Eating between the lines

The Toronto Star has This Story on how osme libraries are letting people eat. Good to see libraries changing with the times.

For years, librarians have read the riot act to patrons caught eating or drinking in the stacks. But they now say the influence of Chapters and other big bookstores - where customers wander the aisles with food and drink from the in-store cafés - has spilled over to libraries, making it tougher to enforce the no-food-or-drink rule. ``I think people are a little on edge\'\' about the change, said chief librarian Mike Ridley. ``There\'s concern that the collection may be at risk. The fact is, people take books out and do even worse things to them at home.\'\' To keep patrons, and keep them happy, libraries are adapting. Some have opened their own cafés to create a bookstore-like atmosphere. A few have abandoned the rules completely.

There are still those, such as the library at the University of Toronto\'s Scarborough campus, that refuse to give in to ``Chapterizing.\'\' It recently implemented a zero-tolerance policy, stepping up food patrols and creating information displays showing food- or drink- damaged books.

``There is a new mentality out there,\'\' says Colin McLeod, a psychology professor who is vice-principal and vice-dean at the Scarborough campus.

``Students will stare you down with a cup of coffee. You see them with four muffins and two coffees and say `You can\'t bring that in here.\' They say `Why not? You can everywhere else.\'
``People in the former North York system are very forward-thinking in terms of what\'s going on in the larger book stores,\'\' said Syd Jones, director of marketing and communications for Toronto public libraries. ``They are picking up on a trend and trying to gauge consumer reaction and consumer interest.\'\'

So far so good, he said, but there\'s been no discussion about expanding the experiment. Some libraries, such as the Toronto Reference Library on Yonge St., likely will never permit food or drink, Jones said. The reference library has coffee and food kiosks at the entrance, but nothing can be taken inside.

Last September, the University of Western Ontario in London opened Quotes café in its humanities and social sciences library. Like others, it was struggling to serve students used to Chapters and Indigo.

``It\'s great that stores offer an environment to read, it\'s just hard for students to keep these things separate in their mind,\'\' said director of libraries Joyce Garnett.

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