Travis at Bene… shot of espresso, that is.

And even better, have it served by Travis, the dedicated and always-affable barista (right) at the beloved and highly applauded Coffee Bene. You know, the one located – it’s still hard to believe it’s true – on the first floor of the O’Shaughnessy-Frey Library Center. You know, that big library on the St. Paul campus. You know we have coffee there, right? Really good coffee! We’ve had it for 19 months now. Just follow your nose toward the Leather Room.

Brilliant, I say. Who puts a local, fabulous upstart coffeehouse on the first floor of a library where most people speak in whispers and not in double-no-whip-skim-extra-hot vernacular? That would be Dan Gjelten, director of the library. Next thing you know there will be treadmills on which you can walk while you read, killing the proverbial two birds at once (study + exercise). What, you say? He’s already done that? Oh, of course he has.

This blog, though, is really and simply about telling the story of one of the hottest (pun fully intended) and coolest (again) things on campus, especially to those of us who study human interaction: lattes and lots of people from various departments who otherwise would rarely see each other; caramel macchiatos and magnificently mundane conversations; cold con pannas and people making plans and finishing projects; velvet hammers and faculty hammering out lecture notes and research articles on their laptops; ice caps and recaps between faculty/student about last night’s class; frisky goats and gloating about football victories; cappucinos and catching up; mochas and morning meetings; milly chochas and daily hopes of filling our energy tanks, getting us through yet another great day of lectures, meetings and critical (we hope . . .) thinking opportunities.

Like the 17th Century Persian coffeehouse, the scene at Bene in the library is usually one of multiple people enjoying conversation, sharing news and playing innocent games (now of the digital variety on droids and iPhones; back then, of the checkers, hopscotch and chess variety). Since February 2010, Bene has been bringing many of us – neighbors included – together in conversation, creativity, fellowship and friendship; in study groups, meeting groups, faculty groups, and committee groups; for quick hellos, unexpected acquaintances and intentional efforts to re-connect, catch-up or get the project done.

And heck, I can also pick up that book I ordered on my way and give a quick shout-out to my student who I spy – it happens all the time – with our assigned text open. Could he be studying for our class? Sweet. “See you in class!”

Maybe I’ll see you at Bene soon? And when I do, why not join me in saying, “Thanks Bene … and Dan … and Travis … and all of the other Bene workers and library geniuses who dreamed up this delicious and, whether you know it or not, socially important idea. You are making a difference one latte … and one civil/social/mundane conversation …  at a time.”

That’s both hot. And oh so very cool.


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4 Responses

  1. John Barrett, Davannis

    Thanks for the kind words, Carol. We love our Coffee Bené partnership with UST! Any way we can get a color copy of the blog to frame for our folks?

  2. Julie Kimlinger, Library

    An additional coffee brewer was installed Oct. 19 in Coffee Bene in the ibrary. This should help the line move more quickly and we are eager to see that happen! Thank you all for enjoying the shop – we do, too!

  3. Pat Sirek, West St. Paul

    Coffee Bené is near the top of my list of favorite things about St. Thomas. All the naysayers were proven wrong and might now say, when they have to stand in a long line for their morning lattes, that Gjelten was a genius!

  4. Tom King

    “Hot and cool” were part of the lexicon when the Aquinas Library opened back in the ’50s during my undergrad days at St. Thomas. Just the context was different. So was having a “double” when it came to coffee.

    Back then, caffeine was confined to the Grill and sold for a nickel, but it came with cup and saucer and you could fill both to the brim if you had a sure hand. It helped enervate us for those long hours of searching and note-taking in the library stacks.

    There was no such thing as a latte or cappuccino this side of the Big Pond, back then, at least on a campus. Grande and vente back then were words in an Italian 101 textbook.

    I do recall that the University of Wisconsin-Madison had beer in its Student Union. Having done some grad studies there at a later date, I can tell you coffee worked better than beer when it came to school work.

    We have come a long way in 50 years of higher education.


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