Gathering Place

By Bess Keller — October 11, 2004 1 min read
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If book emporiums can do it, why not a high school library? So reasoned a team of school media specialists who have opened a book-themed cafe in their Kentucky high school’s library.

The Bookmark (“The place you want to come back to”) has been selling coffee, tea, and hot chocolate since the school year started at Tates Creek High School in Lexington.

“I think students really do like it,” said Naema A. Shalash, a senior who works in the library.

Open for just an hour before the start of school, the coffee spot draws students who don’t necessarily frequent the library otherwise, Ms. Shalash said.

“We’ve seen a tremendous increase, intuitively almost double, of traffic in the media center in the morning while it’s open,” added librarian Wanda A. Jaquith.

Ms. Jaquith, fellow librarian Amber M. Tongate, and library aide Cindy Brooke readied the nook over the summer, one of several upgrades meant to make the library a more user-friendly space.

With a wooden marquee over the entrance to the former magazine room built by Ms. Brooke’s husband, the cafe offers tables, chairs, and a coffee-hued color scheme. The beverages—sorry, no espresso drinks—sell for a dollar a cup, with some of the profits going to the teams and clubs that help run the shop, said Ms. Tongate.

Taking another page from bookstores, the librarians rearranged all of the media center’s fiction into categories such as “adventure” and “science fiction.” The media team even decoupaged computer stools with pages from old books.

Tates Creek High’s approach is part of a trend toward making libraries “more welcoming and more casual,” said Julie Walker, the executive director of the American Association of School Librarians, based in Chicago. Library cafes have also popped up in Texas and South Carolina, she said.

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