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LDI Looks Toward the Next Five Years

As part of a planned analysis of the Library Digital Initiative (LDI) to determine its achievements toward stated goals and to recommend options for its future, Harvard's President and Provost convened an advisory board for the LDI in 2003. The board, comprising a nationwide group of academic and IT-industry leaders, found that LDI had been highly successful in creating the technical infrastructure necessary for digital library development and that it had substantially increased expertise among staff at the University. In a related action, the University Library Director's Office announced that support from the Central Administration for LDI would be extended for a second five-year period.

The Library Digital Initiative was established in 1998 to address three key aims:

  • To make it easier for Harvard's libraries to maintain their collections and services in the digital era, without each library's having to individually acquire the expertise and systems needed to support digital resources.
  • To create a coherent environment as digital collections grow. One objective was to avoid having individual schools create individual digital environments—environments unlikely to interoperate or to provide an organized or consistent view of resources available to the Harvard community.
  • To integrate digital resources with Harvard's existing physical collections. LDI is intended to provide users with integrated access to Harvard's rich resources, regardless of format.

According to Sidney Verba, Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and Director of the University Library, "It's important to remember that, from the outset, LDI was not meant to establish digital collections. Instead, LDI was established to recognize the growing necessity of comprehensive digital collections and to provide a robust, integrated, and University-wide framework that would address the questions of acquisition, access, authenticity, and preservation that digital collections present.

"Obviously, the report of the LDI advisory board is a very gratifying response to the University's initial investments in LDI—and to all of the accomplishments of the Harvard library community. The report is equally challenging in its description of the complex and vital work that lies ahead of us. That work lies in two major areas: the further integration of Harvard's digital resources with its research and instruction and the need for sustained, cross-faculty development of comprehensive, multi-faceted digital resources and collections."

The LDI advisory board also found that Harvard's approach is rare among its institutional peers. In the case of many digital library initiatives, individual projects develop in isolation, and no common architecture binds them. Harvard's approach enabled the development of an infrastructure that is proving truly essential and "fundamental to [Harvard's] academic mission."

Much of the work of LDI was accomplished through its Internal Challenge Grant Program. Through these challenge grants, Harvard libraries and repositories achieved specific goals for digital collections and tested the systems and services developed through the LDI. These programs involved close collaborations with 25 discrete academic units (including 21 libraries and other repositories and 4 non-library units) distributed across 7 Harvard faculties. From those units, more than 120 library and IT professionals worked closely with the staff of the University Library's Office for Information Systems to develop and implement a robust, user-friendly, University-wide digital infrastructure. According to Provost Steven E. Hyman, "The success and achievement of LDI to date is rooted in the strength and depth of these vital interfaculty collaborations."

The LDI advisory board included:

  • Sarah Thomas, committee chair, University Librarian, Cornell University
  • Nancy Cline, Roy E. Larsen Librarian of Harvard College
  • John F. Keane, Sr., Chairman, Keane, Inc.
  • Clifford A. Lynch, Coalition of Networked Information
  • Stuart Shieber, James O. Welch, Jr., and Virginia B. Welch Professor of Computer Science (FAS)
  • Megan Sniffin-Marinoff, Librarian and Deputy Director, Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study
  • Karen Trainer, University Librarian, Princeton University
  • Elizabeth Hess, committee staff, Senior Specialist for Academic Computing, Office of the Provost

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Last modified on Thursday, July 24, 2003.