Barred Books in Dunster Draw Criticism

When the Dunster House library opened Sunday for the first time this year, every book was confined behind two silver metal bars—a development that drew criticism from residents and staff who say the bars will keep them from accessing the library’s books.

The new security measures follow concerns about book theft raised by House Master Ann Porter last week, according to Dunster tutor Jacob S. Jost, adding that the House Masters reiterated that concern at a meeting yesterday.

The surprise appearance of the bars—which are screwed into the sides of the bookshelves and are difficult to remove—sparked controversy over Dunster’s open list Sunday. None of the several Dunster House residents interviewed yesterday said they had heard of any problems with book theft.

“I’m just waiting for the Masters to say something,” said Dunster House resident Alyce M. de Carteret ’10. “It was very sudden.”

Neither Ann Porter nor Roger B. Porter—Dunster’s other House Master—responded to repeated requests for comment yesterday through interim House Administrator Brandon Edwards. The e-mail sent by the House Masters’ office announcing the library’s opening contained no mention of the new security measures.


It is unclear how long the bars might remain in place, though according to Jost, the Porters informed tutors yesterday that small numbers of non-valuable books will be placed on open shelves over time. Other Dunster House administrators declined to comment yesterday on the issue.

As of last night, the Dunster House Masters had not sent out an e-mail explaining the installation of the metal bars to students or house administrators.

Many students interviewed said they rarely entered the library, and most said they had never used the books there, though a few recounted taking a dictionary or an other reference book off the shelves.

The Dunster House Library is open from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Thursday with alternate hours on the weekends and is staffed by a student desk attendant or its librarian, Martha Diaz. Its books are non-circulating and may only be taken out of the library with special permission. Unlike Lamont and Widener, there is no security system to prevent books from being stolen.

Although most of the books are not particularly valuable, the library’s collection was assembled by Dunster’s long-time librarian Charles F. Kletzsch over his more than 50 years with the House.

Now, some students say they’re concerned those books could remain behind bars for an extended period of time.

“I’ve always been for more bars in more places,” Daniel M. Alfino ’11 said. “I just don’t think they should be in the library.”