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PERSONAL BOOK COLLECTIONS hold a special place in the lives of many Harvard students. The number and variety of bookstores in the Square reflects a high demand for books whose shelf presence for some is as important as their content. There is no reason that anyone desiring a private library should not be able to use their money to acquire one, but there is also no justification for the University to single out the "best collectors" for recognition.
The establishment by the Board of Overseers of cash prizes for those University students with the highest quality personal libraries is wasteful. Students here have access to one of the best and biggest library systems in the world. They have no need to develop their own collections, even of the esoteric nature the judges will evidently favor.
It makes little sense to give money just to those students whose eligibility to win presupposes a substantial level of personal wealth. Promises from the sponsors that the cost of a collection would not be a determinant in its selection does not adequately refute charges that the competition discriminates against those who cannot afford to build up a library.
The assemblage of private book collection differs little in substance from the purchase of a personal wardrobe--both require a certain degree of taste born out of and dependent on a considerable outlay of money. There is something to be said for a nice library or clothes collection, but it should not be the University's official role to say it.
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