July 2008

Written By Lori Thiessen

Libraries have almost always been a “third space” in our communities. A “third space” is a moniker coined by Ray Oldenberg in 1999 that is a place which is not home or work. Coffee shops more of a hybrid third space, being used for socializing and work. For us java commuters, where would we be without coffee shops to escape the isolation of home and the necessity of making our own coffee?

Well, now libraries want to join the fray by serving up coffee. That’s right. You heard me. Some libraries in Australia, New Zealand and in San Jose, California have warmed up to the idea that coffee and books could mix. In an article by Cathryn Harris (“Libraries with Lattes: A New Third Space”), she writes about the social capital of a library. Increasingly, libraries are competing with bookstores that have cafes in them so that people will go to the local Starbucks at the Borders Bookstore rather than wander in and spend time in their local library.

“If you have good coffee, they will come”, seems to be the new mantra of visionary library administration. I know that the Vancouver Public Library (Main Branch) in downtown Vancouver, hosts a Blenz Coffee shop in the rotunda of the building along with several other retail shops. Now, I would hesitate bringing a coffee into the actual library space, but I can check out my book, drift over the Blenz and order an Iced coffee while browsing over my newly borrowed reading material.

As it is, I do see people (myself included) working away at laptops or at the public computers in the library. It is a great place to be if you need reference materials that don’t happen to be online. Mind you, that rarely happens anymore, but just in case, you’ll be right there to ask a friendly librarian. If it’s quiet you’re after, then the library seems like a no brainer. Although there is the Waves Coffee Shop on Commercial Drive which was a quiet as the grave.

The upshot is that we could be seeing disposable coffee cups adorning the study areas, in the bookstacks, and on the checkout counter at your local library. So don’t fret that Starbucks has closed 600 shops, your local library could be there to serve you … coffee.

Q: What do you think of libraries serving coffee?

Thanks for stopping by and I’ll save your seat until next time.


Written by Lori Thiessen

As a java commuter, you are armed with your laptop which lets you roam, but what if you have to print something out while you are roaming?

There are wireless printers and servers out there so you don’t have to fiddle with finding a console which is hooked to a printer then insert your thumb drive, …blah, blah, blah. Personally, I haven’t tried a wireless printer but there are times when it would be great to have one available. I understand from more techie-types that you need to configure your laptop for printer sharing, or network sharing.

From some online tech conversations about wireless printing I ‘ve read, trying to configure your laptop to use wireless printing can range anywhere from dead easy to tearing-your-hair-out difficult. But then that’s generally been my experience with computers.

Ideally, your local coffee shop office would have a wireless printer for you to use. It would be fab to be able to print out that proposal for your client rather than shoving your laptop across the table for him/her to read it off your screen, especially if you’re a wee bit too close to the appointment time to run to a print shop with your thumb drive. Of course, being a well-organized independent consultant you’d never run into a situation like this, would you? Oh no. Never.

For the coffee shop owner, it might be a dandy little second income stream. Charge, say, $0.25 cents a page. Refill the paper tray when the coffee condiments table needs refilling.

The second option is for you to lug around your own wireless printer. This might mean that you have to get an extra large wheelie to bring it with you or leave your printer in your car. But for the intrepid and resourceful java commuter no obstacle is too great.

Actually, it might be a great little source of income for an intrepid and resourceful java commuter to let people use your wireless printer for a price. Charge what you like, you’d have ’em by the gigabytes.

Q: Would you frequent a coffee shop more often if it had a printer available for you to use?

Thanks for stopping by and I’ll save your seat until next time.

Written by Lori Thiessen

Empires rise and empires fall. The ancient Egyptians knew it, the ancient Romans knew and now Starbucks knows it. Well, Starbucks hasn’t quite fallen yet, but there are some definite signs of shrinkage. Six hundred stores and 12,000 part-time and full-time staff are feeling the pain.

Some folks who love to hate Starbucks will probably be rejoicing at this news. Industry analysts have attributed Starbucks move to take things down a notch to everything from the “eat local” craze that is taking hold to McDonald’s venture into the specialty coffee market. It’s probably a combination of McDonald’s moving in on Starbucks territory plus Starbucks expanding too much and the fact that it’s over exposed to the public.

When Starbucks entered the consumer market in 1987, it was the hip joint to be. Now if you want to be hip, you don’t step foot into a Starbucks store unless you want the world to know you are a stooge for the corporate marketing machine.

It’s all about trends and Starbucks is looking at the end of theirs. It’s nobody’s fault really. Fashions come and go. These days, fashions or empires can be counted in decades not centuries usually. But Starbucks will probably re-invent their image to something fresh and eye-catching and we’ll all be lining up again with enthusiasm.

What does the closing of 600 Starbucks stores mean to the java commuter? Well, fewer places to have coffee and do business for a start.

Or does it? Nature abhors a vacuum so something will fill the gap, whether it is co-working spaces or a small local chain of coffee shops or a myriad of independent coffeehouses. Stay tuned.

Q: What do you think of Starbucks closing 600 stores and laying off 12,000 employees?

Thanks for stopping by and I’ll save your seat until next time!

Written by Lori Thiessen

I turned up for a meeting with the coffee shop office project team at, you guessed it, a local coffee shop a couple of weeks ago. Aaron Cruikshank, the survey guru for the project, spotted me dragging my medium-sized wheelie behind me and quipped, “Are you running away from home?”

Because the project has grown over the past few months, I schlep around more and more stuff. I’ve graduated from a simple letter-sized portfolio to this well, piece of luggage that I’ve used for week-long trips. It works as my portable office. I have everything in it because being slightly anal retentive, I don’t want to be caught without having whatever we may need for the meeting from my collection of articles to a stapler. Overkill, do I hear you cry? Why do you need so much STUFF? Well, it’s just my thing and fortunately, I have the arm and back strength to deal with it.

Now most people I see in coffee shops who are clearly working away on stuff either sport a briefcase or a backpack of some sort. For sheer attention grabbing value, there’s nothing like clattering in with a medium to large size wheelie, then maneuvering to a table. After choosing a table, the disemboweling begins. Out comes the laptop, and the cords, possibly a keyboard and mouse along with whatever sundry office supplies you might need. And of course, the iPod and earphones.

Then comes the chore of stowing your luggage carefully out of the way of other coffee shop customers. If your wheelie is tall enough, it can become a makeshift credenza to hold papers or other stuff you may want within reach. But just make sure that you’ve ordered your coffee before you set up camp. It can be quite embarrassing, annoying or funny to climb over your pile of stuff to get to the counter… and then back again.

For a while there, I thought I was the only fool, um, genius, to come up with this idea, but I noticed that Office Depot is now stocking medium-sized, expandable wheelies as well as the standard briefcase and laptop case. So obviously, the idea is catching on.

As the population of java commuters grows, there could be a subgroup developing in support of their baggage encrusted lives: the urban sherpa. Just as Sir Edmund Hilary had trusty Nepalese sherpas to assist him on his ascent of Mt. Everest, the modern day java commuter may have his/her own personal urban sherpa to help ascend the summit of a successful java commuter career.

Q: What kind of stuff do you carry around with you and how do you carry it?

Thanks for dropping by and I’ll save your seat for you until next time.