February 2, 2007

Mann Libe Plans for a Green Cafe

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A new café featuring locally grown food, biodegradable plasticware and a composting system is slated to open in August in the newly renovated wing of Mann Library.

The café is designed to embody the principles of the sustainability movement sweeping campuses. It will be the second space operated by Kathleen Pasetty and Pam Gueldner, owners of Juna’s Café on the Ithaca Commons.

“A café was always in the plans for the library,” said Howard Raskin, head of outreach, access and public computing at Mann, as well as chair of the Mann Café Working Group.

“What better place than the library to have a café?” he stated.

About 10 years ago, before Mann moved to its new location, there was a cart selling coffee and baked foods in the lobby. Though the cart did not make it to the new building, Raskin said think he has always wanted to construct a café. Last spring, with the help of Mann Director Janet McCue, he developed the Mann Café Working Group: 13 students, faculty and staff who worked to put their vision on paper.

“It was clear early on that sustainability was going to be an important part. We wanted organic food, composting, greenware, and low impact on the environment,” Raskin said.

Cornell sent requests for proposals to eight dining companies. Four different groups were evaluated in making the choice, including Cornell Dining, Ithaca Bakery, the ownership of Stella’s and Olivia’s, and Juna’s Café.

“From the first meting, Pam and I knew that this was a good match,” Pasetty said in her office at Juna’s. “We really liked the idea to bring local products.”

Raskin said they chose Pasetty and Gueldner for a variety of reasons. Among these, he said, was their solid sustainability plan.

Though the café is not associated with the campus-wide sustainability initiative, Pasetty and Gueldner hope to “make changes on a small level.”

“I think it’s an amazing idea,” said Alex Harlig ’10, who is passionate about the environment. “If everyone started being more responsible, we’d have less to worry about in the future.”

The creative menu options, with food grown at Dillman Hill Farm on Cornell campus, is another reason for the success of Pasetty and Gueldner’s plan.

“The café will have a little of something for everyone,” Pasetty said. “You can come in for a snack. There is the basic food that will always be there.
There will be vegan and vegetarian foods and desserts as well.”

The new café’s owners will distribute surveys this semester to solicit student requests.

The Café at Mann will be open seven days a week, and will close at 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. None of the à la carte dining halls near the Ag Quad stay open on weekends, or past 6 p.m. or on weeknights.

Raskin and the Mann Café Working Group had a dream for the cultural and social life that the café would bring to the library. In keeping with Mann’s educational philosophy, Raskin said, the café will host lectures, exhibits, artwork, and music.

“I would definitely go to it,” said Anna Yarusskaya ’07, who works at the library.

“Mann is a great library, but there aren’t many places to eat close by. It’s good to have a place to eat here,“ she said.

Though the café doesn’t open for about seven months, Raskin is already excited for it, as evidenced by his statement to the university: “Come check out the café,” he writes, “and if you see me, let’s have a cup of coffee.”