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Colleges' moves to shake up libraries speak volumes

MANY THANKS for James Vaznis's article "Coffee's on, dusty books are out at UMass library" (Page A1, Nov. 25). It is to the credit of the University of Massachusetts that the Du Bois Library in Amherst still has books.

Almost all the volumes of Hilles Library at Harvard, by contrast, have been donated to China. The remains are in a room about the size of the science fiction section of the regional library I visited as a child in Virginia. Hilles is now used as office space for student groups. It has, after its "renovations," a copy shop and café but not noticeably more people. Stripping a place of its learning will not make it inhabited.

A library is not a gathering place. It exists to preserve human knowledge. You quote Duane Webster, head of the Association of Research Libraries, as saying that university libraries "would be better devoted to people than collections." So much for research, scholarship, reading, and print.

Maybe more people will come to libraries when we reduce them to glorified snack bars.

BEN LETZLER
Cambridge

The writer is in his third year at Harvard Law School.

HOW SADDENING to read about how the UMass-Amherst library has degenerated into an adjunct of the campus student center.

I remember when the library functioned as the bulwark for our 29-campus statewide public college system. Now its emphasis on attracting users by means of food and recreational activities symbolizes the dumbing down of the laid-back campus it serves.

How different from libraries at medical, professional, and other scholastic institutions where the pursuit of knowledge is still stressed. Modern electronic access to information is also available at these places, but the studious demeanor of the clientele contrasts sharply with Amherst's McLibrary approach.

DONALD J. MORTON
Falmouth, Maine

The writer is retired library director at UMass-Worcester.

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