I went to every library on campus so you don’t have to

Feb. 9, 2022, 10:24 p.m.

“I’m going to the library,” is a commonly-heard phrase across Stanford’s campus. If you hear your friend say this, you probably take it without question. You imagine them at Green, Terman or perhaps even Lathrop. But this general acceptance — that the “library” on campus refers to just a few places — is a grave mistake. It neglects the countless other hallowed halls — spaces where incredible ideas have blossomed and been stored, where intellect is challenged and developed. Stanford houses 22 libraries on its campus, and I went to all of them so you don’t have to.

Below is my ranking of the libraries on campus. Please keep in mind that I have specific criteria when going to libraries: comfy chairs, ambiance and lighting. I am a humanities major, so desks are less necessary as I do most of my work on my laptop.

Not-to-be-missed libraries

#1 Bender Room — Green Library, Floor 5

Hours: 9 a.m.–8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Friday, closed Saturday, 12:30 p.m.–8 p.m. Sunday

Located on the top floor of Green, Bender is cozy, has an amazing view (especially at sunset) and is pin-drop silent. Once I was wearing heels in Bender, and I had to take them off to avoid clicking across the hardwood. There are a variety of seating options available: armchairs, individual desks and tables.

#2 Tanner Philosophy Library — Building 90 (Main Quad)

Hours: 9:30 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9:30 a.m.–4 p.m. Friday

This is a hidden gem on Stanford’s campus; it is located on the first floor of Building 90, which is across from Memorial Church in Main Quad. Tanner is everything you would want in a philosophy library: dark wood, plaid armchairs, every wall lined with books. There are a few armchairs and tables in assorted seating options. Plus, it is always empty. Truly my favorite place to study on campus!

Pro tip: Stay at the Philosophy Library until it closes at 5, then make your way to Bender to catch the sunset.

#3 Robert Crown Law Library

Hours: Every day 8 a.m.–5 p.m.

Elle Woods would love it here. It is classy, with black armchairs in window alcoves; quiet, clean and cozy, with books all around. There is a chessboard on display, containing an ongoing chess match that anyone can make a move on when they walk by. Furthermore, the library features displays of cookbooks with brightly-colored signs made by the librarians. There is a reading room upstairs for law students; however, undergrads can often slip in there as well. The lighting is warmer and there are personal desks in the reading room.

#4 GSB Library

Hours: 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday through Friday

This one has a hotel lobby feel with panoramic floor-to-ceiling windows which allow you to see the sky. There is also an outdoor balcony in the designated quiet room. The rest of the building hosts Phil Knight memorabilia, computer hubs and study rooms. Come here for bright lighting, quiet spaces and a sophisticated feel. 

Middle-of-the-pack libraries

#5 Branner Earth Sciences Library

Hours: 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday through Friday

One of my favorites! The aesthetic feels very 70s with fake wood coating on everything. A little bit too warm, but the people there are warm and friendly too. The Earth Sciences Library has many different nooks to find your perfect place to hit the books. Upstairs are the Map Collections; they often have free printed maps in various styles. There are large windows covered with blinds and balconies with seating outside. Good library for quiet conversation or group projects, as it is not silent.

#6 Robin Li and Melissa Ma Science Library — SAPP Center for Science Teaching and Learning

Hours: 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday through Friday

SAPP has great natural lighting and clean facilities. The view from the windows is wonderful. It is very quiet and pretty empty, and it has two floors!

#7 Bowes Art & Architecture Library — McMurtry Art and Art History Building

Hours: 9 a.m.–10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. on Friday

There is colorful and interesting architecture in this library, and there are large monitors available for use. Bowes has comfy chairs spaced throughout the library, and quiet conversations are welcomed here.

#8 East Asia Library — Lathrop

Hours: 9 a.m.–8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. on Friday

There is a good change of pace in the East Asia library. The library has lots of books and newspapers; it is certainly cozy and has bookshop vibes. Go upstairs to find spacious private desks and lots of natural lighting. If you are easily distracted, this is a great place to be, as foggy glass separators isolate you from other students.

#9 Green Library (not including Bender)

Hours: 9 a.m–8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Friday, closed Saturday, 12:30 p.m.–8 p.m. Sunday

Green Library has classic library vibes — pretty much what you would expect. The Lane Reading Room is grand, with massive windows. Relatively quiet but you can whisper hello to your friend and nobody will glare at you. However, it is pretty echoey; if you are easily distracted, this is not the room for you. Green also has a newly reopened wing with an entrance near Coupa Café that hosts natural lighting, large tables and a quiet bustling of librarians.

#10 Music Library

Hours: 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday through Friday

These are the only stacks you will catch me in. The Music Library is quaint, has built-in desks and is almost always empty. Upstairs, there are more public, well-lit tables. “The Stanford Music Library is one of the most unappreciated study spaces on campus,” says Ben Limric ’24. “It has a great variety of music, historical literature [and more]. It’s a great quiet place to appreciate music or a good book.”

Skip it unless you’re desperate” libraries

#11 Lathrop 24-hour study room

Hours: It is called ’24-hour room’ for a reason

Many people find solace in this 24-hour study room. My hot take is that I simply don’t like it unless I can get one of the computer booths on the far left-hand-side of the room, which are usually occupied. This room is too stiff for me and I just cannot get comfortable. The walls are all-glass, so there is lots of natural light. “I like [the section] with the couches,” says Julia Flora ’24. “I wish there were bathrooms and a water fountain closer [to the room]. I want them to reopen Lathrop café!”

#12 Terman Engineering Library — Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center

Hours: 9 a.m.–8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. on Friday

This feels like the library where creativity goes to die. There are large windows overlooking the beautiful engineering quad, but unfortunately the blinds are pulled down, so the library is dark. There are a few lovely red armchairs with side-desk pull-outs, which are nice; however, if you can’t find these desks, go elsewhere.

#13 Classics Library

Hours: 9 a.m.–4 p.m. Monday through Friday

This is a tiny room within the arches of Main Quad, and it is usually empty. It’s pretty dark, but there are various lamps. “I have taken a class from here, sans headphones,” said Jessica Farlie ’24, describing the library as dreary. “It would be good for watching the rain except that the windows are so small.”

#14 Government Documents Library (aka West Stacks at Green)

Hours: 9 a.m.–8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Friday, closed Saturday, 12:30 p.m.–8 p.m. Sunday

Pretty cool to walk through an empty floor of books, lights audibly clicking on as you pass each row. The space feels very “Night at the Museum,” and searching-for-government-documents “All the President’s Men.” I personally could not study here because it freaks me out. It is silent, dark and cold. The library is pretty sad in my opinion, but to each their own. If you want to mole up in a dusty cold basement that has never seen sunlight, this is the place to be.

#15 LAST: Lane Medical Library

Hours: 8 a.m.–8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m.–6 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Saturday, 12 p.m.–6 p.m. Sunday

I really do not like this place. It has the energy of a hospital waiting room. The lighting is harsh and artificial. It feels kind of dated and cold. However, it is quiet and there are many seating options. There is a terrace that is very quiet with nice greenery, but the building itself is quite ugly and dark. When I went onto the terrace, I got locked out and it took me 10 minutes to find a way back inside. Heebie-jeebies.

Coming Soon: 

I willl be ranking the non-library study spaces on campus. So far, I have investigated the following: COHO, McMurtry Terrace, Law School Terrace, Coupa and Huang. Where else do you study? Let me know by emailing [email protected].

Annie Reller '24 is interested in French and American Studies and grew up in Bellevue, Washington. In her free time, she enjoys eating tikka masala from farmers' markets and reading on trains.

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