Warren-Newport Public Library in Gurnee was among the trendsetters when it set aside space for a cafe in the 1990s, but that option is going away next month.
Library officials say the latest contracted operator, K-Sweets Cafe, will close Aug. 15. The shop is just inside the library's main entrance.
Instead of a cafe with fresh coffee and food, the library will create an area with vending machines for patrons in need of snacks or beverages.
Library Director Stephen Bero said part of the problem was most of K-Sweets' clientele was high school students who typically bought lower-cost drinks and snacks. He said sales of higher priced sandwiches to older library patrons never took off.
"It's just taken a downward turn from the fall of last year and hasn't come back," Bero said Monday.
Mimicking the large bookstore chains, libraries across the country began setting aside space for cafes in the '90s. Starbucks helped to lead the way by forging a partnership with the Multnomah County Library in Portland, Ore., in 1996.
Starbucks in the Portland library was such a big deal 14 years ago that Howard Schultz, the company's chairman, president and chief executive officer, crowed about it on Oprah Winfrey's gabfest.
Multnomah County Library spokesman Jeremy Graybill said the Starbucks cafe closed in 2003. He said it was one of the first efforts of its kind in the United States.
Warren-Newport's cafe opened in 1998. Berkley's Bagels & Deli was awarded the first contract, followed over the years by Stosh's and K-Sweets.
Library board members and K-Sweets owner Krystal Franklin recently reached a mutual agreement to end the shop's run that began in 2007. Warren-Newport spokeswoman Janice Marsh said it became difficult for the business to turn a profit.
Bero said K-Sweets paid a monthly percentage of profits to Warren-Newport, which generally totaled $300.
As part of a 4,500-square-foot expansion and interior renovation slated to start in October, the vending area with snacks and drinks will be created more toward the inner part of the building.
Bero said while it was difficult for the cafe to attract outside business because of the library's location on O'Plaine Road, patrons always were supposed to be the focus. Visitors will continue to be allowed to bring in drinks in covered containers.
"It's been a good run, but things change," Bero said. "And we want to change with it."