As the new school year ramps up and coursework increases, M-A students return to libraries and coffee shops. Whether you have loud siblings, a messy room, or a dog with an appetite for homework, you may be in need of a quiet place to get some work done.

Local libraries offer not just a place to check out books, but also a calm, quiet atmosphere to power through assignments and projects. Coffee shops have an energetic and creative ambiance with the additional plus of readily available caffeine boosts and snacks.

Here is a list of both popular and underrated places to work, meet up with friends, or both. If you have only ever studied at the cramped, cluttered desk in the corner of your bedroom, maybe it’s time to try something new and venture out to one of these local study spots.

Atherton Library

If you miss the ‘library’ sign at the entrance, it would be an honest mistake to confuse the newly built Atherton library with a five-star hotel. Assistant librarian Tania Pena said, “All day, I sit here and listen to people walk by saying ‘ooh!’ ‘ahh!’ ‘this library is sooo luxurious!’” Senior Myla Butzlaff said, “It’s too boujee! I walked in and the books were lined up like they were in an art exhibit.” Word on the street is that there are plans in the works to build a new Mademoiselle Colette bakery next door, so keep your eyes peeled!

Philz Coffee

Philz, a popular coffee shop in downtown Menlo Park, has laid-back vibes and friendly staff. Philz embodies the spirit of democracy through its music suggestion bowl. Fun fact: Phil is a real-life person! The “Jacob’s Wonderbar” dark roast coffee is named after Phil’s son, Jacob. Menlo Park Store Manager Daniel Marcotte said, “Being a Philz barista is like being a G-rated bartender.” He recommends the Iced Mint Mojito. Junior Isabel Zschau said, “I love Philz and think it’s a great place to study! My go-to order is a blueberry muffin.” Senior Bridget McHugo said, “Philz coffee has a bitter aftertaste and is very caffeinated, but points for creativity and attractive baristas.”

East Palo Alto Library

The East Palo Alto library has a charming and homey feel. They have a large collection of books in both English and Spanish, and lots of large tables and cozy spaces. Library assistant Cheryl Walker said, “I love this library, and libraries in general because I think they empower people. They help people help themselves.” Senior Jahyna Anderson said, “The East Palo Alto library is so cool—lots of natural light, very spacious. Definitely a great place to work and hang out.” The library offers many services to the East Palo Alto community including bikes available for check out, computers and hotspots, free meals (available at 3:15 pm every weekday!), free books, and events for all ages.

Coffeebar Menlo Park

Stop by Coffeebar Menlo Park on any given day and, chances are, you will run into some familiar faces. Coffeebar is a very popular study and hang-out spot among M-A students. Barista Cambria Jones said, “My favorite part of working at Coffeebar is the people: everyone is super friendly! The food and drinks are pretty good, but can be expensive.” History teacher Anne Olson said, “During online school, I had groups of students zoom in together from Coffeebar, and I was like, ‘of course.’” Sophomore Celeste Zucker said, “My go-to order is a matcha latte,” and sophomore Celia Bernstein recommends the iced vanilla latte.

Redwood City Library

In the heart of Downtown Redwood City, the Redwood City library is built on the grounds of the old Fire Station No. 1. Librarian Jonathan Hall said, “In my opinion, the teen center on the second floor is where it’s at.” The second floor is a collaborative space with lots of tables and study rooms. Senior Antje Stadelman said, “The Redwood City library is great! It has a cool, open atmosphere, and they have a variety of nice chairs.” Calculus teacher Kristen Bryan said, “I love the old, traditional building, and they have great programs for kids!” English teacher Ana Ventura agreed: “the children’s section is awesome — my 3-year-old son loves it there!”

Menlo Park Library

Conveniently located within walking distance of M-A, the Menlo Park Library can be found under the shaded trees of Burgess Park. Freshman Lily Pellican said, “I love the Menlo Park library! It’s a great place to go after school to do homework with friends.” Senior Anna Patrick said, “The Menlo Park library is a nice place to hang out and not be expected to pay for anything. The people are friendly and the bean bag chairs in the teen zone are super comfortable.” Another major selling point of this library is that there is a duck pond nearby! Teen Services Librarian Priscilla Chan said, “The ducks are so cute! One duck always comes up to me when I walk by—he’s very persistent!”

Belle Haven Library

The Belle Haven Library, located in East Menlo Park, is small and practical. Senior library assistant Juan Quinonez said, “I’ve been working at this library for 20 years! There was a ‘shhhh’ era a while back where we made everyone be quiet all the time — I’m so glad that’s over! I love having kids here hanging out and working together.” With a smaller adult section, Belle Haven’s collection is almost entirely targeted at K-12 readers. The city is building a new community center and larger library nearby which will be completed in February 2023!

Mitchell Park Library

Although a bit out of the way for most M-A students, the playful, positive vibe of the Mitchell Park Library more than makes up for the drive. They pride themselves in their cozy study rooms and remarkably comfortable chairs. AP Computer Science teacher Cynthia Donaldson said, “I love Mitchell Park because the collection is extensive and well-placed– it’s easy to find interesting books from a quick walk-through, even if you don’t know what you’re looking for!” Mitchell Park Teen Librarian Molly Wallner explained, “in addition to books, we have Spikeball, Bocce Ball, and a canning kit (for making jam) available for checkout!” They have a Digital lab called the “Reboot Room” featuring two PlayStations 5s and multiple VR systems. And, Ada’s Cafe is right next door serving all-day breakfast & lunch! I recommend the french toast and blueberry scones.

Caroline Pecore is a senior in her first year of journalism. Her column, "Bears Doing Big Things," runs every Monday. She enjoys meeting new people through journalism and writing about the M-A community. Outside of school, she spends most of her time rowing for Norcal Crew and also enjoys reading, drawing, and exploring the outdoors.

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