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At 2:50 p.m. yesterday afternoon, Carl H. Backes '01, standing by the stamp machine, was near the end of the line at the Science Center sourcebook office. Ten minutes later, the line stretched almost to the bottom of the stairs.
But Backes, already a weary veteran of the sourcebook lines, noted that yesterday's lines weren't too bad.
"The worst I've ever seen was about 200 people" during the rush to buy the Chemistry 5: "Introduction to the Principles of Chemistry" sourcebook last Friday, Backes said.
Under new management this semester, the Science Center sourcebook distribution office-now run by a recently-consolidated Harvard Printing and Publishing Services (HPPS)-is struggling to streamline operations while cutting down the notorious lines.
After an administrative reorganization over the summer, HPPS took over the sourcebook office from Science Center management. The division's Harvard Copy facility moved from 1730 Cambridge St. to the storeroom between the first-year students' mailroom and Lecture Hall E, merging with the old distribution center.
To cope with the onslaught of sourcebook-seeking students from six Harvard schools, the distribution center hired three full-time employees, with an additional five pinch-hitting at peak times of the year, according to HPPS director James R. Gill.
In addition to the extra counter workers, the change most immediately evident to students waiting in line is the requisition forms each customer must fill out. As at the old 1730 Cambridge St. branch, HPPS requires each student to provide an item number and other information, including method of payment and course title.
Theoretically, the forms will help the counter workers locate the book quickly among the more than 170 titles in the distribution center.
The new HPPS management also introduced MasterCard and Visa sales, in addition to the traditional cash, check and term-bill forms of payment.
And the basement stockroom has now moved beyond sourcebooks. In conjunction with the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), HPPS now hosts a printing and copying center in the Science Center basement where students can purchase a range of services, from stapling to double-sided copying, over the FAS computer network.
But the new management has met with mixed success in alleviating the traditional bane of the sourcebook room: the interminable wait.
"They need more counters," said Vandana L. Madhavan '98, standing in line to buy the $80 sourcebook for Historical Studies B-54: "World War and Society in the 20th Century."
Other students in the line agreed.
"It seems to be a little longer," said Ashwin Vasan '99 of the line, where he was waiting to purchase another Core sourcebook. "Especially for the second week of school."
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