Veritas Huloar
Red Spacer

Report of Nancy M. Cline, Roy E. Larsen Librarian




This was a year of unprecedented change. Summer 2008 was a time of planning and looking forward: the Library anticipated using strategic payout from a broad range of its endowed funds; was in the midst of a multi-year process of adjusting professional salaries to meet university compensation standards; was developing responses to curricular changes in FAS; and was working to strengthen relationships with the academic departments, General Education, the Writing Program, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and new leadership in the College. HCL had weathered budget challenges several years prior. It was a time to look forward with energy and optimism.

Fall arrived with early warnings on the national and international economic fronts, signs that quickly produced an impact Harvard. The endowment—what had been the Harvard's strength and provided for great flexibility across every aspect of the University's programs—went into steep decline. A new reality set in across Harvard—one in which resources were diminishing at every turn.

As was required by all units in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), HCL was faced with the difficult task of reducing its budget. Planning for the FY 2010 budget required a reduction of 15% or $12 million in unrestricted funds. In evaluating how to structure the reductions, the following principles were considered: impact on academic programs; creating inconvenience vs. causing lasting harm; making reductions in areas that could more easily be rebuilt in the future; protecting our institutional strengths; minimizing impacts on any single constituency; and protecting previous investments in people, collections, and facilities. As a significant portion of the annual budget must be committed to costs such as facilities, utilities, security, housekeeping, fees, assessments, rents, postage, and shipping/transporting, it became evident that budget reductions would in large part have to be made in the Library's other major expense categories: collections and personnel.

Although much time and effort in FY 2009 was spent planning for the budget changes of the upcoming fiscal year, HCL continued to focus on its priorities:

  • developing collections that respond to the teaching and research needs of the University;
  • making these materials accessible through our online catalogs and through our teaching and outreach programs;
  • ensuring that our collections are cared for properly; and
  • fostering an environment in which students and others can make effective use of Harvard's vast resources.

This was especially challenging due to the hiring limitations instituted by FAS in November 2008—all vacant positions were stringently reviewed; most were held open. Although immediate salary savings were achieved, the Library was already faced with having fewer staff to carry out its ongoing work. At the same time, HCL was the recipient of special, one-time funding for collections to be spent within FY 2009. It was a year for balancing the austere budget conditions on the horizon with unexpected resources in the present. Despite the challenges of this bifurcated reality, HCL had an active year of growth, development, and improvement across its many libraries and units, in large part thanks to the dedication of staff, who remained committed to their work in the face of an uncertain future.