The Library Cafe Remains - Probably
By Anne McKay Garris
In the days when money was more plentiful and enthusiasm was growing for a "state of the art" new main library for Clearwater, a cafe overlooking the water seemed like a fabulous idea. The large number of patrons who use it, the Friends of the Library and the Library Board all think it still is. The lines are long at lunch time. It's a pleasant place to meet and greet over an interesting drink or cup of coffee. Computer time, using the library's Internet access is made less tedious when you can have a convenient snack.
But, there have been problems. Although the cafe is leased out to private concessionaires and not an expense to the library, there has been much turnover in a short time. Recently the current concessionaire reported he wanted to sell his cafe lease to another businessman. There was extensive discussion at City Hall about whether or not this could be done. In the end, senior library officials suggested doing away with the cafe in favor of vending machines for drinks and snacks.
The reaction to this suggestion was vigorous and widespread. Some Library Advisory Board members called the vending machines unattractive and not in keeping with the ambiance and culture represented by the main library of a great city. Patrons by the dozens wrote letters of objection. Friends of the Clearwater Library, an independent organization which enthusiastically supports the library with both finance and service, spoke out against it. In fact, just about everyone concerned made it plain that they believe a cafe has now become an important part of the main library's ambiance. The extent of the opposition caused Mayor Frank Hibbard to call a special meeting of those involved with the library to discuss the issue.
Acknowledging the people's wishes, Library Director Barbara Pickell reports that the vending machine idea is no longer an option. Current information on the cafe is that the current vendor will be closing sometime in the near future. Meantime, the city is asking for proposals from other potential vendors and the cafe will be reopened as soon as possible.
The final decision about the cafe will be made by a committee of five people, according to Director Pickell. There will be two from the Library Board, two from city staff and one member of the public.
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