Comment

Room To Learn

As a lifelong lover of libraries, I was very much interested in “Room to Learn” (March 2012)—a look at the future for libraries at Williams. While a great deal of attention has been paid to how bookstores and publishing companies are reacting to the digital age, there has been considerably less focus on libraries. Clearly, the days when libraries were simply a “temple of books”—a quiet repository for completed research—are gone. But can we imagine bookless libraries? If students can check out e-books from their dorm rooms, is a huge expanse of brick and mortar necessary? How do we find the right balance between making the library a place for academic collaboration and—as the critics of the proposed new café at the New York Public Library charge—”a glorified Starbucks”? By incorporating flexibility in the design, Williams seems to be on the right track of creating a library that conserves the best of the past while accommodating the unseen potential of the future.

Kate Stone Lombardi ’78, Chappaqua, N.Y.

Library Love

As a lifelong lover of libraries, I was very much interested in “Room to Learn” (March 2012)—a look at the future for libraries at Williams. While a great deal of attention has been paid to how bookstores and publishing companies are reacting to the digital age, there has been considerably less focus on libraries. Clearly, the days when libraries were simply a “temple of books”—a quiet repository for completed research—are gone. But can we imagine bookless libraries? If students can check out e-books from their dorm rooms, is a huge expanse of brick and mortar necessary? How do we find the right balance between making the library a place for academic collaboration and—as the critics of the proposed new café at the New York Public Library charge—“a glorified Starbucks”? By incorporating flexibility in the design, Williams seems to be on the right track of creating a library that conserves the best of the past while accommodating the unseen potential of the future.
Kate Stone Lombardi ’78, Chappaqua, N.Y.

Beyond the 1 Percent

Common sense makes it impossible to understand how economics professor David Zimmerman could possibly say that the idea of “redirecting income from the top 1 percent” is mutually exclusive with “targeted, community-based programs” (“Beyond the 1 Percent,” March 2012). The point of the Occupy Movement is that income must be more equally distributed in this country, and the most effective way to do this is through programs aimed at early childhood. But how are these to be paid for? Zimmerman, it seems, expects the poor and working people of this country to beg for table scraps. The relatively small amount of money donated by the rich must then be directed at the best, most effective programs. The Occupy Movement is about demanding full funding for all effective programs, not politely requesting it and hoping the wealthiest of America start feeling generous.

Francesca Gomes ’99, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Economics professor Jon Bakija answers “Who are the 1 percent?” giving an average income for this group. But he doesn’t answer two questions that seem more interesting. One, how many are there? Two, how much did it take to get them there? It would also be interesting to know how stable this group is (ins and outs over the years) and, most importantly, how many of the 1 percent are Williams graduates.

Thomas E. Foster ’69, New York, N.Y.

A Defining Decade

I read with interest “A Defining Decade” (January 2012). The story of anti-Semitism and the demise of fraternities at Williams has another chapter. In 1952 we members of the Phi Delta Theta chapter chose to pledge a Jewish student in defiance of the national fraternity charter, which contained a clause limiting membership to Aryans. Rather than report Jewish students as “no religion” or Unitarian, we decided to challenge the national fraternity, prompting an incredulous reply that there must have been “some mistake.” We were then put on probation and ordered to attend the annual national convention that summer. I understand there was little debate as our representatives presented our case for ignoring “the clause.” We were expelled immediately from the national fraternity but had little trouble operating as a local fraternity named Phi Delta from then on.

—Peter H. Sammond ’55, Minnetonka, Minn.