Ranking Every Reading Room in Sterling Library

Designed by Karela Palazio


So many reading rooms, so little time. Which is the best study room in Sterling Memorial Library?


My friend Cat and I met up on Cross Campus on an uncharacteristically sunny February afternoon. Despite our urge to soak in the sun, we took our job as researchers seriously, and entered Sterling’s dimly lit halls. As a researcher with a time crunch, I only reviewed the rooms that had “Reading Room” in their names (sorry, Andrews Study Room). This adds up to 11 rooms—Cat and I spent 30 minutes studying in each room, just enough time to assess the respective vibes of each without getting irrationally attached to any one of them. After exiting each room, we briefly discussed our impressions. Here are the results, ranked in order of worst to best.


  1. Wright Reading Room

This room has always been a puzzle to me. It’s the definition of a liminal space. I’m not sure if it’s part of Bass or part of Sterling; I’m not sure if it’s in the basement, or approaching ground level. It’s a point of transit. People flow in and out of the room to get from Bass to Sterling, or Sterling to Bass, or Sterling and Bass to the bathroom. I’m frankly quite astonished that this place even has a name, let alone something as grandiose as “Wright Reading Room.” Are we sure it’s a reading room? How can it be the right one? In any case, I’ve never willingly studied here, nor do I ever intend to.

  1. Egyptology Reading Room

It’s tiny. It’s one small table and a bookshelf. It’s also impossible to access, because some Yalie will always be occupying it for themselves. I can imagine it being a nice individual or small group study space, but I couldn’t see myself using this room exclusively for my four years here. It’s just too narrow. It doesn’t give you ample room to pace, or even stretch.

  1. Southeast Asia Reading Room

I’m going to be completely honest: someone was also occupying this room, and, as a researcher with a deadline, I decided to forgo studying here. I did peek inside and it seemed like a quaint group study spot. But the lighting seemed too dim. I don’t know—really don’t take my word for it.

  1. Philosophy Reading Room

Cat and I tried to take full advantage of this room’s energy by doing our philosophy readings. I think the room was giving off a bit too much energy, though—it was incredibly hot the entire time. Or maybe too little energy—it was dark, and we didn’t want to disturb the graduate student who was in the room before us by turning on the lights. Suffer in the darkness or suffer in the light? That was the question. Anyways, this room gave us lots to contemplate and very few answers. Like philosophy.

  1. Periodical Reading Room

Something about the sickly green couches in this room always makes me instinctively avoid it. Once you go inside, though, the room is absolutely charming. The periodicals are from all over the world – from every academic discipline imaginable – and I could easily see myself taking study breaks to pour through the niche journals Yale subscribes to. But, again, I can’t get the image of those green seats out of my head.

  1. Middle East & Islamic Studies Reading Room

This is what the Southeast Asia Reading Room was trying to be. But this room has a bigger table, and more natural lighting. Arabic book series are also objectively the coolest thing ever. Each volume of the series, when lined next to each other in order, form one cohesive title (I think we should start doing this in English too!). One eccentric quality of this room is that all of the windows feature Japanese writing and art—maybe a puzzle to solve during your study break.

5. American Studies Reading Room

This was a spacious room with good temperature control. This room has a variety of seating options, from wooden chairs to couches, allowing you to change spots according to your mood; but there were very few books on the shelves, and something felt eerie about the room. The creaky wooden chairs also compounded this feeling, and I left feeling a bit off-kilter. Since the room is located on the sixth floor of Sterling, the view is incredible, though because the windows are tinted and have sashed panes (which, according to my learned friend, are “tudor style” windows), the view is not as expansive as it could be.

4. Judaic Studies Reading and Reference Room

This room is fantastic. There are ladders attached to the book shelves, and I got to see a librarian climb one to find a book. I was in awe. I also love the red cushioned seats, the modern table, and the natural lighting. The table is also long enough to let multiple people use the room

3. Slavic Reading Room

The Slavic Reading Room feels most like a residential college library. I loved the cute semi-private nooks (see below) where students could set up shop. Yet, the room has a peculiar overlook onto the Music Library, and the room was a bit too narrow and long. Nevertheless, the Slavic Reading Room has so many unique study spots, from couches to cubicles, and always has something to offer

2. Irving S. Gilmore Music Library Reading Room

I think it’s slightly unfair that this entire library is considered a “reading room.” Actually, the reading room might just be a section of it, but I interpreted it as the entire library. The Music Library is somewhat hidden, but fully worth seeking out. It’s especially nice if you can grab one of the two-person desks located towards the back of the second floor, since those are like having your own Bass cubicle without the claustrophobia. It might be a little too spacious. The high ceilings often made me look up, and I certainly wouldn’t feel the stress of an impending deadline as acutely in this room. There is also a constant whirring sound — I got used to it after a while, but the noise really does not stop.

1. East Asia Library Reading Room

As I walked in, I was immediately impressed with this room. There are two sections, one with group seating and the other with more individual study spots. I loved the bookshelves (shoutout to the Japanese books!) and the partitions between desks, which were in the style of shoji. The room was aesthetically and thematically relevant for an East Asian reading room, and I felt happy in the room despite the fact that my paper was not progressing. This whole experiment felt worth it just because I discovered this incredible spot.

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