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In the midst of the debate over the administration of Widener Library, it might be worth the while of undergraduates and librarians alike to pause for a moment and study an actual demonstration of how a library may be run with comfort and hospitality, a paragon which exists strangely enough, within the very walls of Widener.
When the Farnsworth Room was opened some twenty-one years ago, it ushered in a brand new approach, so far as the Harvard College Library was concerned, to the problem of supplying the student with books and encouraging him to read them. The prime aim was to put the reader at his case, to "make him feel at home," and to this end the room was comfortably furnished and attractively draped, and red tape was reduced to a minimum. No elaborate card-catalogues or "systems" were employed, and the nucleus of what is now a collection of five thousand volumes, was placed on the shelves alphabetically by authors. Book marks were placed on the tables to encourage the reader to come in again and pick up where he had left off. By these means the room has become an infinite source of pleasure to the men who have come to know it.
The Farnsworth Room is not without restrictions--one of the most irksome of which is that coats and notebook must be checked in the cloakroom across the hall--but an effort is made to show the student that the rules are not arbitrary, that by observing them he is maintaining for himself and others the charm and nacfulness of the library. Morever, when he infringes one of these little regulations, he is not made to feel, as he is in the reading room above, that by his negligence he has jeopardized the future of Harvard College.
If the University librarians could spend half an hour in the Farnsworth Room, they might learn the way to stop the current undergraduate discontent about Widener. It will not come through abolishing catalogues or throwing the stacks open to all comers, although some modifications of the stack rule does seem in order. It will not come through any procedures which would prove in efficient in a large library. It can only come through a basic change in the library's attitude toward the undergraduate. Until the latter feels that the library is his, that attendants are there to help and not restrict him, he will coninue to regard the friendly and hospitable air of the Farnsworth Room as an oasis in an otherwise grim and inhuman desert.
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