The University announced recently that it is looking to install a Starbucks cafe in the first floor of Gelman Library. The new facility would convert one part of the 24-hour reading room into the facility while retaining the rest of the space for studying. While the cafe could help advance the well-known University goal of fostering a sense of community, the decision to spend a significant amount on the facility is ill-timed given the current budget constraints.
There are several potential positives of bringing Starbucks to Gelman. From the long lines seen at Starbucks in J Street, it is clear that installing an additional venue would improve service for students. Also, installing a cafe in the library would provide students with another location at which to congregate on campus. For a university seeking to enhance its campus camaraderie, having another location for students to hang out will help advance that goal. In addition, the current study space in the room would be minimally impacted – there would still be a study lounge in the remaining space.
Although constructing a new Starbucks in the library could improve aspects of student life, it also raises questions about University motives and priorities. A donor has committed some funds toward its construction, but the majority of the funding will come out of either the University’s or library’s budget. In either case, there are many priorities toward which available funds should first be directed, for instance, constructing an academic facility to ease the current classroom space crunch.
These funds could also go toward improving Gelman library itself. Gelman, recently ranked in the 90s of the best libraries in the country, could use these funds to purchase new information technology systems or to continue purchasing new books in an effort to improve the library as a whole.
While there exist compelling arguments on both sides, given current budget constraints, it would be unwise for the University to invest in such an operation. Investing a six-figure sum on a coffee shop when academic programs are being cut hardly seems appropriate. If the University were to procure a donor to pay completely for the facility this page would support its construction.