Our Vision for Harvard Libraries

13 Apr

We want to thank everyone who attended our forum, “The Future of Harvard Libraries,” and who contributed their thoughts and concerns to the discussion. A video of the event will be available soon on our website, but in the meantime, we wanted to send out a summary of highlights from the concluding, collective discussion about our goals and visions for the future of Harvard Libraries.

Our library of the future

  • Will be a library with a human face. New possibilities for searching and linking information in the digital age cannot replace the work of skilled librarians and library workers. Our library of the future will value the work of human beings: the guidance to researchers offered at the reference desk; the skilled description of resources provided by experienced cataloguers; the careful selection of materials by bibliographers who are trained in academic disciplines and in a variety of languages; the knowledge of acquisitions staff who are experienced in obtaining materials from vendors across the world; the site specific knowledge of all who work to maintain physical collections and keep them accessible. It will recognize that human beings make physical collections useful to patrons: without skilled work at every stage in the process, collections are lost to users.
  • Will be guided by the active participation of users, professional librarians, and library staff. Our library will treat those who use, develop, and maintain Harvard’s collections as the group best suited to make important decisions about the libraries. It will be transparent in the flow of information, will listen equally to the needs of researchers in the wide range of disciplines represented at Harvard, and will engage the creative knowledge of staff in developing new processes and solving problems. It will look to the values of its own community of users and workers as its central point of reference, and not to business consultants and statistical comparisons.
  • Will devote the resources needed to maintain the quality of Harvard’s collections. Our library of the future will recognize that the library has an inestimable value, central to the mission of the University as a place for independent critical thought and the creation of culture. It will recognize that it cannot balance staff against resources. It cannot hope to create new possibilities for the role of the library in the digital age, and at the same time save money by cutting jobs. Concretely, it will reverse the trend of the last few years by retaining skilled staff, and creating new positions based on intrinsic needs for both the quantity and quality of work required for Harvard’s unique collection.

We are students, faculty, and library staff (both professional and non-professional) who care about the future of Harvard libraries. If you are part of this community, Library Forum is your forum. Help us build for the future!


One Response to “Our Vision for Harvard Libraries”


  1. Harvard Library Workers Resist Top-Down Restructuring and Austerity | United Staff of Columbia College - March 13, 2013

    […] for “a library with a human face,” members wrote in an April vision statement: “It will look to the values of its own community of users and workers…and not to business […]

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