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Library Administration To Be Redefined

By Gautam S. Kumar and Sirui Li, Crimson Staff Writers

Harvard’s Library Implementation Work Group announced yesterday a major change to the administrative organization of the Harvard University Library, following through on recommendations presented by a task force last fall.

The new administrative structure will have an oversight board chaired by the University provost and comprised of between 9 and 11 professors and deans. The board—whose members will be decided in the next few weeks—will appoint an executive director for the library system.

Current library director Robert C. Darnton ’60, who is also a University Professor, will no longer serve as director after this academic year, allowing another administrator to step into the new structure. Darnton will continue to advise the director, who will also work closely with Librarian of Harvard College Nancy M. Cline.

The Task Force on University Libraries advised the University to make such changes in a report released in Nov. 2009, but until now improvements to the nation’s largest academic library have been slow to materialize.

“The goal of this [administrative restructuring] is to really position Harvard to be more at the cutting edge with regard to developing IT infrastructure, resources—digital being the key fabric for not only research but also the medium for academic content,” said Divinity School Professor David C. Lamberth, chair of the Harvard Library Implementation Work Group.

While the current governing structure remained decentralized, with schools autonomously managing their schools autonomously managing their respective libraries, the new structure is intended to build coordination through a more centralized administration, making disparate libraries more “harmonized,” Lamberth said.

Lamberth said that through this consolidation, however, the library will continue efforts to enlist professors from different schools, ensuring that the Harvard University Library maintains its robust collections in very specialized fields.

In perhaps the most tangible improvement that students might perceive, Lamberth said that he hopes, in particular, to see great improvements in connecting IT resources with the materials on bookshelves.

“What we hope is that students are going to see changes mostly through better access and broader access to materials,” Lamberth said.

“One of the challenges now is finding out exactly what Harvard has. We hope soon to be able to find out quickly and comprehensively what Harvard has to offer.”

Several professors said they trusted the working group’s conclusion, agreeing that the library system was in need of minor improvements, which they believed the new executive body could make.

“These are very knowledgeable leaders making very knowledgeable decisions,” said History Professor Steven E. Ozment.

—Staff writer Gautam S. Kumar can be reached at

—Staff writer Sirui Li can be reached at

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