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The residents of Princeton, NJ are served by the Princeton Public Library. There are more than 850,000 annual visitors, who check out 555,000 items, make more than 80,000 reference questions, use the library’s computers more than 90,000 times, and participate in more than 1,250 programs, making it the most popular municipal public library in New Jersey. Its popularity far outstrips that of all but five of New Jersey’s 21 county networks. Princeton spends four times as much per capita on its library as Newark, which has the largest municipal library in New Jersey, and receives nearly twice as many visits and circulation in absolute terms, despite having just a tenth of the population.

The Princeton Theological Seminary’s Lenox Library (1843) and Princeton University’s Chancellor Green Library (1873) were two of the earliest purpose-built libraries in the United States, if not the world. It wasn’t until the twentieth century, though, that the town finally got its own library.

Since its inception in 1909, the Princeton Public Library has called three locations home. The Princeton Historical Society now occupies the former library building, the historic Bainbridge House on Nassau Street. William Bainbridge was born in a mansion named “Bainbridge” that was constructed by Job Stockton in 1766. Princeton University purchased the home and now leases it to the library for the incredibly, low price of one dollar per year.

In 1966, the ever-expanding library relocated to its current location at 65 Witherspoon Street. In 2002, with a collection of 130,000 books, the library outgrew its original facility and a new one was constructed on the same site. While the new 58,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art library at 65 Witherspoon Street was being built, the library temporarily relocated to 301 North Harrison Street in April 2004. 

Hillier Architecture was responsible for the design of the library’s new space, as well as its branding and signage. George and Estelle Sands gave $5 million, with half of that funding an endowment, therefore the building bears their names. The institution received $400,000 and the J. Seward Johnson Charitable Trust gave $1 million. Two-thirds of the $18 million needed to construct the new structure came from private donations, with the remaining $4 million coming from Princeton Township and the remaining $2 million coming from Princeton Borough.

There are 12 Retina iMacs, an A/V projection system, and a lectern in the library’s Technology Center. Premium apps like Adobe Creative Cloud are preinstalled on some iMac models. When school is not in session, the Technology Center is available for use. The computers up here are strictly for academic and professional use. Children and teenagers are not allowed to use the second-floor computers for gaming.

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