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Library Review Megapost: The Authoritative Guide To Columbia Libraries

The Gottesman Library at Teachers College, unique for its treadmill desks.

Over the last month, Bwog has compiled 17 reviews of Columbia libraries around campus with the goal of promoting spaces other than Butler to the student body. With our project complete and midterms underway, we’d like to present one post with information from and links to every library review. Take a look at the specific pros and cons, or just pick a time to study (standard hours sourced from the Libraries website) and a random place that’s open!

The libraries are listed roughly in descending size order, but first, some preliminary suggestions:

  • Prettiest libraries: Burke/UTS, East Asian, Avery
  • Best libraries for collaboration: Science and Engineering, Business, Barnard
  • Most unique libraries: Teachers College, Journalism, Music and Arts
  • Best libraries for cracking down: Butler, Social Work, Science and Engineering

200-400 Seat Libraries:

Business, 130 Uris Hall.

  • This crowded library is one of the largest spaces for collaboration on campus, featuring a dense main area of circular tables and a mezzanine of group study rooms.
  • Bwog recommendation: “This library has a very unique feel. It allows you to chit chat, yet compels you to do work. Come here to feel inspired to get your life together.”
  • Quote from the review: “If you like doing work in a high school cafeteria this is the library for you.”

Lehman Social Sciences, 300 International Affairs Building.

  • Lehman offers a diverse set of spaces in terms of lighting, seating, and pressure. It also has a really neat staircase.
  • Bwog recommendation: “A great choice for when you need to cram for a few hours. With both talking areas for group work and cubicles for solitude, the best of both worlds hides a few floors down in IAB. A bit of a trek from most dorms, it offers seclusion while remaining close enough to Hamdel and the Law School Library cafe for late night meals.”
  • Quote from the review: “IAB has a lovely courtyard for all you smokers.”

Science and Engineering, 401 Northwest Corner Building.

  • This the place to go for non-Butler late night (12-3 am) studying. The first floor is open for collaboration, and the whole place feels open thanks to its glass walls.
  • Bwog recommendation: “This is a good library to go to if you are a part of the STEM field, as there are a plethora of resources available for students to access in addition to the natural light and friendly staff. However, even if you aren’t, there are still a lot of nice amenities (like clean bathrooms and proximity to Joe) that everyone would enjoy.”
  • Quote from the review: “Sometimes there are dogs here.”

Gottesman/Teachers College, 525 West 120th Street.

  • The most ergonomic of Columbia’s libraries, this location features high-quality chairs, standing desks, and treadmills. Plus, it has some beautiful arches.
  • Bwog recommendation: “The TC library is a great place to study on a drizzly morning… The overall vibe is usually less stressed than the undergraduate campus, and the yellow walls and large windows contribute to making the TC library a wonderful place to study without the normal stress and intimidation of Butler.”
  • Quote from the review: “Overall, there is a chill atmosphere (see Jason for some cathartic Post-its), and no one will shush you.”

Burke/UTS3041 Broadway.

  • This location is a hidden gem, as many students don’t know that Columbia students can access this library. It looks like a castle!
  • Bwog recommendation: “You should totally study here. It’s super low key, has its own stacks, is basically a mini Butler minus the crowd!”
  • Quote from the review: “It was pretty empty and lacked ambient noise, so I felt like I could come here to crack down or catch up on reading.”

Law3rd floor, Jerome L. Greene Hall.

  • While it can be tough for undergrads to get into, the Law Library is recognizable to anyone who has walked to East Campus via Revson Plaza.
  • Bwog recommendation: “This library is decent, however the ample study space outside of the library in the law school building is often a far more attractive option.”
  • Quote from the review: “This library really has all of the carpeting you could ever desire. Geometric patterns of black and grey, you got it! Bright green that could easily be mistaken for artificial turf, it’s here too! And never worry, drab grey carpet definitely put in when the library opened in the sixties, oh yeah!”

110-200 Seat Libraries:

East Asian, 300 Kent Hall.

  • Brimming with history and Asian texts, this library features elaborate woodcarving and a stained glass window. Everyone should try to step in here at least once.
  • Bwog recommendation: “Quiet with cozy lighting, C.V. Starr East Asian Library is a relaxed library, if that is possible. The elaborate ceiling and interesting Asian art make it one of the more unique libraries as well. Why do work when you can admire Japanese calligraphy?”
  • Quote from the review: “Bonus: Large Portrait of Chairman Mao to disapprove of your capitalist ways.”

Avery Architecture and Fine Arts, 300 Avery Hall.

  • Known for its coveted main floor balcony seating, this three-floor library hosts a huge collection of arts and architecture literature.
  • Bwog recommendation: “Instead of nervously looking for an empty seat in Butler 209 or Ref Room, enjoy the warm, artsiness of Avery. Rub shoulders with some really interesting people and stretch out! Studying should be this luxurious.”
  • Quote from the review: “The walls are lined with paintings of former Columbia presidents and thinkers supplying motivation to the most sluggish of students.”

Butler 209, 209 Butler Library. (Part of the Philip L. Milstein Family College Library.)

  • This is the most iconic of Columbia’s study spaces (perhaps second to Ref). The mere number “209” conjures memories of stiff all-nighters in most students.
  • Bwog recommendation: “This is a good room to crack down in, but there are also other, smaller rooms in Butler conducive to the same task. Don’t feel pressured to study in here.”
  • Quote from the review: “All told, this room could use a greater sense of community.”

Barnard LibraryLeFrak Center, 2nd floor, Barnard Hall.

  • As Jenna Freedman is always reminding us, Barnard Library isn’t dead! This temporary location definitely feels repurposed, but it still brings that same Barnard Library pluck.
  • Bwog recommendation: “If you want a quiet place to study without straying too far from The Quad or Claremont, BarnLib is your place. (For a more open quiet study space with some loud footsteps, consider Altschul.) If you want to collaborate, you might be better off going to the Diana Center, unless you’re very easily distracted.”
  • Quote from the review: “The bright lights against the white walls make for one hell of a wake-up slap if you’re trying to study late at night.”

50-110 Seat Libraries:

Butler Stacks, Various floors, Butler Library.

  • Columbia’s quintessential forum for solitary confinement (and public sex) offers just the environment some people need. However, long exposure is not recommended.
  • Bwog recommendation: “When it isn’t finals season of the semester, the Stacks is probably the place where you could always find empty seats. You would often find yourself alone, listening to the sound of your jaw gnawing away the granola and chestnuts that you stole from the nuts bar in Ferris.”
  • Quote from the review: “Butler is a place to study. Not for this.”

Social Work, 2nd floor, 1255 Amsterdam Avenue.

  • If you live in the right place, the School of Social Work can provide a change of scenery, and it replicates the focus of Butler without the harsh reputation.
  • Bwog recommendation: “The Social Work Library, for its size and cleanliness, is probably not worth spending your time at. If you live on Amsterdam or north of North Campus (GS and Barnard, for the most part), the Social Work Library could be a prime studying location.”
  • Quote from the review: “The Social Work Library during the day lets in bountiful sunlight, a terrific reprieve from the dark tomb of Butler.”

Mathematics, 303 Mathematics Hall.

  • Tucked away in one of the few unnamed buildings on campus, Math Library has an open vibe and a friendly staff.
  • Bwog recommendation: “The Math Library is a great library for focusing, especially if you really don’t want to bump into any awkward hook-up like you would in Butler, and you really need to be churning out a paper you left to the day before again.”
  • Quote from the review: “Sorry to break it to you, but out on the main floor it seems that little flirting could be done since it’s so quiet, except for a flirting brush of the hands as you both reach for the stapler tied to the table by the printer.”

Music and Arts701 Dodge Hall.

  • The Music and Arts Library has plenty of materials to provide to music students, but the study space is welcome to anyone!
  • Bwog recommendation: “The place is a welcome reprieve from Butler. However, it’s not a particularly ‘cool’ library. Go here to change things up and to use the music software and hardware.”
  • Quote from the review: “To feel inspired, sit next to the bust of Bela Bartok.”

5-50 Seat Libraries:

Geology, 601 Schermerhorn Hall.

  • The first of our featured intimate libraries, Geology features good views, great chairs, and a warm environment.
  • Bwog recommendation: “Very few people know about the Geology Library, which is truly a shame. When Butler is filled on weekend afternoons, the Geology Library is open and quiet. The library deserves to be patronized, in all its warmth and cleanliness.”
  • Quote from the review: “Various art pieces, the pristine set up of various accoutrements, and the openly viewable library offices all contribute to a very ‘lived in’ atmosphere.”

Papyrology and Epigraphy Reading Room, 604 Butler Library.

  • Something about this small room on the sixth floor of Butler made it irresistible to one of our library reviewers.
  • Bwog recommendation: “If you hate Butler Library, you’re not doing Butler right. Butler 604 is probably the greatest reading room in the building, given its lighting, space, and academic atmosphere. I highly, highly recommend anybody wanting to give Butler another chance to try out a session in the Papyrology and Epigraphy Reading Room. It’ll be worth it.”
  • Quote from the review: “Consistently the most well-kept reading room in terms of light and temperature.”

Journalism1st floor, Pulitzer Hall.

  • If you want to be secluded but studious, consider this five-seat library tucked into the J-school.
  • Bwog recommendation: “The Journalism Library is a good spot if you’re looking to get away from the stress and crowds of Butler, or if you really, really, really want to avoid an ex… But other than that, this library might not be worth the trip.”
  • Quote from the review: “Yeah, this is the whole library.”

Image via Romane Thomas

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