An intrepid team of reporters from NYU Local trekked uptown to pay our dear Butler a visit, so we told Features Editor and Bobst-enthusiast Alexander Pines to stop sending in field notes about it and just review the damn thing. Here’s his account.
I get a little stir-crazy if I stay on campus for too long. It’s nice to have an ~*~actual campus~*~, the lights on College Walk are pretty, but whatever. Sometimes I need to go south of 110th. But I also have, well, homework. Enter Bobst. Not only does it satisfy my “get me out of here now” cravings, but I can also be fairly industrious.
I usually take the 1 to Christopher Street-Sheridan Square and walk twoish avenues east, because I don’t mind walking, but if you want to be a little closer, take the N/R to 8th Street (transfer at 42nd) or the A/C or B/D to 4th Street (transfer at 59th). The library is on 4th, along the southern edge of Washington Square Park (so, two blocks east of the 1 station, one block east of the A/C/B/D station, or a few blocks south and one block west of the N/R stop).
Because of a Cooperative Agreement Columbia has with NYU, we have free access to their library (and vice versa). All Columbia students need to do is show up at Bobst before 7:45 pm on Sunday-Thursday (or 6:45 on a Friday/5:45 on a Saturday—who knows why they like closing fifteen minutes before the hour) with a current CUID to obtain an access pass, which will last the whole semester. Once you have an access pass, you can show up anytime you would like between 7 and 1am (the library remains open for NYU students, but only on its lower levels and the guards do check for IDs). Flash your ID (can be any photo ID) at the security desk on your way in and you’ll be good to go.
Architecturally speaking, Bobst has nothing on the But. No “great” names, no columns, no dramatic view of Low Library in the background. The exterior is even kind of ugly. That being said, it’s in the fucking Village. You’re minutes away from basically everything, which means that a Friday or Saturday afternoon study session can culminate in bar/restaurant hopping, shopping, a regrettable tattoo, whatever. In terms of study breaks, there’s the usual coffee shops and Starbucks (there are at least two on the way from the one stop, and a café that serves Starbucks across the street), chain restaurants (Oren’s, m2m, Famiglia, Chipotle, Subway, etc), and even a Brad’s (which is apparently cool?).
Despite being smaller than Butler (the library has a large, empty rotunda. Think Lerner but somehow more functional), I’ve never had a problem finding a seat at Bobst. Perhaps this is because NYU students study less than us, but more likely they just don’t want to deal with as long of a commute–Columbia has far more students that live in campus housing, so the walk to Butler is only four or five blocks at most, compared to a trip from Brooklyn. Every other floor has large reading rooms on the north end of the building, and the 8th floor in particular has several group-sized tables. The north reading rooms also boast large windows overlooking Washington Square Park, so the view is beautiful. The rooms on the east and west ends of the building (on most of the floors) also have several tables and individual desks, although the view is a lot more depressing (think the misery of Pupin but without the chlorine smell and impossibly slanted desks). While they don’t have a café, there are two lower levels that serve as “study lounges,” and include vending machines, comfortable chairs, “leisure books,” and spaces to eat—and, unlike Butler, they do allow outside food. You’re technically not allowed to eat on the upper levels, but no one has yelled at me for it, and I’ve seen several NYU students furtively snacking at their desks, too.
Not all of my friends agree (and have urged me to look at Bobst’s Wikipedia entry to prove their point), but I’ve always found Bobst to be less depressing than Butler. The large, open rooms and huge windows make looking up from studying a rather cheery experience (compared to gazing out at Carman/Lerner), the chairs are by far more comfortable than the wooden ones in Butler Ref, and there’s something about the energy of everything just beyond the library’s entrance that makes it easier for me to get through my CC reading.
That being said, Bobst is not the best for people who use their laptops to study (most of my homework involves reading, and while I do have a fair number of papers to write, I don’t often need Wi-Fi). Their guest Wi-Fi is only accessible if you use one of their public terminals to visit this page (included on a slip they hand you with your pass) and follow a series of complex registration procedures. I’d explain how, but the link only works if you’re accessing it from one of their computers. Once you register, you’ll be emailed a password that’s valid for a week. For me, this has been useful—I end up spending forever on my email or House of Cards if I have access to the Internet when I study—but can be kind of a pain for anyone that needs to do homework online/access CourseWorks. Additionally, it’s also a little difficult to find an outlet at peak hours, and they tend to be somewhat inconveniently placed.
Overall, though, the question comes down to being worth the $5 and oneish hour roundtrip on the train. For me, it absolutely is. Not only do I get to feel a little more like a real person by getting out of Morningside Heights, I am genuinely able to get more work done (and I only go on the weekends). That, and it’s a block from one of my favorite restaurants and one of my favorite movie theaters. (Also the view. Did I mention the view?) So get out of the But at least once, especially as midterms descend (and never leave), and check it out.