Harvard and MIT libraries today announced the possibility of a long-term collaboration that will explore joint efforts to preserve digital materials, ease access between library catalogues, and build a new shared storage site.
The two library systems, authorized and mandated by provosts from both Harvard and MIT, will deliver a plan of action by this June. There will be assessments every 12 months over an initial three-year period, according to University Professor Robert C. Darnton ’60, who served as administrative director of the Harvard University Library before the administrative restructuring.
The most “exciting” part of this collaboration is the possibility of developing new ways to preserve digital materials, according to Darnton.
“[Harvard and MIT] are both in the process for developing long-term digital preservation of resources that we already own,” Director of MIT Libraries Ann J. Wolpert said.
“Electronic texts are not resistant to changes as our paper texts are ... [and] it is important that we keep them alive,” Darnton said.
By mobilizing computer science experts at Harvard and MIT, the project will look into new methods for long-term digital preservation that also will be applicable to other digital libraries, Darnton added.
Another long-term goal of this potential collaboration would be that Harvard students and faculty members have full access to printed materials in all MIT libraries, and vice versa, according to Darnton. When combined, the two library systems would make available 20 million volumes of printed material to the students and faculty at both universities.
While reciprocal borrowing has been in place between Harvard College Library and MIT libraries in the past, access to Harvard’s graduate and professional school libraries was limited, Wolpert said.
In addition, the university libraries will explore new models of licensing that may lower prices for electronic materials, according to Wolpert.
“The present model requires that we have two different licenses [for the two library systems],” Wolpert said.
If the project moves forward, an additional off-site depository likely will be added to serve both library systems.
Harvard and MIT have shared the Harvard Depository since it opened in 1986.
“It seems like a great collaboration to bring both collections,” Wolpert said. “[The library systems at Harvard and MIT] are two magnificent collections in Cambridge and they don’t overlap too much, given the different foci of the universities.”
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