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ISSUE 117 VOL 9 PUBLISHED 11/21/2003

Feelings mixed on coffeehouse option

By Maren Daniel
Staff Writer

Friday, November 21, 2003

The Rolvaag Memorial Library appears one step closer to housing a coffee shop after a poll of student opinions was taken three weeks ago.

About 80 percent of the 341 students who responded to the survey indicated that they would be in favor of the coffee shop. Dean of Students Greg Kneser, who also supports the idea of a coffee shop, "thought students would be in favor, but not this [much] in favor."

While most students appear to share the same views as Kneser, the final decision will be based on more than student opinion.

"The survey cleared up some questions about how students feel," Kneser said, "but no decision has been made yet."

Cost and concerns raised by students, library staff and janitors will be taken into consideration before the decision is final.

The survey asked how often students use the library, what they use it for, their satisfaction with current Cage, Pause, and library hours, their concerns about a possible coffee shop, and what they would like to see in a library coffee shop.

While survey results indicate a want for snacks and beverages available to purchase and consume in the library, most respondents – opponents and proponents alike – also expressed concern for noise that the coffee shop would bring to a quiet study space, the likely mess, as well as damage to library materials.

The solution that both College Librarian Bryn Geffert and Kneser see is to close the coffee shop off from the rest of the library. Some survey respondents pointed out how bookstores such as Barnes & Noble and Borders house a Starbucks in a limited area of the store.

Geffert said that Facilities Director Pete Sandberg does not think that the funding for additional doors to close the coffee shop off would be a problem.

"Some of these concerns have opened other doors," Kneser said. "The discussion has turned away from a coffee shop to asking how the library can be more useful to students. Coffee is really only one piece of it."

One way in which the library could be more useful to students is to be open later. According to Geffert, "There has been a clamor for many years to have the library open longer."

As the library closes at midnight, finding a place to study in the early hours of the morning can be difficult. The current late-night study area is Holland Hall, which stays open until 3 a.m. But Kneser said that this option is "underutilized."

Geffert cited cuts in federal student aid as the reason why the college has had to reduce student work hours and has not been able to pay students to work later hours in the library. Geffert said that Bon Appétit is willing to consider staffing and covering the costs of operation of a library coffee shop, but has not yet made a firm commitment. The library coffee shop, if Bon Appétit is willing to fund it, would allow at least part of the library to stay open later without impacting the overall college budget.

Kneser said that he would move the funding from the late night study space in Holland Hall to the coffee shop.

In addition to funding, another problem with moving the late night study space to the library coffee shop includes finding computers.

Geffert plans to speak with IIT about the possibility of providing the coffee shop with computers. IIT has said that they will consider the proposal in order to make the shop a useful late night study space.

As to how custodians and library staff feel, Kneser said that a meeting with them was held early on in the process.

"There was about a one-third split," he said, "between those who like the idea, those who don’t like it, and those who want to hear more." He said that the custodians share the same concerns about noise, cleanliness and damage to library materials that students do.

The survey also asked what features students would like to see in a coffee shop.

Results indicated a desire for newspapers, periodicals and new books to be available in the coffee shop area. This result points to the periodicals room on the fourth floor as a probable site.

Students opp-osed to the idea argued that any money spent by the college – such as the addition of doors to close the coffee shop off – would be better spent in preserving the nursing program, lowering tuition and keeping the whole library, not just a coffee shop, open longer.

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