Nearly 70 Harvard Law School students gathered in a Langdell classroom last night to hear administrators address student concerns over the proposed renovation of Langdell Law Library.
The renovations, which are scheduled to begin this June, will cause the library to be closed for 15 months, with at least 10 percent of the library's 1.8 million books unavailable to students during that time.
Dean of the Law School Robert C. Clark said he decided to hold the discussion with students yesterday because he "felt the best way to deal with all the issues was to hold a direct discussion."
Clark said student concerns encompass five areas: access to the collection, availability of study space, scheduling issues, impact on academic work and impact on other Law School functions.
Clark reasserted the previously stated administrative position that the renovations would not greatly affect student research. He emphasized that only extremely specialized fields of research will be affected by the renovations, as 90 percent of the library's collection will still be accessible to students.
"Actual loss from this [renovation] is not significant," Clark said.
During the renovations, Pound Hall will serve as the temporary library for the Law School. "We will move a core set of books, roughly the collection in the [Langdell Library] Reading Room to [Pound Hall]," Clark said.
Part of the library's collection will be transferred to the Harvard Depository and will be available upon request. Students will also have access to books from non-Harvard libraries that are members of the New England Law Library Consortium at no extra cost.
In addition, Clark said improved access to the Local Area Network will place more legal resources online for the students to use.
In addressing the issue of the availability of study space for stu- dents, Clark raised the possibility of openingclassrooms to students on an evening or 24-hourbasis for study purposes.
Currently, classrooms are either not is useduring the evening or are rented out toorganizations such as the Harvard ExtensionSchool. In reference to the renting of classrooms,Clark said that if study space becomes a problem,"We can clearly just refrain from doing that."
Clark also suggested a "redoing of HarknessCommons to make it into a study area and improvethe dining space."
One student asked during the discussion why,since up to 90 percent of the collection would bemade available during the renovations, the other10 percent could not be accommodated as well.
"I don't understand why there isn't somecubicle of storage somewhere in Boston where [thebooks] can be stored [so that students can accessthem]," he said.
Harry S. Martin, head librarian at Langdell,said in response, "We don't want to find a cheapfarmhouse in New Hampshire to store thesematerials. These are very valuable books."
Another student at the discussion asked for"academic concessions" to make up for theadditional difficulties incurred by studentsduring the renovations.
"Even with the accommodations made by theadministration, there are a lot more labor hoursinvolved with going to other libraries toresearch," he said.
The student asked about receiving credit forhours spent researching and the possibility ofmaking the required third-year research papersoptional.
"The very small subset of people with problemsshould make individual arrangements with theirprofessors," Clark answered.
The largest issue raised by attending students,however, was why students has not been informedearlier of the possibility that Langdell would beclosed. When Clark said that plans for therenovations have been considered by administratorsfor the last six years, students expressed angerthat they had not been made a larger part of theplanning process.
"We came here with the understanding thatLangdell would be available," said Robert C.Bordone, a member of the Law School Council. "Wedon't understand why [the administration] can'twait a few more years until [it has] informedfuture classes, and then proceed with therenovations," he said.
Robert T. Simmelkjaer, president of the LawSchool Council, asked Clark "whether any thoughwas given to informing incoming classes uponadmission that there was the possibility that[renovations making library resources unavailable]could take place at some point during theiracademic careers."
Clark said that postponing renovations orspreading them over several years would incur acost increase of up to 30 percent and would not beconsidered.
Simmelkjaer said it was "very important thatthe administration get an idea of the scope anddepth of student concern."
"Hopefully the administration will take theseissues into account when they approach thedecisions that they make in the next month."Simmelkjaer added. "After today's turnout, itcertainly behooves [the administration] to take agood, long look at the way they're treatingstudents.