Move the books somewhere else

Math undergrad student
October 13, 2015

The MIT Libraries have enormous potential to be a center of scholarly work, studying, and collaboration. Taking advantage of that potential will take a lot of space, much of which is taken up in library locations by books.

I suspect that most of the books in the library are rarely borrowed or read. It's important that MIT have extensive collections, but it isn't necessary that every single book be on the shelves in Hayden, Barker, or other prime on-campus real estate. A la the abandoned renovation plans for the New York Public Library's Schwarzman building, MIT could move some of its less-used books to a less central location. People would still be able to take out the moved books--they'd just have to wait an extra day to getthem. This would free up a lot of space that could be used for valuable other purposes and turning the libraries into the hubs of learning on campus.


Felipe Hernandez on October 13, 2015

I agree that the books take up valuable real estate, but I think any proposal to move the books elsewhere should be done very carefully. I have benefited a lot from browsing the stacks at Hayden, which has allowed me to find books that an online search wouldn't have turned up as easily. While I cannot support this proposal whole-heartedly, I can say that it would be important to do a very careful study of which books are safe to move to an off-campus collection.

Nicholas Bradley Allen on October 13, 2015

I also think there is some value in having a visual catalog. "Browsing serendipity" is so valuable to research. But moving restricted, archival and highly specialized items (like the first floor of the Rotch stacks) to an offsite location would have little effect on browsers, improve climate control and security for special items, and free up workspace.

Heather R Macbeth on October 14, 2015

If this proposal is implemented, the delivery from the stacks should be *fast*, preferably several times a day rather than overnight. At Harvard, for instance, there is a wait of at least 24 hours to receive a book from the offsite depositories. This is extremely frustrating: it can make it necessary to wait for days, visiting the library day after day, to find what you really need (order on the first day, wrong volume delivered the second day, discover a cross-reference that needs following when the correct volume arrives on the third day, cross-referenced volume arrives on the fourth day, ....)