On a typical afternoon in Jakarta, you’re likely to find groups of college students meeting up on the third floor of the Plaza Semanggi shopping mall. But the reason they are there might surprise you: They haven’t come to buy a new outfit or the latest gadget. They have simply come to study.

Such a scene was exactly what the Coca-Cola Foundation Indonesia hoped for when it opened the Learning Lounge inside the mall in August 2011. The lounge was developed in partnership with the Dewi Hughes International Foundation, which shares Coca-Cola's vision  promoting positive reading and learning habits among Indonesian youth. Since 2000, Coke has been turning conventional public libraries into active learning centers in villages throughout Indonesia, but this was the first center to open inside a mall.

Going to Where the Kids Are

"Malls are the top hangout spots for young people in metropolitan Indonesia," says Titie Sadarini, chief executive of Coca-Cola Foundation Indonesia. "We don't have parks here, so young people in the big cities gather at the mall."

Students gathered at the Learning Lounge in Jakarta

The lounge’s book collection includes many imported titles that the average Indonesian either can't find or can't afford.

While the malls provide a great place to meet, Sadarini says they don’t necessarily offer the best environment for doing something productive. "Students tend to meet in the food court and spend money just to have a place to get together," she explains. “We wanted to give them a comfortable space where they can meet for free."

Brightly colored walls and beanbag chairs help give the Learning Lounge a casual, laid-back vibe, but make no mistake: People come here to work. Study groups from the nearby universities hold weekly sessions in the lounge, and young professionals routinely come in to use the free Wi-Fi and tablet computers.

To help create a space that would resonate with the community, the foundation appointed four local leaders as its "Lounge Champions." The diverse group includes an entrepreneur, a musician, a creativity expert and a college student.

Making Reading a Social Activity

Representing the college students in this town of almost 28 million people is Alanda Kariza, a 21-year-old senior at nearby Binus University. "One of our main responsibilities was to create a lounge library by recommending books that we thought people in our community would want to read," she says. The extensive collection includes many imported books that the average Indonesian either can't find or can't afford.

She says that the lounge library has helped foster a desire to read by making it more social. "People will come in, choose books off the shelves, and sit together and read," she says. "It has made going to the library seem cool."

It has also led to book clubs where people gather to discuss what they’ve read. Along with book groups, the lounge has hosted informal seminars featuring guest speakers and creative workshops taught by professional musicians and artists.

All this activity has made the Learning Lounge such a success that the foundation opened a second location at the Istana Plaza mall in Bandung and will open a third Learning Lounge in the World Trade Center Serpong in Banten province later this year.