Each evening at 9:45 the alarm sounds in Lamont Library and 1,125 freshmen are left with virtually no place to study. The Yard dorms are crowded; between ten and twelve they are noisy. After Lamont, freshmen can do little more than chat with friends, wait for the milk and donuts vendor, and hope for a better day tomorrow.
Freshmen have alternately hoped, begged, and demanded for some time. In 1952, 500 irate freshmen declared their study facilities inadequate and asked for an extension of Lamont hours. In answer to their request, former library director Keyes D. Metcalf stated that the cost would be prohibitive. As a result, the Union Committee financed an unsuccessful "study hall" in the basement of Memorial Church.
Last spring, two-thirds of the Freshman Class in a poll again claimed that they were unable to study in their rooms after 10 p.m. Because the afternoons and early evenings of many freshmen are taken by jobs, physical training, and extracurricular activities, the need for better study conditions is acutely obvious.
Both Yale and Princeton have recognized the need for providing freshmen and upperclassmen with late study facilities. Their main libraries are open until midnight every day except Saturday although circulation desks close at an earlier hour. Officials at Harvard have frequently expressed doubt that undergraduates would use Lamont after ten. At Yale and Princeton, the head librarians have expressed surprise at the large number of students who study from ten until midnight.
Because of the University's reluctance to extend Lamont's hours, Harvard students have often been content with requesting a comfortable, well-lighted study hall far different from the one in Memorial Church basement. The Union and Sever have often been on the list of possible locations. It is extremely doubtful, however, that a study hall of any variety would solve the problem. Lamont is the ideal place for freshmen to study. Thus, students will remain there as long as possible and, after eviction, return to the chaos of their dorms.
Lamont is the logical solution to the freshman study problem, and it need not be so expensive a solution as library officials have in the past maintained. If the Lamont circulation desk were closed at 10 p.m., a very few staff members could operate Lamont from the exits alone, in much the same way that Widener is operated at night.
Some library officials fear that longer hours would impel well-trained staff members to seek better working conditions elsewhere. But the University does not have to rely on its regular staff to maintain the library aften ten. Many trustworthy and capable students are available who would welcome an opportunity to work for two hours in the late evening. Since the circulation desk would be closed, such student librarians would require very little training. With co-operation from those using the late hours, Lamont should run as smoothly as at any other time.
Problems exist for the University in extending the Library's hours from 75 to 85 each week, but they should not be insoluble ones. Lamont Library has always attempted to serve the needs of the undergraduate community. With present overcrowding and increased reading, one of the most pressing needs is longer study hours.