It’s raining. The dark, depressing weather doesn’t help in raising my spirits as it is already weighed down by school and work. I just got out of my English class and I only have 40 minutes until work, and then chemistry immediately follows. As I’m walking towards my dorm, I pass the library and I’m reminded of what is in there — a café. I’m torn between eating food in my dorm, which I’ve already bought, or treating myself to a hot drink and a bagel. It’s been a long day, so I choose the bagel.
Putting a café in the library was smart because students who have been slaving away at studying get lured in by food. Studies have shown that when people are stressed, they eat more. And where are you most likely to find a stressed out student? The library, especially during dead week and finals week. It’s crowded with students, and there’s almost nowhere to sit. It’s definitely a hotspot on campus, and that has a lot to do with where it’s located and what it offers.
Cafés serve many different purposes these days. First and foremost, they have to serve good food and drinks; nobody wants to pay for an expensive, hard-to-pronounce coffee drink that doesn’t taste good. There also has to be baked goods and sandwiches because food feeds the soul and infects people with feelings of happiness. Cafés across time have become central for social interaction; there is no rush to leave. You can sit with a group of your friends for hours, chatting away and that is completely normal. Seeing people play a game of cards or with board games is not uncommon.
Alongside the people participating in leisure activities, are also people doing work. Many patrons enjoy the noise in cafés and find it to be an ideal place to do their homework and studying. Others are answering emails or are having informal meetings. This café in particular has a lot of students studying for their classes rather than answering emails for work; I personally find it to be too loud for studying. The library setting aids in the traffic of students using this café as their study area. Having a café in the library can be perceived as disruptive and not lying parallel with the ideals that the library holds. In actuality, it fits right in. The floor that the café is on is considered to be collaborative space; it is by no means a quiet floor like the upper levels of the library. Therefore, talking and collaborating over projects and homework are encouraged.
Within the whole dynamic of the café, you have the outliers; those who are not there to hang out or study, but are there just to be there. I am one of them. We are those who are sitting alone, just there to satisfy our hunger. We are those with our nose buried in a book that has nothing to do with school, only with our thirst for something that is only for our enjoyment — nothing else. We are those that are just trying to catch a breath.
There is no right way to be in a café. There’s only a wrong way which is any behavior that is disruptive to the people around you. It’s an inclusive environment that harbors creativity, entertainment, social interaction, and peace of mind. They’ve been around for ages, and they’ll continue to grow and adapt with the society which it resides within.
After I wait in the long line and wait a little bit linger for my order to be ready, I finally sit down with my pesto cream cheese on an everything bagel with a tall chai tea latte. I take a bite out of that bagel and relief floods my body. I have to eat and drink faster than I would like so that I can make it to work on time. However, for the first time today, I am content.