New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

A look at ‘Bobst Boy’ 20 years later

Steve Stanzak, the student who lived in Bobst Library for nearly eight months while at NYU, shared his experience and where he is now with WSN.
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Manasa Gudavalli
(Manasa Gudavalli for WSN)

It’s been 20 years since Steve Stanzak, otherwise known as “Bobst Boy,” lived in Bobst Library for the majority of his sophomore year at NYU after a lack of financial support from the university. As an English major minoring in creative writing and Irish studies, he took to writing online about his experience living in the library. Stanzak’s story gained widespread attention, with his story in media outlets like The New York Times and NBC News.

WSN spoke with Stanzak about his experience in the library, how it influenced his life today and his reflections on it 20 years later.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

WSN: What led you to live in Bobst during your time in college?

Stanzak: I was going into sophomore year, planning on not being in NYU housing in any extent. The summer before my sophomore year, I was actually a live-in housekeeper in Park Slope, which was worse than living in the library for sure. I was 19-20 years old and taking care of this particular old woman was very stressful, and I was like, ‘I need to get out of here.’ I’ve heard stories in the past about people living in the library, and I had the thoughts like, ‘Oh, I could do this,’ and I did a practice run beforehand, staying there like a night or two. I planned out all the logistics. I talked about it with some friends and in mid-September, I quit the housekeeping job and moved in. I was there for most of the academic year.

WSN: How did living in the library impact your college experience?

Stanzak: It’s more the social aspect I felt was more impactful. It was a very isolating experience. I wasn’t a very social person even beforehand. And then all of a sudden, I didn’t really have an artificial environment, like a dorm where there’s a community that’s kind of built in and pre-populated for you. So I had to find my way on my own. I became very independent that year. Later on, I eventually had a little website and a blog. It was really for an outlet — I needed to socialize. 

WSN: Were there any challenges or difficulties you faced while living in the library?

Stanzak: The main one was the social aspect. There were a lot of little annoyances, but I had my routines. In the beginning I was very uncomfortable just lounging out in the library, as I was very afraid of getting caught to begin with. That eventually went away after I’d done it a long time, but it’s very uncomfortable to sleep with your head on a desk. I would wake up, my shoulders would be aching, and I was not well rested. It’s very difficult to go to sleep while people are around you. I never felt very comfortable. Especially in the beginning, logistically, it was complicated. I’d have to go to the laundromat every weekend. I’d have a storage container in the West Village. There was just a lot of logistics along those lines that made things a little bit more complicated because I lived out of a locker in Bobst.

WSN: What inspired you to create your blog about your experiences living at Bobst?

Stanzak: I probably started around October or November, I was getting a lot of questions from people I knew like, ‘What do you mean, you’re living in the library?’ ‘How do you do this?’ ‘Where do you eat?’ ‘Where do you shower?’ I made a little FAQ website, and I gave it to friends like here’s all the answers. I don’t know how, but people I didn’t know would email me. So eventually I moved it to its own domain, and then I started a live journal in December or January, and that’s when things started to really pick up. I feel like news was spreading, it just kind of escalated from there. It was really a way to connect with other people.

WSN: Looking back 20 years ago, how do you feel about your decision to live in the library?

Stanzak: Looking back at the person that made the choice to do this, it’s like, ‘Wow, you are really stupid, what are you thinking?’ But on the other hand, very naive, very young, but also kind of really brave. You just did that, you took a risk, you didn’t really have a backup plan, you just went for it. I’m a little bit envious of that person I was then, but on the other hand, now I’m more savvy about finances and being able to manage huge bureaucracies. With the knowledge I have now, I could have managed that situation a lot better, could have waded through the NYU bureaucracy and through the federal regulations for loans and things to find a way to do this more legitimately. But that’s not who I was at the time, and I didn’t really have that family or social network to be able to guide me through these kinds of waters. I think about some of the things I did and wrote back then and I just cringe. But it’s who I was, and I’m happy that I stuck with it and went to NYU.

WSN: Did that time living in the library influence your career or life path in any way?

Stanzak: I hit that 15 minutes of fame. Very quickly, very invasive. It was kind of crazy. I never want to go through that again. [Reporters] would stalk me outside the dorms, outside the library, broke into the classrooms, I was in a class and they somehow got into the Silver Center. People I didn’t know knew who I was on sight. It made me a much more private person, at least online. And that’s something I’m much more conscious of, because I’ve got a really unique name and I got a pass on the internet. It’s never gonna go away. Beyond that there wasn’t a lot of impact. I did manage to get a little bit more funding for the next year, it wasn’t a ton, and a lot of papers reported like, ‘Oh, I got free tuition’ — it was not free, it was still just a little bit more aid. It’s not like it really impacted my junior and senior year that much. 

Beyond that, after NYU I went to graduate school, I have a doctorate in folklore. But there may be some connection there. I studied legends, I don’t know if it’s an actual connection, but I do find it a little bit interesting that this whole experience started with me hearing an urban legend and seeing if I could implement that in and practice something I’ve studied professionally since then.

WSN: Did you know that “Bobst Boy” would become such a phenomenon at NYU? How did you feel about all the media attention?

Stanzak: I feel like once in a great while I’ll have a coworker and they’ll message me like, ‘Hey, I Googled you.’ I was like, ‘Oh, I know where this is going.’ But it’s very rare. I mean it’s not something I talked about, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were friends I’ve had for years at this point that they had no idea. I don’t know, it’s kind of embarrassing. There was a lot of my personal life out there and it’s not something I like to revisit. My kid Googled me, and then that’s how he found out.

Manasa Gudavalli contributed reporting.

Contact Julia Smerling and Manasa Gudavalli at [email protected].

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About the Contributors
Julia Smerling
Julia Smerling, Photo Editor
Julia Smerling is a first-year studying photography and imaging, and is one of WSN’s Photo Editors. She is from West Palm Beach, Florida, and you can find her writing poetry, overly obsessing about films, painting art on jeans and always having her headphones on. Also, she’s secretly Peter Parker. You can reach her on Instagram @juliasmerling or her art account @jul3sarchive (where mostly her mom hypes her up and likes her posts so please give it a look — it's becoming embarrassing at this point.)
Manasa Gudavalli
Manasa Gudavalli, Editor-in-Chief
Manasa Gudavalli is a super senior studying a super strange combination of psychology, mathematics, journalism, and chemistry. When they are not editing the Washington Square News, they are probably reading Freud, watching college football, or developing film photos. You can find them on Instagram @manasa.gudavalli and @gudavalli.photography.

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