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The Bookmark Café at SMPL

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Some things just naturally go together. Take, for instance, caffeine and the written word. So the inclusion of coffee shops in libraries makes perfect sense.

The Santa Monica Public Library opened in January 2006. The Library surrounds an idyllic Southern California modern open-air courtyard where you will find the coffee shop, The Bookmark Café. At the time the library was being planned, the public was surveyed on a number of issues, and the response was 50-50 about having a coffee shop. Since its opening, the café has been a success overall, with visitors and staff happy to have it, and virtually no problems. The café is also generating revenue for the city.

In general where there is food, there are bugs. And bugs eat books. An early concern about food on the premises on the part of libraries was preservation issues. The Library does not permit food to be brought inside, but does permit drinks with covered lids. As the courtyard is completely enclosed by the library, visitors are also permitted to take library materials out to the courtyard.

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Coffee shops in public (and a few academic) libraries is the trend now. You could say it's an idea that was planted in the 90s by the chain bookstores. Library users expect more than just a quiet place to read - they need coffee, wireless access, comfortable furniture. The high-profile Salt Lake City Public Library opened in 2003 and included a coffee shop. Public libraries throughout the City of San Jose, including the collaborative academic-meets-public Martin Luther King, Jr. Library, now have them. The Rem Koolhaas-designed Seattle Public Library integrated a designated space for a coffee and sandwich cart when it opened in 2004.

Have you renewed your library card lately? The promise of caffeine might be the incentive you need.

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Photo by Coco Halverson/LAist