A student in a green sweatshirt and Yankees ball cap works on a laptop in the library.

Students work on their laptops in the library as the semester comes to an end. (Photo by Tracey Friedman)

As exams approach, NYU Libraries wants students to know it has the books they need to finish the academic year.

It also has the beats.

NYU Libraries has created study playlists on Spotify to boost energy, calm nerves, or simply entertain students as they finish the term. Found on the Finals Resources page, the playlists have been curated by library employees to provide hours of company and distraction during a stressful time.

“It’s a way of humanizing the library and expanding everyone’s understanding of the ways we can support the student experience,” says Liz Verrelli, assistant director of special events for NYU Libraries. “We want students to see the library as a place for connection and fun.”

'Goblin Radio' and More NYU Libraries Study Playlists

open in spotify

Three new playlists—Lo-fi Video Game MusicEclectic Study: Soft Scribbling, and Positively Productive—debuted in December, and a fourth—Goblin Radio: It Came from the Stacks—was just added for the Spring 2023 finals season. The program started in 2019 with Bobst Beats and now numbers 10 playlists in all.  Listeners will find everything from Kings of Leon to Kool & the Gang, J. Dilla to Claude Debussy, with Motown, Jazz, K-Pop, and Disney mixed in.

Music is universal, and students can learn a lot about each other by sharing their favorites, Verelli says. In an environment where so many are wearing headphones, it seemed like an organic way to engage with them and to show them empathy and kindness.  

NYU News asked Verelli and Rashad Bell, Bobst Library’s shelving and retrieval supervisor—and the inspiration behind the newest playlist—to discuss the program and the libraries’ goals for this musical resource. 

The library's desks are filled with students wearing headphones and working on their laptops.

Since so many students use headphones as the work in the library, NYU Libraries has curated playlists to help them get through a stressful time. (Photo by Tracey Friedman)

Rashad, you said Goblin Radio started last summer as a way for you to build a sense of community and get to know your team of 22, including 15 student employees. Tell us more about its origins.

Bell: I am relatively new and I noticed that talking to my student employees about music was one way they got more comfortable talking to me. Last summer, I took some of them out to lunch and I asked if they would be interested in making a stacks playlist, and before I could finish they were pulling out their phones and opening Spotify. I put a few songs in to start, including CD Player Part III by death’s dynamic shroud. A student emailed me yesterday, “Did you put that on there? I really like it.” I describe the sound as a haunted video game.

Everyone has such varied musical interests. It's fun to see what will get added. You can’t predict what people will like.

Can you tell us about the name? Why Goblin Radio?

Bell: I used to work in closed stacks by myself [at the New York Botanical Garden Library] and my colleagues jokingly called me the stacks goblin, so when I came here I started referring to my student workers as goblins.

Rashad’s goal of team building is a microcosm of NYU Libraries’ effort to connect with their communities. How do these playlists contribute to that effort?

Verrelli: There is an approach among libraries to focus on the whole person, and see our visitors not just as researchers and scholars but as people who have any number of complex needs. We thought about what we could do to have fun, to bring something more whimsical and unexpected, or enliven the experience by bringing in art.

Sharing music seems like the perfect way to bring people together, but it doesn’t fit the old-fashioned definition of a library. How have the students responded?

Verrelli: They have been a runaway hit. A lot of the things that we have historically offered have a research focus, or scholarly focus, that support their academic success. We wanted to do some things that were just fun as well. I love music. I love making playlists myself. I don’t know what other people listen to and I’ve discovered a lot of really cool music through this project.

You have dropped the most recent playlists right before exam week. Why?

Verrelli: If you are working in our library’s public services, you can feel the stress that accumulates at this time. Students have more demands, more complex demands, placed on them, and we feel their mounting level of expectations and anxiety. We wanted to take a beat, and remind them that you have to take care of yourself and we’re here to support you in those ways, too.