To the senior about to graduate from Harvard, there must always come a realization of the invaluable advantages he has received while he was in college from the hands of men who have gone before him and left behind them for the benefit of any who should come after rich legacies in the shape of knowledge, buildings, books, or money to provide for the furthering of education. These are advantages which have been left by the generosity of former generations of men who have given what they had unquestioningly to the coming set of young men of whom they knew nothing. They gave it to their Alma Mater as a token of their appreciation of the priceless gifts they had received from her hands, and in a knowledge that what they gave would help some unknown person in the future over the same difficulties over which they themselves had been helped. One cannot go through Harvard with his eyes open without realizing more and more this priceless debt that he owes to those who have gone before him.
And the man to whom a realization of this debt of gratitude is brought home, begins to wonder how he can ever repay this obligation. If he went to the previous generation of men from whom part of his benefits had come, and if he should ask them what he should do even to begin to pay back all he owes, they would tell him not to consider the debt as standing against them, but to transfer it with interest to the generation about to come after. Most men are not in a position where they can give very much at once to their successors in college; they have to content themselves with the thought that the time will come later when they shall be able to add to the richness of Harvard. But a little every man can do even before he steps out of the college. He can give his books, or some of them, to be used by coming classes.
To the present college generation, the advantage of the free use of books can appeal, perhaps, more strongly than to any other set of men who have enjoyed the privileges of life at Harvard; for it was during the college course of the present upper classes that many of the class-room libraries were originated. The comfort of being able to use a library devoted solely to one subject, is felt the more strongly by those who have known what it is to be without these libraries. And, moreover, it is just the books which the graduating class can give to these libraries that are the books in greatest demand. Most men are apt to get the books which are most needed by them, and thus will be most needed by those who come after them, and the richer these class-room libraries can become in the very books which are most in demand, the greater will be the advantages of study offered to the Harvard students of the future.
But it should be understood that this leaving of one's book to the different libraries is only a way to begin the repayment of one's debt to the University. The other instalments should be scattered through all the rest of one's life.