Gates: Leave Main Library alone


Matt Gates, Assistant Opinion Editor

I remember my tour guide during Wildcat Days telling me Main Library was the ugliest building on campus. I see why people take issue with this massive building’s brutalist architecture being planted in the middle of campus. Nonetheless, I am a large fan of Main Library.

The appearance of books flying off of shelves makes Northwestern’s library unique. This stands out from the traditional architecture I saw visiting liberal arts colleges in New England or the more conventional buildings in the schools I looked at close to home in New Jersey. NU’s library definitely does not look like the quintessential college library one might find at a school like Columbia University or The College of New Jersey. I remember one of my friends who visited NU in high school telling me the building is how they remembered the school. Main makes NU stand out and makes it memorable to anyone who visits campus.

Main Library is not only unique to NU, but it is also not consistent with the gothic architecture that characterizes the rest of campus. Although I see the value in consistency in architecture, I think the eclectic buildings on campus make campus more interesting.

NU’s largest library is particularly aesthetically pleasing in the snow during the winter when it is frosted with a coat of Chicago’s snow and it provides a nice walkway to cut across to get from mid-campus to Norris. The fortress provides protection from the cold midwestern weather and fierce winds coming off the lake.

Practically speaking, this brutalist castle contains a diverse array of study locations. Though Main Library’s numerous towers can become full during finals week and midterms, they’re great places to study in a quiet location. Core is a great place for group work as are the various classrooms sprawled throughout the towers. “The stacks” may seem lonely, but are an ideal location to crank out the last five pages of that paper or cram for that orgo midterm in peace. Periodicals provides a place to silently and secretly eat your Joy Yee’s takeout while you study for your Econ midterm.

The sheer size of the library alone is enough to make it difficult to navigate. Nonetheless, being a political science major, I have written many papers using the resources available in Main and found that using the online catalog system and available map of the towers, it was not all that difficult to find anything I needed.

Not everyone likes Main on the inside and many people hate it on the outside. Even still, the sheer amount of resources NU would have to pour into building a new library is reason alone to leave Main as is. I, for one, won’t complain.

Matt Gates is a Weinberg junior. He can be reached at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a letter to the editor to [email protected].

The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.