Once upon a time there was a little library, born 100 years ago when the Ivy Hall Book Club and the Witherspoon Street Free Lending Library joined and opened its doors in the Bainbridge House, now the site of the Historical Society of Princeton. Today, of course, it is housed in the Hillier-designed building on Witherspoon Street adjacent to the Albert Hinds Plaza.

On Saturday, October 9, the plaza was magically tented and transformed for the 100th birthday celebration, where 500 guests partied till 11:30 p.m. The library was also transformed into elegant “dining rooms” with tables accented with purple orchids in silver pots; Max Hansen Caterers did the honors with the food.

But first the elegantly dressed crowd packed Nassau Presbyterian Church, where Terry Gross, host of NPR’s wildly popular program “Fresh Air,” regaled the crowd with stories and excerpts from her show, which reaches some 5 million people at 500 stations across the country. With her customary blend of razor sharp wit and contagious sense of humor, she gave the back story of her headline-making interviews with actor George Clooney and Kiss band member Gene Simmons as well as her “confrontations” with ultra-conservative Fox commentator Bill O’Reilly and former First Lady Laura Bush, all the while weaving in anecdotes about her own life, personal and professional.

At the close of her presentation, she brought down the house with an extraordinarily poignant rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from the musical “Carousel” that folk-pop artist Richard Thompson once sang on “Fresh Air.” How did she know that’s my favorite song of all time?

The event raised $220,000 to go towards annual support — including more than $23,000 from the wildly successful “In Their Own Hands” silent auction, sponsored by the Gould Group of Wells Fargo Advisors and featuring hand-created pages (writings and sketches) by 35 of Princton’s nationally celebrated residents and ex-residents including John Lithgow, Michael Graves, Bebe Neuwirth, and Paul Krugman.Typically, about 80 percent of the library’s budget is funded by tax dollars. The remaining 20 percent is raised by a combination of fees, grants, an annual appeal, and funds raised by events such as the gala.

For more information visit www.princetonlibrary.org.

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