Everyone who spends time as an undergraduate at Princeton inevitably winds up inside Firestone Library at one point or another. Whether it’s for a Writing Seminar, JPs, or theses, Firestone sucks us all in, without fail, as is typical for any major university library. But while this trait may indeed be commonplace, there are many things about Firestone that are and special, glorious, and wonderful. So as the 1, A, B, and C levels undergo beautifying renovations, I’d like to share some of the things about that stone and marble structure that make it a lovely home away from home for me.
Before Firestone was even a thought, the university’s collection of books was housed in Nassau Hall. Gradually, as times changed, the university expanded as rapidly as the country did, and this meant that more and more books came streaming into the university’s possession, and as the 19th century progressed, several libraries were constructed around campus, including Chancellor Green, East Pyne and Stanhope Hall. But none of these places have nearly the same amount of allure as the place I like to call “The Stone.” Recently, the façade of the library was refurbished, and, along with the 43,000 square foot addition to the lower levels that was completed some years ago, Firestone continues to show that it is willing to take that extra step to make itself both gorgeous and useful. And not every library can make that claim. I mean, a lot of libraries I’ve been to look like they could use a lot of work. But not Firestone. Firestone is a-okay.
In its current state, Firestone is the 18th largest library in all the land, including seven miles, and, on top of that, it’s majorly convenient. No other major university library has a better ratio of students to available seats. Which is pretty freaking cool, if I do say so myself. I mean, if there’s one thing that’s most important to me when I go to The Stone, it’s having my own seat. Lord knows how many times I’ve gone into the African-American Studies reading room and been turned away due to the lack of vacancies. That, folks, is an awful feeling. So I’m glad that Firestone endeavors to find me an uncomfortable seat no matter which darkened section of the library I may find myself in.
Firestone prides itself on being as approachable as it is accessible. According the library itself, its architecture is meant to reflect the inside of a spacious country home where students would feel free to roam about the halls and pleasantly search for whatever they might need to aid their work or research. And I have to say, Firestone really does make its visitors feel welcome. I mean, cutely tucking the elevator bank away behind the stairs invites all of us to spend more time traipsing up and down the marble steps. While this may indeed be needlessly slow, the sound of shoes on marble is just delicious, and those who run Firestone must have known this. Clearly, they’re thinking on a higher level than even the average Princeton student. Otherwise they might have made the oh-so-foolish mistake of allowing us to see the elevators as we walk in. But why would they do such a thing? What idiots the rest of us would be.
More of the immense creativity of those in charge of The Stone is evidenced by the bookcases. Oh, how I love these things. And I’m not talking about all of the bookcases. No, no, no. While the normal bookcases are wonderful enough, it is the rolling bookcases that are truly exceptional creations. If the book I’m looking for is on an exposed section of the bookcases, then I’m happy. But if there are cases upon cases keeping me away from the book I desire, then I’m infinitely happier. Because who doesn’t love to roll bookcases around for a very long time? I know I love it. And you should to. It increases arm strength and, infuriating as it may be, it certainly does provide a useful technique for relieving stress. Especially when you have a paper due in a few hours, yes, the rolling bookcases and hidden elevators are wonderful ways to keep calm as you see the time speed towards your deadline. If it’s not best feeling in the world, I don’t know what is.
Actually, I do. The absolute, without-a-doubt, best feeling in the world is the moment when you realize the elevators actually do exist, and that you’ve been wasting time running up and down the stairs like a madman. At that precise moment, there isn’t a thing in the world that can bring you down from your marvelous high. It’s akin to the sensation you get when you’re hopelessly lost on the B-level near closing time when all you need is one little book to complete your list of research materials. Your ecstasy is bolstered by the fact that you can’t see shit down there, even though you could have sworn you saw lights on the ceiling. So, in coming to the conclusion that the library simply isn’t replacing expired light bulbs, your fucking anger reaches levels that make you feel like slamming your head into the wall to end the goddamn frustration. I’m sorry, did I say that? I meant… Firestone is good. But I digress…
As I write this, “major renovation” is, in fact, being done on the 1st, A, B, and C levels of The Stone. Most of the plans regard modernizing slightly-less-than-pretty areas of the building, and for this, I commend Firestone. You can’t help but admit that it’s a good sign that the kind folks who run the place would do all their work without disrupting anyone’s studying, as all the books in the affected areas would still be accessible. Good work, Firestone. This is as glorious an idea as charging mostly broke college students ten cents for every photocopy they make. Kinko’s, on the other hand, charges 5 cents a page, and it gets even cheaper when you pass a certain amount of copies. So, this would make Firestone the Starbucks of photocopying locations. But, of course, this is all part of Firestone’s plan to make the library accessible. I don’t know about you, but spending four dollars at Firestone just so I could read about Firestone in order to write about Firestone really brightens up my day. As it would for anyone and everyone. Because, really, why would anyone want to save money, or not get lost in the dark, or not waste time on the stairs, right? Who wouldn’t want to spend time rummaging through your stuff to show a guard your prox only to find out they don’t care at all? And who wouldn’t want to look at a map and not have your confusion cleared up whatsoever? Is there any busy college student out there who doesn’t like to waste precious free time?
Essentially, Firestone has been an amazing part of the Princeton stratosphere ever since its construction. It has no flaws, and yet it is constantly changing for the better. That may seem impossible, but The Stone pulls the trick off gloriously. There’s nothing it hasn’t been able to fix when I have entered its spacious halls. Now, if it could only help me get my tongue out of my cheek, I’d be set…