Harvard Provost Issues Report of the Task Force on University Libraries

Harvard Provost Steven E. Hyman has issued the Report of the Task Force on University Libraries.

Here's an excerpt from the announcement:

In March 2009 I appointed a University-wide Task Force to examine our library system and make recommendations that would put it on a footing that could sustain and ideally enhance its excellence long into the future. Today, I am pleased to share with you the Task Force’s findings and recommendations. A link to the report’s text can be found below.

The report of the Task Force on University Libraries is a very thoughtful document about an extraordinary system. But it is also a stark rendering of a structure in need of reform. Our collections are superlative, and our knowledgeable library staff are central to the success of the University’s mission. The way the system operates, however, is placing terrible strain on the libraries and the people who work within them.

Over time, a lack of coordination has led to a fragmented collection of collections that is not optimally positioned to respond to the 21st century information needs of faculty and students. The libraries’ organizational chart is truly labyrinthine in its complexity, and in practice this complexity impedes effective collective decision-making.

Widely varying information technology systems present barriers to communication among libraries and stymie collaboration with institutions beyond our campus gates. Our funding mechanisms have created incentives to collect or subscribe in ways that diminish the vitality of the overall collection.

Libraries the world over are undergoing a challenging transition into the digital age, and Harvard’s libraries are no exception. The Task Force report points us toward a future in which our libraries must be able to work together far more effectively than is the case today as well as to collaborate with other great libraries to maximize access to the materials needed by our scholars.