Fresh coffee a hit in library Beans: Seattle native's enterprise is part of a trend as universities increasingly invite private companies onto campus.

Small business

May 22, 1998|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,SUN STAFF

With just hours to spare before the next round of finals at the Johns Hopkins University, students hunched over books in concentration, sprawled across armchairs or lined up for a caffeine jolt at Cafe Q -- one of the busiest spots in the Milton S. Eisenhower Library.

Cafe owner Matt McCauley broke a sweat keeping up with the endless demand for cappuccino, latte and biscotti served from his Seattle-style cart.

McCauley, a Seattle transplant who spent months perfecting his espresso-making technique, is the latest wave in a long-running trend as universities increasingly invite private companies onto campus.

Many university-run cafeterias, for instance, have long since given way to large food service companies and national fast-food nameplates, and companies like Barnes & Noble Inc. operate campus bookstores.

Now they are bringing the coffee into the library.

"The big booksellers get it," said McCauley, who leases space from the university. "People like to sit with a cup of coffee and read a book. And on a college campus, students will find an espresso cart."

The idea is catching on nationwide, as research and public librares facing rising expenses and limited budgets look for new sources of income, said William Gordon, executive director of the Chicago-based American Library Association. So far, income from rents or shared profits at coffee bars, carts and shops -- many of which have sprung up in new or renovated buildings -- has been mostly supplemental, he said.

But libraries also are acutely aware of the success of booksellers like Barnes & Noble and Borders Books & Music.

"The people who use bookstores are the people who use libraries, and if you're using a bookstore and you have access to a cafe, you begin to have the same expectations from libraries," Gordon said.

At Hopkins, food is permitted on the cafe level, which soon will have cafe tables and chairs, while covered beverages are now allowed in much of the newly renovated, five-level building, said Kenneth E. Flower, associate director. (In one sign of coffee's popularity, the Class of 1998 chose furniture for the cafe over a scholarship, to leave as the senior class gift.)

At the library used jointly by Loyola College and the College of Notre Dame, library directors have reserved a corner with large windows overlooking a pond for an espresso cart to open in September.

It will be run by McCauley of Cafe Q, who is in partnership with the Coffee Mill, a Baltimore-based coffee retailer and wholesaler.

"Students want to hunker down and do work and don't want to go to McDonald's," said Sister M. Ian Stewart, director of the Loyola/Notre Dame Library. "Borders brings more customers in [with a cafe]. Why shouldn't we try to carry that over to the library? "

At a public library in downtown Chicago, patrons can get coffee and snacks in a sit-down cafe. And librarians at the Edwardsville Public Library in Edwardsville, Ill., are planning this fall to open a used bookstore and cafe with tables and a cart selling coffee and bagels, to help pay for summer youth programs.

In North Carolina, Wake County Libraries is working with Starbucks to open a cafe at a library outside Raleigh -- only the second library location for the Seattle-based mega-chain.

Terri Luke, regional library supervisor for the county system, faced resistance from her staff at first.

But the library had no problems during a short period in which a local coffee contractor ran a service. Luke also argued that patrons take books home, where they eat and drink.

"People believe libraries are sacred, and should you allow this?" Luke said. "But we've been challenged by the local government to think out of the box and think of things you can do."

Pub Date: 5/22/98

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