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Beginning First Phase of Reopening, Harvard Libraries Offer Some In-Person Book Pickups, Resume Scan and Deliver Services

Several Harvard libraries will offer pickup services after a months-long hiatus.
Several Harvard libraries will offer pickup services after a months-long hiatus. By Megan M. Ross
By Oliver L. Riskin-Kutz, Crimson Staff Writer

The Harvard Library began providing in-person book pickup and resumed scan and deliver services Tuesday as part of its first phase of reopening, librarians Anna C. Assogba and Fred Burchsted wrote in an email to Harvard affiliates Tuesday.

More than three months ago, the novel coronavirus pandemic forced the University to shutter most of its on-campus teaching and research facilities – including its library system, the largest private library system and the largest academic library in the world. Now, the Library is beginning its gradual reopening, providing some services that involve library staff working on-site for the first time since March.

Beginning Tuesday, researchers can request books from the Widener, Lamont, and Harvard Depository collections and pick them up in the entryway to Lamont library. This means that librarians can now fulfill some requests for books that have been waiting since the libraries closed in March.

“Books that were on hold the day we shut the doors are still on hold,” Assogba and Burchsted wrote.

Only books that are not available on HathiTrust will be available for pickup, Assogba and Burchsted wrote in an additional update posted to the Harvard Library website. HathiTrust, an online digital repository, has provided temporary access to the full texts of some books and journals held by the Harvard libraries to Harvard affiliates during the COVID pandemic.

“HathiTrust Emergency Access is expected to continue as long as library service is limited,” Assogba and Burchsted wrote.

Librarians will also now be able to scan and deliver materials from Widener, Lamont, Countway, and the Harvard Depository, Assogba and Burchsted wrote on the website. For any scan-and-deliver request, “we will do our best to find a digital version for you,” Assogba and Burchsted wrote in the online update.

University Provost Alan M. Garber ’76 first announced plans for a “phased reopening” of Harvard’s libraries, museums, and labs May 5. In an early June interview with the Harvard Gazette, a University-run publication, head librarian Martha Whitehead said the Library planned to expand on-request access to books to other locations after implementing the Lamont, Widener, and Depository pickup option.

She added at the time that the Library will alter its workflow to minimize potential transmission of COVID-19 on surfaces and is “monitoring research on how the virus survives on different types of library materials.”

“Further down the road, as circumstances allow for greater population density, we will resume user access to physical libraries, likely under new limitations,” Whitehead told the Gazette.

The libraries also plan on making more materials available remotely as the fall semester approaches, according to Assogba and Burchsted’s Tuesday email. They added that University affiliates should submit requests for materials to be digitized for fall research and coursework “as soon as possible.”

“Several special collections, including Harvard Archives, Houghton and Schlesinger, are planning to digitize, where possible, material needed for Fall courses,” they wrote.

–Staff writer Oliver L. Riskin-Kutz can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @OLRiskinKutz.

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