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Reading Room Riot


Broadway at 42nd Street would seem a hermit's haven to those who must suffer and wait in long lines at the Boylston and Widener Reading Rooms. Constantly overflowing with men competing for the few available books on their assigned reading lists, the rooms constitute a continual migraine for both students and faculty. No section man can adequately explain the reading when many of the students have not done the work, and the students are left in a hopeless state of frustration by taking quizzes on subjects they know nothing about. The problem is a very simple one; there are too few books for too many men.

The greatest single cause for the scarcity of assigned reading material is the fact that a large number of the books used by the Government and History departments are published in England. During the war these text books went out of print and their plates went the ways of all metals in a war geared economy. Now with the great influx of students the library is faced with an inadequate supply of irreplaceable books and cannot hope to maintain the pre-war level of one book to every ten students. The result of this shortage is that in the large lecture courses the ratio is approaching the one to twenty-five mark. Government I has 983 men enrolled and there are only 50 copies of any one text, Economics A with 1200 students has a maximum of 60, and there are but 10 books for the 200 men taking Economics 41.

Partly due to extreme shortsightedness on the part of the Faculty, the overcrowding of the reading rooms remains a problem that must be remedied quickly. Each professor should give an alternate list of required reading. If British books are unavailable, then less notable, but adequate American authors whose books are now in print should be substituted. Such a system would insure a sufficient amount of reading material for all students.

But the much harassed Faculty is not the only fly in this scholastic ointment. In this case the Harvard student is crying wolf at his own shadow. Dashing into the reading rooms at noon on Saturday only to find that several hundred other students have the same idea, he naturally feels that it is a hopeless job and happily trots off to a football game. During the week the rush hours are in the afternoon and once again students are staggered and stymied by the sight of bulging reading rooms. The limited space and the scarcity of books present a sufficiently serious problem without students adding to the confusion. Men who cannot get books at the two main reading rooms should take advantage of the Harvard Union library, which has fifty percent more Government, History, and Economics books than Boylston. Students living in the Yard should plan their work for the evening hours, leaving the mornings and the afternoons for those who must commute. Only through wholehearted cooperation on the part of both Faculty and students can Monday quiz bull become well based fact.

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