January 10, 2012

With new Ex Libris, coffee’s bold return

A student hotspot, Ex Libris provides a large study space as well as some of the most inventive drinks on campus.

Courtesy of Aumur Shughoury

Emerging from the dank reaches of the A Level, Ex Libris Café opened in its new, sunlit location yesterday morning on the ground level of the Joseph Regenstein library.

The café, which student baristas opened to customers at 9 a.m., remained busy throughout the day. General Manager Jake Newman, a fourth-year, said that the café’s new start is an opportunity for the 21 employees to do business differently.

“We looked at what was most popular and a lot of the times we were overstocking items that weren’t selling,” he said. “What that has made us do is think more about spreading out the menu wisely, and who we’re trying to serve as a student-run coffee shop.”

Library administrators announced the new location for the formerly subterranean cafe last April. Employees who worked there last spring first heard of the transition alongside the rest of the University, and doubts briefly arose about the future of the cafe’s student-run status, but they were quickly put to rest, even as construction on the new location continued through fall quarter and into the beginning of this quarter.

According to Clara Spera, Harper Cafe’s financial manager, administrators and student cafés were all aware that Ex Libris would not open for the beginning of the academic year. Administrators then projected a November opening last October that never materialized.

However, since all workers in the University’s four student-run coffee shops are ORCSA employees, several Ex Libris workers from last year were able to find work at Harper Café (Common Knowledge) and Hallowed Grounds. Meanwhile, Stacey Brown, an ORCSA administrator who coordinates student coffee shops, helped other Ex Libris employees find work elsewhere, according to Newman.

“Anyone who wanted to continue working was given work. Nobody was put out,” said Newman, who worked at Hallowed Grounds last quarter.

The moving of Ex Libris employees to Harper and Hallowed Grounds was not a top-down, unilateral decision, Spera said, and the new hires did not hinder the cafés’ business.

“We worked out all together how to come to that decision. Nothing was forced upon anyone,” Spera said. “We were not hindered in any way by taking on Ex Libris employees, and many are now our close friends.”

Harper hired four Ex Libris employees, according to Spera, while Hallowed Grounds hired two or three, though this number could not be confirmed by print time.

Newman did not know what delayed the café’s opening. Brown and Assistant Director for Access and Facilities Jim Vaughan were unable to be reached in time for this article.

Newman said that the new venue will offer more salads and grab-and-go items, but will not have a microwave and will lack the ubiquitous containers of Rajun Cajun and Snail Thai that other student-run coffee shops serve.

Graduate students Rachael Kyne and Katie Krywokulski both agreed that the location and overall design of the new café were significant improvements.

“It’s so much better”, Kyne said.

As for getting a late-night caffeine fix, third-year John Anton put it succinctly: “The best part is not having to leave the Reg.”

—Additional reporting by Harunobu Coryne and Giovanni Wrobel