Starting next week, Lamont Library will lend books for four weeks at a time and will accept e-mail renewals, librarians announced last week.
The changes will match Lamont's lending period to that of other Harvard libraries, will take the library further into the information age and will reduce the incidence of late fees, according to Heather E. Cole, librarian of Hilles and Lamont libraries.
A side-effect, though, is that fewer books will be on the shelves as books stay in dorm rooms longer, increasing the risk that students will not have as much access to some high-demand books, she said.
"There's evidence to show that libraries with short loan periods do offer students more opportunity to actually find a book on the shelf," she said.
Effective June 11, the loan period for general circulation items at Lamont will increase from 14 to 28 days, according to Martin E. Hollick, reference librarian for Widener and Lamont libraries. If recalled by another patron, books will be able to be called due after being out for only 14 days, he said.
Also starting June 11, library users will be able to renew books by filling out a form on a library Web site or by e-mailing the library to receive the form, according to Cole.
Hollick said that the form will ask for the user's name, Harvard ID and e-mail address and will require the book's barcode and call number. Students will be able to renew a book up to five times, but the library will not accept telephone renewals, he said. In addition, reserve books will not be renewable by e-mail.
Workers at the library will still have to process each renewal manually, said Scott R. Britton, head of Circulation Services.
Cole noted that most other Harvard libraries have four week lending periods and that students are growing accustomed to using the Internet for daily tasks.
"[E-mail renewal] seemed consistent with other opportunities that students have to conduct routine business on the network," she said.
According to Cole, Lamont librarians have been weighing the advantages and disadvantages of the changes since this fall.
"I think that student reaction to the change from a two to a four week loan period will probably be more favorable than not from the beginning," she said. "I'm not sure when some of the consequences of not having books returned to the shelf to be borrowed again will make themselves known."
While one student said the current process is reasonable and is more fair to those who may need the books, most students interviewed said they welcomed the changes.
"I know I had problems this year with writing a thesis and having to return books in two weeks," said Julissa Reynoso '97. "I always forgot that [Lamont] had a different process than Widener, and so I always had late fees."
Hubert C. Ho '98 said that he did not expect a serious problem to arise.
"Lamont has a lot of books. I've never had a problem with a book missing from the shelf," he said. "Before, it was an inconvenience to renew books every two weeks."
The Web site for renewals will be http:\\www.fas.harvard.edu\~reshila\renew.html, and the e-mail address for renewal forms will be firstname.lastname@example.org