Bristol library offers ‘free’ food and drink where customers pay with marbles

Bristol Central Library has devised a creative way to help people who may be struggling with the cost of living and who are in need of a meal or hot drink. The library’s café counter now houses a jar of marbles, each worth £1, which can be used to help pay for food and beverages.

The library posted about the initiative earlier this week (December 21) on Facebook. The post said: “If you need a hot drink and something to eat, you can go to the #BristolCentralLibrary café and use the marbles on the counter to pay. Each marble is worth £1 towards your food and drink, you can use as many marbles as you need. No questions asked.”

In the comments, it added that those who wish to donate “can pop into Bristol Central Library and buy marbles at the café for £1 a marble, then the marbles are put into the jar on the counter for anyone who might need to use them.”

Read More: Which warm spaces are open in Bristol over Christmas?

The post has attracted 2,800 likes so far, and many Facebook users expressed a wish to donate online. However, the library wrote, “unfortunately we can only accept donations in person through the café. If you’re able to pop in, you can buy marbles in the café to add to the jar, but we don’t have any method of taking payment remotely, I’m afraid!”

The marbles are just one way the library is trying to help Bristolians who may be struggling due to high inflation and fuel prices this winter. Inside its foyer is a coat rack where items can be donated and taken if needed. In a post today (December 22), the library said: “Take a coat, leave a coat. With the cold weather here now please help yourself to a coat from our coat rail at Bristol Central Library if you are in need of one.

“If you have a spare coat, please feel free to donate it as part of the bring one leave one scheme. Adult coats only, please.”

Bristol Libraries is also looking for lego donations to set up free Lego clubs at locations across the city. Bricks are wanted for Horfield, St George, Fishponds, Marksbury Road, Knowle, Wick Road, Junction 3 and Central Library, and anyone wishing to contribute should email

In November, it was announced that Bristol’s historic Central Library on College Green could be forced to relocate while the library service across the city would also be reduced as part of plans by Bristol City Council to cut millions from its budget next year. It’s not yet clear where the Central Library would be relocated to, though council chiefs have suggested the former Debenhams buildings as a potential site.

Bristol’s main library has been based in College Green for over a century in a Grade-I listed building, which is now shared with Cathedral Primary School. Many libraries in the city previously faced the threat of closure as part of budget proposals in 2018, which were later scrapped after public opposition.

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