Current Issue

Mar. 21, 2012

Vol. 112, No. 9

Firestone’s carrel replacement ‘the end of an era’

In response to: After six decades of thesis use, Firestone removing metal carrels

Published on March 21, 2012

The news that Firestone Library has begun replacing its 500 metal study carrels (Campus Notebook, Feb. 8), installed when the building opened in 1948, drew responses from ­generations of alumni who recalled long hours spent toiling over their research. More ­comments can be found here.


Well-equipped Firestone carrel, circa 1948.
PHOTO: PRINCETON UNIVERSITY ARCHIVES
Well-equipped Firestone carrel, circa 1948.

Writing my senior thesis, the unread books piled up on the cramped floor till I could hardly wedge myself in ... my carrel resembled, as much as a carrel could, painter Francis Bacon’s preserved studio in Dublin. Further on, when the library was closed on weekend nights, a group of us English grad students would gather at a secret door and be let into Firestone by a custodian, where we could spend several hours in our carrels, alone in the museum. At least it was a break from the Butler Tract and its explosive kerosene heaters.

FRED WAAGE ’65 *71
Johnson City, Tenn.

Sorry to see the carrels disappear. Mine had a fan to keep it cool and was isolated enough so that I had few distractions (except an occasional classmate who would entertain his girlfriend in his carrel with the lights out and door locked). Very likely, I would not have turned in my senior thesis on time without the solitude of my carrel. Paid off, too: I got an “A” on my thesis. Could one be retained as a reminder of that special time and place?

JACK SIGGINS ’60
Annapolis, Md.

I don’t know if the four-person carrels in Firestone were officially metal. If not, perhaps mine will remain. Excellent study space (nearly offices!), though we did not have typewriters there, never mind something called laptops — or (cell) phones. Probably all for the best! However, carrelmates rivaled roommates, and I recall an onsite wine and cheese celebration after we all turned in our theses!

LINDA FRANCIS KNIGHTS ’77
Hopewell, N.J.

What will happen to the dedication plaques? My father, Frederick M. Heimerdinger ’17, donated a carrel when Firestone was being built.

JOHN F. HEIMERDINGER ’54
Armonk, N.Y.

It took strength of will to descend to the lightless bowels of Firestone and type away in a cold, dented metal carrel. (But sometimes in the spring when the dorms had stereo wars, it was the only place to catch some ZZZs.) And the carrel’s lack of charm did discipline me to work hard and efficiently, so I could escape!

JUNE FLETCHER ’73
Naples, Fla.

Luxury of solitude — could not have done my thesis without retreating to it during Christmas break. It softened the feeling of lonely work on a deserted campus.

JOHN LAGRUA ’52
New York, N.Y.

They were a bit dank, but one could make them cozy little work spaces — I did so with the requisite office supplies, a small lamp, a bulletin board, postcards, and (of course) snacks! Since so few people used their carrel, I always had quiet study time ... a little sad to see them go.

JAMES MISTER ’10
Munich, Germany

Is anyone auctioning them off? Could be an interesting component of an open office.

DORA CHOMIAK ’91 s’91
New York, N.Y.

Learning that Firestone’s metal carrels will be removed brings back fond memories of senior year and C-11-J2. In the spring, our carrel celebrated the completion of theses by hosting a party. We and ­various friends sneaked food, drinks, ice, and an entire stereo system, piece by piece, past the lobby guard and down to C-floor. Those who remember how big the speakers, turntables, and amplifiers were in those ­pre-iPod days will appreciate the accomplishment. The night guard, won over with food, drink, and music, indulged us well past ­closing time.

JIM MARKETOS ’76
Washington, D.C.

They were cramped and a bit creepy, but the desk worked very well for impromptu naps. Whatever would I have done without it? Truly the end of an era.

KATHARINE NORRIS ’86
Washington, D.C.

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