Administration, faculty and staff have been discussing the possibility of creating a coffee shop in the library to accommodate students who want drinks and a livelier atmosphere while doing their homework.
The idea of a coffee shop inside the library might seem a bit odd considering the usual clientele go to the lib to find a quiet spot to read Dante rather than sip a latte, but school administrators feel it is an innovative way to bring more students to the library and increase accessibility to research materials and reference librarians.
But is this necessary? No.
On the surface, a spot serving up a hot cup of java seems like a wonderful idea, but amidst impending budget cuts, a large deficit and looming stock market concerns, it appears impractical at best. If St. Olaf has the cash to plug into a coffee shop, why not put it towards student services that would further the Colleges five-year strategic plan of gaining a more diverse student body? Or better yet, why not put it toward saving the nursing major? After all, furthering the colleges mission of educating students in body, mind, and spirit, will not be accomplished by unleashing to the world hundreds of caffeine-addicted students every year, unless, of course, we recently purchased stock in Starbucks.
Currently the library has had to close early on weekends because of federal student aid budget cuts. Why not use this mysterious extra capital to keep the library open longer. Even if the coffee shop could be self-sufficient, it would not raise enough money to be a viable source of income without taking away from current caffeine connection like the Cage and the Pause. Plus, student-run coffee houses in Larson and Thorson already provide students with an alternative spot to study. In addition, keeping the Cage open until midnight would alleviate the need to build an entirely new kitchen space.
If St. Olaf decides to go forward with the coffee shop concept it must be kept in a contained area. We suggest the third or fourth floor, leaving the first, second and fifth floors as designated quiet areas. This mandate would allow students who currently use the library for its peaceful serenity enough space to still find a quiet spot to tackle their calculus homework without uprooting too many of the great nooks and crannies.
Next, if they insist on selling coffee in the library, how will they police students in other areas of the library? We already have problems with excess food lying around causing rodent infestations and vandalism in residence hall. A large effort would have to be made by the library staff and custodians to enforce appropriate drinking behavior to ensure the upkeep of the library.
Do we need a coffee shop? No. Would it be a place that could create a sense of community? Yes. But, promoting existing areas instead of trying to justify a new coffee shop in light of our ever-increasing tuition and financial crisis is a hard sell. Lets keep it in our back pocket as an option for the future, but focus on making the places already available better to sit back, relax, study and grab a hot drink.