Harvard Libraries Cuts Jobs, Hours

Spokeswoman says unclear 'at this point' which libraries are most affected

Harvard College Library has eliminated over 20 staff positions and cut hours for several other employees as part of the University-wide layoffs announced this past week, according to an e-mail sent to staff by HCL's head librarian Nancy M. Cline.

An "all-staff" meeting will be held later this summer to "outline some of the plans for rebuilding HCL" in the wake of the recent reductions, according to Cline's e-mail. She also wrote that associate librarians will visit units in HCL in coming weeks to meet and discuss the changes with staff.

A part of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, HCL administers Widener, Lamont, and Cabot Science libraries among others.

Laying off employees is only the most recent budget-cutting measure implemented in Harvard's libraries. Administrators decided to convert the Quad library into student social space in order to reduce costs, and House libraries have been forced to trim employment hours and restrict student hiring to meet a mandated 25 percent House budget reduction.

The library cuts as well as others in FAS come as a result of a projected $220 million annual deficit by fiscal year 2011. Recent cuts account for only $77 million of that total, which FAS Dean Michael D. Smith says must be eliminated over the next two years.

The budget shortfall is the result of an anticipated $125 million reduction in the payout from the University's endowment to FAS by fiscal year 2011, as well as various expenses and structural deficits that have been exacerbated by faculty hiring and capital expansions in FAS earlier in the decade, according to a recent report in Harvard Magazine, which cited statements from Smith.

The library system has already eliminated duplicate print subscriptions for digitally available content, centralized technical services, and streamlined staff duties at various research service desks, according to HCL spokeswoman Beth Brainard.

Brainard said that she could not say "at this point" which libraries would be hit hardest by the layoffs, offering only that "our work is all interrelated" and "when so many people leave the workforce, it affects everyone." She declined to comment on where HCL's staff reductions would take place and the specific numbers of layoffs in the libraries, or on HCL's participation levels in the University's voluntary early retirement incentive program accepted by over 500 staffers this spring.

But she did note that "HCL continues to face a significant deficit" and that "the majority of the positions [becoming] vacant will not be filled."

In February, The Crimson reported that Cline had said at a State of the Libraries meeting that HCL's budgeting goal in fiscal year 2010 was to reduce its budget by $12 million, according to an excerpt of an internal HCL news update provided by a library staffer who wished to remain anonymous to preserve their relationship with administrators as layoffs loom.

But Brainard yesterday would only say that HCL had been asked to plan for a 15 percent budget cut this coming year, as have other departments throughout FAS. She said the $12 million figure is incorrect, and that both budget numbers and staffing levels have been "in flux."

Brainard also flatly denied recent rumors that administrators are considering changing Lamont Library's hours or limiting its accessibility to certain houses as part of HCL's budget cuts.

Brainard has come to represent the sole public voice of HCL, with staffers approached by The Crimson in person or over the phone almost unfailingly adhering to the HCL-wide policy of referring any media communications to her. Employees declined to share their personal feelings on the recent cuts as well, and one staffer in Lamont, when prodded by the Crimson for thoughts on the layoffs, quipped that "we're not allowed to have opinions."

Harvard College Library oversees the circulation of more than 11 million library items, ranging from maps to films to rare books and manuscripts, and employs over 600 staff members, according to its Web site. The University has combined holdings of over 16 million items in its more than 70 libraries.

—Staff writer Peter F. Zhu can be reached at pzhu@fas.harvard.edu.