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The Graduate and Professional School Libraries

Loeb Library


Report of Hugh Wilburn, Librarian


The Frances Loeb Library supports the educational and research programs of Harvard’s Graduate School of Design (GSD) which offers professional, post-professional, and doctoral degrees in the fields of architecture, landscape architecture, and urban planning and design. The Design School community includes approximately 600 students, 50 tenured, adjunct, associate, and assistant professors, 50 visiting faculty and design critics, and 100 staff members. The library is also used by students and faculty from throughout the Harvard community, design professionals, and visiting scholars from around the world.

Librarians from the Loeb Design Library work collaboratively with colleagues across the University, serving on over fifteen committees overseen by the University Library Council. Cooperative planning and collaboration are guiding forces in the effort to provide resources of depth and variety for the school’s students and faculty members. Staff members of the Loeb Design Library work with colleagues across the Graduate School of Design to support the work of the school, serving on the Design School’s emergency management team, staff and community committee, the GSD web committee, and the advanced study programs advisory group.

Collection Development

Collection development activities for the year included continued collaboration with the library’s technical services department to streamline the identification of heavily circulating titles and to expedite the ordering of additional copies.

The folio collection, after a thorough and well documented inventory completed by an intern sponsored by the Art Libraries Society of North America in the summer of 2007, was the subject of additional scrutiny in the spring of 2008. With input from the Special Collections librarian and the Conservation librarian, the collection was examined to identify titles and/or copies for possible withdrawal, taking into account duplication within the Loeb Library and with other libraries at Harvard. The installation of new folio shelving allowed the collection to remain in the library in Gund Hall, with only a few items destined for offsite storage. Utilizing review and selection criteria developed during a pilot program last year, several additional sections of the general circulating collection were reviewed and titles/copies were identified for weeding or future relocation to the Harvard Depository.

Design School librarians participated in a number of University-wide resource evaluations and purchases, including the newly available Applied Science and Technology Retrospective Index, Urban Studies Abstracts, the census product “Social Explorer,” and the transfer of our most heavily used index, the Avery Architectural Periodical Index, to a new platform.


The program of instruction in the use of library resources continues to most effectively reach students in targeted small group settings. Presentations were made to a number of classes or groups within the GSD community. Summer sessions included orientation sessions for students enrolled in the English as a Second Language program and a session for the Executive Education program’s Advanced Management Development Program in Real Estate. Special tours for the Loeb Fellowship Program participants, Doctor of Design students, and Master of Design students were held at the beginning of the fall term. Classroom instruction sessions were requested by a number of faculty members, including a session for a History of Landscape Architecture course, Urban Planning Core Studio, and a second session for Doctor of Design students in the Design Research Methods seminar. A fall session on the use of the Digital Sanborn Map collection, co-taught by Sarah Dickinson, Head of Reference and Collection Development, and faculty member Paul Cote, was offered again this year.

A pilot writing workshop was offered this year, a joint endeavor between the library and the Advanced Studies Program. The three-part workshop, designed to assist Master of Design students with meeting the new final project requirement for the program, was offered to the whole student body, and was well received.

The learning opportunities standing committee, a new university library committee reporting to the public services coordinating committee, brought reference colleagues across the campus together to create learning opportunities for public services staff in the Harvard University Libraries. The initial offering of the committee was a lunch program on working with image resources.


70,587 volumes of books and periodicals circulated during the academic year, continuing the trend of decreases from previous years that began in 2006. The total number of books shelved dropped by seventeen percent (a total of 99,716 volumes), continuing a trend noticed since 2004. Students continued heavily using the ability to renew their books online through the HOLLIS catalog. Ninety-eight percent of the 32,126 renewals were accomplished online.

Students found books in the library more easily because the books and periodical volumes are shelved more quickly. In response to a need identified through work with the GSD Student Forum, the library continued to prioritize staff attention to quick and accurate shelving of books, resulting in greater availability of the collections.

Interlibrary loan activity increased significantly. The library lent more materials to other academic institutions, and also borrowed more material for affiliates of the Design School. Interlibrary loan activity increased by 47 percent.

Technical Services

Staff members participated in a project to weed, box, and move the folio collection. Collection growth rates were determined to assist in planning a shelving installation for the coming year, which will require a shift of the majority of the circulating collection.

The department continues to maintain a backlog-free level of ordering, receiving, and cataloging. A total of 2,870 volumes were added to the library collection.

Staff members serve important roles in the cooperative work and numerous committees that carry forward many activities of the Harvard University Libraries. The department chair Janet Rutan is a member of the ALEPH standing committee as well as the ALEPH acquisitions, serials, and financial committee. She also co-chairs the technical services managers group. Cataloger Page Nelson serves as the ALEPH liaison for the library, and represents the Design School at the monthly cataloging discussion group and the rare book catalogers affinity group.


The Conservation department oversees preservation activities throughout the library, focusing on both preventative measures and individual conservation treatments of books and flat paper objects from the rare and the circulating collections. During the past year the conservator performed 401 minor and 300 major treatments.

The conservator worked on a variety of special projects during the year. A sizable collection of architectural photographic reproductions of the renderings and technical drawings for the Jackson House by Eliot Noyes was conserved and re-housed. Ten of the blueprints were flattened, cleaned, and extensively repaired. The rest of the collection was flattened and re-housed. The conservator participated in the folio project by checking the condition of the volumes and identifying the books that needed protective enclosures or, in the case of multiple copies, specifying volumes that were withdrawn because of their condition.

The conservator researched a new climate monitoring system and together with the Library Information Systems department purchased five new generation data loggers designed by the Image Permanence Institute at the Rochester Institute of Technology. The new software is web based and has proven easier to manage.

Continuing education is essential for successful conservation work, and conservator Irina Gorstein attended a number of presentations including the Harvard lecture “Salting to Taste: Evolution of the Salted Print,” delivered by Mark Osterman; “Introduction to Pressure-Sensitive Adhesive Tapes: History, Characterization, Removal of Tapes and Adhesive Stains from Paper” by Thea Burns of the Weissman Preservation Center; and a seminar on “Conservation of Tracing Paper” taught by Hildegard Homburger in Berlin.

The department established a 90-hour paid post-graduate conservation internship and hired a recent graduate of the bookbinding program at the North Bennet Street School in Boston to work during the summer.

Visual Resources

The staff of the Visual Resources department focused on collection development, cataloging, acquiring digital images, and outreach to GSD faculty and students. The department continued working closely with the Library Information Systems department and the Imaging Lab to increase digital image production and acquisition, and 11,981 digital images were added during the past year. Currently there are a total of 38,124 digital images available in VIA (the University’s Visual Image Access online catalog), out of a total of 94,875 image records from the Design School. Active collection development and work with the Library’s Information Systems department and its Imaging Lab account for the significant increase in digital images, 4,754 more than last year. 

Outreach activities were increased and included the introduction of film nights called “After Hours,” to highlight the variety of films about design in the collection. Staff members participated in bibliographic instruction sessions for individual classes to emphasize the image collections held by the library and show students tools used to discover and exploit them.

Departmental staff worked closely with staff from the Library Information Systems and Instructional Technology department to administer a series of “content creation” grants from the Provost’s Office. These grants allow library staff to work with faculty members and student assistants to digitize and catalog images used in their courses. At the completion of each grant the images become available in VIA for use by the Harvard community. Grants this year included:

Eve Blau’s teaching collection for “Metropolis, Modernity, and Place in Central Europe 1880–1970” (a total of 545 images);

  • Mark Mulligan’s teaching collection for “Building Technology” (projected total of 1,500 images); and
  • John Beardsley’s teaching collection for “Theories and Practice of Contemporary Landscape Architecture 1950–2006” (projected total of 2,200 images).    

The department chair is a member of the VIA Working Group, which oversees developments and policies for Harvard’s online public catalog for images in the libraries and museums. She is the chair of the OLIVIA Working Group, which oversees the database that records the cataloging of image collections at Harvard. Committee activities included creating guidelines, training and assisting new users, and reviewing the metadata and vocabularies entered into the system. The Loeb Design Library uses OLIVIA to catalog all 35 mm slides and digital images and to link catalog records to images stored in the Digital Repository Service (DRS).

Instructional Technology and Library Information Systems

The Loeb Design Library includes a department that combines support for library information systems with support for evolving methods of instructional technology and outreach to faculty members. The department assists faculty, teaching fellows, and staff members using the evolving Harvard learning management system called Courseware and iSites, under the administrative direction of the iCommons group. The use of course web sites by GSD faculty members continues to grow, and the variety of tools they employ continues to expand.

Workflows and policies of the Imaging Lab were further refined by departmental staff members in cooperation with the Visual Resources, Special Collections, and Conservation departments. The significant increase last year in digital acquisitions and creation for the Visual Resources collections continued this year, concentrated in the three “content creation” grant projects mentioned earlier in this report.

The department head communicates between the library and the school’s computer resources group, the Harvard Libraries Office for Information Systems (OIS), and Harvard’s University Information System (UIS) group. In this role he is responsible for ongoing upgrades, implementations, and trouble-shooting for the library’s pay-for-print system, staff and public information technology needs, library connectivity, and all library-related software applications for staff members. The department head chairs the library’s web group, overseeing the complex organization and evolving content of the library’s main information portal.

Special Collections

699 requests for Rare Book Room book and periodical titles were received during the past year. 298 readers made significant use of the resources of the Le Corbusier Research Collection.

The “special collections,” the papers of designers and design firms, are used by faculty members and students from the GSD and the broader Harvard community. Researchers visiting Harvard from a variety of institutions made use of materials in the Special Collections department. Continuing research interest is focused particularly on the Alison and Peter Smithson Archive, the Josep Lluis Sert Collection, the CIAM Archive, the H. H. Richardson Collection, the Eleanor Raymond Collection, the Dan Kiley Archive, the Hugh Stubbins Archive, the Edward Larrabee Barnes Collection, and the TAC Archive.

Among the printed works acquired by purchase during the year for the Rare Book Room were the Prince de Ligne’s Mon Refuge in the unique London 1801 edition; a copy of Patout’s photogravure portfolio of the 1925 Arts Décoratifs exposition; a group of printed programs related to the IV CIAM Congress of 1933, Ahner’s significant landscape study, Ansichten aus dem Park zu Muskau (ca. 1850); a copy of Fritz Schumacher’s Zeitfragen der Architektur (1929); and Charles Caryl’s 1897–98 Utopian schema New Era; a copy of N. B. Sokolov’s hard-to-come-by A. V. Shchusev [Moscow, 1952]; and an unusual Soviet edition of Palladio’s Four Books, published in Moscow in 1936 as Chetyre Knigi, the first complete translation published in Russian.

Also received were a variety of publications from researchers and a substantial gift from Christianne Collins of titles related to the development of Vienna’s ringstrassen and of fine arts journals from the 1920s and 1930s, including Cahiers d’Art, Le Minotaure, and Die Kunst im Dritten Reich.

Highlights of additions to the archival special collections include:

  • A collection of typescript and manuscript texts, correspondence, photographs, and ephemera (largely by or related to Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr.) were added to the Olmsted Collection. This was complemented by a generous research award to encourage Olmsted research, established by the Gill Family Foundation. [Gift of Margaret and Stephen Gill]
  • Received from the estate of William LeMessurier was an array of plans, photographs, research files, and material relating to his teaching activities at the GSD and MIT. [Gift of Mrs. Dorothy LeMessurier]
  • Additions to the previous gift received from the Estate of Jerzy Soltan included research and job files and a notable collection of slides, offering especially valuable documentation of work by Le Corbusier. [Gift of Johanna and Karol Soltan]
  • The final installment of the Robert Geddes Archive; drawings, plans, photographs, correspondence, research files, and ephemera documenting the work of Robert Geddes (GSD ’50) as a planner, architect, critic, and educator. [Gift of Robert Geddes]

Exhibitions mounted in the department included “Pillsbury & Vaughan: Midcentury Modern in Boston,” which included materials from the Louisa Vaughan Conrad Collection documenting the first area shop offering furniture designed by Alvar Aalto; “Cool Things,” a mélange of Rare Book Room and Special Collections materials with wintry content, and, “By and For the Muslim Community,” which focused on work by Sert Jackson Associates and Alison & Peter Smithson in the Middle East.

Loans of materials were made for exhibitions elsewhere (in both original and digital format) to the Centre Canadien d’Architecture (Eleanor Raymond Collection), to the Historical Museum of Southern Florida (Sert Collection), the Collegi d’Arquitectes de Barcelona (Smithson, Sert, and TAC Archives), and to the Museu Valencia (Sert Collection).

Mary Daniels, librarian for special collections, attended the annual meeting of the Society of Architectural Historians where she was a panelist in a program that discussed “The Use of Landscape Architecture Archives in the Classroom and the Studio.” She has also been involved in the project sponsored by Historic New England, Inc. to establish a database of Modernist residences in New England.