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LOUNGING AT THE LIBRARY

mon-libA library patron pulling down free wifi over coffee at the new café Thursday. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

The Monmouth County Eastern Branch Library in Shrewsbury is trying to elbow its way past the big-box booksellers like Barnes & Noble and Borders, where a visitor these days might laze on a plush couch with a cup of coffee and a laptop while perusing a potential purchase.

Well, you can do that at the library now, too.

The county branch will cut the ribbon tomorrow on its newest addition: the Lion’s Den Café, a second-story lounge that overhangs the vast literary collection below. It’s a spot where one can grab coffee or lunch and get into a book in typical library quietude.

“We’re trying to make it more of a hangout rather than come in, check out your book and leave,” said Debbie Disakias, a Red Bank-based food coach and nutritionist whose business, Wholesome Catering, is running the show upstairs.

Why choose the library over the bookstore, you ask?

“Our prices are better,” for one, Disakias said.

Plus, the Lion’s Den offers more than just java and baked goods. The menu includes an array of smoothies, wraps and sandwiches. There’s free wifi, too.

While the library is hoping to make the second-floor spot all-inclusive, it’s really trying to target the branch’s younger crowd. The young adult section shares space with the café. On Thursday, tables were full of kids reading and doing homework, while older members drank coffee and worked on their laptops nearby.

“In the last year, we’ve revitalized our teen and young adult programs, so we thought this could be a nice pairing to lure teens into the library,” said Coleen Dee Berry, who works as spokeswoman at the county’s headquarters in Manalapan. “This could be like a nice nexus point for them.”

It appears to be a draw so far, Disakias said. In the two weeks since the café opened, it’s seen usage by patrons of all ages, she said.

“People love it right now. We’re getting great feedback,” she said.

The 1:30p ribbon-cutting will be followed by a performance of excerpts from the ballet “The Nutcracker” by the Performing Arts Ensemble of Red Bank.

The Lion’s Den is open from 9a to 3p, Monday through Friday; and on Tuesday and Thursday from 9a to 7p.

Remember: Nothing makes a Red Bank friend happier than to hear "I saw you on Red Bank Green!"
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