This place is like Hogwarts, but instead of moving staircases, we have moving walls,” Tanoy Mandal ’14 said of the B-floor in Firestone Library, which is currently undergoing various changes due to construction. Mandal is a book finder, which means exactly what it says: He’s there to help students find specific books, and sometimes carrels, in the labyrinth of stacks in Firestone.
According to Mandal, typically only two or three people ask him to find books during his three-hour Monday night shift. “A lot of people don’t ask for help,” Mandal said. “If I offer them help, they turn it down pretty viciously. At that point, I think it’s more of a personal vendetta for them to find the damn book.”
Proud Princetonians on self-imposed missions leave a book finder without much to do for the duration of his shift, which gives him time to do a lot of studying — but not necessarily the kind involving books. Three hours of watching people walk by leads to all kinds of people knowledge you can’t pick up from an anthro class. “The security guards never fail to walk down that corridor over there,” Mandal explained. “It’s always THAT corridor, never anywhere else.” The corridor he pointed to is something straight out of “The Shining,” we both agreed, and is placed very conveniently right behind the book finder’s table, so it constantly feels like someone’s watching you. I advised Mandal to run for his life if he ever sees any twins on the B-Floor.
“What’s the weirdest thing that’s ever happened on the job?” I asked Mandal, hoping for a ghost story or two. The answer that I got was unexpected and far more interesting: “A girl once asked me to help her find a book about sexual domination,” he said. “She kept trying to convince me that it was for a paper, but I found her the book and got the hell out of there. I wasn’t even sure why Firestone has a section full of those books.”
“It’s also kind of like an insane asylum in here,” Mandal noted. Though he may have been referring to the many crazed students rushing around trying to find a last-minute book for their papers, he was more likely talking about the carrels on the B-Floor to which thesis-writing seniors are assigned. Though they’re called “carrels,” they look suspiciously like the lockers that you would find at a mental institution, with just enough space for one person and a dingy fluorescent light in each one. After a certain point, thesis-writing seniors do need to lock themselves up and buckle down to work — straitjacket optional.
Being a book finder is not without rewards, however. After a few semesters of wandering through the stacks of Firestone, Mandal has intimate and highly useful knowledge of most of the nooks and crannies in the giant library — the places you go when you need to study, the places you go when you want to find your friends and the places you go when you and a certain someone don’t want to be found at all. Part of the job description, however, is a strong stomach for horror movies.
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2012/10/11/31443/