Libraries Reduce Winter Hours

All HCL libraries will remain open through January term

Harvard College Library—which administers Widener, Lamont, and Cabot Science Libraries—will keep standard business hours throughout the three-week January Term but will close most libraries during the preceding Winter Break due to staffing and budget constraints.

In the past, many of HCL’s libraries had stayed open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays during Winter Break, closing only for holidays.

Beth Brainard, an HCL spokeswoman, said that hours during J-Term will only be slightly reduced from those of past intersessions. Many senior thesis writers have traditionally stayed on campus to conduct research during intersession, and the College administration has said it will give those students preference to stay during this year’s J-Term as well.

Administrators have said that the number of students permitted to stay will be limited to roughly 1,000.

Harvard College Library has been forced to slash millions of dollars from its budget this past year, prompting the unit to reduce its workforce by roughly 100 employees and to consider drastic restructuring and consolidation of operations. The administration announced that the Quad Library would close for the coming year to cut costs this spring, and HCL has worked to centralize technical services and transition to greater use of digital materials as well.


In an Oct. 1 e-mail to staff in which she announced the J-Term hours, Nancy M. Cline, HCL’s chief librarian, wrote that the budget cutting process has left the library staff with “relatively little depth” and “less resilience for handling vacancies, absences, or unexpected volumes of work”—prompting the hours reductions this Winter Break.

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ Winter Break will run from Dec. 22 to Jan. 3 this year, and the J-Term will run from Jan. 4 to Jan. 24.

During the J-Term, all HCL libraries will stay open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, and Houghton Library and Widener Library will be kept open on weekends and certain weekday evenings as well. Brainard said that Houghton, which serves as Harvard’s primary repository for rare books and manuscripts, is often utilized by visiting scholars during academic breaks.

Brainard said that even though HCL hours are being reduced during January, all library staff will still be assigned the same number of hours during the J-Term as during the normal semester. Many staff members opt to take vacation days during January, she said, and others may be assigned to alternate shifts. Moreover, most student employees will not be working during that time, as they will not be on campus.

Cline, the HCL head librarian, noted in her e-mail that “January 2010 will not establish a firm pattern for all future years,” and that administrators would “evaluate the impact of the Library’s schedule on Harvard students, faculty and staff as well on outside researchers.”

Interim Dean of Advising Programs Inge-Lise Ameer, who is heading up the College’s planning for the J-Term, said in an interview yesterday that she did not yet have concrete numbers on how many students applied for campus housing in January. The deadline for undergraduate applications was Oct. 15.

Ameer said that students would begin to find out whether they would be allowed to stay “by this week.”

“I think the faster the better, especially for people who have to make travel arrangements,” said Undergraduate Council President Andrea R. Flores ’10. “It is integral that they are notified soon.”

—Staff writer Eric P. Newcomer can be reached

—Staff writer Lauren D. Kiel can be reached at