Coffee Shops in a High School Library

Dear Dr. Laura,


My principal wants me to look into adding a coffee shop to our high school library. Apparently there is some bond money that could cover this kind of thing. Are coffee shops even a thing anymore? I can’t imagine adding that to my already overloaded plate!


Signed,

Caffeine Deficient Librarian


Hi!

I know librarians wear so many different hats. It’s always one of the things that surprises new librarians and even some of us who have been around a while. “You want me to do what?!!”


Let me tell you about some of the different models I’ve seen. Maybe that will help give you a better perspective on things.


I’ve seen where the librarian runs a small coffee bar in their library. They had one of the jumbo-sized coffee pots brewing or a Keurig style coffee machine where people paid for their kcup and made their own cup of coffee. They also had some packaged baked goods and things like granola bars. They stocked it themselves. I’m not sure where the startup money came from, maybe bookfair profit or some other kind of fundraiser. This model has some pros and cons.

Pros

  • They benefitted from the profits. They used the profit to buy things for their library and for the book clubs they sponsored.

  • They attracted new guests to the library.

Cons

  • All money was handled by the librarians and required daily deposits.

  • When they ran out of coffee or goodies, someone had to make a run to the local store to replenish the supplies.

  • There were times they had to choose between serving the coffee shop visitors or the classes that were coming in for library time. (This led to them setting hours of service, which they had not done upfront. They thought they would be open the entire school day.)

  • They had to be sure to not compete with the cafeteria/food services and also had to ensure they met the food guidelines.

  • They had to do all the cleanup daily.

Another model is something my colleague (Child Nutrition Director) and I developed after studying several coffee shops across the nation. My former deputy superintendent challenged us to come up with a model to renovate our 2 existing high school library spaces to include a coffee shop. If you have access to any databases you can read more about it here: Sheneman, L.C. (2014, Mar/Apr). An extraordinary partnership. Library Media Connection This model became so popular that our next 2 specialty high schools were built with the coffee shop as part of the floorplan.


We had access to some district funds and partnered together to build Starbucks’ style coffee shops in our two existing high school libraries. The cafes were funded, manned, and operated by personnel from our Child Nutrition Department.

Pros

  • No part of the librarians' schedule changed since they did not run the coffee shops.

  • It was absolutely gorgeous and nothing like we could have pulled off on our own with cafe booths, high seating tables, professional coffee machines, homemade breakfasts, lunches, and after school snacks that all met the nutrition guidelines.

  • No cleanup on the librarians' part.

  • The library now had some fun seating areas for teachers to bring their classrooms to during school time.

  • Clubs had some great hanging out space to meet and work on projects before and after school.

  • All money was handled by the Child Nutrition department.

Cons

  • I had to gut about ⅓ of the existing library space to make room for the coffee shop and cafe style seating.

  • All profits belonged to the Child Nutrition Department.

  • It took several months for the newness to die down. They had students line up throughout the entire library and out into the hallway.

  • It wasn’t as quiet anymore and care had to be given to create some quiet zones for students who needed that kind of space.

I have also seen the coffee shop done on a much smaller scale with a mobile kiosk-style cart that was rolled out daily by the Child Nutrition team.


So don’t despair! There are a lot of positives that can come from this. One of the first things you can do is have a heart to heart with your principal to determine if this is something they expect you to run yourself or if a partnership with your Child Nutrition department is in order. Once you know which model, I would advise you to get on your state listserv and LM_Net and ask for people to send you photos and lessons they’ve learned through the process of using the coffee shop model they selected.


Drop me a note and let me know how it turns out!

Dr. Laura


Check out this week's podcast! The Librarian Influencer of the Week is Amanda Jones from Watson, Louisiana. She gave some good tips on advocating and even describes how being a member of AASL can guide you to awards which are like hidden grants where you can earn money to use for your library. She is also the 2019 AASL Social Media Superstar: Program Pioneer! https://www.laurasheneman.com/post/it-s-not-bragging-it-s-advocating-with-amanda-jones



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Laura Sheneman, EdD, MLS

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