Top 3 Libraries at UC Berkeley

By Sean Kenney on February 7, 2021

Although many students may like to study at their favorite coffee house or restaurant, there are some advantages to making use of the study areas in the 36 listed libraries across the UC Berkeley campus (Some listed are not actual libraries and some libraries are not listed). Often it is easier to find a place to plug in your laptop so you don’t run out of juice in the middle of a major project. The libraries also present fewer distractions and a quieter ambiance than many coffee houses and restaurants. Also, why not take advantage of the spaces provided on such a beautiful campus while you are still here. I realize that at this unprecedented time in history all the libraries are closed, but when they do reopen, they are a great space to study. Albeit I have not been to them all so if you have comments or suggestions on a library, feel free to add them in the comments section. Here are my top three UC Berkeley libraries to study at in order.

1. Kresge Engineering Library

I was told about the Engineering Library by a friend who went to Cal over a decade before me. Yet his advice stood the test of time. I often had trouble finding any available desks or spaces to study at Moffitt Library, as it seems to be the most popular of the libraries at UC Berkeley. The Engineering Library almost always has a space to sit down on the upper-tier around the edges. It also has desks and some couches on the lower tier straight ahead when you walk in the entrance. Most desks or work areas have multiple plug-ins for laptops which is very useful. It is located close to the Lower Hearst Parking structure and other reasonable parking behind Hearst Avenue, as well as some great places to get food on Euclid Avenue if you need a break. Also, it is located right next to Memorial Glade, which is a favorite place for activities and resting.

There are two major reasons why this is my favorite library. One, it almost always has a place open to study, unlike some other libraries I have spent 10 minutes walking to just to waste my time because there is no availability. Two, and most important to the distinction of it as my number one library to study at, are the hours. It is open until midnight so you can study late instead of heading home early to be distracted at your residence. As a night owl and student who would prefer to study on campus as opposed to home, the Engineering Library’s late hours are a must for me.  Add that it is located near an edge of campus with some parking and food and has bathrooms and water fountains right by the entrance and it makes this library my top pick for libraries to study at on the UC Berkeley campus.

2. C.V. Starr East Asian Library

I was told about the East Asian Library by a classmate in my first semester. It became one of my go-to places to study and write papers. Located not too far down the path on campus from the Engineering Library, it has the same great benefits of being near decent parking, food, and Memorial Glade. In fact, it is a direct shot onto Euclid Avenue if you turn left onto the path directly outside when you exit the main entrance. Spaces to study are easier to find here than some libraries but certain times of day can be crowded. There are individual workstations with overhead lights and power plugs next to some longer desks immediately to the right when you enter. More times than not you will be able to find an open individual workstation, for those like me who enjoy distraction-free studying. The library has multiple levels and other study areas on each level. Be warned that if you go to the lower levels, your Wi-Fi may not work as well or at all.

Another plus to this library is the handful of desktop computers available down the main walkway in a little doorless room on the left. It is useful if you want to do research but not always have to switch tabs every time you are citing a paper or cross-referencing ideas. There are three reasons why I put this library on the list. One, It has large windows and a nice view of Observatory Hill so you don’t feel as cooped up while studying. Two, it has some nice interior architecture and design that I just found appealing, but that is for you to decide. Three, it usually has open spaces to study, which are pertinent for identifying the best libraries to study at.

3. Howison Philosophy Library

I found out about this library in connection with a Berkeley Connect course I took. Located up the main entrance staircase on the 3rd floor of Moses Hall, the Philosophy Library is probably the closest library to the Bancroft Way entrance to Berkeley near Sather Gate. This makes it a great location to head to if you park on the Bancroft side of campus and don’t want to walk as far to find a library to study at. It is a small library compared to all the others, yet it rarely fills up. Right behind Moses Hall there is a walkway with a bridge that goes over Strawberry Creek. It is a great place to sit and take in some nature while eating lunch. Also, the squirrels nearby are not shy and I often fed them some of my trail mix. The Philosophy Library has a few large tables and power strips to plug in your laptop. Moses Hall is a quaint little building and the Philosophy Library is great for just focusing on studying without distractions. Although it closes at 5 p.m., its location and often available spaces to study make it an ideal library. That combined with the wonderful space behind Moses Hall to enjoy some nature is enough to make it 3rd on my list.

Honorable Mentions

Doe Library almost made my list, as its Architectural appeal is probably the best of all the libraries and it usually has spaces to study as well. The interior just makes you feel like you’ve arrived, like you are studying at a prestigious university. One negative is the power plugs at the base of the lamps at the large study tables. They are too close to the table and I had the experience of not being able to plug in my laptop because the base of the power cord was too large to fit. Also, it echoes quite a bit inside the big library so any little noise, like chairs squeaking on the floor when moved, makes a lot of noise.

Moffitt Library is always crowded, and it’s really difficult to find a place to study. Although I never used it for studying because of this, I did use the REST Zone. It is located in the back corner of the 5th floor of Moffitt, nearest the direction of Doe Library if you look outside. The room includes nap pods and padded loungers. The loungers and nap pods were oddly shaped for me so I would, like many others, take the pad off the lounger and place it on the ground as a place to nap. Part of studying effectively is rest. All the naps I took in that room definitely helped and are worthy of an honorable mention.

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