Where the hipsters are
As of 2011, Columbia University and NYU students are allowed special access to one another’s libraries through the Manhattan Library Research Initiative. Recently, NYU Local visited and wrote a story about Butler Library, so we decided to return the favor.
This weekend, yours truly did something truly extraordinary. Something so great… it can only be explained by one acronym: YOLO. Always looking to broaden my horizons and escape the Morningside bubble, I took a leap of faith and decided to do my reading downtown. After a quick jaunt down to the Lower East Side (read: I took the 1 train to the Christopher Street subway stop), I found myself face to face with New York University’s Elmer Holmes Bobst Library. I know, I know—it was a truly a weekend to remember.
At the time, my prior experience with Bobst was all secondhand (as in a friend once described it to me as “nothing more than a gym with books in it”), so I didn’t really know what to expect when I finally went. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised! For a library that Columbia had at least a 40 year head start on, Bobst has certainly got its shit together.
It’s a large yet unassuming rust-colored building on the south side of Greenwich’s Washington Square Park, so it’s easy to see why a non-Columbia student might describe Butler’s façade as “striking even for Columbia seniors.”
I figured since the building itself wasn’t much to look at, the sooner I should head inside—where, you know, the real magic happens on college campuses.
After reading NYU Local’s piece about our own Butler, I wasn’t expecting a lengthy conversation with the desk guard, but that’s exactly what I got. After showing my CUID (make sure you have the appropriate sticker for this semester, FYI) I received a little piece of paper (that I will also have to show security next time) informing me of my privilege to use Bobst library whenever I want… that is, until January 2013… and only between the hours of 7 and 1 a.m. Oh, and if anyone’s looking to check out any titles, you’re out of luck—The Manhattan Research Library Initiative only allows you to read the books at the library you’re visiting.
Also of note is that, unlike Columbia, NYU’s Wi-Fi isn’t open to anyone who happens to be in the area. If you’re looking to use the internet in Bobst, you’re gonna need to visit the computer help desk belowground to acquire a guest account password.
Bobst is 12 stories tall, but the uppermost floors are reserved for administrative space. Its most prominent physical feature is this wide-open atrium:
You could use one of the elevators to go from floor to floor, but using the golden stairs (which are surrounded by a pretty suicide barrier) offers a bird’s eyes view of the …interesting stereogram pattern on the lobby’s floor.
While it’s equipped with some typical modern New York amenities (revolving doors! automated turnstiles! those fancy Dyson movie theatre handryers!), Bobst stops looking like Lerner’s stern older brother the deeper in the stacks you go.
Speaking of the stacks, they’re a lot more readily accessible than working in Butler would have you expect. However, with floor-to-ceiling windows and plenty of open space and seating, they are decidedly not ideal for secret sex. Although a few years ago one student found them quite suitable for living. (Score!)
Like any other library, Bobst has “quiet” study spaces and “no you should really still be quiet” group study rooms, the main difference being that their group rooms are equipped with flat screen TVs.
And the views from the study spaces on the north side of the building are gorgeous:
Oh well! At least we have Butler Café, right? (To squash rumors, this library does not have a Chick-Fil-A inside.)
Overall, I can’t say I noticed a difference between our library-dwellers and NYU’s. They all seemed just as unfriendly and overworked as we probably do.
I didn’t become friends with any strangers and “laughter derived from sleep-deprivation rises as easily as a yawn” (that is an actual quote) probably wouldn’t have made me want to. Athough maybe that has something to do with the fact that I went during the day on a weekend relatively early in this semester. Maybe I’ll get back to you with another report in the thick of finals.
Check out more photos of the Bobcats’ library below!
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