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Harvard College Library




In FY 2010, the Harvard College Library (HCL) faced the significant challenge of carrying out its programs and services with fewer resources given a 15%—or $12 million—reduction in its budget and an attendant decrease in the endowment payout. The budget reductions were made in consideration of academic needs and with an eye toward making choices that would protect institutional strengths, minimize the impact on any single constituency, and minimize lasting harm into the future. HCL's focus has remained on ensuring its core mission: building collections; making the collections accessible; preserving them for the future; and assisting faculty, staff, and others to make effective use of library resources in their teaching and research.

Perhaps the most evident change is that the HCL workforce for FY 2010 had approximately 100 fewer positions as a result of

  • holding open more than 20 vacant positions,
  • eliminating more than 20 positions that resulted in layoffs,
  • reducing schedules for several positions,
  • eliminating many LHT and term positions at the close of their appointment periods, and
  • over 50 retirements as part of the University's voluntary early retirement incentive program (VERIP).

Library units worked creatively to fill staffing gaps by increasing cross-training efforts both within and across units.

Other reductions for FY 2010 included the following:

  • Print serial titles that were available online and with a reliable digital archive, such as JSTOR, were canceled. Over 1,000 print subscriptions were cancelled in Widener alone. These were distributed across a broad range of subject areas. Examples include: 20th Century British History, African Studies Review, Central European History, India Review, Journal of Academic Librarianship, Journal of Economic Theory; Nineteenth Century Literature, Renaissance quarterly, Russian Linguistics, Social Science History.

  • In the science libraries, collection budgets were constrained due to reductions in available funding and inflation. Many journal subscriptions were switched to "e-only," and some titles were canceled in order to support existing and new areas of research and teaching. Serials in Birkhoff Mathematics Library and Cabot Science Library were reviewed and duplicates eliminated. In the Physics Research Library, most journal subscriptions were changed to e-only, based on recommendations of the Physics Department Library Committee. All serial subscriptions for the Chemistry and Chemical Biology Library were changed to e-only. After careful assessment and consultation with the faculty, many Cabot Library journals were changed to e-only, or were canceled based on low usage.

  • Serials check-in was eliminated for many titles; binding of library materials was reduced.

  • Collections budgets were reduced in many other areas, across various libraries, affecting the purchase of books, media, special collections, and other materials. For example, Cabot's monograph allocations for FY 2010 were even lower than FY 2009. The life sciences area was flat-funded and computer science and technology was reduced 53% due to the availability of 5,500 computer texts and manuals in the Safari e-book collection.

  • The Quad Library was closed in order to preserve funding for more widely used programs and services.

  • HCL withdrew its management role in Fung Library, which also had changes in its hours, collections circulating policies, and service desk staffing.

  • The Information Desk located in the Circulation area of Widener Library was closed in an effort to dedicate staffing to other critical service points. With this loss of services for in-person reference and research assistance on the first floor, Access Services staff were called upon to answer a wider array of user inquiries. Access Services and Research Services collaborated to create a service recovery plan into place, with signage, alternatives to in-person assistance, and information resources for Access Services staff to handle reference triage.

  • The charge per lost book/item was increased from a $75 to a $100 minimum, and a $10 non-refundable billing fee is now assessed for each item billed as lost regardless of patron status. These changes were instituted in an effort to recover costs associated with re-ordering, cataloging of unreturned materials, obtaining ILL replacements and staff time devoted to billing and reconciliation of Accounts Receivable transactions.

  • Pusey Library's main entrance was closed to achieve savings in security, custodial, and utilities expenditures. Pusey is accessible via Lamont Library.

  • The Harvard Theatre Collection's separate reading room was closed on 7/1/09. As a result, Houghton Library consolidated service in a single location where all readers could benefit from the Houghton Reading Room's longer service hours.

  • In line with University efforts, capital projects were held in abeyance.

  • Professional development, training, and business travel funding was significantly curtailed.

Many libraries and units were able to maintain services with an "all hands on deck" philosophy. Loeb Music Library's budget for student staffing was significantly reduced; staff from its other departments took on shifts at the circulation desk. In Houghton Library three veteran members of the public services staff chose to retire. To fill the resulting significant void in staffing, certain technical services and collections staff serve as adjunct public services staff, spending two to six hours each week on the Reading Room Desk, learning to work in the stacks, and answering remote reference questions. Readers benefit from having different areas of expertise available at the desk; members of staff benefit from communicating more regularly, learning to appreciate one another's strengths, and making it easier to work across departments in all areas of the Library.

Despite the enormous challenges the Library faced in FY 2010, units and staff across HCL worked together to ensure that the highest possible quality of service was maintained. The challenges have allowed for some positive developments, including opportunities to realign workflows and to pursue cross-library collaboration, to focus on special collections, and to re-evaluate the ways in which we do our work.