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Harvard College Library announced this weekend that it will donate 158,000 volumes now in Hilles Library to a major Chinese university in June 2005.
Nancy M. Cline, Larsen Librarian of Harvard College, signed the agreement on Sunday with Professor Cheng Huan-wen, director of Sun Yat-Sen University Library in Guangzhou, China.
The donation comes on the heels of a decision made earlier this year to reconfigure Hilles from a full-service research library to a smaller reading and reference library for Quad residents.
Beth Brainard, director of communications for the Harvard College Library, said that the Hilles collection is virtually a copy of Lamont Library’s holdings. Harvard will keep unique titles and valuable duplicates, dispersing them to other libraries in the University.
Brainard said the library was excited to find a home for the entire collection.
“This is a collection that is a duplicate, but it’s an important collection in its entirety,” Brainard said. “Its value is increased by keeping it intact.”
Twenty-eight thousand of Hilles’ current holding of 192,000 volumes will stay in the library, consisting mainly of reserves and high-use books, in addition to periodicals.
The new library, to be called the Quad Library, will be limited to the first floor, while the remaining 50,000 sq. feet will be converted into student space, according to an August report by the QRAC/Hilles Space Committee.
As a result, next year’s Quad residents will need to make the trip to Lamont to find most of the books currently available at Hilles.
“I understand the financial and philanthropic concerns behind this decision [to donate the books], but, after trying to convey quadlings’ concerns about the gutting of Hilles to several library administrators last year, I am afraid that the decision was more likely motivated by these concerns than by a consideration of students’ needs,” Divya A. Mani ’05, Currier House Committee treasurer, wrote in an e-mail.
The library will retain all the items currently on reserve, in addition to 12,000 to 13,000 titles that have been “hand-selected based on how heavily they have been used and how important they’ve been to Hilles borrowers,” said Heather E. Cole, librarian of the Hilles and Lamont Libraries.
Brainard said Sun Yat-Sen, also known as Zhongshan University, obtained the donation through contacts at the Harvard-Yenching Library, after it heard that Hilles’ collection would be dismantled.
Jeffrey Horrell, associate librarian of Harvard College for collections, said he was happy to see the Hilles collection go to Sun Yat-Sen, both because of the university’s stature and because it would value the books.
“It’s an important research institution in China, and Harvard, in general, has an interest in developing relationships with other educational institutions,” he said. “This is a library that knew that this collection would be very important to its constituency.”
According to a Harvard College Library press release, Sun Yat-Sen is one of China’s “pre-eminent” universities. Its library has been designated as one of seven repositories in the country for documents of higher education.
The Sun Yat-Sen library has “quite a good collection, but it is weak in the western language area,” according to Brainard.
“It was a win-win,” she said. “It was a wonderful home and we could help out a good university in China.”
Cole said she knew that “Hilles library has been a fantastic resource for residents of the Quad,” and “there’s no real way to say that all those aspects are going to be retained.”
“We know everything that is going to be leaving Cambridge will be available in other parts of the Harvard Library system,” Cole said. “That’s not the same thing, but that’s the mandate we’re working with right now.”
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