Amherst Magazine

No Shushing Required

By Adam Gerchick ’13

150210110
Manager Tony Esposito serves a customer at the new Frost Café.

The line snaked from the northwest corner of Frost Library’s first floor almost to the main entrance, the Amherst students, faculty and staff watching as those ahead of them reached the counter, collected what they’d come for and excitedly left the building for their 2 p.m. classes.

Sorry, bibliophiles: They were there for the free food.

March 28, 2012, marked the official opening of the Frost Café, the college’s fourth on-campus dining site and a dramatic addition to the library. Reminiscent of a Starbucks counter, the café offers high-end muffins and cookies and hot and cold drinks, catering to the hundreds who visit the library throughout the day.

The opening represents an effort to make the library more inviting and to adapt it to the study methods of a student body increasingly reliant on laptops and collaboration.

“This generation wants more group space and less sequestering,” says college librarian Bryn Geffert. “We want the library to feel like a place not only where one goes to be alone, but a place to think about and talk about what you’re working on with others.”

Geffert regards the café as crucial to fostering that inviting and communal atmosphere. Featuring such drinks as “Frost Mocha” (yes, there’s plain coffee, too), it also addresses demand for more upscale offerings, says Charlie Thompson, director of dining services at Amherst. Dining services bakes some of the café’s menu items, including its muffins, and purchases others from baked-goods supplier Sweet Street Desserts.

Since its unofficial opening in late February, the café has enjoyed steady business from library patrons, including some who come to Frost simply to grab a drink or buy a bite. The café is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. each Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Fridays and 2:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Sundays. It’s closed on Saturdays, when library usage is lightest. Tony Esposito, the café’s full-time manager during the academic year, reports that demand is usually heaviest around 9 p.m.

When the idea for the café began to take shape, Geffert worried that noise from the eatery could prove an annoyance to library patrons. Though the fear appears unfounded—“sound hasn’t been an issue at all,” Geffert says—the library has declared its third floor to be the “quiet floor.” Geffert says he also faced skepticism from a few faculty members who questioned the proposed café’s effect on library ambience, but the librarian says he is “heartened” to see at least one of those wary professors patronizing the café. “Every [comment] we’ve gotten unsolicited has been glowing,” Geffert says.

On a recent Thursday afternoon, an English professor chatted with a pair of colleagues at one of the café’s tables, while, at another, Kasope Aleshinloye ’14, sitting with classmates, browsed through a website with his right hand and held a cup of coffee with his left.

“Frost,” Aleshinloye said approvingly, “is becoming a new hub on campus.”

That’s music to Geffert’s ears. “I like to note that the library at Alexandria had places to eat, converse and debate,” he observes. “It wasn’t supposed to be quiet. It was a place to chew the fat.”

Photo by Jessica Mestre ’10