May 21, 2022

Harvard U. Library Announces New Organizational Design and Strategic Direction

From Today’s Letter to the Harvard Community by Harvard U. Provost Alan Garber:

Today, I write to share how a new organizational design and strategic direction, recently recommended by the Library Board, will position the Harvard Library to respond to the evolving expectations of the 21stcentury scholar.

The new Library organizational design enables Harvard to respond nimbly to the constantly shifting demands of the Information Age. It replaces a fragmented system of 73 libraries spread across the Schools with one that promotes University-wide collaboration. The new Library will harness both the power of a unified Harvard and the distinctive contributions of the Schools, which will retain responsibility for work that requires deep knowledge of research, teaching and learning needs within their respective domains. These changes will benefit everyone who uses the Harvard Library. A single access policy will make borrowing easier at every library location. Library experts in all subject areas will be available to answer questions and deliver information quickly. Working together, we can leverage Harvard’s buying power, set a high and consistent standard for service delivery and pursue a University-wide collection development strategy that strengthens our holdings.

In pursuing this new strategic direction, we will make better use of the resources we commit to acquisitions and collection management. There also will be changes that affect staff at every level of the library system. The details of many of these changes are being developed, and they will be announced in the coming weeks. It is clear at this

In recent decades, the libraries have struggled to collect the books, journals and other research materials desired by faculty and students. They have had to cope with steadily rising prices, the cost of providing both electronic and paper versions, the expansion of the University’s intellectual horizons and the duplication of efforts throughout a disjointed library system. Our analysis showed that these challenges have persisted despite the fact that Harvard spends on average more than twice as much as its peer universities on its libraries, devoting 3.3% of its overall budget to libraries while its peers spend on average 1.9% of their budgets.

The new organizational design unifies functions that occur within all libraries—Access Services, Technical Services and Preservation and Digital Imaging Services.point, however, that they will include but not be limited to adjustments in how and where many staff members perform the work that has made the library one of the University’s greatest treasures.


The new strategic direction will encourage the Library to partner with Schools to create a single point of procurement for e-resources. It will also support collaboration between the Library and the Schools to implement a system-wide collection development strategy and a system-wide access policy. The strategic direction also commits the Harvard Library to providing greater and faster access to materials housed outside Harvard, as recent partnerships with Borrow Direct and the HathiTrust demonstrate. Since the launch of Borrow Direct in June, for example, Harvard patrons borrowed several thousand items not available in the Harvard Library collection and received them twice as quickly as they would have with Interlibrary Loan.


Change of this magnitude is challenging and understandably prompts many questions and concerns. We recognize that members of the talented Library staff are anxious to see how the transition will affect them as individuals, and we are confident that our new strategic direction will ultimately produce gratifying new responsibilities and career development opportunities.

See Also: President Faust’s Reflections on the Future of the Harvard Library, February 8, 2012

See Also: Reaction from the Twittersphere (#hlth)

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.