I’m used to having to pay for postage — a couple of bucks, usually — for research items I receive through interlibrary loan. The fee seems only fair for the effort other folks go through to get me the materials I need for my current nonfiction project.
But I was a little taken aback this week when my local librarian informed me that Harvard wanted 50 bucks before they’d share their copy of something I’d recently requested for my work on Pasta. Now, I knew it was a somewhat rare book, and that only three libraries in this country even had a copy. But for $50, I’d expect the book to be hand-delivered by Harvard’s most recent commencement speaker. And I’d expect to get to keep it, too.
Two minutes after learning what the interlibrary loan approach would cost me this time around, I found the book through a UK dealer for 16 pence — that’s about 30 cents — plus Â£6.94 for shipping. I never would have thought that nearly $14 for postage for a single book could be considered a bargain, but that was before I’d received my Harvard education.
Yeah. So now that I’m back at school I’m frantically searching out my list of materials only available through university library loan because it’s been a way around those fees.
But I also check the Internets for similar deals. Wake up, Harvard, your exclusivity charge is unbecoming in this modern world. Or is $50 a bargain for elitism today.
That’s how they are paying for the “substantial subsidy” they offer all students.
“All Harvard students receive a subsidy – even students who do not qualify for need-based aid receive a substantial subsidy, or implicit scholarship, from the university because the price charged covers only about two-thirds of the cost to Harvard for the education provided. The remaining third is paid for largely by endowments and gifts.”
Hey Chris, our very own University of Texas has one of the biggest library collections in the world. Search the catalog at http://www.lib.utexas.edu/, and let me know if you need something. I check out material for a semester at a time. :-)
This totally rots. I have to go to one of the Harvard libraries for some research in the next couple weeks. Unless I can find another place…
Glad you were able to get a copy of the book you needed.
Fifty bucks! Holy Cadiddlehopper, Batman! Nice thinkin’ outside the box, Chris.
Thanks, everybody — but won’t anyone come to poor Harvard’s defense?
I can’t help but wonder if the $50 fee is a passive-aggressive sort of thing — a motive that’s probably a little hard to ascribe to a giant institution — or if it’s just a holdover from a time when there really was no cheap, easily accessible alternative, for lender or borrower, when a requested book was rare in one country but not elsewhere.
And Brian, I’ll vouch for the top quality of UT’s libraries. I’ve got only three books from UT in my possession right now, which is my low-water mark for the year so far.