from the archive

Author: Andre Levie

All the books: the minor miracle of interlibrary loan

We pride ourselves on having an extensive collection of books, audiobooks, and movies for all ages at the Princeton Public Library. However, it is an unfortunate bit of reality that we (or any other library) cannot own everything ever published. Only a tiny fraction of the books published are in print and available for us […]

Behind the scenes

Have you ever wondered what happens when you return a book to the library? How does that book go from being checked out on your card to returning to its place on our shelves? Here’s a peek behind the drop box door to show you how this happens.     The journey begins at our […]

A few April favorites

One of the many pleasures of working in a library is seeing the latest books freshly unpacked from their boxes. I read glowing reviews for the books below and can’t wait to actually read them now that they are here on our shelves. Please check these out or choose your own new fiction or nonfiction […]

Holiday music with Hoopla

Now that Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday are all behind us, the holiday season is in full swing. Lights and decorations are going up all over town and you can hear carols old and new playing from many of the stores. Just as many people unapologetically love Hallmark Christmas movies, I unironically love holiday […]

Coming soon

My favorite part of selecting books for the library is hearing about new titles months before they are published. Professional journals such as Library Journal and Publishers Weekly include reviews and information about soon-to-be bestsellers coming out in the next few months. Access to this information is crucial to us having books available for you […]

Book anatomy

Some time ago I noticed a diagram of pieces of a book pinned up next to a colleague’s desk. She had found it via an online image search and kept it because in our line of work being able to refer to specific pieces of a book can be useful. For example, we may need […]

The library book drop: always here for you

In urban planning the various objects and equipment installed on streets and sidewalks are collectively called “street furniture.” These objects include things like mailboxes, benches, traffic lights, bus stops, and street signs. This public library and most others long ago added some useful furniture to the mix: book drops. The humble book drop serves one […]

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Fire up the grill

One of the best things about summer is the opportunity to cook and dine al fresco. I checked our catalog at the library and found we have many cookbooks with recipes and ideas for outdoor entertaining. Digging a bit deeper I looked up our most popular outdoor cooking titles and the top 10 books are […]

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Sharing on Library Giving Day

Library Giving Day Logo

Libraries have always been about sharing. We share books and movies and a vast array of other materials with our communities. We help people learn and share experiences through classes and programs. Libraries also share with each other. This includes sharing our materials but we also share ideas. The first annual Library Giving Day (#LibraryGivingDay) […]

Princeton on film

One of the most beautiful spaces in the library is the Princeton Room. This room houses our Local History books and also many maps, city directories, and a vertical file of clippings related to Princeton and some of the people who have lived here. One little-known collection in the room features a few DVD documentaries […]

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The most popular books of 2018

It’s hard to believe but the end of the year is just one month away. As expected, Best Books of the Year lists are popping up all over the place (including our own list specifically for winter reading). These lists are often enlightening and debate-worthy but I wanted to look at something a bit more […]

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Our friendly bookstore

One of the great features of the Princeton Public Library is The Library Store. Since we opened The Sands Library Building back in 2004, the Friends of the Library  have run a bookstore on the first floor. From its humble beginnings as two bookcases next to the stairs, the bookstore has expanded to include over […]

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A bit of the Netherlands in Princeton

It is a bit of understatement to say Princeton is a beautiful town. Those of us fortunate enough to live or work here are treated every day to the lush tree-lined streets and spectacular architecture of the town and Princeton University. While Princeton is mostly known for the collegiate Gothic buildings of the University (lots […]

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You are here

I admit it’s easy to get a bit lost in the library. On our three floors we have so many different spaces and collections that it can be a challenge to figure out where you are and where you want to be. We took great care to make the layout of each floor as intuitive […]

Our new third floor

We recently reopened the third floor after closing it for a bit of renovation and reorganization. The impetus for the change was the need to re-carpet the entire floor. The old carpet was installed back when the library was built in 2004 and after nearly 14 years of heavy use it was high time for […]

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Play it: a New Year’s Eve playlist

​Christmas is over and the carols have (finally) stopped playing on the radio and at the shopping centers and malls. As New Year’s Eve is upon us, I find myself wondering why Christmas gets so many songs and all the other holidays have few or none devoted to them. For example, where are all the […]

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Some books are bigger than others

During my time at the library we have changed how and where our books are housed quite a few times. All of these changes have involved shifting hundreds to thousands of books from the old arrangements to the new layouts. This is a team effort and we have learned some lessons about the “Art of […]

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Staying level

We have over 4,200 shelves for books, DVDs, CDs, and audiobooks at the library. Shelving is so ubiquitous throughout the building it’s easy to forget that at some point all of the units had to be installed and assembled in order to do their job of housing our collections. The shelves on almost all of […]

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A few fun facts

One of our primary missions at the library is to provide accurate, authoritative, timely, and useful information to anyone who inquires about almost anything. We treasure this part of our job and find hunting for facts almost as rewarding as actually discovering them. In the spirit of the hunt, I give you answers to questions […]

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Floored at Book Expo

Book Expo, the largest annual book trade fair in America, recently ended at the Javits Center in New York City. I love attending it primarily because it gives me the opportunity to discover the best books that will be coming out in the next few months. However, since Book Expo is always held at cavernous convention centers […]

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Late Spring cleaning

You might not know this, but we have a floor at the library above the floors open to the public. This floor houses our HVAC equipment and, like many other attic spaces, it also tends to accumulate some random stuff. Most of it isn’t particularly interesting (extra bookends, cleaning supplies, hardware storage bins) but, during a recent […]


Sands Library cornerstone

The renovation of the second floor of the library (known as the 2Reimagine project) is nearing completion. As we gear up for the re-opening of the floor I’ve been reflecting a bit on the Augustine Birrell quote on our Witherspoon Street cornerstone: “Libraries are not made: they grow.” I would not presume to disagree with […]

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Top 16 for 2016

The end of the year is fast approaching and that means it’s time for some lists. Newspapers, magazines, websites, and blogs are all publishing their year-end lists of the best books and movies from the last year. In that spirit I present to you the top 16 most popular books and DVDs at the Princeton Public […]

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Holiday dining

The leaves are falling, the air is cool and crisp and fall harvest vegetables are available at the farmers market. These are all harbingers of the holiday season, or, as I think of it, feasting season. Thanksgiving, the first of the feasts, is inspiration for us to share some of our best holiday cooking and entertaining […]

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Our most popular movies for kids

Now that the weather is getting a bit cooler and darkness is settling over the land earlier, it’s time to start enjoying the great indoors. If you have little ones in your house, the library can help you to keep them entertained with an entire floor full of books, movies, music, and audiobooks for kids. If you […]

First floor changes

Like everyone else at the library I’m excited by the upcoming renovation of the second floor. The floor was recently closed and construction will begin shortly. The rest of the library will remain open as much as possible during the renovation and we have put a lot of thought into how to incorporate many of our […]


Princeton is a wonderful place to live but even Princetonians need to get out once in awhile. The library can help our customers escape to far-off or not so far-off locales with our Travel Collection. This carefully curated collection features guidebooks, large coffee table books, and travel-writing covering every continent on Earth. I was curious to see which destinations are the most popular with our readers so I looked at the check-out statistics for our Travel books. Here are the top 10 most circulated books in the collection.


If you have visited us recently, perhaps you've noticed that several of our collections have been on the move, relocating to new homes throughout the library. For instance, the Large Print collection moved from the back of the first floor to the front near our DVDs. The Travel collection travelled down from the second floor to the space where the Large Print books used to live.

Visit the library, you should

1977: a long time ago. Omaha, Nebraska: might as well be a galaxy far, far away. In a cavernous mid-century modern Cinerama theater, I saw "Star Wars" (later known as "Episode IV: A New Hope") for the first time. I was 10 years-old and completely enthralled by the story, the characters and the ground-breaking special effects.

It’s the great (Princeton) pumpkin

Fall is in full swing, and all over town the leaves have turned beautiful shades of red, yellow and gold. The air is cool and crisp and people are gearing up for Halloween. Recently, I was taking a stroll through the leafy Princeton University campus and a novel sight stopped me dead in my tracks: a colossal pumpkin!

Our most popular video games

Since we began collecting video games this has been one of our most popular collections. I was curious to see which games were the most desired right now so I ran a list based on the highest number of checkouts for this year. Surprisingly, nine of top 10 games are for an older console: the Nintendo Wii. I wanted to see the top games for all of the consoles and here they are…the top five games in descending order of popularity listed by console:

Our most popular documentaries

In addition to an astounding collection of feature films from around the world, the library also has a very impressive selection of documentaries. Documentaries have a strong track record here based on the popularity of our annual Environmental Film Festival and the ongoing Identity & Self Film Series. I took at a look at the circulation numbers for this collection, and below are our 10 most-viewed documentaries:
10. Salt Men of Tibet

Forthcoming nonfiction

I'm not sure why, but recently I've been reading much more nonfiction than fiction. It's not that there isn't any interesting fiction being written (one need only glance at the monthly LibraryReads lists to find a novel worth reading), but nonfiction just feels more necessary in our complicated world. As I was ordering books for the library that are coming out in the next few months, I noticed a few nonfiction selections that looked especially appealing.

Musical favorites

April 18 was Record Store Day and I was fortunate enough to spend part of it in an actual record store. Yes, they still exist. Vinyl might currently be the hippest of all music media, but we still have plenty of surface-noise free CDs at the library. As the library's buyer of music CDs, I want to share with you a few of my idiosyncratic favorites from the recent past:

Collection development FAQs

As Collection Development Coordinator, I occasionally get asked questions relating to the materials we collect here at the library. For anyone interested, I've compiled some of the more frequently asked question below. One question that is not often asked is "what is collection development?" The answer: It is just library-speak for purchasing anything that goes into our collections including books, DVDs, CDs, and electronic content.

What can I read next?

Looking for reading recommendations? We have a new resource for you: the LibraryReads collection, featuring ten new titles each month chosen by librarians across the country. Every month librarians nominate forthcoming books across all genres (including fiction, Young Adult fiction, and nonfiction) as their favorite new titles. The ten books that get the most nominations become the LibraryReads list for that month.

Top 10 music CDs of 2014

The end of the year is fast approaching and the world is awash in "Best of 2014" lists. I'm sure you have seen plenty of lists for best books, music, movies, and TV shows by now. Please indulge me as I present another list for 2014: the most popular CDs of the year at the library. The ranking is based on the total number of circulations (a.k.a. check-outs) for the following titles. It's interesting to note that CDs remain very popular here despite all the newer ways people listen to music. Please also indulge me some brief editorial comments about the music on this list.

Unique offerings

Perhaps the best part of browsing the shelves at the Princeton Public Library is stumbling across something truly unusual. It could be the content of the book or the form or both. I've been working here for quite awhile and below are some of my favorite finds. I encourage you to come in and check them out.

20th Century World Architecture

Coming soon to a shelf near you

One of the best things about being a librarian is hearing about books way before they are published. Since I work in Collection Development (librarian-speak for book purchasing) I have the good fortune to buy the books that I think will appeal to the people of Princeton. Below are a few books we either just acquired or are on their way to our shelves very soon. Please feel free to place holds for any or all of them!
First, let's start with five forthcoming bestersellers:

The Library Store

Cozily tucked under the grand staircase of the library is The Library Store. For quite some time the Friends of the Library have used this space as a bookstore. The Friends take donations of gently used books, audiobooks on CD, DVDs and music CDs. They sort through the donations, price them, organize them in catagories and shelve them in their bookstore. The proceeds from the store are given to the library to purchase all sorts of new materials.

Gifts from the sea

For the past few weeks someone (or maybe more than one person) has been leaving shells on the library shelves. The shells are beautiful, as you can see from the picture of just some of them, and quite clean. These "gifts" raise many questions. Who is doing this? Why would someone come into the library mutiple times and leave these for other people to find? Is there any significance to the placement of the shells?
So many questions. Answers are less forthcoming.

Spring is here

I don't care what the "experts" have to say; this last winter certainly felt like the worst one ever here in New Jersey. One positive note of surviving the last five frigid months: spring seems that much more gorgeous. And what better way to enjoy the spectacular weather than at the some of the outdoor spaces at or near the library.

Top 10 suspense and fiction

As faithful readers of this blog might know by now, I love lists. Because my specialty is collection development, I am always curious about what people want to read, watch, and listen to, so I have compiled various lists based on the circulation of books, DVDs, and CDs at the library. Two lists I have yet to create (until now): the all-time most popular suspense and fiction books at the Princeton Public Library. Let's get to it! (Insert drum roll here.)
The ten most popular suspenseful books of all time at the library are:

Top 10 most popular library items (ever)

It's the start of a brand new year and instead of listing my resolutions (most of which I have already broken), I will indulge myself in another "bestseller" Princeton Public Library list. In the past I have made lists of the most popular books, music CDs, and DVDs at the library. This time I will list the ten items with the highest circulation numbers for all time. These ten titles have proven to be incredibly popular over the years and, even though they may be a bit worn, they are still being checked out.


In the past year we have been shifting many collections at the library and all this movement made me ponder something that keeps the collections still: bookends. They are so utilitarian and unassuming that you may be surprised to hear there are over 4,100 bookends working silently day and night at the library to stop everything from falling over.

Stairway to nowhere

One of the many great things about working at this library is that we are located just two blocks from a certain world-class university. If you don't know which one I will give you a hint: it's the first word in the phrase "Princeton Public Library." When the weather is nice and I have some time, I like to explore the incredibly beautiful campus.

Spring renewal

Spring is finally here and we are in the mood for some refreshing and renewing at the library. Please stop by and check out our new tables and chairs for your reading, relaxing, and conversing enjoyment. Join me on a brief tour of some of the most recent changes at the library.
On the first floor behind the Welcome Desk we now have this fabulous collection of hexagonal chairs and side tables. To me they look a bit Star-Trek or maybe mid-70s talk show…very cool and retro. This is the perfect spot for some quiet group conversation.

Axis360 eBooks

Please explore the newest resource in Princeton Public Library's ever-expanding eLibrary: Axis360 eBooks. Axis360 offers full-color, full-layout eBooks for computers, laptops, eBook readers, tablets, and smartphones. Our growing collection includes fiction and non-fiction for adults, children, and teens.

The artist currently known as James McPhillips

If you have spent any time in Princeton recently you have probably seen a drawing of the musician Prince with "TON" written below it on a bumper sticker or t-shirt. This play on image/word was created by local artist and frequent library visitor James McPhillips. He currently has a solo show of this image and more "serious" art at Small World Coffee on Nassau Street.