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Lusty have been the wails of frustrated honors candidates who have sought entry to the bottomless caverns of Widener in search of the priceless riches entombed there. Stack privileges are so monopolized by instructors and graduate students that only a few of the coveted admission cards have trickled down to the mass of seniors. Thus the third estate remains unread.
The official grudge against undergraduates is that they often abuse these privileges, entering stacks merely to get boks they might have applied for at the desk, or to sit and study a volume they might just as well have used in the reading room or their own quarters. All this implies unwarranted suspicion of the student's sincerity. The men whose college records permit them to write theses for honors have proved both their ability and sincerity. If allowed to work without obstruction they might make worthwhile contributions to their fields.
The argument is also advanced that the presence of undergraduates in the stacks hinders the movements of instructors and graduate students. It does not seem unreasonable that Harvard College undergraduates should take preference over other groups in the use of the Harvard College Library. The graduate schools have libraries of their own and the instructor's status as a student, while commendable, is always secondary to his primary function as teacher.
Implicit in the official argument is the librarian's conviction that when the public handles the books they are mislaid and inefficiency results. This hostile attitude toward the student who has not mastered the intricacies of the Dewey system is carried to unreasonable extremes. The librarian's passion for order has helped make Widener an uncongenial colossus devoid of all human warmth.
That any undergraduate whose privilege has expired may ask and generally obtain permission for ten or twenty more entries into Widener's Ark is no solution. No student should have to ask as a favor what should be a right. No arrangement can be satisfactory that does not give those striving for honors unlimited opportunity to gain the fullest benefit from the "finest college library in the world."
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