Barely a Library

Hilles Library must not make such drastic cuts in hours and services

Hilles Library, the study space of many a Quadling, is undergoing renovations next year. Its four floors of book-adorned walls will be reduced to one; student group offices and recreational space will take over the top three levels. This information was released last year, but many students are just hearing the news now—but with more misfortunes piled on. Not only will Quad residents have to face limited study space, the College has announced that there will be reduced library hours, less librarian services, and limited access to reserves. The Pforzheimer House Committee (HoCo) has started a petition to keep access to Hilles near current levels, and we sympathize with their efforts.

We agree with the College’s decision to renovate Hilles. It is under-utilized and the University is in desperate need of more student space. Given that we have yet to secure a student center—an unfortunate reality that will be remedied when the College expands into Allston—it is the administration’s responsibility to look for ways to accommodate the need for more student space. However, it is disheartening that the College continually seems to marginalize the needs of Quad students. A multi-block trek to the Yard is already a bother; these students should not be deprived of the same amenities enjoyed by River residents.

Beth S. Brainard, Harvard College Library (HCL) Director of Communications recently told The Crimson, “When looking at budgetary constraints, we wanted to accommodate to Quad students, but couldn’t justify keeping a full library open that was basically a duplicate of Lamont.” This is a legitimate concern. It would not be realistic for students to be asking for such a duplication—and the Pfoho HoCo is not.

The glaring concern with the new cutbacks involves Hilles’ future limited hours and holdings. Beginning in the fall, the library will be open from 3 p.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Wednesday and 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays. On Saturdays, the library will be closed. This is troubling news.

Sure, early-morning studiers might not be common; but they exist. Opening at 3 p.m. is not fair to students wanting to use library resources in the morning, and it is not fair of the administration to tell these students that they must make the jaunt down to the Yard. They should be able to use resources near their home. Closed on Saturday? Rarely does one find a Harvard student who doesn’t do work on the weekend. HCL must keep Hilles open on Saturday.

There are also serious concerns about the number of books, both reserves and standard holdings, that will remain at Hilles. Currently, Hilles maintains reserves for all non-science courses, but some proposals scale back these offerings to non-science cores. Furthermore, it is curious as to why the College has decided to empty Hilles of most of its non-reserves books, when a large number of them could be shelved on the first floor in space-saving mobile stacks. Perhaps Hilles does not need to replicate Lamont, but Hilles should at least retain the most important services, such as reserves and basic circulating holdings, that Lamont offers to Yard and River residents.

We understand the need to downsize Hilles. But these new proposals suggest that Quad residents will have to suffer undue consequences for the sake of the entire student body’s extracurriculars. We hope that the College and the University, in their quest to plan the Allston expansion, does not overlook the needs of a large subset of its students. The College and HCL must be sure to be mindful that all Harvard students are guaranteed equal access to the libraries they deserve.