5 Days, 5 Libraries: My Quest for the Perfect Study Space

Now that midterms are over and I’m ready to settle into the rhythm of writing final papers for my classes, I’m in need of the perfect study space. HGSE’s Monroe C. Gutman Library is great. It has cozy nooks, fireplaces, and a common space for meeting up with classmates (or my husband when he joins me in an evening of studying). But Harvard is well-known for its great libraries, so how can I settle for just Gutman?

For five days, I tried a different library each day. Harvard has 77 libraries, so I narrowed my choices down by location and open hours: It had to be close to HGSE and it had to be open late since I work until about 9:30 p.m.

Check out my library map here.

Day 1: Widener Library

  • Pro: Beautiful. Had the magnificence and seriousness that a Harry Potter fan might crave.
  • Con: If you spend your day in the library and like to curl up on a couch with your laptop and some snacks, this isn’t the spot.
  • Verdict: I’m going to save this one for serious, deadline-approaching work.

Day 2: Cabot Science Library

  • Pro: Open until midnight. Close to William James Hall where I take Developmental Disabilities.
  • Con: I really liked the desks facing the windows, but there were no outlets for my laptop. While the carrel where I ended up working was private and spacious, it wasn’t very comfy or atmospheric.
  • Verdict: I’ll use this library for nights when I’m behind on my work and for doing last-minute reading before my class.

Day 3: Fine Arts Library

  • Pro: Quiet and not very busy
  • Con: Small, few private study spaces, and no food allowed. I was a little disappointed by the dearth of art considering its name.
  • Verdict: This one might be useful when I want to avoid distractions.

Day 4: Harvard Law School Library

  • Pro: Big library with a variety of study spots including private carrels and couches by windows. They have laptop cords if you forgot yours — and I had that day! There are even chess tables set up.
  • Con: None.
  • Verdict: This is definitely one that I’ll use again.

Day 5: Postponed due to hurricane

Day 5 was postponed because Hurricane Sandy caused the libraries to close for the day. Here I am happily walking home to my husband after realizing that school was cancelled:

Day 6: Harvard Kennedy School Library

  • Pro: Lots of private carrels and armchairs. Nice views of trees — having nice things to look at is important for my eyes that need regular computer breaks.
  • Con: Small. Lacking an uplifting or Harry Potteresque atmosphere.
  • Verdict: I think I’ll skip this one in the future.

Final Verdict

It turns out that what I was searching for I had already found. Considering the features that I prefer — comfy armchairs, food allowed, nice views, good atmosphere, plenty of electrical outlets, and private, quiet spots — I’ve narrowed my choice down to one winner: HGSE’s Gutman Library. I’m glad that I went on my library quest though and found great backups in case I need an environment change. Until that need arises, you can find me curled up here: