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Life > Academics

I Took the Stairs So You Don’t Have To: All 26 Floors of the UMass Library, Ranked

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Mass Amherst chapter.

Arriving on the UMass Amherst campus, the W.E.B. Du Bois library is undeniably the most daunting part. A standing focal point at the center of campus, the building touches the sky. With 26 floors bursting with decades of information, it’s impossible to know where to begin. After a semester of studying each day on the same floor, I decided it was finally time to climb all 440 steps and explore everything the soaring library has to offer. Here is my guide to the W.E.B. Du Bois library: a description and rating of each floor based on both comfort and ability to study, compiled into a list of floors from worst to best. 

Floors 3, 4, 12, 13, 16, 19, 22, 24, 26 — 0/5

As interesting as the information they host truly is, these floors offer little to those looking for a comfortable study space. With each floor offering unique offices or resources to students, they are definitely worth exploring, but with no comfortable places to study they’re seated at the bottom of my list. 

Floor E — ⭐/5

I spend a lot of time on this floor, but little of it is studying. There are a few chairs and work spots near the library entrance and along the windows of the lobby, but in general, it can be a difficult place to focus. The main attraction of this floor is the Procrastination Station Cafe which offers People’s Organic Coffee, plus salads, sandwiches, paninis, and more! I can honestly say I’ve spent too many minutes and too many dining dollars here while I should be studying upstairs.  

Floors 7 & 10 ⭐/5

Both floors include faculty offices, a restroom, and a water fountain. The seventh floor houses the IT Instructional Media Lab while the Learning Resource Center can be found on the 10th. It is not the amazing support resources offered by the LRC, however, that earn these floors their star. Instead, it is the individual study carrels that make the floors golden study spots. In each study room, there is a table long enough to spread out necessary books, notes, and fancy pens to nosedive into studying. The rooms are the most private study spot in the building and are perfect for taking an online exam or isolating for optimal focus. Unfortunately, the stiff plastic of the chairs and lack of any natural light deduct serious comfort points from these floors.

Floors 8, 11, 14, 15, 17, 18, 20 — ⭐⭐/5

If the one-star floors are sisters, these are twins. These seven floors are all nearly identical and for good reason. When the elevator dings and the doors open, you’ll know where you are as soon as you inhale. Containing the bulk of the library’s books, each floor exudes the comforting smell of paper, literature, ink, and knowledge. Passing through the aisles of book stacks, you’ll find that lining the walls are windows desks, rolling chairs, and outlets. Flooding with natural light, the desks are an ideal space to work for many students. Fortunately, because there are seven floors laid out this way when one fills, you can migrate to the others without forfeiting the luxury study conditions. Before I get ahead of myself though, let me clarify why these only receive two out of five stars. Although the windows provide comforting natural light on each desk, the heavy book stacks in the middle can begin to feel suffocating for long studying periods. Additionally, while there are many desks on each floor, the desks are limited in size, restricting students from fully spreading their books across their study space.

Floor 23 — ⭐⭐⭐/5

The layout of this floor is identical to the other seven previously mentioned. Why the extra point? The view. This is the highest floor of the library with windows, and the perfect spot to view reds and oranges painting the skyline or to watch snowfall serenely on the landscape below. Offering the most breathtaking view of campus, the 23rd floor is a fan favorite

Floor 21 — ⭐⭐⭐/5

The 21st floor is undoubtedly a fan favorite. Stepping out of the elevator, you’ll be pleased to experience the same magnificent smells of book stacks found on the two-star floors. With both high bookstacks and desks along the walls, the 21st floor can seem familiar at first glance. Once you turn a corner, however, you’ll see what makes it special. Framed in the middle of the room are Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle statues, donated by co-creator Peter Laird. The art is surrounded by comfortable seating and large tables perfect for group studying. 

Floor LL — ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

This is the lowest level of the library and is technically below the entrance ground level. Still, this floor offers walk-out study spaces outside perfect for catching a temperate day. Inside are computers and printers available for student use, group study rooms, and rows of tables all with comfortable lighting and seating. If you’re looking for a space to study that isn’t silent but isn’t distracting, this is the place to be. 

Floors 6 & 9 — ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

Floors six and nine are both unique in the best ways, offering optimal study areas. The sixth floor is home to mostly empty book stacks and analog media catalogs taking up minimal space. Around the walls are desks similar to those on the two-star floors with outlets and rolling chairs. In the middle of the room are comfortable chairs and low tables for group work with a sprinkle of small high tables near the elevators. The ninth floor has book stacks on one side leading to walls lined with low comfortable seating. The other side offers high and low tables for group work, beloved couches, and study cubbies with outlets. Both floors have enough book stacks to produce the quintessential library smell, but not as many as the two-star floors, allowing for an open concept, more comfortable seating, and impeccable natural lighting. Unfortunately, I am not alone in my appreciation for these floors and space can be hard to come by on a busy weekday. Additionally, it is important to note that these floors are not quiet floors, and as students fill the seats, the noise can be distracting. Ideal for group work, I have much love for the sixth and ninth floor, but can’t justify giving it five stars for individual studying.

My all-time favorite study floors in the UMass library: 

Floors 2 & 5 — ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

During my tour of UMass, my tour guide told me her favorite place to work was the fifth floor, and I totally get it now. The second and fifth floors are each split into two halves. On one half of the fifth floor is the Graduate Commons and on the other half, you’ll find a plethora of tables winding through the room with mesh partitions. Each table is the perfect size for a single studying student with room to spread books and computers, two outlets, and an attached lamp for soft lighting. The lack of book stacks and the short height of the desks makes both the second and fifth floors flooded with natural light. Once the sun sets, night studiers can utilize the desk lamps to produce a comfortable workspace. The other half of the second-floor houses recess! Yeah, you read that right. Recess is for college kids, too. On this half of the second-floor students can find puzzles, cards, board games, coloring pages, and legos for when your brain just needs a study break.

As the tallest academic research library in the world, exploring the floors can be daunting, but it doesn’t need to be! Next time you’re looking for a good study spot check out these floors, and you may just find your new favorite place to think!

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Sophie Straayer

U Mass Amherst '26

Sophie is a sophomore honors student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst studying journalism, public relations, and communication. She calls Colorado home and enjoys skiing, trying new foods, and going to concerts! She is also involved in the school's club swim team and is looking forward to her college journey.