An ode to Alderman Café

Find a home and help build a community


Alderman Café is the large, friendly area that embraces you as soon as you enter the building.

If I had a dollar for every time I have been asked to name my favorite building on Grounds, I wouldn’t be graduating with thousands of dollars of student debt in May. Nonetheless, this question seems to make its way into every icebreaker at the University. You normally hear a lot of the same answers – Nau Hall is sexy, but no one ever thinks of poor Gibson, Brooks Hall is unique and has more than enough taxidermy to excite Kendall from “The Bachelor” and everyone has a soft spot for the Rotunda and Old Cabell. However, the undeniable right answer to this question is Alderman Library.

Although Alderman doesn’t have an inaccurately rated Yelp page like Clemons, it boasts the best living and learning community on Grounds, hands down. Filled to the brim with spaces as quiet as the McGregor Room — famous for the shards of Harry Potter’s broken lantern that can still be found from time to time — and as boisterous as Greenberry’s — where coffee addicts can turn their Plus Dollars into black gold — there is a place in Alderman for everyone. For me, that place is Alderman Café.

For those of you not familiar with the best library on Grounds, Alderman Café is the large, friendly area that embraces you as soon as you enter the building. Everywhere you look, there are dingy, potentially rat-infested green chairs so plush you might accidentally fall asleep in them. The sound of sorority girls’ steaming chai tea lattes echoes around you as you search — fruitlessly — for a power outlet. If you stay long enough, you are sure to even see a brawl or two erupt as people mark their territory over the small brown tables in the back corner.

Of course, you might challenge me and say that this description — save the earthy color tones — fits any library. But what really sets Alderman Café apart is the community that it builds between those who inhabit it.

Alderman Café provides students with a well-balanced social and academic environment. People come to the library to do work, and the café is as good a place as any to read, write or research. However, whereas the depths of the stacks can be ominous, oppressive and stress-inducing, sitting near Greenberry’s provides ample opportunity for healthy study breaks, whether in the form of a wistful gaze out of a window or a surprise chat with a friend.

As for me, I do everything in the café. I practically live in the café. I eat lunch in the café. I do homework in the café. I distract my friends from doing homework in the café. I hold office hours in the café. I watch “Game of Thrones” in the café and get very self-conscious because passersby likely think I’m watching porn. I watch “The Bachelor” in the café and don’t get self-conscious at all. And as they say, home isn’t where the heart is –—home is wherever you watch “The Bachelor.”

I’m a firm believer in the idea that people gravitate towards like-minded peers, whether they intend to or not. However, communal spaces like Alderman Café foster connections across disciplines and years — though occasionally stepping into the café feels like walking into a Political and Social Thought seminar. I have made countless friends in Alderman Café, and I still meet someone new just about every single week. Heck, I’ve even met girls in the library and ended up taking them on dates.

There are group chats floating all around the library, with some dedicated to a specific room and others aimed towards the larger library community as a whole. Though built within the hallowed halls of Alderman, many of these friendships then move outside of it, whether to Jazz Night at Miller’s or an actual PST seminar. It saddens me that meeting new people seems to be a college activity relegated only to parties and organizations, but places like Alderman Café give me hope because it demonstrates the positive impact a space can have on the wider environment in which it operates.

Ultimately, I understand that Alderman Café is not as special to everyone as it is to me, and that’s just fine. That just leaves more brown tables for me. But I sincerely hope that you find a space on Grounds — or wherever you are — that allows you to build a community and interact with people that you never would otherwise. Places have power, but the source of that power is their people. Be one of those people and help build a community.

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