8 Things You May Not Know About Butler Library

You may have pulled all-nighters or stolen a kiss or two in the stacks of Butler, but here are 8 things you may not know about Columbia's preeminent library. 

1. Butler Library houses more than two million books. (That's six times the number of Columbia alumni we have on record.)

2. Butler Library was funded by Columbia Law alumnus, Edward Harkness, who also supported original portions of the Columbia University Medical Center.  In 1918, he was ranked the 6th-richest person in the United States by Forbes magazine's first "Rich List."

Photo of Edward Harkness (You can tell he enjoyed a good book.)

3. The library's facade features inscriptions of the names of 18 writers, philosophers, and thinkers, including: Homer, Herodotus, Sophocles, Plato, Aristotle, Demosthenes, Cicero, Vergil, Horace, Tacitus, St. Augustine, Dante, Cervantes, Shakespeare, Milton, Voltaire, and Goethe. Of the 18, only Demosthenes has never been required reading in the history of the undergraduate Core Curriculum. 


4. Dan Futterman '89CC wrote parts of the screenplay Capote in Butler Library. He told Columbia College Today: “As anyone knows, normal people in NYC can’t afford apartments with office space. Having a free office (actually, a daily choice of a few of them) up the road from our place on 105th Street was an enormous blessing. If I wanted solitude, I’d go hide at a desk in the Butler stacks. If I wanted to people-watch while I wrote (which I often do), I’d go to Avery or the East Asian Library — each attracts a different crowd."


5. Areas of Butler remain open 24/7 during the academic year. Remember this scene?


6. The range of collections in Columbia's Rare Book & Manuscript Library, located on the 6th Floor of Butler, spans more than 4,000 years, 500,000 books, and 14 miles of letters, records, and manuscripts, including three “noble fragments” of Gutenberg’s 42-line Bible. 

7. In 1934, Columbia had to move 22 miles of books from Low Library to the new Butler Library. The solution? A giant slide. 

 8. Columbia's libraries, including Butler, provide greater access to alumni than any other Ivy League institution. All Columbia University alumni who have earned an undergraduate or graduate degree are eligible for lifelong reading privileges at Butler. Take advantage!

In our humble opinion, this is the most magnificent library in town. 



Article Sources:

Rare Book & Manuscript Library (RBML)

Butler Library, Columbia University Libraries

A Mighty Talent, Columbia College Today

Core Curriculum, Columbia University Libraries 

Explore the Literature, Columbia College Core Curriculum

Edward Harkness, Wikipedia