Fast Casual at the Library? We’re so Glad You Asked!

Soup and salad (Fast Casual)While closely linked to the millennial generation, the “fast casual” concept, in fact, has much broader reach: easily accessible and fresh ingredients are two of its hallmarks that have wide appeal; opportunities for social connection around eating further boost its popularity. Librarians have developed innovative ways to bring the fast casual experience into the library space. Partnerships are central to the success of those efforts and, not surprisingly, libraries offer a variety of fast casual models to meet their community’s needs.

Seeds Café at Boulder Public Library is a partnership between the City of Boulder and Boulder County’s farmers markets. The café extends the library’s mission by offering information and hosting events to educate community members about the area’s agricultural resources. But the real star at Seeds Café is the menu—filled with freshly made dishes featuring locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients.

Everyone knows that studying and eating go together. The line of vending machines near university libraries is a testament to that time-honored wisdom, as are the countless wrappers left behind by, ahem, distracted scholars. But the UC San Diego Library recognizes that today’s students have different expectations and want to feel good about what they eat. Audrey’s Café, named for Library benefactor and wife of the late Theodor Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss), is a brightly colored gathering space for students and faculty that offers fresh and healthy foods, along with a break from the rigors of scholarship, within the walls of the Library.

Perhaps one of the best keep secrets in fast casual at the library is Family Storytime and Dinner at Dayton Memorial Library in Washington. Parents and children gather each month to enjoy an interactive, motion-filled story time and then sit down to share a meal prepared by a local caterer. The menu changes and ingredients are sourced from the nearby food cooperative. Family Storytime and Dinner is made possible through partnerships with area businesses and grant funding from locally-based Umpqua Bank.

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