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

Special Presidential Funds for Collecting

Special Presidential Funds for Collecting


For many years the Library has been challenged to stretch its collection budgets in a time marked by significant increases in publishing output; intense price increases that consistently outpace inflation; and a weakened dollar that lost about one-third of its value relative to both the euro and the pound between 2000 and 2008, particularly impacting libraries like Harvard that have major international collections. Given these conditions, the lack of growth in the Library's funding, and the resulting diminished ability to acquire collections, Robert Darnton, Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and Director of the University Library, requested relief funding from President Faust. As a result, in FY 2009, the Harvard Libraries were the beneficiaries of an extraordinary transfer of $1 million of Presidential Funds for collections. Of that amount, Professor Darnton directed $925,000 to the Harvard College Library, primarily for the purchase of monographic materials from areas of traditional collecting strength. Approximately $855,000 was divided among selection units within Widener Library. The two largest subcategories of spending were for French/Italian and Germanic collections and for materials from Great Britain and Ireland, while the balance was spent on materials acquired from other geographic areas and in other languages, including Latin America/Spain/Portugal, Middle East, Modern Greek, and Slavic. The remaining $70,000 of funding allocated to the College Library was used to support processing for these new acquisitions, including orders, receipts and payment, and cataloging. Thus, the materials were not only acquired in FY 2009, but they were also made available to library users in a timely manner.

This special support substantially augmented the acquisition coverage of recently published monographs. While many had feared that materials from the early 2000s would already be out of print, our vendors managed to fill almost 80% of our requests. This one-time infusion of funding was thus instrumental in redressing collection shortfalls from the recent past.

To accommodate the need for increased support for acquiring and processing these materials purchased with Presidential Funds, a variety of approaches were implemented with vendors, including utilizing existing and new approval plans, placing firm orders, online ordering, hiring student workers, and establishing Retroacq, a major project to retrospectively acquire French-language material published since 2002. As part of the project, guidelines were set up with four vendors to whom printed bibliographies were sent, with selections marked in lieu of firm orders. Of the Retroacq materials, a substantial number of titles had full copy cataloging records in OCLC, partially due to the fact that these had imprints as far back as 2001 or 2002. Through the Retroacq project, 8,000 titles were added to the French/Italian collections that otherwise would not have been acquired. Retroacq was a model of cooperative effort, with exceptional efforts from the four vendors and their staff, working closely with HCL Technical Services' French/Italian Division, Widener Collection Development, and mailroom staff.

In addition to the 8,000 French/Italian titles added to Widener Library's Western European collections, receipts of Germanic materials increased, and the number of Scandinavian orders and receipts doubled over the course of FY 2009. This significant growth in the collections would not have been possible without the infusion of Presidential Funds. The College Library is grateful to President Faust and Professor Darnton for earmarking this funding for collecting. Our library users have been and will continue to be the ultimate beneficiaries as they utilize the materials in their research and teaching.