With Lamont Library still in the erector set stage, the failure of Widener as an undergraduate library must continue to irritate students for the majority of their college tenure. Widener was planned exclusively as a research institution and stumbles into a welter of malfunctions when trying to cope with college needs. These inefficiencies comes as a direct result of an unequal scramble for books between undergraduates and research students and a poorly organized circulation system. Until Lamont Library provides the answer to College reference work, an interim system emphasizing student requirements rather than those of the 1500 men holding stack permits would enable an overburdened library to maintain adequate facilities for the undergraduate.
The crux of Widener's inability to serve College students centers on the disproportionate amount of freedom granted men doing stack work. Unrestricted as to the number of books he may take into a stall, a research student is permitted to retire an essential text from service for an indefinite length of time. Although subject to recall, books scattered throughout the stalls and faculty offices are often impossible to track down. Men browsing through the stacks misplace large numbers of books, and stalls are outfitted with bookcases which admittedly encourage the acquisition of a private library.
Unable to compete on this favored level, undergraduates must rely on the circulation desk to supply those books not included on reading room shelves. With overflowing stalls and misplaced books defeating an already poor circulation system, well over forty percent of the books requested cannot be delivered. A more effective method for recalling stall caches and the enforcement of stack regulations regarding misplaced texts is necessary if Widener hopes to give undergraduates any degree of satisfaction.
A circulation system inadequate in its technical aspects for the needs of a brimming College further hampers the library's efforts to bridge the time until Lamont is completed. With the circulation desk and paging stations on the eighth of ten stack levels, the time required to fill a book order ranges from fifteen minutes to three-quarters of an hour, as against five minutes at New York's Public Library. By dropping the circulation desk to the ground floor and installing a much discussed book conveyor at each stack level, Widener patrons could obtain necessary references with maximum speed and minimum nail-biting. These technical improvements do not require any long-term project for execution: the only basic requirement is a little hard cash.