Library staff helps new students scout the stacks

Sept. 15, 2005 12:23 p.m.
Library Tour

Library staff member Deborah Follansbee led a group of new students on a tour through the atrium at Firestone Library. The tour was part of an open house intended to familiarize students with the resources of the library.

Below left: From left, Senior Reference Librarian Mary George helped freshman Hao Liu with his search for a book.
Photos: Denise Applewhite


A new publication, "Guide to the Library 2005-06," is now available in Firestone Library. Click here to download a PDF.

Art Miller turned to the five freshmen and one graduate student assembled before him in the lobby of Firestone Library.

"This place is huge," he said soberly, "and it can be confusing, but we have a lot here for you." His audience, all new arrivals to Princeton, followed Miller inside the cavernous entranceway to Firestone for their library tour.

They were participating in an open house, held this week for the class of 2009 and new graduate students, which strives to familiarize students with the resources of the library. "Some of us remember what it was like to wander around here as a freshman," said Miller, who graduated from Princeton in 1977 and has worked at the library for 16 years. "It was a little intimidating."

Miller took the students on a brisk tour of four floors of Firestone, pointing out where to go if you lose your ID card, which room has a study area open until 2 a.m. and where to find a color copier. He showed the students the information desk, the reserve/periodicals reading room and the social science reference center.

Miller noted that the Princeton library is one of the top 10 research libraries in the world. In addition to Firestone, which is one of the largest open-stack facilities in existence, the library consists of 13 special libraries in locations around campus. Its collections include more than 6.2 million books, 6.3 million microforms, 36,000 linear feet of manuscripts and impressive holdings of rare books, prints and archives. The library also offers access to extensive electronic resources including e-journals, databases, statistical data, images and digital maps.

Nearly 400 students showed up at Firestone for the tours on Tuesday and Wednesday. "I know I'm going to have to use the library," freshman Karen Okigbo said. "I wanted to get accustomed to it."

"We have found that this event breaks down student diffidence about entering and using the library," said reference librarian Meg Rich. "Many freshmen in past years managed to get through the entire year without doing this, so the open house was designed to change that pattern."

After their 20-minute tour, the students met librarians Sue Dennis and Mary George, who handed each of them a printout that listed the title, author and call number of a book located on the C floor.

"Pretend the printout represents the most important book for your senior thesis," George told them. The students consulted maps and headed into the stacks to retrieve their books. Within five minutes, all had found what they were looking for.

Library Tour

"Student anxieties about Firestone are largely about the physical space," George said. "It dawned on us that if they felt successful about retrieving a book, it would be a plus."

According to students on a Wednesday tour, the open house accomplished its goal.

"I don't think I would have known my way around the library without going on the tour," said freshman Tina Zhen. "And I figure the library is probably one of the most useful resources at Princeton."