Undergraduate Student Blog, Speaking of Princeton

Undergraduate Student Blog

Author: Peyton Lawrenz ’19

Santa Fe, New Mexico • Politics View Profile

Fantastic Books and Where to Find Them

An enthusiastic pitch for Princeton's library resources
My enthusiasm for the library system, including the enormous wealth of resources, databases and books is probably the nerdiest part of my personality. I have been an avid reader since my childhood, but the nearly unlimited access to all of the resources that Princeton offers never fails to spark my enthusiasm. 
 
Princeton’s library system has around 13 million holdings, including 7 million printed works, which are split between the 10 libraries on campus. Check out Michelle’s descriptions of all of them. Firestone Library, the largest library on campus, contains around 73 miles of shelves and is completely open-stack, meaning that if you want a book, you have to go find it yourself. The library has several book finders who can help you find books, but I have also spent a fair amount of time hopelessly meandering through shelves, once looking for a copy of “The Adventures of Superman” by George Lowther for a paper on George Bellows’ Dempsey and Firpo for an art history seminar, “American Realism and the Perils of Painting,” and more recently searching for Herman Khan’s “On Thermonuclear War” for a paper analyzing visual rhetorical tools in the 1964 black comedy film, “Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Love the Atomic Bomb” for a history class, “U.S. Foreign Relations.” 
 
Perhaps my enthusiasm for the libraries on campus and the resources that Princeton offers are the remnants of the voracious literary appetite that drove me, as a child, to coerce my parents into buying me multiple books on every trip to a bookstore and to carry around at least three books at all times. I found purpose and immense value in learning and understanding different modes of existence. As a student here, this enthusiasm has evolved. I now split my time reading between reading for coursework — Supreme Court Cases, the Federalist Papers, Emile Zola’s “J’accuse,” or Nikolai Gogol’s “The Nevsky Prospect” — and books for pleasure. At the moment I am reading Mikhail Bulgakov’s “The Master and Margarita” and a book that I borrowed from Chancellor Green library, “On Women: A Great Woman Analyst’s Pioneering Studies of Women — Their Psychology, Their Sexuality, Their Conditioning” by Clara M. Thomspon. 
 
Chancellor Green is one of my favorite libraries on campus because, as far as I know, there is no formal codified book system. Built in 1873, Chancellor Green served as the University’s main library until 1948 when Firestone Library was completed. However, nowadays, the shelves are made up of an amalgamation of actual library books, texts left by students and an odd textbook or two. From my observations, there is no system or order to the shelves: On one shelf, I found James Gleik’s “Chaos” beside a collection of Plato’s dialogues and Henry Kissinger’s “Diplomacy.” 
 
While Firestone attracts those driven by research, niche topics and course reading lists, I am drawn more frequently to Chancellor Green, where the shelves, cast in soft light flowing through a diadem set with stained-glass windows, contain proof of the varied, diverse and strange interests of Princeton students. It is an enormously satisfying feeling to approach research questions with the confidence that should I need additional sources, I can likely find a shelf (or three) of books related to my interests in Firestone, but in Chancellor Green, I am reminded of the intellectual diversity that defines Princeton’s student body.