Tonight we explore a place of WikiCU lore: the Butler basement/tunnels. Don’t try this at home, kids, though we know you want to.

The entry: There are two ways we saw to get to the basement: through the first floor of the stacks (restricted to library staff) and through the X staircase on the northwest side of the building. If you opt for the latter, you will go down a flight below the administrative offices on Floor 1 and find a security gate. WikiCU used to say that “it is trivial to open,” but was updated in 2010: “The Security Gate has been altered, and while it can still be opened, it takes considerably more effort.” No comment.

Once you’re down there, you’ll see where library staff punch in, where all of the bags of garbage go, the staff elevator, and some lockers. There’s a long tunnel that runs along the width of Butler. It’s brightly lit but creepy at the same time, with exposed lights and wires. The seams of Columbia.

You’ll turn left (toward John Jay), and make your way down the slightly-curved hallway. You scamper when you hear Facilities bringing down some trash bags. You can now either turn north or south. If you opt for north, first, you can see for yourself if there is actually a Low tunnel connection. See the map below:

"dump room"

And this is where the graffiti starts to get a little weird and existential. You’ll see notes written on the pipes for private tours, and lots of cats and mice. We sadly confirm to you that no Low tunnel connection exists from Butler at this point in time. We’re just as disappointed as you.

Exploring when high:

You too can find love in the Butler basement…


You can check out the south side of the tunnels (which is strangely elevated), but they’re pretty boring and mainly filled with more loud pipes. In the center of the excavated part of the basement, you will find lots of locked storage, two elevators, and Columbia being jenky.

So then we made our way into the first floor of the stacks, but we can only show you some of the creepy shit we saw. There were boxes upon boxes of labels for books and every sort of book supply you could think of. There were even restricted sections within this already restricted section of the library. Columbia Libraries take their security very seriously, thank you very much, except for the fact that we were down there…

And the best part: the book lift.

We toured the administrative offices on the first floor (which is another way you can get into the first floor of the stacks), saw some card catalogs and meeting rooms, and had a few chance encounters.

But, our time was up, so we retreated up to Butler 210 like nothing had happened. Studying in Butler wouldn’t be the same; nay, we had explored its bowels, and seen the beast for what it truly was—noisy pipes, disconnected wires, random graffiti and all. It could never be the same.

Part 1 of 2 of tunneling.