A plea for longer hours



Dear Dean Kagan,

It is a idyllic Sunday autumn morning, and while my heart draws me to Sunday NFL Countdown, my mind – well, let’s be honest, my conscience – compels me to study. So here I sit, in the Hark, the lovely renovated Hark, which is the only place open to us at this hour on a Sunday. That hour being a not-terribly-early 11:15 AM. A girl is playing the piano, quite well to my untrained ear, and while I enjoy music as much as the next person, the end result is that I have been staring at my Contracts book without making a mark for the past 40 minutes.

I keep hoping for some quiet, for surroundings conducive to the work upon which I so very badly need to concentrate. Essentially, all I want is access to the library. I have not yet reached the point of banging on the doors of Langdell, trying to claw them open. Rather, I thought a simple letter might be a better place to start.

As I sat here unable to read anything of substance, I found a copy of National Jurist, one of the many magazines floating around this building. Coincidentally enough, the current issue has an article comparing the libraries of national law schools. Based on their calculations, Harvard ranks a mere 28th, well below many peer institutions. The four elements on which the article gauges libraries are: number of volumes (we all know Harvard wins there); seating capacity (Harvard sits on the higher end); number of professional librarians (again, Harvard is the clear leader, with a staff more than double the second-place school); and hours per week the building is open (this is where Harvard gets hurt).

I imagine this issue has been raised in the past, and I understand the concerns you might have about extending the library’s hours. Perhaps students will be compelled to study around the clock, sacrificing sleep and the balance of a normal life to sit on the fourth floor for days on end. But I also imagine a compromise can be struck. The slightest increase in accessibility would allow those of us with more varied study habits to do our work during those times when we are most productive.

My proposal – my hope – is that the building could remain open until 2 AM Sunday through Thursday nights, that it would open at 7 AM Monday through Friday mornings and at 9 AM Sunday mornings. To reduce the added expense and staffing this would require, the entry desk could be manned, the Fourth Floor Reading Room left open and the rest of the building could be closed off, remaining on its normal hours.

Given the hours of Cambridge coffee shops and the lack of other places to study during off-hours, Langdell seems like the best option. Conversations with fellow students lead me to believe this change is both long-needed and much-desired. In speaking for them, as well as for myself, I willingly lend any assistance necessary to exploring the issues that would contribute to a realization of these hopes.

The improvements you have made thus far in your tenure as Dean of the Law School contribute greatly to the quality of life enjoyed by the student body as a whole. Perhaps together we can do something to contribute to the quality of our studies.

Thank you in advance for approaching this with an open mind.


Rebecca Agule is a 1L who cannot write about the Red Sox or UVa football this week because both topics are simply too painful. Please send condolences to ragule@law.harvard.edu.

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