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The Graduate and Professional School Libraries

John F. Kennedy School of Government Library

Report of Ellen Isenstein, Director


Report of Ellen Isenstein, Director

The Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) Library was established in 1978 when the School moved to its present location on JFK Street. The print collection, which consists of approximately 59,000 volumes and 1,600 serial subscriptions, reflects the multidisciplinary nature of the School’s teaching and research activities.

The goals of the HKS library are

  • to provide a working collection of up-to-date materials in the areas of public policy, government and politics, management, international affairs, and related areas;
  • to offer expert guidance to students, faculty, and other researchers in locating, evaluating, and making efficient use of information resources relevant to the interests of the Harvard Kennedy School; and
  • to serve as a gateway to the wealth of information resources available at Harvard and beyond.

For a small library, we accomplished a great deal in FY 2007 thanks to a skilled, creative, and dedicated staff. In addition to success in carrying out all of our basic operations, we were able to introduce several new initiatives that enhanced our services and brought the library more into the life of the Harvard Kennedy School. Here are the details.

Library Facilities

When students began school in September, they found a newly created study space in an area that had formerly been used to house bound volumes of journals. The growing availability of scholarly journals in electronic format allowed us to reduce our print journal collection by approximately 3,000 volumes. The floor space gained by the removal of shelving now provides much needed comfortable seating in a quiet part of the library. Online versions of all the journals that we eliminated are available to Harvard affiliates through publishers’ web sites and/or through JSTOR. In addition, at least one other Harvard library still retains print copies of each volume removed from our collection.

New-Books Notification Service

In the spring, we introduced an alerting service to let people know about the new books that we receive each month. Members of the Harvard Kennedy School community can sign up for e-mail notification for new books in categories that they select. Our “new books”   web site also allows patrons to browse new additions by subject. We had offered a similar service in the past, but when the Aleph system was originally launched by HUL in the summer of 2002, it was unable to support the type of reporting on which our new-book service is based. With an enhancement to the Aleph reporting capability in FY 2007, we were able to reinstate our popular notification service.

Online Reserves Form

Over the summer, we developed an interactive web form for faculty and their assistants to use in submitting reserve requests. The new online form provides several significant benefits. By prompting for all the information needed for each item, it cuts down on time spent following up on unclear requests. And the reserve database it generates is available on the web to all staff members involved in processing reserves, thereby eliminating the need to pass papers from one person to the next. Finally, it provides an automatic tracking system for monitoring the status of reserves for each course.

Library Support for Course Pages

Course pages play an important role in facilitating the use of Harvard’s online journals collection. Links to specific articles can be placed directly onto lists of required reading, providing an easy route for students to access this material. But the task of creating these links, usually done by faculty assistants, can be complex. To support the process, HKS research librarians offer group training sessions, detailed written documentation, and significant one-on-one help. In addition, we developed automatic link-generating tools for two popular resources that pose unique challenges: NEXIS and Ebsco’s Academic Search Premier (ASP). Harvard Kennedy School faculty frequently include newspaper articles from the New York Times on their syllabi, but NEXIS, the most comprehensive source for these articles, does not provide persistent URLs. To get around this problem, we designed a tool that creates links to pre-formatted searches leading directly to specific articles.

The ASP tool generates links that provide access to articles from course pages, without the need to go through the Harvard PIN server. These are important for cross-registered students from outside Harvard who have KSG logins and are entitled to access course materials but do not have Harvard IDs and PINs.

We had worked with Ebsco several years ago to devise a way to bypass the Harvard authentication system, but the original method required manually customizing URLs. With our new link generator, the whole procedure is done automatically and results in enormous gains in speed and accuracy.

To further facilitate the use of Harvard’s e-resources, we put together specific research guides for courses in three of the Harvard Kennedy School’s core teaching areas. The guides, which are posted on the appropriate course pages, provide hints for finding relevant books and journal articles, along with links to some specific sources.

Community Activities

We continued our Virtual Book Tour series, featuring eight books by KSG faculty and fellows. Each “tour” includes a short video of the author introducing his or her book, a cover image, brief description, and links to tables of contents and other information available on the public web. The book tours are featured prominently on the HKS home page, where they attract thousands of visitors from around the world.

In a new community initiative, we established a Kennedy School Library Speaker Series, with four programs featuring HKS faculty and fellows. The speakers made brief presentations about their recent publications, which were followed by lively question-and-answer periods. The series proved to be an effective means for drawing a diverse group of faculty, students, and staff into the library to engage with each other in discussing topics of mutual interest.

We also mounted a photo exhibit focusing on the public-service activities of Harvard Kennedy School students abroad. The powerful images we selected enhanced our walls while celebrating students’ artistic talent and their wide range of participation in international service projects.

Teaching and Outreach

As in the past, the library offered numerous training sessions for KSG students, staff, and research fellows. Planned and implemented by the reference staff, these classes included basic introductions to library research at Harvard, presentations on specific resources, and customized workshops for individual research centers and courses. We also ran an information treasure hunt during the summer to introduce incoming students to some of the resources and services that we provide. Each week during the School’s month-long summer program, we posted a simple question on the HKS intranet that could be answered from information on the library’s web site. The participation rate, which was quite high, was boosted by the chance to win movie tickets for those who submitted correct answers.

Staff News

As in the past, library staff members took an active role on committees sponsored by the Kennedy School, the Harvard library system, and national and regional library organizations. Of particular note are the following.

  • Beata Panagopoulos, head of technical services, was named as one of FY 2007’s Harvard Heroes for her extraordinary service to the Kennedy School’s Ombuds Program. In addition, she continued to serve on the Executive Board of the American Society for Information Science and Technology (ASIST) as Chapter Assembly Director.
  • Leslie Donnell, senior cataloger/reference librarian, completed her first full year as co-chair of the Committee on Electronic Reference Service (COERS).
  • Dev Kernan, acquisitions assistant, continued his role as a member of the Kennedy School Joint Council.