Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Jail for Books

I enjoyed reading this article from today's Boston Globe about Dunster House, the oldest dormitory on the Harvard campus, which is known for its "ornate library with the chandelier, fireplace, and wood-paneled walls [which] has drawn students to its prized collection of classics, thousands of dust-covered tomes from Cicero to Twain." Because of thefts from the collection, which includes some "highly valuable volumes [and] irreplaceable first editions signed by authors," the administration decided to put "two brass bars ... across nearly every shelf, making the books impossible to peruse." If you look at the illustration, it looks as if the books have been put in jail. This "solution" is supposed to be temporary while the administration figures out what to do with the books, but in the meantime students are unhappy; they have "complained that the collection now seems just for looks, akin to a Potemkin village, and that there could have been other ways to protect the books while allowing students access." Note that the link to the Dunster House Library makes no mention of the fact that the collection is inaccessible, although the Harvard Crimson has publicized the situation. If the books are off limits, is this still a library?

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