The Big 7: A Library Review

A comprehensive overview of Barnard and Columbia’s most popular libraries.

Photography by Diana Sanchez

Columbia has how many libraries, and yet students still come to Milstein?

The numerous libraries on Barnard and Columbia’s campuses certainly come as a surprise. There are 17 libraries in total, including some with smaller library divisions like Butler’s Rare Book and  Manuscript Library. Finding your favorite library is as big a challenge as completing your major. Either it’s too cold, too hot, the chairs are uncomfortable, or there just is never enough room. But every student should discover their favorite library before graduating. 

Here are the seven most popular libraries on campus: Milstein, Butler, Uris (Business and Econ), Kent, Lehman (SIPA), Law, and Avery.   


Whether you sit at the long tables as the sun streams or in the loveable green chairs, Milstein, otherwise known as Millie, is a favorite to many. Delaine, BC ‘26, ranked Milstein as her favorite library due to its “supportive environment” as a result of its modern style. Her only complaint is of Milstein’s “frigid[ity]” and constantly needing a jacket. Contrary to Butler’s 24/7 schedule, she feels Milstein’s restricted hours (the library is only open until midnight)  ensure students go out, get rest, and enjoy themselves. Many students, including Delaine, go to Milstein for its convenience, with classes and dining halls nearby.  


The infamous Columbia Library, featured in so many movies, novels, and of course, school papers. While a must-visit spot your freshman year, a library with that little space can be intimidating. Elisheva, CU ‘24, prefers its higher floors when she studies, as they tend to be quieter and less “scary or overwhelming” compared to busier study halls. She attributes the intimidation to it being “such a grand location.” She finds large study halls can be productive spaces in the early morning, but they should be avoided during midterms and finals. She recounted how one year in the main study room, singer-songwriter Maude Latour, CU ’22, threw all of her papers and exclaimed “I’m done,” upon completing her finals. Of the room’s reaction, Elisheva said,  “everyone else was like ‘We’re not.”’ Elisheva noted the only flaw Butler has is the occasional loud person. 


Despite finding Barnard senior Delanie in Milstein, she prefers Avery–at least when it comes to studying. In part for its “old academy aesthetic” which not only motivates her work but also staying off her phone. “I feel judged if I am on the phone,” Delanie says.

Samantha, BC ‘26, rates Avery as her go-to library. While appreciating the dark academia vibes, she finds Avery smaller and more intimate, unlike some of Columbia’s other libraries, which can feel overwhelming at times. Avery also has a great location, being “in the middle of everything,” as Samantha notes, which allows for spontaneous study sessions with friends. She wishes Avery had more seating areas on the second floor.


Hidden inside the Business Building, Uris seems to be the socializing library, with rumors that people tend to be asked out there. Brie, BC ‘26, explained how she enjoys Uris due to its “easygoing atmosphere,” which she attributes to the chatty environment. “The glass study rooms also have a nice view of the campus,” and she appreciates its proximity to Mike’s Sub Shop. Her only suggestion to make it the perfect study environment is updating the furniture. 


Kent, or the East Asian Library, was mentioned in numerous interviews, explaining how it’s the perfect blend of coziness and dark academia to motivate you. To much disappointment, however, it is closed this year. The library released a statement that it won’t be open until January 2024 due to renovations to “install critical fire alarm and fire suppression technologies.” 

Lehman (SIPA)

Jessica, BC 24’, says that her favorite library is SIPA, or Lehman Library, for its spaciousness, multiple study rooms, and vending machines in the basement. “There’s another floor below, cubicles, group study spaces in the back; it’s huge.” No library, however, is perfect; Jessica admits that while she never has to fight for a seat during finals, SIPA could definitely use new chair cushions—and new carpeting. There are also hardly any power outlets, and the lighting in some rooms is dim. The visibly-stained cushions and its carpeting, which gives the library a darker look, are two of the few things Jessica wishes she could change about SIPA.


Columbia’s Law School Library, marked with its distinct statue, is commonly misconstrued as accessible only to law students. According to law student Diana Lee, it is her least favorite library, and she ventures there only for convenience. With metallic bookshelves, no bathrooms on the entire second floor, and leaky ceilings during rain, its overall feel lacks aesthetics in the way Avery or Butler thrive. She describes how it is like studying in a dungeon, especially the basement. She considers the layout of the furniture to be a bit nicer than the typical ‘dark academia’ because the study nooks allow privacy. Still, Diana notes the second floor can get too quiet, so she prefers the main floor’s foot traffic, with students always coming and going, and the nice view outside.

Almost everyone interviewed rated Avery to be their top library of choice, for its coziness and academic feel, or Butler, for its quiet environment. Although everyone’s taste in libraries varies, it depends on your preferred atmosphere, or what you need to work on particular assignments.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *