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Harvard College Library‚€”Report of Nancy M. Cline

Making the Collections Accessible through Collection Management Initiatives

Making the Collections Accessible


As noted in previous annual reports, the Library’s budgets for collection building are very strained, with very few exceptions. Therefore, for HCL to take on new directions in areas like technical processing, the Library will likely adjust some of the standard, traditional work that we have always done. With better mechanisms in place for gathering and analyzing statistics, the Library can better understand changing patterns of collections usage. This analysis helps us to improve our approach to developing collections and to choose materials to send to the Harvard Depository (HD). Eventually, it may affect our choice of materials to digitize so that we can use our budgets and other resources as effectively as possible.

In technical services, HCL is moving in the direction of greater centralization over policies and procedures. As other moves or renovations have occurred throughout HCL, additional staff have relocated to HCL Technical Services at 625 Massachusetts Avenue. These include the Lamont and Social Sciences Program technical processing groups, the Fine Arts Library’s technical processing unit, and the Harvard Film Archive’s preservation unit.

The Materials Management Division at HCL Technical Services completed an important one-year project devoted to correcting over 18,000 errors for Widener Library materials that were held at HD. Because the materials lacked item records in Aleph, and because their barcodes were not represented in HOLLIS, they were not retrievable from HD prior to the project.

There has been steady progress in reducing backlogs in nearly every library, including HCL Technical Services. As of July 31, 2006, the Germanic backlog included 28,709 items. As of July 18, 2007, that backlog had been reduced to 18,226 items, representing a reduction of 36%. Cataloging Support Services cataloged 715 GIS data layers in the Harvard Geospatial Library, a 90% increase over FY 2006, eliminating a backlog. In addition, Collection Development Support Services worked diligently to reduce the backlog of 102 boxes in Africana acquisitions.

As we explore ways of further reducing backlogs, we expect to focus more attention on processing many heretofore uncataloged or undercataloged collections, thereby making accessible some of what are referred to as “hidden collections.” It is not only acquiring, but also cataloging, developing finding aids, and preserving and digitizing that makes collections accessible to users. Finding efficient ways to handle technical services, to effectively capture catalog records for mainstream materials, and to ascertain the appropriate level of cataloging needed for different objects will allow us to advance the processing of thousands of hidden collections. Just as access to our historic collections proves invaluable for today’s researchers, so access to today’s specialized resources—pamphlets, posters, photos, grey literature, or ephemera—have the potential to impact scholars’ work in the future.