Avoid the misery of the library seat scrounge.

Columbia’s libraries are so lovely, and great places to study to avoid the loneliness/distraction/existential misery that can come from studying all by yourself Yellow Wallpaper-style in your little dorm room.

For this reason, however, the libraries get pretty packed. And nothing is more demoralizing than spending finals week wandering from room to room in search of a place to sit before you can open up that laptop and start working. But never fear! Bwog has compiled an (incomplete) guide to the (many) libraries on campus, ranked in order of how easily you can find a seat even when crowds are dense.

7) C. V. Starr East Asian Library

This lovely little gem, located on the second floor of Kent, is perhaps the most beautiful library, meaning, unfortunately, that it’s always crowded. It doesn’t help that it’s also one of the smallest, square-footage-wise. If you’ve got your heart set on studying here, you can probably get a chair at one of the two long wooden tables on the floor (but might not get two seats next to each other if you come with a friend). Meanwhile, the East Asian Library has a lower stacks level with fewer seats, but you can usually grab a chair if you don’t mind studying in the absence of natural light. Back upstairs there are also eight smaller tables, four of which sit on little upper-story alcoves under the gorgeous flower-patterned ceiling, but I’m afraid these are only viable if you make a Faustian bargain or get here with your friends at 6 am and camp outside like it’s Black Friday before the library opens.

6) Milstein Second and Third Floors

Milstein Floors 2 and 3 are getting lumped together for this list, since their layout, energy, and chair availability are much the same as each other. Although the longed-after green chairs are tricky to get under any circumstances, there’s usually space at the Floor 2 table (and less of a risk of falling asleep as you study in the comfy luxury of one of the green chairs). Floors 2 and 3 also have a few benches for extra seating, but not quite enough that it’s always possible to find a spot.

5) Tie: Butler Library Fifth Floor and Butler Ground (Second) Floor

Butler Floors 5 and 2 are tied for fifth least crowded library rooms. Butler Floor 2 (which, confusingly, is technically the ground floor since Floor 1 is underground) has only a few big rooms with lots of tables. Floor 5 has lots of rooms with only a few tables each. But they pretty much balance each other out in terms of total number of seats, so the difference between them comes down to the vibes. Butler 2 is the “talking floor” where you can chat with your buddies to your heart’s content while you’re working on homework (or telling yourself that you’re going to start working on homework). Floor 5 is as silent as a crypt, and something about the concentrated focus that everyone on this floor seems to have at all times makes you feel bad about yourself unless you’re actually getting something done.

4) Uris

The Business & Economics Library, located in Uris just past Chef Mike’s, has a large ground floor with fifteen-ish four-person tables and a multitude of mini study rooms lining the floor and an upper level. This means that it’s always possible to get a seat and often a whole table to yourself. The only drawback of the small tables, though, is that they’re mostly occupied by groups studying together, so it can be awkward to try to join a table even if there is an empty chair. Luckily, the sheer number of tables means that you can probably grab a free one for your own study group, but something about the noise of people talking and the drab, office-y, yet weirdly intimidating architecture means that Uris can be a stressful place to study.


The Lehman Social Sciences Library in the School of International and Public Affairs Building gets high marks for non-crowdedness, perhaps because the library itself is so damn hard to find. To get here, you have to take the elevator down from Floor 6 (aka the ground floor, where you enter at campus level) to Floor 4, then walk down a short, fancy flight of stairs to get to the library on Level 3. Making the trek here is worth it, however; Lehman has many tables and many chairs, so you won’t be left high and dry even during finals week. Just be aware that the library has the structure of a bank vault, making natural light–and occasionally cell phone reception–a little hard to come by.

2) Butler Fourth Floor

The rather industrial-looking fourth floor of Butler is big with lots of seats, which makes getting a spot pretty easy! There are something like ten tables in the largest reading room with six chairs at each, and other smaller reading rooms scattered around. With so many chairs, it’s not only very possible that you can get a spot, but also more than likely that you’ll get to sit next to your study buddies (not that you’re allowed to talk on floors three and above). As with most library floors, Butler 4 gets more crowded as the day goes on, so you might have to do a bit more finagling to find several seats together to study with your friends at night. But the number of seats on this floor means that you’ll pretty much always be able to find at least one chair somewhere. Hurray for Butler 4!

1) Avery!

In terms of aesthetics, the Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library follows only behind C. V. Starr with regard to sheer beauty. But the best part of Avery is that you’ll ALWAYS be able to find a seat here, even if it’s 6 pm during finals week with everyone’s Lit Hum paper almost due. Logically, it makes no sense that Avery always has spots available. It’s smaller than Butler and Milstein and closes at 9 pm on weeknights, making it more limited in terms of both hours and chairs. But Avery manages to defy the laws of the material universe by always having at least a few seats free, either on the pretty, quiet ground floor with the large campus-view windows or the dead-silent lower level with a skylight looking down above the stairs. The lower level especially feels nice and cozy on a chilly fall day. And Avery just happens to be the largest architecture library of its kind in the world (!!), so you can go and poke around the massive collection of illustrated art and architecture books when it’s time for a study break.

Butler Floor 3 at full capacity :( via Bwog Archives