A good part of the interior lighting in the University fall incredibly below minimum standards. Many fixtures are antiquated, some are badly in need of repair. And there is not a single major classroom which even approaches the approved norms.
The people who earn a living measuring lighting do so with ingenious little instruments called photometers, which register in "foot-candles." The unit equals just about the amount of light turned about the amount of light turned out by an ordinary 100 watt bulb ten feet away; lighting engineers have set 15 foot-candles as rock-bottom for any room in which people will be reading or writing. And there is not a big lecture room in the College that tops ten. Under ideal conditions, Emerson D varies from six to eight, Mallinckrodt MB-9 just reaches nine, and the handsome new indierctly-lit lecture room in the Institute of Geographical Exploration registers little higher. The New Lecture Hall comes through with six-foot candles, accepted as the optimum light-level for gymnasium lockers and public washrooms.
Just how bad an effect this lighting has on the students who work under it is pretty uncertain. Back in 1936 a Missouri elementary school ran off an experiment which discovered that students working under "adequate" lighting got 20 percent better grades than a control group. But a follow-up at an Ohio Western Electric plant, corelating production with lighting, went the other way: workers, believing the light was improving, jumped their output enthusiastically as the illumination was cut to around that of moonlight. It has been determined, however, that lighting of the College's present caliber will inevitably cause fatigue and a loss of efficiency.
There is one bright spot in the lighting picture; the library system. Widener incorporates old but adequate fixtures in the main reading room; the Union Catalogue and some downstairs offices have the best non-specialized installations in the University. These were installed as pilot-models for Lamont; the new library will use slim-line fluorescent tubing which turns out 20 foot-candles and can be stepped up if required, at no greater operating cost than ordinary fixtures. Keyes DeW. Metcalf, library director, spent three years shopping around and employed a bunch of lighting consultants before deciding on the arrangement. The rest of the University would do well to follow his example. For inadequate lighting is one of the most serious weaknesses in Harvard's facilities.