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.