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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained

Legendary Librarian Dies, Planned Lament and Pusey

By Ellen P. Goodman

The man who conceived and executed the plans for Lamont and Houghton Libraries and who decentralized the University's book collection to open it up to undergraduates died November 3 of beart failure at the age of 94.

Harvard College Librarian Emeritus Keyes D. Metealf came to Harvard from the New York Public Library in 1937 when the University had 3.8 million books.

When he left in 1955, the collection had grown to 5.9 million volumes, an increase "which speaks for his value to Harvard," Yen Tsai-Fend, librarian of Harvard College, said yesterday.

Metcalf's "greatest contribution was in starting to decentralize the library," Director of the University Library Oscar Handling said yesterday. By creating the satellite system of Houghton, Pusey and Lamont libraries. Metcalf provided undergraduates with access to books previously available only to graduate students in Widener, Feng said.

Metcalf also proposed the "Farmington Plan," a cooperative system among university and public libraries nationwide to increase the number of foreign titles available in this country.

Feng said under the plan each library, according to its size, is responsible for acquiring books in specific fields of study.

The plan was in use nationwide until eight years ago, when it was abandoned in anticipation of the Library of Congress assuming the responsibility. It still has not, according to Handlia.

In addition, Metcalf led the formation of the New England Deposit Library for cooperative storage of little-used books by libraries in the Boston area.

Feng added that until recently, the former librarian could be found stalking Widener with tape measure in hand, suggesting architectural and bureaucratic improvements.

Handlin said he first met Metcalf, at the New York Public Library in the 1930s when Metcalf was a librarian there. "He used to kick me out." Handlin said, explaining that University students weren't allowed in the library.

A memorial service for Metcalf, who is survived by his second wife, Elinor, and two children, will be held November 17 at Memorial Church.

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