 36 foot high ceilings with skylights, and a coffee center. When I retire I will probably come back and hang out in the library, sipping hot coffee and talking with students! Count me in. We are Media Specialists and need to embrace new ideas and technology. After all, it's the kids we are here for, not the books.
March 13, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDan Shroyer

Hi Doug and all,
We are building a brand new high school and there will be a coffee shop/wi-fi cafe plus huge TV screen display over the media center entrance. Everyone can walk through the coffee shop (run by students) into the media center (more wi-fi) and see the football stadium from a floor to ceiling window that runs across the north wall. I'll probably be the coffee shop's best customer. We will sponsor live music in the morning and after school when we can get musicians. --Wendy Larson, Farmington (MN) High School

November 5, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterWendy Lasron

Hi Wendy,

I want an initiation for a tour when it's ready. Sounds really neat

Thanks for writing in,


November 5, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

The January 2008 issue of School Library Journal has a cover story on coffee shops in school libraries.


January 18, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

Has anyone tried this with middle school. If so, how have you make it work for you?

January 27, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterP. Murphy

Hi Doug,

I'm wondering if you, or anyone else out there, knows of any upcoming workshops that focus on how to create a "cafe atmosphere" in the school library. I'm putting together ideas in a folder, but I'd love to see this in action and talk with others who have the know-how! If you've got any leads of such a workshop (especially in the international school circuit), please let me know.


February 5, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCelia Schatzky

We added a coin operated coffee machine in October to the informal area of our new High School library. It has been a great success. I haven't had any problems with spills or clean up because when we designed the library we put a countertop, small sink and tile floor in the area where the coffee machine was scheduled to go. If anyone spills they can quickly grab a sponge and some paper towels and clean up the mess. The machine is self contained, offers regular coffee, cocoa, vanilla latte and my favorite - mocachino. It costs a dollar. We did have to get a much larger trashcan to sit next to the machine because the used cups overwhelmed our existing library trashcans.

November 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterALine Baldwin

Hi Aline,

Hope things are going well in Houston ISD. I've always enjoyed my visits with you there!

I appreciate your sharing this experience. It will give others encouragement.

All the best,


November 25, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

We added a coin operated coffee machine in October to the informal area of our new High School library. It has been a great success. I haven't had any problems with spills or clean up because when we designed the library we put a countertop, small sink and tile floor in the area where the coffee machine was scheduled to go. If anyone spills they can quickly grab a sponge and some paper towels and clean up the mess. The machine is self contained, offers regular coffee, cocoa, vanilla latte and my favorite - mocachino. It costs a dollar. We did have to get a much larger trashcan to sit next to the machine because the used cups overwhelmed our existing library trashcans.

September 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLaura

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