FREE PANCAKES IN THE LIBRARY! We do it and so can you! post image

Students Love Pancakes!

Food in the Library – Are We Crazy?

If you want boys to read, get them into the library by going after their stomachs! As part of our Extreme Library Makeover, we allow students to eat and drink in the library any time they want – even at the computers. Are we crazy? Maybe little, but heck, most adults eat and drink at their computer all the time. Are adults more careful thanks kids? In my experience I’d have to say no (this includes me).

Start with Administration:

Explain to your administration that a pancake day in the library will attract patrons and make the library an inviting place. If you haven’t already, do some research and create a library vision (read this article). If needed, ask for a trial pancake run. Maybe just one event. Take a before and after survey with staff and students. Data can a be powerful tool.

What About Our Carpet?

We average almost 200 students and staff in our library each day. Sure, we’ve had spills, but nothing that some cool water and paper towels can’t clean up in a second. Once you allow food and drinks, be sure to remind your custodians of the importance and show them your appreciation.

Preparing for the Event

Once we got our pancake system down pat, running this fun event is a piece of cake (pun intended). Basically, we schedule one every 4-6 weeks. We keep it as a surprise which alleviates pressure for us. The day before the event, I have a TA (Teacher Assistant) get everything ready. He / she sets up 2 tables – 1 for the electric cooking skillets and one for the mixing bowls and plates. The morning of the event we have a community volunteer do the cooking or use a student volunteer. We start cooking a few hours before serving and keep all the pancakes in a covered aluminum pan. As new pancakes are added, they help to keep the other ones warm. Everyone loves the pancakes, even if they are not that warm.

The Serving Line:

Volunteer Pancake Makers
To avoid cutting class, students must wait until their break time to get their pancakes. We typically serve about 300 students during a one hour time frame. It is fast, crowded, and hectic – just what we want! Just before break begins, we load up a bunch of plates. Students grab a plate and then move across the library to the table section where they pile on the syrup and butter. This spreads things out and gives them a chance to sit and mingle.


We usually try to recruit a few students to get out of class to help clean up. If time runs out we just leave whatever is left in the back room and our TA cleans it in the morning.

Materials & Fees

We use profits from our Library Cafe to fund all the materials and food. Once the basic materials are gathered, the cost for consumables is very minimal. You could easily charge students $1.00 for 3 pancakes and still make a profit. Here are some materials needed:

  • 2 Electric skillets. You may need to plug them in on seperate electrical outlets
  • Rubber spatula, 4 pitchers, 2 huge mixing bowls, blender
  • Krusteaz pancake mix (just add water) $5.59 per bag. We can feed 300 students and staff on about 5 bags! Students like the pancakes more when we the batter is thin.
  • Margarine & Syrup
  • Paper plates, plastic forks, plastic butter knives, napkins

Our Students and Staff LOVE it!

Just Add Water
Believe me when I tell you that students and staff ABSOLUTELY LOVE AND APPRECIATE FREE PANCAKES! I can’t tell you how many compliments and thank yous we get from everyone. Our students and staff think that we have the best library in the world. This attitude carries over throughout the school year. With the right attitude about a library, students can become life long library patrons (and readers).

Any Library Can Offer Pancakes

It doesn’t matter if you are a public or school library, high school or elementary. All you need is approval from your administration and the right attitude. You may be surprised at the impact it will make.

Let’s Hear From You

Have you participated in a food event in a library? What concerns or issues may get in the way of you giving it a try? Let us know.


Posted in: Adults, Content

{ 16 comments… add one }

  • Mary Cronk Farrell

    Hi Mike,

    Thanks so much for inviting me. Glad to be here. I LOVE this idea of pancakes in the library. Makes me wish I were a librarian!!

    My Best,


  • Karen

    This brings back memories of a few years ago when my aide and I had green eggs and ham breakfast in the Media Center. This was only for one class, though, but it was made up of mostly boys. They loved it. I think we will have to plan something for next year–perhaps pancakes would work for us!
    Thanks for the great and fun idea!

  • Ms. Yingling

    All good librarians are a little crazy, even those of us who embrace some of the librarian-in-a-bun stereotype (albeit minus the shushing and dour grimace!). I have been reading your site with interest and will use it to look for tips while we reconfigure our library. Think I’ll pass on the pancakes for just a little bit– we have so many children in the library right now that we can’t fit more in for snacks!

  • BettyJ

    Awesome! I have lunchtime games in my middle school library and they love it. During TRW I usually serve hot chocolate and cookies (provided by parents) throughout the week, but the pancake idea is great. A few years ago my school had a 40 min. mentoring time at the beginning of the day and each Wed. I held a boys’ breakfast club with 8th grade boys identified as needing improvement. I fed them and not a single one missed the book discussions and activities. Thanks for reminding me of this. I believe this would definitely work in my library.

  • Jen

    I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this! And the pancakes and syrup is really going for it –sticky and fun! And shouldn’t the library be a place for fun! In my many years of using the public library, I always “snuck” food in with me and still do! I think this is a great way to create an inviting environment! Love it! Thanks for sharing!

  • Mike McQueen

    Wow, I am so touched to see such excitement. The energy here is outstanding. It makes me want to mix up some flap jacks tomorrow! Thank you all so much!

  • judibea

    Ha! This is a hoot! I love it!

    “Feed and Read”

  • judibea

    One librarian started a Twilight movie event! Students got tickets to come when they GOT CAUGHT READING! Little Caesar’s pizza at $5 each help added food appeal to the event. Popcorn added to the movie experience along with some pop. Librarians and a handful of English helped at the event Both guys and girls showed up —- about 30 from a school of 1800! Who said Twilight was just for girls missed the “curiousity” that some guys have for the book. Best book report I had on the book this year was from a guy’s perspective.

    By the way students at our school get to do “self-selected” reading—sooooo important. Additionally, at our school allows kids to “report their book” to a librarian, who signs a form to be turned in to their English teacher! The reading specialist has provided multiple “book report” formats which I think helps guys immensely! This has helped me (case in point the Twilight report from a guy) This helps us get a feeling as librarians for how they relate to what they are reading! Oh yes, we are know for keeping bags of goodies for multiple reasons! Nothing like a tootsie pop! I had them out on random days to kids just for “hanging out in the library after school studying” AFTER 4PM when everyone else has left!

  • Sharon

    Every Wednesday in terms 2 and 3 (our cooler months in Australia) we have hot chocolate before school in the Library. The only stipulation is that the students need to sit and read.

  • Mike McQueen

    Judibea – Wow, amazing fun! I love how this post has drawn out such great idea sharing :-)

    Sharon – It’s so fun to hear things from arounf the world!

  • Mrs. G

    At our intermediate school library(4-6 gr.)I invite a class once a week for Breakfast and Books. In conjunction with our district food service I serve a FREE breakfast while they listen to me read a book. This program doesn’t cost me a thing other than getting to school a little earlier than usual. I keep the class from 7:30-7:55 am. The teachers love this since it frees them up for last minute planning. I also offer other fun things during that same time period on different days. Our library starts hopping before some even think about opening for the day.

  • Begzsuren

    Dear all,

    Greetings to you from Ulaanbaatar Public Library, Mongolia.
    This is my first comment to your useful website.

    Thank you for all of your experience sharing!

    I have a question, Do you know,
    – how they choose to cook a pancake?, why not noodle soup?
    – how to recycle used “Paper plates, plastic forks, plastic butter knives, napkins”? Is it many garbage to destroy the World?
    – Is there any smell from cooking?

    I want to inform you
    our Ulaanbaatar Public Library situation.

    Starting 1st of September 2008, my library stopped to eat and drink in the library reading room with open stacks. Why, most of our borrowers don’t want to carry or put their garbage to the recycle bin. They left on the table or in the pocket of table top. After eating, they do a shewing gum. Again used shewing gum under the table or on the floor.
    So, my each branch library with 3 librarians and 3 cleaner workers. How we can balance librarians and cleaners?

    That is all,
    Thank you for your reading and time.
    Have a positive thoughts,
    Yahoo Messenger ID: mcl_begee

  • JackieS

    Pancakes and other food treats in the library sound like great ways for parent volunteers to be more visible Friends of the School Library. Great blog, Mike

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  • Adamaris Piper

    We usually try to recruit a few students to get out of class to help clean up. If time runs out we just leave whatever is left in the back room and our TA cleans it in the morning.
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  • Ladrick

    This is very nice Mike. Keep up the good work. Encourage more people to read.


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