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Elmer Holmes Bobst Library

Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
The south facade of the Bobst Library, along West 3rd Street
General information
Type Library
Address 70 Washington Square South
Town or city New York City, New York
Country United States
Completed September 12, 1973 (1973-09-12)
Opening September 12, 1973 (1973-09-12)
Owner New York University
Technical details
Floor count 12
Floor area ~39 500 m² (425 000 square feet)
Design and construction
Architect Philip Johnson and Richard Foster
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
Size 3.3 million volumes, 20,000 journals, and over 3.5 million microforms
Access and use
Circulation Almost one million books annually
The entrance to the library on Washington Square South

The Elmer Holmes Bobst Library, often referred to as Bobst Library or Bobst, is the main library at New York University in New York City. Located at 70 Washington Square South between La Guardia Place and the Schwartz pedestrian plaza, across from the southeast corner of Washington Square Park, it is named after its benefactor, Elmer Holmes Bobst who gave 11.5 million dollars[1] towards its ultimate completion and opening on September 12, 1973. Mr. Bobst was a leading figure in pharmaceuticals, public health, philanthropy, and a confidant of U.S. President Richard Nixon. He was also a long-time trustee at New York University.[2]


  • Description 1
  • Renovations 2
  • Special collections 3
  • History of suicides 4
  • Bobst Boy 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


A view of the interior of Bobst

The library, built in 1972,[3] is the university's largest library and one of the largest academic libraries in the U.S. Designed by Philip Johnson and Richard Foster,[3] the 12-story, ~39 500 m² (425,000 square feet) structure is the flagship of an eight-library, 4.5 million-volume system. It 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.

Special collections

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.

History of suicides

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 plexiglass barricade.[4] The library has since added floor-to-ceiling metal barriers to prevent future suicide attempts.[5] Created by Joel Sanders Architect, the barrier is made of randomly perforated aluminum screens that evoke the zeros and ones of a digital waterfall.[6]

Bobst Boy

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.[7][8]



  1. ^ "The Fales Library & Special Collections Guide to the Elmer Holmes Bobst Collection 1862-1978". © 2002 Fales Library and Special Collections. All rights reserved. Retrieved 2012-09-10. 
  2. ^ [1]. New York University.
  3. ^ a b  , p.121.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ Epstein, Emily Anne (August 21, 2012). "Revealing the 'Suicide Veil' at NYU Library Put Up After Three Students Killed Themselves by Plummeting over Balconies". Daily Mail. Retrieved August 22, 2012.
  6. ^ Dunlap, David W. (August 19, 2012). "A Digitally Inspired Veil, Intended to Save Lives, Appears at N.Y.U. Library". The New York Times. 
  7. ^ Arenson, Karen W. (April 27, 2004). "Yes, Some Students Live in the Library (But Not Like This)".  
  8. ^ Arenson, Karen W. (May 2, 2004). "Page Two: April 25–May 1; Reading Oneself to Sleep".  

External links

  • New York University Libraries website
  • Avery Fisher Center for Music and Media
  • Fales Library and Special Collections
  • The Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
  • New York University Archives
  • 175 Facts about NYU (Bobst Library)
  • Bobst Library Podcasts
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