UPDATED: October 5, 2021 at 12:45 p.m.
Almost 18 months after Harvard libraries shuttered their doors, students have eagerly checked out books and frequented their communal study spaces since the libraries reopened in person this fall.
In March 2020, the Harvard Libraries closed in-person services, including borrowing and scan-and-deliver, while retaining digital services and databases. In July 2020, they reopened with limited staff for some services, like book pick up.
Noah D. Dasanaike ’22 said he struggled with the digital format of the libraries’ texts.
“I've never been one to read digitally, so either fiction, nonfiction, I take notes on pen and paper,” Dasanaike said.
Widener Library reopened to affiliates on Aug. 23, while libraries including Lamont Library and Cabot Science Library reopened on Aug. 30. The Harvard University Archives opened on Sept. 7.
“The first thing that I did when I got back on campus is I went to the library after I moved in, to check out a long list of books I had for my thesis,” he added.
Associate University Librarian for Discovery and Access Suzanne Wones wrote in an emailed statement that she believes it is important for individuals to “reunite” with physical books.
“One researcher described how nice it was to ‘reunite’ with physical texts she had been accessing using HathiTrust, and I think that encapsulates what we’ve seen: Users, who could and did access our materials remotely, have returned to the form of access they feel most comfortable with,” she wrote.
Now, students are sharing their appreciation for libraries around campus not just for their research utility, but also for their productive atmospheres.
“It’s nice to be around other folks and familiar faces,” said Arjun A. Akwei ’24, a frequenter of the Adams House and Widener Libraries. “It definitely beats the studying-in-your-room-alone that was the norm last semester when the libraries weren’t open.”
“I think just getting out of my dorm is a really great motivator to me to do work,” Tina Chen ’24 said. “So I’m really happy that libraries are open, just so that I have that specific dedicated space for studying and working.”
“All of you have decided you’re committed to getting some stuff done,” Akwei said about people who study at libraries. “I think that is both uplifting and comforting, and so it’s been a major improvement from last year.”
Wones wrote that excitement has been palpable ever since the library doors first reopened.
“The first student through the Widener turnstiles on the day we opened lifted his arms in a Rocky victory salute,” she wrote.
CORRECTION: October 5, 2021
A previous version of this article misattributed quotes from Associate University Librarian for Discovery and Access Suzanne Wones.
—Staff writer Felicia He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.