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Report urges renovation of Humanities Library

A report by the Ad Hoc Committee on the Humanities Library recommends renovations and funding to ensure a world-class liberal arts library for MIT in the 21st century.

The report recommends that the School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (SHASS) be granted full parity with the other schools in the development of library resources, and that decision-making on library changes should be both inclusive and open.

The committee was convened to consider the broad condition of the Humanities Library and specifically the virtues and limitations of its location in Building 14. SHASS Dean Philip Khoury created the panel in November 2000 after consulting with Chancellor Phillip Clay and Ann Wolpert, director of MIT Libraries.

The report says the 50-year old Humanities Library should be renovated and updated with more space for the collection, small group study areas, carrels and teaching spaces.

"The committee has worked hard to clarify the position of the Humanities Library in the MIT community. It has been very gratifying to find how much the faculty and students support and value this extraordinary resource," said Elizabeth Wood, associate professor of history and chair of the committee.

"We in the Libraries welcome this support of the SHASS faculty and we look forward to working with the faculty in implementing their recommendations," Wolpert said.

The report notes that the Libraries have a central place in the intellectual life of the Institute and that MIT's standing as a world-class institution depends on the quality of its libraries. The Humanities Library is a place where students share the experience of taking SHASS courses; this experience provides an opportunity for intellectual growth, serendipitous learning and enriched student life, the report says.

The committee's findings and recommendations are in substantial accord with recommendations about MIT's libraries offered by the Undergraduate Association, the Graduate Student Council and the Faculty Committee on the Library System, the report says.

The committee consulted with colleagues, undergraduates and graduate students in SHASS and administered an online survey of SHASS faculty and graduate students. Members are Associate Professor Sally Haslanger (linguistics and philosophy); Associate Professor Margery Resnick (foreign languages and literatures), liaison to the Faculty Committee on the Library System; Professor David Thorburn (literature); Theresa A. Tobin, head of the Humanities Library; and Wood and Wolpert.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 24, 2001.

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