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Systems & Planning: Office for Information

Internal Challenge Grant Program

Internal Challenge Grant


The University's Library Digital Initiative (LDI) is a comprehensive program in the Harvard Libraries that has developed the University's capacity to manage digital information since 1998. The LDI has worked collaboratively with librarians and IT specialists across the University in a number of ways:

  • creating the infrastructure that supports the acquisition, organization, delivery, and archiving of digital library materials;
  • providing a team of specialists to advise librarians and others in the University community on key issues in the digital environment;
  • providing librarians and staff with experience in a wide range of technologies and digital materials; and
  • enriching the Harvard University Library collections with a significant set of digital resources.

Because there was virtually no digitizing activity in the Harvard libraries prior to 1998, from the outset, OIS created the LDI Internal Challenge Grant Program to partner with library units interested in specific digital projects and to ensure that design and development could be done with an eye toward real needs and real materials.

Over the course of a decade, LDI funded 50 grant projects that have covered such wide-ranging subjects as art, architecture, religion, history, culture, botany, biology, landscape design, music, politics, law, and advertising. The great majority of these projects have involved digitizing analog materials. Projects have created digital texts of books, pamphlets, letters, manuscripts, reports, diaries, interviews, legal trial documents, and more. Digital images include photographs, slides, lantern slides, prints, drawings, paintings, sculpture, coins, and archaeological objects, among others. Audio files have documented ethnomusicology, poetry, and epic songs. Musical scores and medieval manuscripts have been digitized, and geospatial data has been captured, including geo-referencing of maps.

Today, the Harvard Libraries offer students, faculty, and researchers an abundance of digital resources. Many of these were developed with LDI support, and many others were made possible by the LDI experience in the library community.

University participation in LDI collaborations has been wide, with the faculties of Arts and Sciences, Medicine, Public Health, Business, Design, Divinity, and Law, as well as the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, all participating in the grant program-most of them with multiple grants and many with joint projects. For several grants, museums and centers partnered with libraries.

Given that the original LDI grants program has accomplished its goals of seeding and testing the LDI infrastructure and of educating many library staff in the intricacies of digital conversion projects, the LDI Executive Committee and the University Library Council have decided to end the grants program. Remaining funds will be used to support new developments and initiatives responding to changes in the larger digital environment.

View the full roster of LDI-funded projects at:

In FY 2008, two of these projects were completed.