Red tape holds up coffee cart addition to Mabee Library

Linda Meyer

Walk into the library of other Kansas universities and the aroma of coffee fills the air. Walk into Mabee Library and the smell of old books envelopes the senses.

To make the library more inviting to students, Alan Bearman, interim dean of libraries, asked for a coffee cart to be added.

“We are in a competition with Barnes and Noble,” said Bearman. “The library should be the center of the university. It is a community place.”

Coffee and education have a long history together. By the 17th century, coffee houses in England were known as “penny universities,” where a person could get a cup of coffee and have a spirited conversation about the issues of the day.

The process to get a coffee cart is not an easy one. Bearman gave his suggestion to Duke Divine, director of business services, who submitted it as one of nine capital equipment fund requests in December 2008. Divine ranked his requests, which included repairs to facilities. The coffee cart was ranked No. 3.

Divine said the only glitch stopping the request from being fulfilled is the budget crunch. With the school’s grim budget forecast, there isn’t much money to spend on wants, let alone needs. However, a decision will be made by May.

“It wouldn’t look too good if a leaky roof didn’t get fixed, but they put a coffee cart in the library,” said Divine. “But it is still something that would bring in the students. I’m not giving up.”

Chartwells, Washburn’s food service, was asked if it would be interested in supplying the cart, but representatives didn’t think it would be profitable. They did, however, give suggestions as to the type of cart that would work well in the library. Its cost is estimated around $5,000. Additional funds are needed for a water line and electricity.

Mabee Library is the only Regents school that doesn’t have coffee available. The other six state universities have coffee bars or carts in their main libraries.

Divine is aware that other Regents schools have coffee in their libraries, but he doesn’t think any of them make a profit.

“We have to look at having a coffee cart in the library as a service to our students,” said Divine.

Judy Druse, interim assistant dean of libraries, is also hoping for the coffee cart but she knows that the red tape can be hard to cut through.

“Sometime you have to sell people that it’s all right to come into the library,” said Druse. “Enjoying coffee and conversation with friends may be the reason for students to come in to Mabee.”