Favorite Spots in Oakland and Berkeley
By Andi Rusk
Homework is ironically named. Many students find it incredibly difficult to do homework at home. Thus, God created coffee shops and libraries. However, not all are created equal. When I decided to return to college at the beginning of 2017, I found out it is not always easy to find a decent place to study.
Libraries are an obvious choice for hitting the books (pun intended). Libraries tend to have limited hours and there are factors to consider that may influence how much you enjoy working there. I spent some time at a few of the Oakland and Berkeley branches before narrowing it down to my two favorite and most accessible libraries.
The main branch of the Oakland Public Library is located at 125 14th St., Oakland. It is conveniently located to both the Lake Merritt and 12th Street BART stops and several bus lines. Parking is not ideal but you can find metered spots and possibly even some two-hour street parking if you don’t mind walking a couple of blocks. The staff at this location have never been anything but nice to me. The bathroom is surprisingly clean and the free Wi-Fi works well.
I highly recommend using the Oakland History Room, located on the second floor. It is often nearly empty and conducive to concentrating on work.
The Main Branch of the Oakland Public Library is open 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays and Saturdays, noon to 8 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays, and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. My rating for the Oakland Main Library is 4 out of 5 coffee cups.
The Central Berkeley Library, located at 2090 Kittredge St., is two blocks from the Downtown Berkeley BART station. There are five floors and lots of different places to settle in to work and read. There are bathrooms on every floor and the staff is pleasant. However, this location is a bit smelly in general.
I don’t have any judgments against the unwashed masses, but I do find that if I am trying to buckle down and concentrate on work, having to inhale people’s body odor can be a distraction. My personal favorite spot to study at this location is the fifth floor, near the records. I have noticed that it is generally less crowded and quieter up there. The Non-Fiction and International Languages section is my second choice for working. For daytime studying hours, it is a clear and viable choice.
The Central Berkeley Library is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Sundays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., Mondays from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m., and Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. I give the CBL 3.5 out of 5 coffee cups.
Studying outside of general daytime hours is a different story. I enjoy having an evening and late night option to get some work done. Unfortunately, in Berkeley and Oakland, late night spots are limited.
Berkeley’s Au Coquelet, located at 2000 University Ave., is a classic late night spot. Some might even say it is a Berkeley institution. It has coffee, food, pastries and plenty of seating. It’s open until 1:30 a.m. most nights of the week and for this I have always been grateful. Because of its close proximity to BCC it is ideal for a procrastinator like myself. Don’t mention it to my professors, but many of my papers have been completed in this café roughly 10-15 minutes before I went to class fueled by inexpensive iced coffee.
The fare is standard diner-style food and is fairly priced. Wi-Fi is advertised as “super fast” and this has been my experience. All around, Au Coquelet provides a comfortable environment for finishing up homework, reading, and grabbing a quick and cheap bite. I give Au Coquelet 4 out of 5 coffee cups.
Oakland’s Gaylord’s Caffe Espresso, located at 4150 Piedmont Ave., is open until midnight every day of the week. It is small and generally a nice quiet place to drink coffee and work. They do have some general café items on the menu, including bagels and pastries and a few sandwiches. Gaylord’s is a clean and friendly option for working. A couple of perks of this café include a large selection of teas and the option of having coffee ice cubes as an added boost to your iced coffee beverages.
Coffee ice cubes at Gaylord’s. Photo Credit: Andi Rusk
As far as late night places for studying go, Gaylord’s fills a void. There are other spots that are open until midnight or later, such as Rudy’s Can’t Fail, but they are noisy and some do not even have Wi-Fi.
An honorable mention goes to Earthly Coffee located at 5506 Martin Luther King Jr. Way in Oakland. They are open only from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays, and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekends, but I highly recommend this café as a spot for good coffee, minimal crowd, and delicious sandwiches. I have studied for many an exam here, and I would give it an easy 4 out of 5 coffee cups. Earthly Coffee recently opened a second location at 111000 San Pablo Ave. Ste. #105 in El Cerrito, hours are 7 a.m. – 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The bottom line is that no matter what kind of environment you study best in, if it isn’t your house, finding a good place in Berkeley or Oakland should not be hard. These are my personal favorite places to go, and I am always on the lookout for more. With this information I hope readers will settle in somewhere to finish off the last pages of an essay or read assigned chapters in peace.