East Wing Carrels, Green Library
Shoddily constructed, graffiti-scarred, and all too reminiscent of the cubicles that many of us will woefully inhabit for some outsized portion of our adult lives, the East Wing carrels also have the misfortune of being located in, well, the East Wing of Green. I’ve always thought of the East Wing as a rather unfortunate addition to the grand and stately Bing Wing—in the words of the Prince of Wales, it can best be likened to a “monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved and elegant friend.”
Starbucks, Tresidder Student Union
I can think of no reason to set foot in Starbucks other than a need to pass through from one side of Tresidder to the other; or else a traitorous—yet, perhaps, gustatorily defensible—decision to purchase Starbucks coffee and carry it into CoHo.
Lane Reading Room, Green Library
The grandest room on Stanford’s campus, and the closest thing we have to the elegant reading rooms of the Old World. On one wall, a garish avant-garde portrait and a photograph clash rather amusingly with more traditional portraits of the various white men who have headed the University in bygone decades. Encyclopedias in countless languages create an atmosphere of enlightenment, while silence and the panopticon-like effect of the open floor plan maximize productivity. Only outrageously squeaky chairs, and the familiar practical considerations (namely, the need to conceal one’s caffeine and snacks) keep Lane from full points.
Jonsson Reading Room, Green Library
Less impressive than its big brother Lane, Jonsson nonetheless has markedly less squeaky chairs and a nice set of political theory classics to get one in the mood for serious inquiry. Too bright and clinical, however, and bereft of much of the gravitas that makes for a good reading room.
Coupa, Green Library
Inevitable, and justly so. Best approached as a break from studying in the library rather than as a study spot per se; the force of the sun often renders laptop screens unreadable and drugs the would-be scholar into a stupor. Its clientele of elegant international visitors, professors, and interviewees for various jobs is agreeable but not particularly conducive to the work of a student.
West Stacks, Green Library
Vast and desolate. Reserved for truly desperate academic moments and for those who perversely enjoy a modicum of terrifying solitude. Due to its reputation for sparse habitation, purported to be the occasional site of surreptitious carnal acts. Scholars beware.
Law School Library
The long desks and overall spaciousness of the Law Library pleasantly reminds the visitor of the smaller libraries of Oxford, and the chairs are more comfortable than Green’s (if less elegant), but the atmosphere created by rows of law books is more functional than edifying. Not having to have one’s bag checked on exit is certainly a perk.
Meyer Green (or anywhere outside)
Balmy, but one’s actual studying prospects are succinctly described in the words of our current President: “All talk, no action. Sounds good, doesn’t work. Never going to happen.”
Bender Room, Green Library
Unsurpassed views over the palms, pines, and red-tiled roofs of campus, paired with a lovely collection of many of the finest books written in the last hundred years make Bender a true gem of a reading room. Still, just as the famous Stanford writer Tobias Wolff is said to have refused a corner office with a panoramic view, in favor of a broom closet in the Green basement, Bender’s charms can distract rather than focus the attention. My favorite time to visit Bender is just after the end of finals—I’ll pluck a book from off the shelves and read it in an armchair near the window, glancing out over campus from time to time. In the final estimation, it’s far too lovely a room to use for the utilitarian purposes of studying.
Theoretically convenient, practically difficult. Easy access to whatever food and caffeine one has on hand comes along with a total lack of supervision or of enforced demarcation between study and screwing around, especially if one gets along with one’s roommate or lives in a very social dorm. Largely reserved for those of extremely high motivation, or for very low-intensity work.
24-Hour Study Room, Lathrop Building
A grim place that, later into the hours of the night, seems positively to reek of the curdled sweat and tears of the desperate who have nowhere else to go. Minimalist décor and no books makes for an austere atmosphere. Traditionally best avoided when possible, though the recent addition of Lathrop Café has improved it by increasing its proximity to caffeine and sustenance.
First Floor, Wallenberg (Building 160)
Loathsome 2000s-era functional furniture, ugly stabs at minimalism, and freshmen perennially passing by on their way to PWR or language classes make for a dreadful atmosphere for studying. This is not addressed by the mystifying 360-degree desks, which vaguely resemble sensory deprivation tanks or hamster balls.
CoHo, Tresidder Student Union
Undoubtedly the premier study café. Avoid the greasy fare and stick to the basic but serviceable drinks. Admittedly not quiet and often a more social than academic environment—sometimes despite one’s best efforts—CoHo nonetheless possesses a contagious vital energy, a sense of bustle and spontaneous generation that has buoyed me through countless readings and assignments. Taking a thirty-second break from reading to sip one’s latte and survey the beautiful and noisy microcosm of student life as it plays itself out before one’s eyes, is surely one of the most profound pleasures one can have while studying on campus.