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Lamont Reply on Overdue Books



To the Editors of The Crimson:

Readers of John D. Staines' "Lamenting Over Lamont" (Saturday, October 13) need a little more information about the Library's effort to monitor faculty use of the book collection. The billing program includes officer loans; our aim is to identify seriously overdue books for replacement and to bill both these costs and also non-refundable service charges to faculty borrowers, using the Unviersity's Accounts Receivable Office. Non-payment of these charges results in the loss of borrowing privileges.

Another useful thing to know is the overall dimension of the officer overdue issue. Sampling tells us that borrowers in the categories Mr. Staines speaks of borrowed 13.5 percent of the books in circulation over the last year. Undergraduate and graduate students together constitute 74 percent of the loans in that period. Of books gone overdue during 1989-90, 21 percent were charged out to officers; students as a whole accounted for 70 percent of overdues. These numbers support the concern we share with Mr. Staines that officers are over-represented in the overdue portion of the circulation file; at the same time, they should correct the impression that officers are rendering large parts of the collection inaccessible to students.

The bigger problem for us is that 38 percent of all books in circulation last year were overdue. Raising fines from 10 cents to 25 cents should carry a message to users of Lamont (and Hilles and Cabot): renew your books.

Many of the issues raised in Mr Staines's letter--fines for officers, extended library hours and environmental improvements, for example--have been subjects of intense concern during all our years here. Under the leadership of Richard De Gennaro, the new Librarian of Harvard College, the library is embarking on an unprecedented planning effort designed, among other things, to identify and assess library users' most pressing needs. Planning staff will provide opportunities in the coming months for all major user groups, including students, to add their concerns to the review process. Heather E. Cole   Librarian Hilles and Lamont Libraries   Jon Lanham   Associate Librarian of Lamont Library

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