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Even with extra-curricular activities honey-combing the university life of today, there is still a relation between students and books, and Widener Library should be that connection at Harvard. This relationship may no longer be a true Damon-Pythias one, but the 1937 student is well aware that an acute knowledge of what other people have written is not enough to guarantee his own success in post-college life. Instead, it has become clear that books should guide and stimulate individual and original thought. The contact between the student and his book has, as a consequence, shifted its basis, but it has not necessarily evaporated.
Widener is by situation lord of the Yard and in theory the focal point of Harvard. It boasts many superlatives. It is the largest department of the University and one of the most expensive. Under its roof is gathered the most complete aggregation of pre-Mussolini Italian books, the best Milton, and the biggest film collection. Over 100 persons are involved in a system which can deliver any of several million books in time comparable to that of the Congressional Library or New York's Public Library. Alumni and visitors are awed by its murals, marble, and majesty, by its steps and circumference, its showcases and treasures. But, except at reading and examination periods, they may well wonder at the scarcity of students amid the swarm of employees and professors.
Widener is wondering, too, and very much interested in finding the answer. Desultory though it may have been to undergraduate criticism in the past, Widener now has an ear to the ground, anxious to catch the murmer of a disgruntled patron. Several avenues which might provide a solution to the problem have been suggested. First is the old recommendation for personalization. Like Grand Central Station, Widener is big, moving, and impersonal, and it is difficult to add a "homey" note to a building constructed for dignity rather than coziness. A suggestion of much more practical import, however, is that the Student Council, which has shed light on previous University problems, be called in. Since Widener is at least nominally designed for students, it seems logical that a library committee, functioning under the aegis of the Student Council, might correctly diagnose the treatment for those defects which are lowering the library's prestige. Undergraduates are the best bloodhounds to ferret out and solve undergraduate complaints.
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