And they are judging.

The Mean Girls of 209 are watching you watch cat videos.

In our somewhat-regular feature In Defense Of, we bring much-needed support to the most maligned Columbia (or life) institutions. This week, sometimes studier Alexandra Avvocato puts her books aside to defend that most notorious of reading rooms: Butler 209.

As a freshman, I avoided Butler 209 like the plague. According to established wisdom, it was the one place to go if you didn’t want to get any work done. It was the spot to “socialize” in Butler, where all the “non-serious” workers went. (Now, I look back at younger me and think, Who the fuck do you think you are?) I was a die-hard proponent of the cloister-like side rooms of the 3rd floor, or the secluded tables on 5 where the sun never shone. As a self-deprecating respecting humanities major, I was taught to scorn the well-lit, normally arranged tables of 209 for the fake-ass pregame it was. There were also some dark whispers of 209 being populated exclusively by jocks, but let’s not go into that today.

I am now a convert. Thing is, if you’re going to be walking into Butler at 11:30 pm knowing you’ll be there for >4 hours, there’s no better room to walk into than 209. There’s an unmistakable sense of community: everyone else in there is going to be up obscenely late, whether it’s because they’re actually writing a paper or because they’ve been watching cat videos for the past 45 minutes. Loudly whispered conferences on Senior Night plans conducted next to you are accepted, nay, even encouraged. It’s heart-warming to know that even if you’ll be working all night, your neighbor will be blissfully drunk in just a few hours. You just can’t imagine a pregame plan going down in stuffy old 502. Either way, you’ll definitely overhear some gossip if you sit in one of those armchairs in the front and wait long enough. A solid 65% of the Columbia community spirit can be located in that line of chairs.

The aesthetics of 209 can’t be beat, either. When your eyes need a break, all you have to do is look up and admire that bizarrely crafted stained-glass window/thing of Peter Stuyvesant. The cheery color palate instantly brightens your mood, and provides a lovely 10 minute procrastination break when you wonder what the hell a stained glass representation of a 17th century Dutch guy is doing in an undergrad library. The almost aggressively well-lit room makes spying on your peers all too easy, and the tables are laid out in such a way that you can see at least 10 computer screens in one casual glance. Community! Connection! Collecting material for Bwog overseens!

The denizens of 209 have their priorities straight. Sure, they may be pulling an all-nighter, but they’ll be sure to fit in some healthy breaks of Youtubing and 45 minute-long conversations with their table mates. What I’m saying is that they know how to balance, to multitask. I’ve witnessed many a two-hour-long coffee break—209 studiers know that their nourishment is the most important thing of all. But seriously: 209 is unique in that it’s one of the few places in Butler where the atmosphere doesn’t make you want to die. There’s no sense of crushing hopelessness, or impending claustrophobia. The exit is always in sight, and everyone there has something on their mind other than doom, despair, and that fucking 15 page paper. They have an external goal, one that most likely ends at 1020. And I fucking respect that.