Study Snacks

While Belk Library has everything you would expect to find – books, comfy chairs, librarians – some at Elon feel there is one thing missing: food.

The debate about whether Belk should have food service has been around practically since the library opened in 2000.

Sophomore Hilary Griffin, who said she gets hungry at the library, has noticed students doing class projects about adding a food service to Belk Library.

“It’s obviously on people’s minds,” Griffin said.

Consider Dean and University Librarian Kate Hickey one of those people.

“We have wanted a food service in Belk ever since it opened,” Hickey said. “The big advantage would be the ability to offer drinks very late at night when other services on campus are closed.”

Sophomore Katie Brophy works at Belk as a library assistant. From her perspective as both a student and a library employee, she thinks it would be beneficial to add food service.

“Whenever I go to Belk I tend to be there for long hauls, so I like to have some sort of food with me while I work,” said Brophy, who would like to see a place similar to Irazu in the library.

“A place like Java City in Koury Business Center would be nice,” said Griffin. “Just a little coffee and snack place.”

Freshman Kayla Warfield said she brings snacks such as fruit with her to the library to help her stay focused. She sees going to Moseley as distracting.

“I think it’s important that people don’t have to leave the library to get stuff,” Warfield said.

Not only can getting hungry at the library be an interruption, but walking alone at night or leaving your belongings unattended can be a risk.

Freshman Emily Dietrich admits hiding her laptop while going to Moseley to buy food.

“I went with some friends, but we did leave our stuff in [the library],” Dietrich said. “I was a little uneasy about it.”

Dietrich is also in favor of adding food service that would sell sandwiches and caffeinated beverages.

“There’s nothing wrong with more food and more choices,” Dietrich said.

It’s not always that simple

In a world where issues such as money or space are not problems, Hickey imagines both students and staff enjoying snacks from the library. However, she knows such issues are very real considerations.

“We have been unable to locate a suitable space because the library needs every inch it has for student study, services space, and for book and AV storage,” Hickey said. “We are much too crowded.”

Aside from finding space, serving food requires a cooking area where the food can be prepared.

“You’d have to basically change the physical structure of the building,” said Randall Bowman, a reference and instruction librarian. “You’d have to take a part of the building and basically renovate it [and] have a kitchen or kitchenette built in.”

It is also important to remember that people aren’t the only ones who would enjoy a food service in Belk Library.

“Any types of food or remains or wrappers do tend to attract pests or vermin,” said Bowman. “We have a lot of good housekeeping staff so we keep that situation controlled, but if you add a food service of any kind then you’ll more likely have a problem with pests.”

Jeff Gazda, the resident district manager for ARAMARK, said he would love to add a food service to Belk. However, he has noticed one sizeable difference between Elon and other schools who sell food in their libraries.

“Most schools that sell food do that to drive students to the library, and we have the opposite problem,” Gazda said. “In today’s economy, it is probably a bad idea because we have more options and amenities per capita than anyone I can think of. Being a small campus, everything is so close.”

Hickey agrees that while having a food service in the library would be nice, it is not a necessity.

“It’s really not far to Moseley or Colonnades during the day and early evening,” Hickey said.

What is necessary is a way to prevent students’ belongings from being left vulnerable, an issue the library addressed last spring.

“A student can deposit their belongings at the circulation desk and we’ll put them into a bin and keep them safe,” said Bowman.

This protective service could do a lot to quell the arguments for a food service in Belk. However, it is not very well publicized to students. Furthermore, Brophy noted another drawback she discovered through a personal experience while working in a private study room on the second floor.

“I left to go get food but I had to leave my laptop and all my stuff there because I didn’t want to take it out and lose the room,” Brophy said.

A Coming attraction?

However, just because the issue is complicated now, does not mean a compromise is out of reach.

“My understanding is that the university’s long range planning, say for the next 10 years, is to add an addition to the library,” said Bowman, who cautioned that the planning stages offer no way of knowing if this addition would involve food service.

In the meantime, Hickey remains on the lookout for an interim solution.

“I continue to search for a coffee or hot drink machine that would be large enough for all the students and staff in Belk yet could be squeezed in a corner somewhere with power and water,” Hickey said.

A wide selection of food and beverage vending machines might be the best solution overall because it would come with the fewest negative repercussions. Students cited an increase in noise and traffic as their top concern for adding food service to the library. The second concern was causing a messy library.  Because vending machines eliminate food preparation, students could continue to study without disruption.

But until any changes are made, the debate is bound to continue.

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