To the Editor:

The stacks of Sterling Library are magical, and we are delighted to see that Justin Zaremby ’04 shares that feeling (“The other sordid story of Stacks,” 10/22). The ability to find and examine primary research materials is precious.

But we must strike a balance: encouraging access while protecting our collections from the consequences of irresponsibility. We make every effort to remove rare and antique items from Sterling’s stacks, but do mistakes happen? Alas, of course, and if mistakes happen please do report them promptly, so that library staff can respond.

Our library staff and management take very seriously our responsibilities for preservation and protection of materials. Yale Library’s preservation program is one of the oldest and most respected in the country. Yale spent $25 million dollars in the 1990s to fix windows in the Sterling stacks and to climate-control them. A multiyear cleaning project is dusting and vacuuming every inch of the stack shelves and every book.

In the end, a university is a community of mutual respect and trust. Keeping the stacks of Sterling open is Yale’s way of saying that the University respects and trusts its students and faculty to make responsible use of a precious resource. Please do alert library staff to problems — and please also walk with care among our treasures. And do pause from time to time to marvel at the magic around you in the Yale University Library.

Anne Okerson

November 8, 2002

The writer is the associate University librarian for collections and technical services. She is also responsible for Yale Library’s Preservation Department.