The new Radcliffe Study Center of gleaming limestone and concrete will end once and for all the reign of red brick at the Quad. In exchange for an investment of $4.5 million and the death of three off campus houses, the Center's planners promise to mix the latest intricacies of library technology with "the serene mood of a medieval cloister," to combine an environment for instense individual study with facilities for relaxation and group discussion, and to provide a pleasant meeting place for students and faculty.
The present Radcliffe Library has been quietly bursting its seams for the last 20 years. Extra shelf space and more room for studiers have been added through the years by some ingenious converting, but there is now not much room left for ingenuity. Rad Lib was built in 1908 when more than 80 per cent of the college's 427 students were commuters. Its planned capacity of 60,000 books has since had to be more than doubled. From the beginning, the building's ventilation, designed to be "perfect," was considered one of its weaker points.
Ventilation Still Bad
Fifty-six years later, ventilation is still bad. And with the college's enrollment pushing 1200, elbow room, during peak studying periods, is a luxury. At the same time, undergraduates' studying needs have changed. Radcliffe Library was designed when the college was a self-sufficient institution and long before the invention of reserve books or Gen Ed courses.
The new Study Center will be large enough to enclose the present Radcliffe Library three times with room to spare, and will be completely air-conditioned. It will hold 150,000 books, roughly 32,000 more than the present book capacity, and it will provide reading space for 500 students, as compared to a cramped 330 now. Since periodicals are an increasingly important part of course reading, a prominent place will be allotted them. While the only group meeting place in the library now is the washroom, the Study Center will have seven seminar rooms, several conference rooms, a colloquium seating 225, and a room set aside for commuters.
Confined by the structural limitations of the building, the present library has had to get by with makeshift modernization. Attempts to add a poetry-listening room and one typing room have only made these limitations painfully clear. In addition, the aged staff elevator clatters and shakes, and library offices have been squeezed into unlikely corners by immediate needs for more shelf space.
By comparison, the Study Center will be a showcase of modern technology. A projection room, also equipped with closed circuit television, will be used for showing documentary films. Microfilm facilities will be available to students, and there will be a soundproof typing room on each floor. A comfortable furnished poetry-listening room will be large enough or use by groups, and the Morse Music Library will be moved from Holmes into the new building. Other special provisions will include a modern language lab, and a room equipped for science concentrators.
More than a library, the Center is envisioned by its planners as a focal point for learning on many levels. By providing 20 faculty offices, it will be the means of finally drawing a sizable group of faculty to the 'Cliffe. These offices will probably be given to younger faculty who are connected in some way--perhaps as tutors or advisers--with Radcliffe. Predicting the effects of this provision, Mrs. Bunting observes: "You would never expect to walk into the library now and stop to talk with a faculty member; but in the new Center, it will be a common occurrence."
By unifying the college's center of activity at the Quad, the completion of the new Study Center will end the Cliffies' daily triangular trek from dorm to classes to library and back again. The creation of the Center, and, following it, the Fourth House, will continue Radcliffe's transition of the last 30 years from a self-contained, largely-commuting college to an integrated, residential unit of the University.
Mrs. Punting notes that the dorms were originally planned to provide "a thin life for undergraduates." "In my darker moods," she smiles, "I consider that with the building of the Study Center-Fourth House complex, Radcliffe will begin to have more the feeling of a college, rather than of barracks from which girls go out to attend classes at Harvard." She emphasizes that there have been many advantages to Radcliffe's increasingly close connection with the University, but some important things have gotten lost. Someday, she hopes, there will be many more "things to do" at the Quad; everything from a large swimming pool, squash courts, and music and art work areas, to a shop where girls can fix their bicycles.
The library's new location is also expected to bring change in student study patterns. For one thing, the Center will probably stay open until midnight, since late long walks back to the dorms will no longer be a problem. Ruth K. Porritt, Radcliffe Librarian, expects that the added distance will discourage many graduate students who now study in Radcliffe Library from using the new Study Center. At the same time, she predicts that the number of study dates will increase. Mrs. Bunting expects that the Center's proximity to the dorms will also bring many more girls back home for lunch. Lunches will become more like Harvard's, she hopes, with time for relaxed conversation.
Designed by Abramowitz