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Battle of the Budget

Brass Tacks

By William W. Bartley iii

While the University does not always make policy by looking at its stock returns, few could doubt that solvency is the criterion for many of its ventures. Nevertheless, the administration can at times lean over backwards to rationalize policy which is dictated purely by financial considerations. Such has been its technique in the most recent library controversy. But in spite of the attempt, the Student Council Library Committee has been able to show that no matter how it may try, or what it may say, the administration cannot reject the undergraduate plea for longer Lamont hours on grounds other than just plain "lack of funds."

After two months of investigating, counting, and discussing, the administration has agreed with the committee that present hours are inadequate, that library capacity figures are inaccurate, and that undergraduates desperately need more library time. Before vacation, a faculty committee on libraries, together with the administration, must reach a conclusion on library policy.

Only since the war have the House libraries and Widener become insufficient for undergraduate needs. To cope with a rising enrollment, the University has crowded more men into the Houses, and the drive for high grades, to obtain draft deferment, has sent more men to the book stacks. These trends combine with a general tightening of the curriculum--one professor says the work required of college students here today is just twice what it was twenty-five years ago--to overtax the libraries.

Lamont Library was opened five years ago to handle the first problem, overcrowding. But the Korean War and the resulting drive for grades have come since then. Although Lamont still suffices adequately for most of the year, at exam periods it fails to provide all the needed study space and time. And in the immediate future the University must make some preparation for the soon to arrive bumper crop of war-baby students.

Any cry for mere extra exam-time hours, then, is only a temporary solution. But such a plea has been repeatedly voiced in the last three years. The first real answer to it was the Lamont experiment at extra hours last exam period. When the administration announced this fall that it would again drop the plan, Stephen Reynolds '55 formed his Student Council committee to win back the extra time.

The administration first based its counter stand on the claim that present facilities in the Houses are adequate for late studying. The Council committee showed that although more chairs have been put in House libraries to combat the rising demand for space, this addition did not necessarily increase study capacity. Just as a man in lab requires space in which to work without being disturbed by his neighbor, so a man studying in a library needs enough isolation so that he is not continually distracted.

On the basis of administration figures, taken last spring, the Council's library committee has also shown that the demand for space after 10 p.m. exceeds the practical capacity of the House libraries. The figures showed that from May 5 through May 31, the total attendance at 11 p.m. in the House libraries exceeded the practical maximum capacity of the libraries without an exception. On two days it was double the maximum.

But the problem may be even more severe, for several incidents throw doubt on the very validity of the library figures. The memories of Lamont attendants walking back and forth, eyes fixed straight ahead, twirling the counting mechanism in their fingers, are all too vivid to accept resulting numbers as perfectly accurate. Also, the validity of the House attendance figures is questionable. In Adams House, the librarian received orders to take account of the number of men entering the library during an hourly interval, and not to make a count of people actually there. As a result, Adams reports very low figures for around 11 p.m. in the evening, when few were still entering the library.

Recognizing the demand, the administration resorted to declaring that it is still not worth while to keep Lamont, a library, open primarily as a study hall during exam period, when the demand is not so much for books as it is for study space.

But their opponents argue that libraries have always been both reading and study hall; that their main function is to provide space for efficient study combined with ready access to reference material. Lamont, they argue--with its excellent "study nooks"--was obviously constructed for just this purpose.

Each argument parried, Library administrators are left with no excuse but finances if they are to turn down a request for longer hours once more. They have been forced to admit that the students' complaints are valid and their reasons good. Ultimately, then, the decision will be made by the pocketbook, despite the reasons that the administration may give a few weeks from now.

What are the chances of their accepting the demand? According to Reynolds, they are better than ever before--the administration is now ready to re-open discussion. But money is still important. Often it's only possible to find money for what you really want to buy. If the Council's committee has succeeded in convincing library officials that they themselves desire longer hours, as well as showing them that the extension is needed, then last spring's experiment may be continued after all.

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