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Undergraduates, many of whom had already completed research on their senior theses, flocked to the Government Documents collection in the basement of Lamont Library last week. They went not in search of research materials but instead sought to prevent Gov Docs’ possible relocation to Littauer Library.
Students converged on Lamont in order to complete a surreptitious survey designed by a Harvard College Library (HCL) steering committee to assess the impact of moving Gov Docs. Many of the students who filled out the survey had been informed of its existence through a grass-roots campaign carried out via e-mail lists and word-of-mouth. HCL itself did little to publicize the survey. The survey’s low profile, along with its unfortunate timing—after most thesis research has been completed and before most students have begun term papers—suggests an effort on the part of HCL to skew survey results in favor of the unpopular move.
The committee has offered no alternatives to relocating Gov Docs to Littauer, but such a move would be a serious handicap to undergraduates. Gov Docs’ current location in Lamont is convenient to undergraduates without hindering the access of the public, who are legally required to be able to see the collections. A move to Littauer Library, far from the Widener-Pusey-Lamont complex that holds most resources used by undergraduates, not only offers no substantive advantages but would also make Gov Docs available for far fewer and less convenient hours during the day—9 a.m. to 9 p.m. instead of 8 a.m. to 12:45 a.m. A move to Littauer might also mean that some of the Gov Docs collection would have to be distributed to other locations due to lack of space.
With any luck, undergraduates’ response to the survey will give administrators pause and force them to consider alternatives to a move to Littauer. To this end, all students potentially affected by the move—and all those who have benefited from Gov Docs at its current location—should make an effort to have their voices heard. Although the Lamont survey was completed yesterday, a similar survey available at Littauer Library ends today.
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