Bapst Library is the most iconic library on campus, without a doubt. But is it the best library on the main campus of Boston College? I will rate Bapst Library on a scale from 1 to 10, looking at its beauty, functionality and more.
Beautiful is probably one of the most over-used words to describe Bapst, so perhaps I will describe Bapst as an ornate building that will never go out of style. Judging both from the exterior and the interior, Bapst is a true classic and an academic and cultural gem at Boston College, as it is one of the only art libraries on campus.
If one ventures up to Gargan Hall, the most heavily-Instagrammed room in the building, if not on campus, notice and appreciate the furniture and unique features of the room. Gargan Hall has several rows of long tables with a medium-dark wood finish. The chairs are also impressive, with excellent craftsmanship: they have circular-edged crosses and “flowy, billowy” scrolls carved into the backs of the chairs.
Other strong features are the tall, impressive light fixtures with long metal chains and beautifully curled pieces of dark metal, with illuminating white lights. In addition, the bookshelves are of a similar color to the chairs and tables. The shelves have excellent craftsmanship with skillfully carved leaves and flowers, which add an artistic flair to an otherwise utilitarian piece of furniture.
But what really steals the show are those striking, stellar stained glass windows. The windows are at least thirty feet tall and serve as the windows for Gargan Hall, the upper level of Bapst Library. I can see swirls of lilac, aqua blue and other complex colors in the windows, which make every part of the windows stunning to look at. The stained glass windows mainly are graced with impressive paintings of important religious, cultural and historical figures, including Cardinal Newman, Charles Dickens and Louis Pasteur. One important aspect of the stained glass windows to note is that each window section/alcove represents a specific category, such as Philosophy, Medicine, Religion and Prose.
Now, while Gargan Hall is the most visually stimulating room in Bapst, the other levels deserve some credit as well. The main floor also has high windows and ceilings, and an intricate ceiling, along with towering columns near the study cubicles. But I far prefer the basement because it usually is less busy and has some of the classic “study tables” that are found in Gargan Hall. What gives the main floor and the basement some unique flavor is the accumulation of carvings and scrawled notes and phrases in the study cubicles. Those scribbles are memories that are difficult to erase, partly because some of the writings were done in pen/marker.
Now, I must address the negatives of Bapst Library. While it used to be open 24/5, that is no longer the case as O’Neill gained those hours lost by Bapst. In addition, the only public bathrooms are located down the stairs from the Bapst foyer. Another unfortunate thing to note is that the coffee/hot chocolate machine does not provide lids for the hot drinks, increasing the risk of burns. Finally, Bapst does not have color printing. Yet, I believe these negative aspects are far outshadowed by the usefulness of Bapst. It is the oldest functioning library on campus, but it is not irrelevant.
I sought to reaffirm my appreciation for Bapst by asking a friend and an employee of Bapst Library about why Bapst continues to attract thousands of students each year. “It’s so historic, people love the ‘quiet policy.’ We’re known as the quieter library. People like the tables and wooden chairs. Also, people go here to get things done, and it’s less of a social scene…There’s not a chair open during finals,” says Alan Lipchin, CSOM ’15. Alan and many students I’ve asked about Bapst have praised Bapst for being the place to get your work done on a serious level.
Finally, I must rate Bapst Library on my scale. Based on its high marks for beauty, atmosphere and functionality, I rate Bapst Library a 9 out of 10. I hope that 50 years from now Bapst stays as classic and awe-inspiring as it has been for years.