How long was I away from the Národní knihovna? Surely not more than a week, between being sick, the ski trip, and recovering from same. And what did I find when I returned? Lo, they have not only taken the card catalogues out of the hallway leading to the bathroom and installed new light fixtures (which are more attractive but make the hall needlessly bright), but they have converted the former Scholars' Reading Room into a cafeteria!
Now, I grant that the transformation into a cafeteria did not take place entirely in one week's time. The reading room was closed some time back. But last time I glanced in before leaving town, there was no indication that it was turning into a cafeteria or that it would be in use within the foreseeable future. All I could tell was that the furniture had been removed and some degree of renovation was in progress. And I do walk by that door at least twice a day when at the library.
The cafeteria looked appealing, so I decided to give it a try for lunch. Would it be better than the bistro by the main entrance (which smelled overpoweringly of hot grease two weeks ago and may or may not still be there)? Would it be better than the café at the Městská knihovna, where I usually go for lunch?
The entrée advertised on the door was gone by the time I asked for it, so I resorted to fried cheese instead. While the fried cheese was not actually hot, nor were the accompanying potatoes, it tasted all right. It is my suspicion that the bistro by the door has merely moved inwards to a more appealing setting which it will shortly fill with the smell of heavy grease. So long as it doesn't smell like grease, I will probably eat there rather often, but let's just say that the café at the Městská knihovna normally has more than one or two entrées plus a selection of chlebičky, baguettes, pastries, and palačinky, and I am used to their staff.
On the other hand, I am glad that the library has not gone in for too much gentrification. One of my main lunch haunts of last year, which had a good selection of simple, satisfactory dishes eaten by students and other ordinary people, transmogrified over the summer into what appears to be just another downtown tourist trap. It was always busy last year, but when I stuck my head in the door in September, it was absolutely devoid of customers.
The library seems to be remaining silent about its upgraded eatery. I see no reference whatsoever to it on their web site, and certainly no photos. But then, they don't seem to like to publicize all the renovations that are occurring in the Klementinum. Perhaps they are afraid this will bring too many people into the reading rooms, and that even more of them will have laptops and want to use the wi-fi.