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Harvard to Evaluate Its Library Complex

Study May Result in Overhaul of Lamont

By Matthew A. Light

The College's top librarian said yesterday that administrators are considering many proposals to restructure the library system, including several recommendations to revamp Lamont.

At a meeting of the Committee on Undergraduate Education (CUE), Harvard College Librarian Richard De Gennaro said the library staff is undertaking an intensive study to help determine its development during the next decade.

While emphasizing that all proposals are still tentative, De Gennaro said that library officials are seriously considering whether Lamont should continue to serve primarily as an undergraduate library.

Forty years ago, when Lamont became one of the first undergraduate libraries in the country, it was widely viewed as a model for other such libraries. But since then, De Gennaro said, changes in library use patterns have led him to think that "the concept of an undergraduate library needs rethinking now."

De Gennaro said that the following proposals are also under consideration:

. Leaving at least a portion of Lamont open 24 hours a day;

. Acquiring more media and electronic facilities in the library;

. Converting the rest of the library's extensive card catalog to HOLLIS.

. Giving significantly less emphasis to Lamont's "browsing collections." De Gennaro said that since book-stores are now widely used for browsing, "such `gentlemen's libraries' are totally obsolete."

In addition, De Gennaro said that library officials are concerned about an inefficient use of library facilities which is causing a shortage of space.

"We have a very serious space crisis...[but] the problem is not that we need more space, but that we need to rethink the purpose of library space in the Yard," he said.

And De Gennaro said that Harvard may move some 400,000 volumes currently housed in a book depository in Allston to another location. Built some 40 years ago, the Allston depository can hold only a fraction of the books Harvard officials had hoped it could.

De Gennaro said that the review project is an attempt to set priorities for all of the Faculty's libraries. He said that the investigation began early this term and will continue at least until June.

Once the study is completed, a committee of administrators, faculty, and library staff will examine its results and consider future strategies, he said.

Lawrence Dowler, associate librarian for public services, said that library officials will try to involve the wider University community in their deliberations.

"The purpose of the process is not for the library to redesign itself. It needs to be done in conjunction with the university. It needs to take account of the University's plans," he said.

David L. Duncan '93, Undergraduate Council secretary, said he was pleased to see De Gennaro attempting to involve students in the reevaluation.

"De Gennaro seems interested in finding out what students' needs for the library are," Duncan said.

And Yianos T. Kontopoulos '92, a member of CUE and the council, said he was particularly glad that the library officials were considering extending Lamont's hours. The council has repeatedly asked that Harvard keep Lamont open all night, especially duringexam periods.

Other CUE Matters

In other business, the CUE decided to recommendthe abolition of April honors exams. Membersreviewed statements from the head tutors of 15departments, nearly all of whom criticized thetests as serving no useful academic purpose andcreating excessive paperwork.

The commitee also decided to continue studyingthe administration of make-up tests for studentswho are ill during final examinations. Georgine B.Hershbach, registrar of the Faculty of Arts andSciences, said that the current system may leavetoo much room for dishonesty.

"Faculty members have called me and been deeplyhurt...after seeing a student who's sicked out,romping in the Yard," she said.

CUE members said they were consideringrecommending that professors administer exams inUniversity Health Services (UHS) to students whohave missed their tests because of illness.Students must now wait several months beforetaking make-up exams

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