Supervisors look into food service for library patrons

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County libraries moved one step closer Tuesday to one day serving food and beverages to library patrons.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a motion by 5th District Supervisor Kathryn Barger directing the County Librarian to explore innovative ways to increase patronage and revenue at public libraries, including partnerships with food-service retailers.

“A public library is an essential element of any community,” Barger said. “This effort will help us identify new ways to improve the library experience, raise revenue and attract new patrons with available coffee drinks or food for sale on site.”

Supervisors are now expecting to see a report in 90 days which will including research on other public library systems or municipalities that have successfully established food service partnerships.

In drafting the motion, Barger noted that libraries have changed drastically due to technology over the last few years, making them more than just book lenders.

“While the traditional library model was defined by transactional services — lending and returning of books — the dynamics of the modern library have become increasingly more relational,” Barger wrote in a memo available for her fellow supervisors, attached to her motion.

“While the number of book loans has somewhat declined, today’s libraries are as busy as ever, and have become a venue for social interaction and knowledge sharing.

“Increasingly, libraries use technologies and partnerships to support learning and literacy for all of the diverse members of the communities they serve.

She pointed out that the Los Angeles County Library is one of the largest library systems in the nation, providing services to more than 3.4 million residents living in unincorporated areas and to residents of 49 of the 88 incorporated cities in the county.

Examples of libraries already serving up more than just books, Barger pointed to the Tempe Public Library which operates a café on site.

The Salt Lake City Public Library also partners with a local coffee shop among other vendors, and the Allen County Public Library in Indiana has partnered with Dunkin’ Donuts, she noted.

Closer to home, Barger also noted the Santa Monica Public Library runs a café in the central courtyard of the main library location.

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