Worn thin by 32 years of steady trampling (2500 persons troop up the steps daily in pursuit of intellectual stimulation), the "increasingly treacherous" marble steps inside Widener Library finally had their faces lifted last week.
Six workmen, using hammers and steel wedges, spent the better part of five days methodically hacking the tops off the hallowed stairways and replacing them with special non-skid material. This cement material may eventually wear down, but it will never become slippery. The men were employed by a construction company whose sole function is the replacing of dangerous stairways with non-skid treads.
"Too many persons, particularly strangers, were falling down on the steps and hurting themselves," explained Library Director Keyes Metcalf, "and it was becoming very embarrassing to have visiting professors or librarians spaining their ankles."
Ramp May Solve Problem
Especially annoying, according to Metcalf, was the pair of steps leading from the ground floor up the first flight of stairs. "We tried everything to make these two steps safe," he said; "we sand-papered them, marked them with black lines, flooded them with spotlights. But people still fell." Now, under the new setup, a ramp covered with the special cement material has been set in over the stairs. If unsatisfactory, it can be lifted out intact.
With the new treads installed, the visitor to Widener may find the marble approaches to the stacks and reading rooms less aesthetic, but he can be reasonably certain that he will walk out of the building under his own power.