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Into the stacks, for better or for worse

Students get "Stoned" at Princeton all the time.

The lure of the 18th-largest library in the country, Harvey S. Firestone Memorial Library — affectionately known as "The Stone" — draws seniors and freshmen alike into its depths.

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For some, the first visit is an eagerly anticipated journey into history, where tomes from all eras await perusing eyes. For others, however, the library seems more like a modern version of a medieval torture chamber.

When students enter the bowels of Firestone, they are confronted with 70 miles of shelving filled with an uncountable number of books. The probability of getting lost within the stacks increases exponentially as a student moves through the building.

In addition to Firestone, the Princeton library system contains 18 special libraries, including 15 department collections. Firestone and the rest of the University's libraries are open-stack, which means students can remove books from the shelves themselves rather than handing a call number to a librarian who would retrieve the book.

The libraries contain more than 5 million books, 3 million microforms and 36,000 linear feet of manuscripts as well as special holdings of prints, costume designs, archives, coins, maps, dinosaur bones and death masks.

Students and faculty each check out an average of 86 items per year from the University library system, which subscribes to more than 30,000 periodicals and acquires 68,000 monographs each year in more than 52 languages.

Last fall, renovations were completed on the Trustees' Reading Room, a generous space on Firestone's first floor that houses the General and Humanities Reference Division and boasts tables with electrical outlets and Internet connections.

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Several years ago, a 43,000-square-foot addition was completed, adding new features to the lower fathoms of Firestone. Among them are more open study areas, sliding bookshelves, space for 450,000 books, ceiling fans, 30 new carrels, a transparent domed roof that allows natural sunlight to filter in and computer clusters for student use.

Instant findings

Firestone also has an online card catalogue.

Using one of the many terminals scattered around campus, students can obtain instant information about the University's book collections.

On average, 3,355 people disappear into Firestone's subterranean depths daily. With a budget that exceeds $4.5 million, the library employs nearly 300 people.

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Firestone's collections total more than 3.8 million volumes, a number which increases by 5,000 volumes monthly. There are 1.5 million bound journals and 2.2 million monographs.