Food for thought at the library

MSNBC carried this article on coffee and gift shops at the public library.
\"On a recent day, a woman crunched on her Caesar salad and thumbed through the latest John Grisham mystery. Two teens sipped their caramel-flavored java as they perused the periodicals. Down the hall, a man bought a bag of Edgar Allan Poe-pourri at the gift shop. If it sounds more like a Barnes and Noble bookstore than the stuffy library from the days of old, Springfield-Greene County Library director Annie Busch certainly hopes so.
“The library is no longer the dim, dusty place that you only visit if you have to,” Busch said. “It’s suddenly a pretty cool place to hang out.”
\"There was a time not too long ago when people were predicting libraries would no longer be needed in this Internet age,” Busch said. “I think we are proving them wrong.”
Libraries across the country have been experimenting with similar creative measures – coffee shops, gift stores, meeting rooms, etc. – in the face of competition from mega-bookstores and the Internet.
“It’s all about customer service. People are looking for destination and convenience. Why shouldn’t the library provide those things?” said Harriet Henderson of the Public Library Association in Maryland. “It’s just like any other business, the customer comes first.”
The idea of serving latte in the library is not new – it’s been done for years in Atlanta, Portland, Milwaukee and elsewhere. The Los Angles Public Library has gone a step further by expanding its cafe to include a Chinese restaurant and a frozen yogurt stand. But with the success of those cafes, the word has spread.
“We see people come here for the first time who can’t believe their eyes. They can’t believe we’re serving food and allowing them to carry it around,” said Lisa Masten, assistant director of the Newington Library in Connecticut, where the “Cup & Chaucer Cafe” has been serving biscotti sticks and coffee for three years. “It’s not a huge money maker, but the people enjoy it.”

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