Coming to Barnumbia means there will be a lot of studying involved. Trying to find the best study space can be a bit overwhelming. Staff Writer Alicia Benis looks at why one of Columbia’s most intimidating libraries, Butler Library, isn’t so bad after all.
I am someone who can study and do homework literally anywhere there is a flat surface to put my stuff on and a chair that is somewhat comfortable to sit in. Before coming to Barnard, I thought I would be spending my time doing homework in my room, as I used to do in high school. That changed, however, when I learned about the construction of the Milstein Center, and when I took a tour of the Diana Center and saw that it looked like a super cool place to sit in. After settling in and agreeing with my roommate that if either of us were studying until super late, we would be better off studying somewhere else other than our room, I began to check these study spaces out. I have spent many hours in Milstein, and have found comfort in the nice green chairs by the windows that overlook the rest of campus. I really do like Millie (if you call her Cheryl fight me). I love how new she is, all of the technology that is housed within her, and Peet’s Coffee. However, there are times when Milstein isn’t really an option, like when they closed it for FIVE hours the other day when they were hosting a dinner for the donors that made its construction possible. Also, I take Arabic, and the book I have to use contains a DVD that only runs with Windows. The Milstein Center’s media viewing desks don’t really work, and people are usually sitting at them with other work anyway. I needed somewhere to do my Arabic homework, which I consider to be my most important class. So, I dared to go to a library that literally everyone warned me not to go to: Butler.
Even before I stepped foot on campus, people told me to stay away from Butler at all costs. They painted this image in my head of Butler being the place where one could see students crying over their homework, sleep-deprived grad students looming over their computers, and a place where your soul goes to die. Butler had been presented to me as the epitome of Columbia stress culture. But I had also seen pictures of the inside and the beautiful chandeliers in the reading rooms, and it is one of the closer options for a study space than North Campus or the Law Library. So, I stepped inside, almost fearing the worst. Soon, however, I realized that Butler isn’t as bad as everyone makes it out to be.
My first encounter with Butler was with some friends. We had stayed up past Milstein’s closing time (which is way too early in my opinion,) and decided that our only remedy was to go to Butler. We stayed on the second floor and did our homework in the cafe. There was life there. Students were talking, studying together, drinking coffee. It wasn’t all quiet and sad. Needless to say that my first impression of Butler was a positive one.
Let me take a moment to acknowledge that the Butler course reserves SAVED MY LIFE. I needed to read a few chapters of a book for my Practicing Intersectionality class. I didn’t have time to order it from Amazon, it was too expensive at Book Culture, and it was checked out at all the other libraries except for Butler. When I got the book, I read it in the reading room right next to the Circulation desk. This was my first encounter with the quiet and “stress-filled” rooms that everyone warned me about. The silence was very real; you could literally hear a pin drop in there. However, I found it to be a very cozy space to read, and the quiet helped me concentrate on what I was reading. Also, that reading room is very beautiful. I had always imagined what it would be like to study in a very fancy, old library, with lots of important books lining the shelves, just the perfect depiction of what academia looked like in my head, and I was finally in such a space. And yes, there were many students who were deep into their studies, some with multiple empty coffee cups and water bottles, and people who appeared stressed. However, I’ve learned that college will be stressful, but it’s how you chose to handle it that’s important, and that making sure you’ve taken enough study breaks and time to breathe is also extremely important. I will admit, I have been in Butler until very late at night, which may not necessarily be the healthiest thing to do, but Butler provides me with a reliable space to do work no matter the time, which I greatly appreciate.
I’ve had pretty good experiences in Butler, mainly because they’ve involved studying with friends. Another one of my new favorite places in Butler to sit and do work is the reading room on the third floor by the women’s bathroom. You know, the one with the spiral stairs that lead to tables that are in between bookshelves, with windows that overlook Carman. One night, myself and three other people studied there, and we worked well, making ourselves quietly laugh, and helping each other out. That reading room is also really pretty, may I add. It’s again, cozy, and gives off that “wow, I’m really out here, studying in between books” vibe.
Oh, and did I mention that Butler really has the only computers with DVD drives? And its got LOTS of them? AND its closest to Barnard? Those computers are literally saving me since my Arabic homework is ALWAYS due the next day.
All in all, in my experience, Butler isn’t so bad after all. It’s a really pretty library, with cozy study spots, decent access to books and computers, and that it doesn’t need to be a scary place at all. Milstein is an amazing library, but so far, Butler has a special place in my heart.