Library Security: FM’s Newest Cause

Jack weighs in on the wonders of Widener.

Harvard has one of the most bad-ass library systems in the world. You can find just about any book that a Harvard student might have a wet dream about reading (save “Threads of Passion”).

Fortunately for the library creepsters, to get to some of our 90-plus libraries, you don’t even have to swipe in. You just flash a random card at a random security guard and walk in. In the Cabot Science Library, I like to use my library card from home. It’s blue. The Quad Library sometimes props the door open to get a nice breeze going.

Admittedly, the non-ghetto libraries at Harvard have somewhat tighter security. At Lamont and Widener, you have to use a real and valid Harvard ID (presumably your own) to gain access.

Fear not—if you don’t have your own ID, you can always just get swiped in as a visitor. No identification required, no questions asked. Do you know how much tourists will pay to get into Widener? I do.

Once you are inside the building, you are just a velvet rope away from all Harry’s collection of rare books. Getting into the stacks takes nominally more effort. The door and elevator are unlocked, but you are requested to swipe in at a swipe-box placed seemingly arbitrarily ten yards from the door to the stacks. If you don’t feel like it, though, you can save some time and just ignore the sheepish request for you to identify yourself.

Also, you can easily get the random tourists into the stacks, too. Just tell the library staff that they are your parents. While you wouldn’t necessarily expect my mom and dad to be a Japanese family of four, the cultural sensitivity and political correctness that abound at Harvard dictate that no questions be asked.

Once you gain access to the millions of books within the library, it is really up to you how to abuse them. You could literally make a pile of books in a corner and take a big dump right on top of them. Or steal some.

But beware. After you manage to fool the detectors by de-magnetizing the books, you’ll have to face the awesome power of the security guards who just might check one of the fourteen pockets of your backpack for a book. That’s deterrence if I’ve ever seen it.

(Finally, I would like to announce that I’m going on a hunger strike until these potential security breaches are taken care of. Except the strange foreigners in Widener.)