Elmer Holmes Bobst Library

Coordinates: 40°43′46″N 73°59′50″W / 40.72944°N 73.99722°W / 40.72944; -73.99722
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Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
The south facade of the Bobst Library, along West 3rd Street
General information
Address70 Washington Square South
Town or cityNew York City (Greenwich Village, Manhattan), New York 10012
CountryUnited States
Coordinates40°43′46″N 73°59′50″W / 40.72944°N 73.99722°W / 40.72944; -73.99722
CompletedSeptember 12, 1973; 50 years ago (1973-09-12)
OpenedSeptember 12, 1973; 50 years ago (1973-09-12)
OwnerNew York University
Technical details
Floor count12
Floor area425,000 square feet (39,500 m2)
Design and construction
Architect(s)Philip Johnson and Richard Foster
Size3.3 million volumes, 20,000 journals, and over 3.5 million microforms
Access and use
CirculationAlmost one million books annually

The Elmer Holmes Bobst Library (/bbst/ BOHBST), often referred to simply as Bobst Library or just Bobst, is the main library at New York University (NYU) in Lower Manhattan, New York City. The library is located at 70 Washington Square South between LaGuardia Place and the Schwartz pedestrian plaza, across from the southeast corner of Washington Square Park and next to Gould Plaza.

Opened on September 12, 1973, Bobst Library is named after its benefactor, Elmer Holmes Bobst, who gave US$11.5 million[1] toward its completion. Bobst – a philanthropist who made his money in the pharmaceutical industry,[2] and a confidant of U.S. President Richard Nixon[3] – was a long-time trustee at New York University.


Bobst Library's Lobby
A view of the interior of Bobst

The library, built in 1972,[4] is NYU's largest library and one of the largest academic libraries in the U.S. Designed by Philip Johnson and Richard Foster,[4] the 12-story, 425,000 square feet (39,500 m2) structure is the flagship of an eleven-library, 5.9 million-volume system.

The entrance to the library on Washington Square South

Before its construction, the library was the subject of community protests led by Greenwich Village activists Jane Jacobs, Ruth Wittenberg, and Verna Small.[5] Those opposed to the library project claimed it was too big for its building site, and that the tall building would cast a large shadow over neighboring Washington Square Park, obstructing sunlight from public spaces.[6]

The library houses more than 3.3 million volumes, 20,000 journals, and over 3.5 million microforms; and provides access to thousands of electronic resources in the forms of licensed databases, e-journals, and other formats both on-site and to the university community around the world via the Internet. The library is visited by more than 6,500 users per day, and circulates almost one million books annually.

Gifts from Mamdouha S. Bobst and Kevin Brine made possible a significant renovation of Bobst Library's Mezzanine, First Floor and two Lower Levels which was completed in 2005. The library provided text computer terminals for catalog search in the library until the terminals were replaced by PCs with Internet access in 2008.

The library houses several distinct special collections departments, including the Fales Library, the Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Archives, and the University Archives of NYU. On the north side, on even floors, are large, double-height study rooms featuring floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Washington Square Park.

Notable events[edit]


In late 2003, the library was the site of two suicides. In separate incidents, students jumped from the open-air crosswalks inside the library and fell to the stereogram-patterned marble floor below.

After the second suicide, the university installed Plexiglas barricades on each level and along the stairways to prevent further jumping. In 2009, a third student jumped to his death from the tenth floor, apparently scaling the plexiglas barricade.[7]

The library has since added floor-to-ceiling metal barriers to prevent any future suicide attempts. The barrier is made of randomly perforated aluminum screens that evoke the zeros and ones of a digital waterfall.[8]

Bobst Boy[edit]

Also in 2003, the library was in the news when a homeless student took up permanent residence at the library because he could not afford student housing. This student received the nickname Bobst Boy and was profiled by the Washington Square News, the university's daily student newspaper. Reaction amongst the student body was mixed. Some students cited his case as an example of the university's inability to fully meet its students' financial need.[9][10]


In 2016, several student organizations sent a list of demands to the NYU Board of Trustees. One of these demands called for a name-change due to Elmer Holmes Bobst's alleged history of antisemitism.[11][12]


  1. ^ "The Fales Library & Special Collections Guide to the Elmer Holmes Bobst Collection 1862-1978". Fales Library and Special Collections. Archived from the original on August 26, 2012. Retrieved 2012-09-10.
  2. ^ "A Brief History" on the New York University website
  3. ^ Trigoboff, Sara (December 13, 2010). "NYU History Lesson: The Not-So-Admirable Elmer Holmes Bobst". NYU Local. Retrieved November 11, 2011.
  4. ^ a b White, Norval & Willensky, Elliot (2000). AIA Guide to New York City (4th ed.). New York: Three Rivers Press. ISBN 978-0-8129-3107-5., p.121.
  5. ^ Fowler, Glenn (October 4, 1990). "Ruth Wittenberg Is Dead at 91; Led Fight for Village Landmarks". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved October 17, 2017.
  6. ^ "APPROVAL GIVEN TO N.Y.U. LIBRARY; City Planning Commission, in a 5-2 Vote, Favors Controversial Plan RATIFICATION IS AWAITED Opponents of Project Vow to Press Their Case Before Board of Estimate". The New York Times. July 21, 1966. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved October 17, 2017.
  7. ^ Schapiro, Rich; Parascandola, Rocco; Siemaszko, Corky (November 3, 2009). "Troubled NYU Student Leaps to His Death from 10th Floor of New York University's Bobst Library". Daily News. Retrieved August 21, 2012.
  8. ^ Dunlap, David W. (August 19, 2012). "A Digitally Inspired Veil, Intended to Save Lives, Appears at N.Y.U. Library". The New York Times.
  9. ^ Arenson, Karen W. (April 27, 2004). "Yes, Some Students Live in the Library (But Not Like This)". The New York Times. Retrieved August 22, 2012.
  10. ^ Arenson, Karen W. (May 2, 2004). "Page Two: April 25–May 1; Reading Oneself to Sleep". The New York Times. Retrieved August 22, 2012.
  11. ^ Faunce, Lexi (November 29, 2016). "Black and Brown Coalition Takes Stock of Progress on Diversity at NYU". Washington Square News. Retrieved April 7, 2019.
  12. ^ Daniels, Dana (November 19, 2014). "The History Behind Bobst Library Will Further Dissuade You From Ever Doing Work There". NYU Local. Retrieved October 25, 2021.

External links[edit]