On Friday evening, I decided to explore Firestone Library. It is an epic name for an epic library. When viewed from Firestone Plaza, the Library does not appear to be very large. However, like many buildings at Princeton, this façade hides an expansive interior and vast underground rooms. The library has 11 million pieces!
I began by looking at the Trustee Reading Room. It was very quiet. I felt as though I was offending people just by breathing. Outside of the room, I found a very ordinary-looking bookshelf that contained some extraordinary writing. It had winning essays from the world’s most prestigious postgraduate fellowships. I spent about 30 minutes on Friday and Saturday reading through some of the essays for the Rhodes, Marshall, Fulbright, and Gates Cambridge Scholarships. The sheer number of winners for these awards was astounding. Princeton is also very secretive about these essays. They prohibited the copying or distribution of these essays, lest Harvard, Yale, or some other “inferior” school (Stanford?) one-up them on these awards (I only say “inferior” to sound condescending in a sarcastic way, other colleges are fine, don’t hate me). I pushed the rules by taking a picture of the warning page. Please don’t expel me.
I continued my journey by exploring the other floors. They reminded me of the warehouse in Indiana Jones. Many of the floors had more study space with deafening silence. Then, I walked up to a special study room in the tower of Firestone.
At the very top of the tower, there is a majestic space for reading. During the day, the windows provide sweeping views of the area. It is also very secluded from the rest of the library. No one was in it when I went. I imagine that this is where the Illuminati or The Syndicate from the X-Files meets when they plot to take over the world.
There are also three additional levels of the library that are underground. They were full of books. The aisles have cool motion sensor lights that brighten as students pass by them.
In my mind, Firestone Library epitomizes the metaphorical “Ivory Tower.” It is a place that is consecrated to the pursuit of knowledge, but it is also very far removed from the challenges of the real world.
On a side note, two other libraries that I have visited include the well-lit Treehouse in Lewis Library and the overly academic Chancellor Green by East Pyne.