Harvard Univ. Library

Librarians' Assembly

Report of the Ad Hoc Committee Reviewing the Status of the Recommendations of the Report-- "Moving the Library toward Harvard's Fifth Century"
October 1997

In December 1995, the Ad-Hoc Committee on Rights and Responsibilities published its report: MOVING THE LIBRARY TOWARD HARVARD'S FIFTH CENTURY. The Executive Committee of the Librarian's Assembly convened a small task force this summer to review the recommendations of the report as approved by the Librarian's Assembly in the winter of 1995-96. This brief status report is intended to give librarians at Harvard an update on activities that were inspired by the report.

It is important to note that this task force is reporting on activities. We have not attempted to evaluate "the state of the librarianship" at Harvard. Because of our decentralized system, it is often difficult at Harvard to assess the impact of activities on individual librarians or to generalize about the atmosphere in any given library. We will leave such judgements to librarians themselves.


In addition to his direct and supportive response to the concerns of librarians [Harvard University Library Notes, Nos. 1205-1207, January 4-18, 1996], President Rudenstine agreed to resume his role as presiding officer of the Librarian's Assembly.

The ULC charged two special task forces to make concrete recommendations on how to improve the system of recognition and rewards for librarians at Harvard. Specifically, one committee addressed professional development concerns while the second did a thorough review of the position- analysis procedures for librarians.

The ULC reviewed the recommendations of the Task Group on Professional Development and Recognition. Their response to the task force was summarized as follows:

"In sum, the ULC believes a wide-ranging program of recognition will be a more effective means of fostering the professional development of Harvard librarians than a ranking system. These new modes of recognition will take work to develop and commitment to see that they achieve their purpose. The ULC is dedicated to working with librarians and with the administrations at the central level and in the several faculties to achieve these goals." [January 29, 1997]

The Task Group on Professional Development and Recognition, is expected to begin implementing aspects of the "program of recognition" during this academic year.

The Library position analysis review was a collaborative effort involving librarians and human resource professionals. Although not yet released, one of the key accomplishments of the Position Analysis task group was the development and approval of a revised series of library position descriptions (AKA job matrices). The job matrices will be used throughout the Harvard libraries to help supervisors and staff members describe library jobs and assess salary grades. These matrices are a significant step towards insuring that salary grades and job descriptions will better recognize the unique skills of librarians.

Three librarians have been appointed to subcommittees of the University Benefits Committee, Suzanne Kemple, Hilles Library, is on the Subcommittee on Retirement and Naomi Ronen, Law, is on the Subcommittee on Health. Ellen Westling, Countway Library, is serving on the Subcommittee on Administrative Issues.

Suzanne's membership on this committee has allowed her to bring librarians' points of view to the members of the committee. The new staff retirement plan has not been analyzed in detail by the subcommittee yet, but issues of concern to exempt staff have been discussed as they relate to the topics on the agenda.

Naomi reports that the Health Benefits subcommittee has focused on maximum levels for co-payments and long-term care insurance. The committee was able to increase the number of "point-of-service" health plans that will be available to the university staff this year.


Again, because of the decentralized nature of our system it is difficult for us to assess what progress may have been made with these two recommendations which referred to communications with individual deans and with the involvement of librarians and library staff with ongoing administrative and academic life of the school. Activities and internal relationships vary markedly from faculty to faculty. It is our hope that faculty librarians will keep the Assembly informed of progress in this area.


To promote better communication concerning jobs and salary grades, the ULC authorized the development of the Harvard Librarian Compensation page. First made available on the WWW in February 1997, this document contains information about Harvard library jobs and salary grades as well as comparative ARL salary data. The Harvard Librarian Compensation page will be updated at least annually, as current data becomes available.

The Office of Human Resources and the University Library Council both endorse a regular annual review process. This process should include "the opportunity for each librarian to describe her or his work of the past year and to set forth goals for the coming year with her or his supervisor." Any individual librarian who is not given this opportunity is strongly encouraged to discuss this issue with their local HR representative or appropriate supervisor.

In addition to inclusion in the Directors' Annual Report, the HUL Director's office plans to publish annually, a list of the staff activities which will more publicly acknowledge the many accomplishments of Harvard librarians.


This section of the report contains six recommendations which charge the administration in all Harvard libraries to: share decision-making, foster librarian/faculty dialogue, encourage participation in the academic and administrative life of their school, support professional development, and establish an environment where responsive/collaborative communication is the norm.

As is often true in this decentralized environment it is difficult to assess and impossible to generalize about how well "we" are doing in all these areas. This task force would like to request that all Librarians of the faculties and of large FAS libraries review these recommendations and in consultation with the staff in your library, assess "how well you are doing".


This committee is not aware of any activities in this area. Again, we would request that faculty librarians keep the members of the Assembly informed about any progress in this area.


A comprehensive review of the Assembly and the Bylaws of the Librarian's assembly has resulted in proposed changes that will be voted on later in this meeting.

Open forums on the staff retirement plan were held in the fall of 1996.


It is impractical to list all of the accomplishments and ways in which Harvard librarians are actively involved in the life of the University. The range of our accomplishments is broad and the ways in which we choose to become involved is diverse.

Earlier this year this task group sent out an appeal to individual librarians for examples of how they and their colleagues are engaged in expanding their "involvement in the life of the University and in the world of libraries beyond the University" and how their accomplishments might be celebrated. Several thoughtful replies pointed to activities that are not usually highlighted in the HUL annual report.

Teaching at local area library schools (Simmons and URI), conducting seminars and Harvard and elsewhere, involvement with faculty and administrators on University committees, hosting and planning conferences, service on editorial boards are just a few of the categories that were mentioned. We learned of some librarians who are members of house senior common rooms, and many more activities beyond the University's borders.

With regard to celebrating these activities we believe there is still a long way to go. Not so long ago, Andras Riedlemeyer and Jeff Spurr were honored for their activities on behalf of the libraries of Bosnia in a celebration at the White House. While not all of us can expect dinner at the White House, we could begin by celebrating each other and sharing our pride in our accomplishments right here, right now.

Martha R. Mahard, Curator of Visual Collections, Fine Arts Library, Harvard College Library
J. Bridget Reischer, Bibliographer for Western European and International Law, Law School Library
Tracey Robinson, Assistant Director for Systems Management, Harvard University Library

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