In the midst of my Jacarandas mission, a coffee shop caught my attention named after the logogram, used in replacement of the conjunction, and. Ampersand is located along Oxford, a popular shopping street along Darlinghurst and Paddington in Sydney. I thought, it was time for a coffee break and went in. In closer inspection, I realized it’s a café and a bookstore, the kind of place where you can stay for longer periods to study and not be social media shamed. Yes, we are living in the time of social media sensitives when people take offense at absolutely anything, and where you could be hated for something as simple as using cafés in place of libraries.
But when did we stop using libraries to begin with? Libraries have the books and the WiFi needed for reviewing or doing homework and these places are built and maintained to be orderly and quiet. Cafes, on the other hand, can be busy and rowdy and there is always that constant distraction from others going in and out or hanging out to chatter.
As I was having these thoughts, I bought a cup of coffee. I asked the barista if he minds if I take photos, said he didn’t and let me take as many pictures as I wish. There are several library cafés in the Philippines but none of them looked anything close to Ampersand. Every corner has bookshelves filled with books, an extensive collection of the classics and contemporary literature.
I went all the way to the second and third floors where the settings looked more like a library than a café. There is that unmistakable scent of old books that I so loved. I’m not sure about the price range of these books, but I heard you only need to approach one of the staff if anything interests you enough to make a purchase.
I saw this area with some customers and I was careful not to disturb them.
I went back downstairs and a few moments later, my coffee was served. As I sipped my coffee, I continued my inner dialogues. I do not agree with shaming students in social media for haggling seats, however, I do understand the frustration of other customers, as I also experienced leaving a café when there were no more seats available. Yes, I can always find another place to get my fix, but whatever happened with libraries? When did they stop being an ideal place for learning that students would rather pay for expensive coffee? What do they lack aside from the obvious (coffee)?
If it’s a matter of operating hours, the cafés are at a clear advantage. Many of them are open late, sometimes even for 24 hours. Most libraries, on the other hand, are within the confines of the schools and universities and close down at a specific time of the day. There’s also a matter of availability, there are fewer libraries than cafés.
Just to satisfy my curiosity, I googled the matter and read on a website that some students find the library environment to be too confining that they appreciate the more chill-out atmosphere in cafés. Hence, some schools are going with the trend by building a café-like library as in the case of the Library Café at the University of York. Not only does it serve coffee and light snacks, but it is also open 24 hours.
When I was in school, I did my review and homework at home or in the library. It’s there that I discovered and read my very first book, The Little Match Girl. In grade school, I volunteered as a library assistant where I spent 2 to 3 hours after class, cleaning the room, reading the books, and assisting the librarian. I always went home with borrowed books, mostly fairy tales, and would ask people what some English words meant. I love coffee shops, the name of my blog makes it obvious, but I loved spending time in the libraries as well. A big part of who I am today was shaped within the four corners of the repository of books. I guess this explains why I feel sad that libraries are not used or appreciated now the same way we did before.
I do realize that time is changing and what may have worked for me and people of my generation, may not necessarily work for the young people of today. Maybe they perceive that the conditions in cafés are much conducive to learning. Maybe the caffeine and the light bites help them study better. Maybe the more relaxed atmosphere does a great deal in retaining information in their brains.
I am not here to go against anyone’s choice for study, just genuinely curious as to why the libraries seem to have ceased to be the first choice for its purpose.
Forgive me if you’re not reading a review of Ampersand, if that’s what you were expecting. I tend to have many random thoughts like this, I thought I’d write the one that I was thinking about when I went to this coffee shop.
If you want to know, the coffee is great, can’t remember now if it was a latte or a flat white. Ampersand is open all week, from 8:00 in the morning until 5:30 in the afternoon. It does close early as everything else in Sydney.
How about you? Are you a library or a café person?