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Graduate and Professional School Libraries

Andover-Harvard Theological Library

Andover-Harvard Theological Library


Harvard Divinity School

Andover-Harvard Theological Library

Report of Laura C. Wood, Librarian



Andover-Harvard Theological Library provides access to and guidance in the use of scholarly resources for the teaching and research activities of Harvard Divinity School and the wider University. By delivering exceptional services, the library seeks to meet and anticipate changing scholarly needs. The library cultivates a welcoming, user-oriented environment for teaching, learning, and collaboration among students, scholars, and librarians, and strives to remain a source of world-class collections for the study of religion.


Providing services with fewer staff

Through attrition, the permanent cataloging staff decreased from five to three full-time staff members, leaving major questions about how we would accommodate the ongoing cataloging needs of the library. An increased use of macros for automation and several adjustments to local cataloging policies dramatically increased cataloger productivity in ways that should be invisible to the user. Cataloging of new receipts has been maintained. However, our capacity for addressing cataloging backlogs has been substantially compromised.

Reducing collection expenses

We continued our efforts to reduce duplication with other Harvard libraries by coordinating the cancellation of monograph series from European publishers and journal subscriptions. We also coordinated with HCL to modify the approval plan for our primary vendor of English-language materials.

When the price for a specialized e-resource increased by over 600% and renegotiation discussions broke down, the libraries consulted with faculty and decided to downgrade our license to provide the resource at select designated library workstations rather than unlimited online access.

Finding additional ways to reduce expenditures

To achieve additional reductions in operating expenditures, we made numerous small cuts. The two largest reductions were to stop binding paperbacks and to reduce library hours. The library hours were reduced 11% and resulted in a drop in recorded entrances—4% lower than our high in FY 2009. However, this still represents a 6% increase over FY 2008. No complaints were received about the change.

Maintaining existing collections

Every year we spend considerable effort to control and protect the collections we have. This year, the library moved forward on a project to inventory the circulating collections. By year's end, student workers had spent more than 430 hours reviewing over 91,000 items. While more than 96% were listed correctly in the catalog, staff made over 3,000 corrections to ensure accurate holdings and improve retrieval. An estimated two-thirds of the circulating collections remain to be inventoried.

Notable Acquisitions

Notable acquisitions this year included the electronic Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception, the World Religion Database of statistics on religious affiliation, and 71 boxes of materials collected and created by the Pluralism Project at Harvard University.

Unitarian Universalist and Liberal Religious Pamphlets and Ephemera Project

In 1982, we assembled and microfilmed a collection of pamphlets, sermons, brochures, articles, and other ephemera, dated 1801–1970. Use of these materials has been limited, however, since the abbreviated cataloging they received at the time of preservation was not available in HOLLIS for the last decade. This year, we began to remedy this discovery problem. Over 20,000 brief records describing these rare and unique materials were loaded into HOLLIS. Special funding supported 16 months of cataloging to upgrade the records and provide full authority control. Half the cataloging is complete and the remainder has been postponed, pending further funding.

"Holocaust Rescue and Relief: Digitized Records of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee" (UUSC)
Throughout and after World War II, the UUSC aided displaced persons in Europe by providing, food, clothing, medical care, and orphanages. They also aided hundreds of people in their efforts to leave war-torn Europe and establish new lives in the United States. In partnership with the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, we digitized roughly 257 boxes of archival material (237,481 documents and 3,121 photographs) dated from 1939 to 1967. These high-demand collections are now accessible online:

Easy Search Access to Core E-Resources

The library homepage now features a search box allowing a direct search into the most-used resources for the study of religion and theology. Library users have consistently requested a search option like this—a single box immediately accessible on the library page—to provide a quick starting point for searching licensed resources in the field. Our thanks to OIS for the development of this tool and collaboration with HDS IT and Media Services to implement it! The same tool is also being applied in other contexts to provide customized search options.

January Program, "Religion Through the Ages: Treasures in the Harvard Libraries"

For three half days (January 20–22, 2010), ten master's and doctoral students visited Harvard-Yenching, Schlesinger, Houghton, and Andover-Harvard with our research librarians to get acquainted with selected unique collections of primary sources and to consider how they might incorporate special collections into future study. The program was designed to familiarize students with several Harvard libraries, expose them to library treasures illustrating religious life through the ages, and increase their comfort with librarians as allies for navigating library collections. Student feedback was overwhelmingly positive. One student commented: "I enjoyed the breadth and informality of the visits and exposure to the collections. This really made the libraries turn into friends." Another said, "Through the texts and manuscripts, I met extremely fascinating people who I had never ever heard of, and I can't wait to get to know them better."


Collaboration with other units at Harvard is an essential element of the work that we do. Nearly all of the activities described above were only possible because our colleagues throughout the Harvard libraries have provided generous assistance, consultation, and partnership. These collaborations are formal and informal, scheduled and impromptu. In return, our library endeavors to be a "good HUL citizen" by offering our support to others and participating in joint initiatives whenever we can, despite our small size.


Despite the financial challenges that dominated much of our planning, the Andover-Harvard Library is thriving. Demand for library services remains stable, as seen through circulation, building use, and research services.  And robust use of new services, such as our public scanning station, the January term program, and Scan and Deliver, lead us to believe we are investing our limited resources wisely.