Libraries and the ways people uses them has changed over the years. From libraries mainly for collections to libraries for collections but also for people and were programs, places and community means a lot more in the daily activities. In Roskilde we have experienced an exceptional growth in the number of visitors over the last 10 years and besides the development from collection to community there are many factors that effects the library as place (I shared some thoughts on this matter in this blog post: A room is not just a room: The Library as shared place and why it matters to communities)
But the growth in library visits is not my aim of this blog post. The case is that different use of the library space comes with different demands to the library space. Many citizens don’t just come to our library to pick up a book or to get help to find a book – they come to sit and read; To meet someone; To study; To attend a program, a talk or a workshop or just to sit down with a cup of coffee and a newspaper and be a part of society – all those things very important elements in the social infrastructure of a community.
Alongside with a stay at the library, the citizens in Roskilde likes a cup of coffee. And maybe also a cookie. So we’ll like to meet this very human demand which could be done in different ways; We could have coffee vending machines but let’s be honest – when did you ever get a good cup of coffee from a vending machine? We could open a library café instead but I never learned anything at library school about running a café. Then you could let somebody else run the café and we did just that but it’s not just any random café crew we got in Roskilde. They are very special and I want to share the story of them in this blog post because I think it’s an utterly fantastic story about life in libraries, coffee and socio-economic responsibility.
The Library Café: Making citizens with disabilities belong in the community
Our café, simply called The Library Café, is run by the Center for Disability in Roskilde Municipality. Center for Disability offers different kinds of opportunities to citizens with physical or mental disabilities. Could be places to live, support in everyday life, counseling and so called protected employment at different places in society. The Library Café at Roskilde Library is such a place for protected employment for citizens with physical or mental disability.
As an employee in protected employment, you are offered a position in work environment that take your disability into account when organizing the work to make sure it fits. You get paid, and generally have a regular working day with regular meeting times, breaks and whatever else comes with being employed at any other workplace. You get development interviews, course offers and staff benefits.
The difference is that the working day and tasks are organized with greater regard to your ability, resources and interests. At the same time, employees on normal terms are ready to help and support you when needed.
The goal is to create exactly the framework in which citizens with disabilities thrive and develop personally, socially and professionally so that you can live as independently as possible and feel that you are a part of society.
An extremely meaningful setup if you ask me.
At The Library Café at Roskilde Library we got around 12 employees from Center for Disability that has various degrees of physical or mental handicaps. They are fantastic, dutiful and an important part of the house.
There tasks include making coffees, cakes (OMG they are s great!) and homemade buns with cheese and cold cuts as well as serving the cafe’s customers, many of whom are extremly loyal and regular customers. The work also includes daily purchases of goods for the cafe, as well as practical stuff – washing, cleaning, laundry etc. Excellent and dedicated supervisors from Center for Disabilities are daily at the café to make sure everything runs smoothly.
We’ll been running this setup for six years and on Febuary 7th 2020 we just signed a new agreement to continue our partnership around The Library Café. Just recently in new and better settings as we have been rebuilding the library to open it up towards the city and in that manouver we have given the Library Café a highly central place by the new main entrance and with the possibility to use our new Library Garden as a serving place.
The Library to its core is supposed to an including place. In this case I belive it is just that