UNM General Library administrators are allowing visitors to openly eat and drink in the facilities - a change they hope will provide a more inviting atmosphere.
David Baldwin, Zimmerman Library's director, said he considered drafting a new policy on the subject after students pushed for a coffee cart in the library.
"A lot of other libraries are doing this, and after looking into it, we realized it was something we, along with the Student Union Building catering, could do," he said.
After putting up signs and a new coffee cart in the basement this week, the library is now just looking to add more trash cans to implement the policy. Visitors can now eat moderate amounts of covered food and drinks, but are asked not to bring them into the stacks or near computers and special collections.
"We're basically aware that students in the past have snuck food into the library, and now we are just hoping that the collections actually will be better protected since students will no longer have to hide evidence of food in shelves," Baldwin said. "Eating a bag of chips and hiding it behind books is worse for libraries than if we put out covered trash cans and allow people to just throw that stuff away."
Baldwin added that the library has never placed a heavy emphasis on enforcing its food policy.
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"We just hope that if we put up some more trash cans and allow students a little more freedom - within reason - it will be good for everyone involved," he said.
The changes mark a complete about-face in the University's approach to food in the library, which had always been banned.
"My role was to draft a policy regarding food, which I did after looking at what happened after other libraries relaxed their food policies," he said. "We had a discussion on a listserv and a lot of people from other libraries said they thought that it might increase bugs or cause too much damage, but they say it never became a problem and that they are glad they did it."
Baldwin added that relaxing the food policy would allow the library to focus on becoming a more inviting place where people would like to study.
"We know that when people come to campus, they just want a place to hang out," he said. "If you can't bring a covered cup of coffee or Coke into the library, it can really deter you from going there. We really want to make this a welcoming place and we think a relaxed food and drink policy allows more people to come and stay."