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Harvard College Library-Report of Nancy M. Cline

Providing Physical, Intellectual, and Virtual Access to the Collections



An essential part of the Library’s mission is to make the materials it acquires accessible to the user. In order to access Harvard’s collections, researchers find materials of interest by browsing in the stacks and consulting them in our reading rooms, intellectually by searching in HOLLIS and other online resources, and virtually through our web site,, and the various realm of digital resources it encompasses. When evaluating library usage patterns, it is clear that library spaces continue to be well utilized, whether considering that undergraduate use of the collections in Widener has increased, or that Cabot continues to see high use with a daily average of more than 1,200 patrons in the library Monday through Thursday, or by the significant increase in visitors to Houghton Library, or by the continued popularity of Lamont’s “24x5” hours. Several measures have been taken to enhance and promote physical access to collections: Lamont added a Language Resource Center (LRC) workstation on the first floor; Houghton added ZoomText for the visually impaired to its public access computers and has arranged with Widener Library for CCTV equipment to be made available when needed; the Harvard Film Archive now offers free admission to Harvard students to film screenings; and Environmental Information Services in Lamont Library transferred the Environmental Science and Public Policy Archive to the Harvard Depository, making it now accessible to patrons through Widener’s Phillips Reading Room. In addition, Houghton Library adopted new security procedures in its reading rooms, limiting what readers can bring into the room, offering specific papers to be used for notes, stamping any loose papers they absolutely require for their own research, and tightening searching procedures upon readers’ exits. These measures will help to ensure the safety and security of the collections for use by patrons now and in the future.

Another essential element to making the collections accessible is to make them more readily discoverable though our HOLLIS and other online resources. This year the Library has made significant progress in enhancing the intellectual access to the collections through a variety of means, including reducing backlogs—material with preliminary or incomplete bibliographic data that is available to users through staff mediated access—and in making accessible hidden collections. Some of these efforts are detailed below.

  • HCL Technical Services has made progress in reducing backlogs of Germanic, Spanish/Portuguese, African, and Asian materials. The MARCnow Project, through which Harrassowitz vendor records for approval plan books are loaded into the HOLLIS catalog at the time of selection, played a significant role in the reduction of the Germanic backlog. This arrangement has allowed staff to process almost all German-language materials upon receipt, rather than adding to the backlog.
  • Harvard–Yenching Library has undertaken a project to create an inventory of its 70,000 historic photographs, including the Drew Collection relating to China’s Imperial Maritime Customs Services.
  • Houghton Library has cataloged and made accessible to researchers a number of archival collections, among them the Tennessee Williams Papers and Dickinson family papers, as well as the Richard Sheridan papers and the Rothschild collection on Ballets Russes in the Harvard Theatre Collection.
  • Loeb Music Library made a concerted effort to catalog and process some of its hidden collections, including over 300 of its rare and unique spoken word audio recordings of speeches and radio interviews by major figures in African American life; these primary sources will be in use in course web sites in the coming year.
  • Houghton Library began barcoding all newly cataloged printed materials beginning in January 2008, enabling Houghton to standardize its use of items records and make them publicly displayed in HOLLIS, where they had previously been suppressed.
  • HCL Technical Services fulfilled a record number of patron requests from uncataloged material.
  • A significant number of images were added to Harvard’s online image catalog, VIA, including over 31,000 added by the Fine Arts Library, as well as digital images of the Harvard Film Archive’s poster collections and 800,000 images added by the Judaica Division in Widener Library.

Our virtual presence via Harvard’s electronic resources makes the Library’s collections available not only within Harvard, but also to the international scholarly community. What follows is a sampling of the types of electronic and digital endeavors that have enhanced our virtual presence in the world of teaching and research over the past year.

  • A rare, early 17th century Quechua vocabulary was digitized and made available to anyone on the web. The Tozzer copy of the vocabulary is the only holding in OCLC’s WorldCat.
  • Lamont Library has increased its purchasing of e-books. E-book titles designated for course reserves were accessed a total of more than 3,000 times each year—complementing and expanding the availability of online course materials.
  • Gift funding has enabled the Harvard Map Collection to catalog, preserve, digitize, and georeference its maps from the American Revolutionary War.
  • In the fall of 2007, the Environmental Science and Public Policy Archive successfully negotiated with Working Group 1 of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for the IPCC to fund an online digital archive of the drafts and comments used to write the working group’s portion of the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4). That archive, the first born-digital HCL collection in the DRS, is now available on the web, and negotiations are underway to receive the electronic files of Working Group 2 for an addition to that online repository.
  • Houghton Library participated in several digitization projects during the past year, including Columbia University’s Digital Scriptorium; Harvard University’s Library Digital Initiative (LDI) to digitize Middle English manuscripts and Italian humanist manuscripts; the Harvard Papyri Digitization Project and the resulting web site; Harvard University’s Open Collections Program (OCP) project, Contagion: Historical Views of Diseases and Epidemics; the OCP Islamic Heritage Project; and The Poet’s Voice, an LDI program devoted to digitizing hundreds of audio tapes of poetry readings presented at Harvard. The library continued to catalog and digitize photographs from its Theodore Roosevelt Collection from gift funding, as well as digitized hundreds of Samuel Johnson letters from the Donald and Mary Hyde Collection of Dr. Johnson.
  • Loeb Music Library created online research guides for the Global Pop course and for a series of jazz courses and worked with Music Department faculty to organize a permanent online research site for the Bernstein in Boston course.
  • The Fine Arts Library finalized an agreement with ARTstor to scan 3,500 photographs of Italian Renaissance and Baroque architecture sculpture taken by the architectural photographer, Ralph Lieberman. The Library has also continued its digitization of individual images from The Persian Album of Ali Khan Vali, which contains 1,420 images documenting Ali Khan Vali’s career as governor of Azerbaijan (Northwest Persia) between 1879 and 1896; the album is especially noteworthy for its copious marginalia in Persian, currently being translated.
  • The Judaica Division reached an agreement with the Israeli Broadcasting Authority to digitize their television and radio archive, which will enable the unit to acquire the remainder of their materials, particularly from the first decade (1970s) of television in Israel, as well as even earlier radio programs.
  • Harvard–Yenching Library has engaged in the following cooperative digitization endeavors, including: a project funded through a grant from the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange and in conjunction with Princeton University, the Library of Congress, and the Academia Sinica in Taiwan to digitize 300 Chinese rare books; a project funded by the National Library of Korea to digitize 1,000 manuscript volumes of Korean rare books; and a project funded by the Harvard–Yenching Institute to digitize all of Harvard–Yenching’s Naxi pictographic manuscripts from the 1920s and 1930s.