Coffee and a book in a cosy, warm place – sounds like heaven, or at least a thin place, to me! As mentioned in a previous post, Starbucks, Costa, Caffe Nero, etc. are the new community centres of urban places. They are where we go to meet up, to talk, to interact and de facto they have become a bit of a hub for urban communities. At the same time, local libraries are taking a beating and many closing – at least here in the UK. Some libraries have weathered the storm and have changed, adapted to a new age of access to information, but most have not.
This week I spent a lot of time in the British Library and learned how the majority of its material is not house in its large building by St. Pancras, but rather in two offsite locations – one in south London and one in York. For me to look at a book for the research I am doing, I need to order it and depending on where it is stored, it could take anywhere from 45 minutes to 48 hours to be brought to me and then I can only read it in special “reading rooms” in the library. And I’m not talking about some rare manuscripts or masterful works of Shakespeare or Plato, no, I’m just wanting to read a book on change management and innovation, nothing spectacular I can assure you.
In a moment of being bored with my research and distracted by the scent of coffee, I thought of many of the coffee shops in London I have spent hours in. I like the atmosphere, a bit home like with the big comfy chairs and some even with a fireplace. I began to wonder if there would be a way to link local libraries with some of these coffee shops – chains or not – where books would be available to read, to discover, to be lost in, while sipping a cup of joe. Could the coffee shops become the “reading rooms” of the local libraries?