In today’s world of local library closures, there has been the recurring threat that those days of wandering the stacked shelves filled with the smell of well-loved books, racked with indecision over which books to choose, could become a hobby of the past. However, York is now challenging the nation-wide trend of closing libraries by opening a brand new one and the UK’s first ever library café in one of the city’s most picturesque spaces, Rowntree Park.
As the Edwardian park celebrates its 91st birthday on Saturday with a community party, doors will open to a brand new reading café located in the park’s former Edwardian tea rooms. An extension of the ‘Explore’ library brand, the café will be home to a selection of 1,000 books including the latest fiction, non-fiction and children’s books, all carefully chosen by the Friends of Rowntree Park.
Marking itself as decidedly different from the mainstream library, the new Rowntree Park attraction will fuse together two of the nation’s biggest indulgences matching great books with great food and drink that is wholesome, local and of the highest quality. Not reliant just upon council funding like the local library, the new library café will be entirely self-funded by the sales of food and drink. It will also be staffed by a small team including two apprentices, helping to further boost the socio-economic benefits of this scheme.
A versatile space, the reading café will also play host to art classes, author talks and story sessions as well as being available to hire for birthday parties and events.
Councillor Sonja Crisp cabinet member for leisure, culture and tourism on York’s Labour council, said of the innovative concept: “The reading café is something very fresh, new and exciting which builds on the council’s growing reputation as a national innovator in library services. We are the first public library service to open a reading café: once again York is leading the way. We’ll be using the fantastic surroundings of the park to our advantage with other activities such as story sessions and yoga classes taking place this summer.”
Rowntree Park, nestled alongside the River Ouse, was a gift to our city, given by Messrs Rowntree & Co. in 1921 as a memorial to the Cocoa Works staff who served in World War I. The new reading café , which will provide a little refuge away from busy city life, will fit perfectly into the original philosophy of Rowntree Park, first outlined by Mr Joseph Rowntree himself, to promote the health and enjoyment of York citizens.
The Rowntree Park reading café opens this Saturday 14 July as part of the park’s birthday revels.