Firestone Library: Reinvigorating the Intellectual Heart of Princeton University

October 5th, 2015 / Development Com...

Photo by Jon Roemer

When students and scholars step through the doors of Firestone Library, they enter a world of knowledge and potential. They experience flashes of intellectual insight while poring over the fragile pages of volumes printed centuries ago or exploring the latest research findings in online journals.

Since it opened in 1948, Firestone has played a central role in the lives of undergraduates, graduate students, faculty members, and visiting scholars. As the University grew, so did the library. It has been expanded twice—in 1971 and 1988. But as its holdings increase, the stacks crowd out reading spaces. The library’s patrons need more study areas and better access to books and periodicals, and librarians need more efficient cataloguing systems.

Photo by Jon Roemer

Now, a major renovation is infusing Firestone Library with new life.

“Our aim is to elevate the Princeton experience by sustaining and enhancing Firestone’s status as one of the world’s great research libraries.”

—President Christopher L. Eisgruber ’83

With the support of alumni and friends, the University is creating a more open and welcoming building that supports contemporary approaches to scholarship while honoring Firestone’s historic character. The renovation architects Shepley Bullfinch of Boston are working with design partners Frederick Fisher and Partners of Los Angeles. Shepley Bullfinch designed the 2003 renovation of Princeton's Marquand Library of Art and Archaeology; Fisher designed Sherrerd Hall.

When renovations are complete, Firestone will provide:

  • Comfortable places to work, including graduate study rooms; peaceful reading rooms; open, wooden study carrels; and a solarium
  • More intuitive ways to move throughout the building, particularly in the stacks
Firestone East Reading Room

The post-renovation East Reading Room in Firestone Library. Rendering courtesy of Shepley Bullfinch architects.

Preserving, Perpetuating, and Inspiring

The past and the present coexist at Firestone. Its holdings range from treasures such as the Persian epic Shahnamah, a Gutenberg Bible, and the Magna Carta, to electronic resources including databases of the latest reference works, abstracts, journals, and newspapers.

New facilities for safeguarding collections while improving access to them include:

  • A larger, consolidated suite for the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections
  • Updated equipment to keep pace with today’s cataloguing practices and digitization efforts
  • More efficient shelving layouts

“I think it’s extremely important generally that there be a place where an artist’s work is available to other people. I really like, myself, reading the stutters…how the writer begins, scratches it out…to try to get to the one sentence or the one paragraph.”

Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison, the Robert F. Goheen Professor in the Humanities Emerita, whose papers reside in Firestone along with those of F. Scott Fitzgerald ’1917, publisher Sylvia Beach, and other illustrious literary figures

Evolving, Yet Timeless

When the renovation is complete in 2018, the distinctive character of Firestone will remain intact. Whether students consult printed volumes or digital displays, it will always be a place of scholarship, illumination, and serendipitous connections with great works, great minds, and other Princetonians.

For information on supporting the Firestone renovation project, contact Jordan Moses '11, assistant director of fundraising initiatives, at or 609.258.5857.