For Classical Archaeology Professor Adrian Staehli, a day of research involves darting across campus from library to library.
Staehli’s research centers on Greco-Roman sculpture and painting, and requires him to compare texts from across the University library system.
As universities begin to take steps to digitize their library collections, it would seem that Staehli’s life is about to get a lot easier—but the digitization of library texts may come at a price.
Some of the books Staehli uses measure more than six feet in height, and the experience of handling these unique, highly-detailed books cannot be replicated on a computer screen, he says.
While it takes only a second to flip a page, it can sometimes take up to several hours to download a high-quality file, he noted.
As Harvard moves forward with its plans to massively revise the organization of its 73 libraries, Staehli says he worries that his unique concerns as a classical archaeologist fall on deaf ears.
“We hardly are informed about the restructuring. We hardly have any influence,” Staehli says. “And sometimes, of course, it is hard to see the purpose.”
Staehli says he has chosen to remain optimistic about the plans. But he is not the only member of the Harvard community to express concern over the administration’s lack of communication as it seeks to bring the University’s monumental library system into the 21st century.
When Harvard University Library Executive Director Helen Shenton announced the possibility of layoffs in January, she inadvertently sparked a public relations nightmare for University administrators, who struggled to convey the details of library restructuring to an angry staff and a bewildered faculty.
As doubts about the future of Harvard libraries have mounted, what faculty, library workers, and administrators have called lackluster communication on the part of the University has led the Harvard community to question whether a restructured library system will meet its needs.
Hundreds of library staff members gathered to hear a major announcement in a series of town hall meetings on Jan. 19.
“The new organizational design has not yet been approved, but it is certain that it will be different from the current one,” Shenton said. “A key change: the Library workforce will be smaller than it is now.”
Her statement precipitated a wave of rumors among Harvard employees.
“All of Harvard Library staff have just effectively been fired,” wrote one library employee on Twitter shortly after the first town hall meeting.
Library Board Selects Executive DirectorThe members of the newly established governing board of the University Library system announced Monday that Helen Shenton, current deputy director of the Harvard University Library and former member of the leadership team of the British Library, will serve as the first Harvard Library executive director.
University Revises Library Structure
Harvard Libraries Plan To Cut Back on StaffThe Harvard University Library system will seek to reduce the size of its workforce as part of an ongoing restructuring process, according to a transcript of remarks made by Harvard University Library Executive Director Helen Shenton at one of three town hall meetings held Thursday.
Online Chat Disturbs Library EmployeesA transcript alleging to show a virtual conversation between University officials and a concerned library worker sparked confusion and distress among library staff last week.
Some Library Workers Choose Early RetirementSixty-five Harvard University Library employees have accepted early retirement packages as part of the Library’s Voluntary Early Retirement Incentive Program, according to a University spokesperson.
University Will Not Significantly Cut Library StaffDespite initiatives to centralize its workforce, the Harvard Library System will not be significantly reducing its approximately 930 person staff, according to an emailed announcement from Harvard University Library Executive Director Helen Shenton and Senior Associate Provost for the Harvard Library Mary Lee Kennedy.