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Harvard College Library-Report of Nancy M. Cline

Harvard College Library

Report of Nancy M. Cline, Roy E. Larsen Librarian of Harvard College



Today’s library is a dynamic set of resources—people, facilities, online catalogs, collections, online collections, things that we own and things that we provide access to that are held elsewhere. We are in the midst of shifting from a library that has emphasized how many objects it owns to becoming a library that puts a higher priority on connecting users with items that they need, whether from physical collections or from online resources. To that end, this past year has seen continued emphasis on services, on gaining a better understanding of the collections and providing better intellectual and physical access to them, all within the constraints of current budget conditions. In fact, we are focusing on users more than ever before, in terms of the services we provide, the instructional support we provide, and in terms of the collecting done across HCL’s many libraries. While priorities require us to buy for current instructional and research programs, we also work hard at the longer view, for the strength of our libraries lies in our ability to support research and teaching not only now, but also in the future.

We have much to balance and consider as we move forward: How to be creative and innovative in the face of HCL’s size and history? How to find new ways of providing for the future needs of researchers? How to develop new approaches to reference services or new ways to use virtual library spaces such as HCL’s web? We must ask how to be flexible, resilient, and agile as an organization when we have extraordinary legacy collections that continue to expand. All these considerations require that we instill an even higher level of dynamism into the library…yet we have large, complex systems and histories to maintain. The continuous realignment of resources is a necessity.

New leaders/managers bring new ways, new outlooks, etc.—and Harvard, with its centuries of experience in education and libraries, can be a particularly challenging environment. The strength of HCL is a combination of long-term expertise and new outlooks—although, new outlooks do not come only from newcomers. Staff development programs, collaboration with other institutions, planning processes, and the exploration of new systems and products assures a continuous exposure to new ideas. The added measure of a vibrant academic community, annually energized by incoming freshmen students, keeps the library focused on growth and change.

Each year, in writing the annual report, it is a challenge to do justice to the vast complexity of HCL, where achievements of the numerous libraries and units are legion. Each year it is impossible to adequately document the changes in organization, in physical spaces, in staffing, and in programs. This year there was an increased focus on services; however, the report begins with coverage of collections, for without the collections, all of our other services would be of less value. The collections—far more than books—research materials in all formats, from all parts of the globe—are the essential foundation for Harvard’s rich breadth of academic programs. The legacy collections must be considered in all that we do, as we have a special stewardship role among the world’s libraries.