Archive for library

Avery Library: Everything a Study Space Should Be

Before coming to SIPA, when I thought of the Ivy League I would immediately picture immense, neoclassical and gothic style buildings, foreboding structures made to resemble the campuses of Oxford and Cambridge. This style has always been appealing to me; something about the brick buildings and carved names of famous alumni and scholars is particularly conducive to studying, reminding you of how little you know and how much farther you have to go.

When you first step foot on campus, your eyes are immediately drawn to Butler and Low Libraries that sit on the edges of main campus like two enormous bookends. They’re pretty to look at it and they entirely live up to one’s expectations about what an Ivy library is supposed to be. However, if you take the steps up by Low and round the corner, you’ll pass by a hundred year old chapel, its humble Byzantine stylings immediately drawing you in towards the altar. A little ways more down the footpath and you’ll pass by an unassuming brick building that happens to be Avery Library, the largest architectural library in the world.

Whenever I am doing readings or looking for inspiration, I’ll try and find a seat at Avery. It’s often hard as there are a limited number of seats and the library enforces a strict no coffee or tea rule that sometimes discourages me from going. But every time I do happen to find a space I am reminded of why I love studying there. First of all, the library is essentially one large narrow hall. Long tables line the middle of the hall, while the walls are full of books up to two stories high. Great big windows along the entire building provide plenty of natural light and a view of the campus. For this reason, Avery strikes a perfect balance in terms of ambiance; it’s warm and inviting, without the stuffy feeling that other old libraries tend to have.

The winter only accentuates all of Avery’s best features, as the large windows give you a view of the snow outside, while the wood interior makes you feel like you’re at home in your study. During the cold season, I’ll often step outside and walk around the corner to the chapel, just to unwind and destress for a few moments. Then I’ll walk back, feeling refreshed and ready to dive back into my work.

On top of all of its natural charm, the basement of the library also has a nice cafe that offers food and a full range of beverages. The seating is cafeteria style and it is almost always buzzing with people. The library also hosts one of the world’s leading architectural art collections, with over two million drawings, sketches, photographs, and other historical artifacts related to the field of design and architecture. Sometimes I’ll catch an event at the library as well, since it regularly hosts visiting exhibitions and relevant speaker series events.

Whether you decide to go to Avery to study or just to grab coffee, it is always a welcome respite from the busyness of everyday life. If you decide to visit Columbia, take an opportunity to step inside and envision yourself here!

Note from Admissions: SIPA’s expert faculty and theory-meets-practice curriculum is part of what sets our programs apart. Register for Spring 2019 SIPA class visits here and experience it for yourself.

Favorite Places around Morningside Heights

If you have not already checked out the SIPA Survival Guide, I highly recommend you do so ( It is a veritable treasure trove of information on places to eat, play and study.  In that spirit, I wanted to share some of my favorite places around Morningside Heights, some of which are in there, and some of which are not.

Favorite place to study: Teacher’s College.  Teacher’s college is right near the SIPA building on 120th Street.  Unlike the concrete jungle that is SIPA, TC’s library and dining hall have that classic old university feeling without being overrun by undergrads like the main campus. Unlike the Law School, Teacher’s College has an open WiFi network and its library is open to anybody with a Columbia ID. The library features private group study rooms, an open plan talking area and quiet study area with big tables and smaller study carrels. There is a café on the first floor that serves (hello!) Starbucks coffee as well as other small items and people are pretty open about bringing drinks/small snacks into the library.

I am also a fan of TC’s Grace Dodge Dining Hall. It is usually pretty quiet in there but the food is the best quality I have had anywhere in campus including a pick your own salad, pizza and sandwich bar.

Favorite place to blog/apply to jobs from: Brad’s Café at the Journalism School.  When I’m feeling less academic and more professional, my favorite place to work is Brad’s Café, located at the Journalism School right inside in the Broadway 116th Street entrance. Brad’s has outdoor seating which is partially enclosed during the cooler months and features a scrawling news feed and all day TV news coverage. Note, seating is for patrons only so be prepared to buy something.  Every time I’m in there I feel like I’m about to file a story with my bureau chief.

Favorite place to bring tourists:  Grant’s Tomb. Devotees with not be surprised to learn that I’m a big American history nerd and there is a real treasure, the General Grant National Memorial, right in our own backyard. ( Most times it’s pretty quiet so you will be able to impress your guests by arranging a private tour.

Favorite place for a treat: Crumbs Cupcakes (Broadway and 109th).  New Yorkers love cupcakes and Crumbs is the crème de la crème, literally. Giant crème filled cupcakes in every flavor imaginable. They do sell mini cupcakes, but the smallest they come in is a pack of six. For this reason, when I’m feeling the cupcake craving I usually plan a trip right before a group meeting. That way I can buy a six pack, snag the best one (or two!) for myself and be a group project hero! Crumbs also sell Starbucks coffee and the line is usually much shorter than at Starbucks.  Ten coffees here earns you a free drink PLUS a free cupcake.

Favorite quick bite to eat: Cascabel Taqueria (Broadway and 108th).  Casual, friendly, the best tacos I have ever had. My favorite is the Carne Asada, but if you’re in the mood for something lighter the pummel (which is actually just grapefruit) and avocado salad is very refreshing.  They have fairly decent margaritas as well.


Blizzard #1

Some of you might have heard on the news that the greater NYC area was hit with a blizzard yesterday.  I thought I would share a few pictures.

This is not a glorious picture, but when I went to take out the garbage this morning this is what awaited me . . .

This one is interesting because it was inside the 50th street subway station . . . I say again, inside.  The wind was blowing so hard it forced the snow through the street vents . . .

Not many people were riding their bikes today . . .

And normally steps are visible in front of Low Memorial Library, but not today . . .

Why is this post labeled Blizzard #1?  Because based on a review of what’s going on in our application system, our office is going to be hit with a digital blizzard next week when the January 5th deadline hits.

The BEST of Columbia University

One of the great things about being a SIPA student is that while students have access to the wonderful resources SIPA offers, students also have access to the resources of a world class university comprised of 21 different schools and affiliated institutions.  The following entry highlights some of the benefits.  The entry was written by SIPA student Carrie Dorn.


Gaining admission to the School of International and Public Affairs not only opens up your access to SIPA’s institutes, events and student groups— it also allows you to access to the rest of Columbia University.  Once you learn your way around the International Affairs building and find your favorite seat in Lehman library, students can get so wrapped up in SIPA life that they don’t venture out to explore the rest of campus.  Here’s a cheat sheet of resources to take advantage of during your time at Columbia.

Feed Your Brain: CLASSES

Did you hope to enhance your academic repertoire by learning about health literacy, media culture in China or land use law?  With SIPA’s flat rate tuition, you can cross register at other graduate schools and may be able to count relevant classes towards your concentration and specialization.

Cozy Up With Your Textbook: LIBRARIES

While SIPA’s Lehman Library has everything you need, why not vary your study environment?  Your CU ID gives you access to swipe into libraries all around campus.  Many students like Teachers College library, around the corner from SIPA on 120th St., which provides a relaxing environment for students to comfortably do group work.   Others enjoy the Social Work Library, located 3 blocks up from SIPA, where windows overlooking Amsterdam Avenue and 121st Street offer direct sunlight and some good people-watching.  Night owls may prefer to spend late paper-writing nights uptown in the Health Sciences Library at 168th St., which is bustling with medical students at all hours.   With some exploration you can find the perfect study environment for you.

Explore NYC’s Creative Side: CUarts

Even Columbia knows that you didn’t move to New York City to spend all of your time in the library!  That’s why the Arts Initiative at Columbia University works to make art and cultural events accessible and affordable for students.  Your student ID allows you free admission into more than 30 NYC museums and can get you discounted tickets to movies, restaurants and Broadway shows.

Refuel Your Day: GOOD EATS

Wherever you find yourself on campus, there is no shortage of places to pick up a snack.  SIPA students are lucky to have a café on the 6th floor to grab lunch and coffee in between classes.  Brad’s, located in the School of Journalism, is a great place to buy coffee, salads or baked goods to help get through your day.  You can also watch the buzz around the Morningside campus in their semi-open seating on warm days.   In the winter, a better option may be Lenfest Café in the Law school—accessible through the south hallway at SIPA—which offers a variety of sandwiches, sushi and other prepared foods.  On Thursdays and Sundays you can find locally produced cheeses, organic veggies and freshly baked bread at the Farmer’s Market while strolling down Broadway (between 114th and 115th Streets).

Relax Underground: MUSIC SPOT

Under the beautiful St. Paul’s Chapel, located right on campus between Avery and Buell Hall, the Postcrypt Coffehouse offers acoustic music every Friday and Saturday night during the school year.  In an intimate setting, you can unwind at the end of a busy week while listening to the tunes of local talent.


Columbia University Directory of CLASSES:

Columbia University LIBRARIES:




"The most global public policy school, where an international community of students and faculty address world challenges."

—Merit E. Janow, Dean, SIPA, Professor of Practice, International and Economic Law and International Affairs

Boiler Image