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Library Board Approves Library Collections and Content Development Strategic Plan

June 25, 2013—The Harvard Library Board recently approved recommendations outlined in “Towards a Collections and Content Development Strategic Plan for the Harvard Library,” fulfilling key recommendations of both the Task Force on the Harvard Libraries and the Library Implementation Working Group

Collections and content development will remain in the domain of the local or school libraries, with librarians, curators, archivists and faculty throughout the University broadly coordinating efforts in a more structured and deliberate way. Producing the final report for the Board’s approval was the responsibility of the Affinity Group heads, working with the executive director for the Harvard Library, following extensive consultation with Library staff members, faculty, researchers and other key stakeholders. Feedback on interim reports was gathered from working groups, community-wide discussion sessions, Affinity Group meetings, online fora, one-on-one meetings and members of the Library Board and Faculty Advisory Council. Comments were gathered and assessed, then incorporated into the final report.

Helen Shenton, executive director for the Harvard Library, said, “With a University-wide collection development strategic plan in place, the Library is positioned to support the changing needs of Harvard's scholars in an even more robust way. It has been a privilege to help steer this inaugural Harvard Library strategy to unanimous approval by the Harvard Library Board. I am enormously proud of the way the Affinity Group heads worked together to produce this well-written and nuanced report, and look forward to seeing the recommendations implemented.”

Recommendations from Harvard’s first University-wide collections and content development strategic plan are:


  1. Address more systematically and broadly across disciplines the widespread and mounting expectations of access to digital collections and content through trustworthy electronic resources, open access, and external partnerships.
  2. Review and attend to the continued strength of the established collections and the possibility of new ones, while simultaneously focusing on gaps in meeting immediate curricular and research needs.
  3. Emphasize collecting distinctive and unique materials across all formats to meet both current and long-term research needs.
  4. Place faculty, students, and scholars at the center of a network of distributed resources and enhance the user experience throughout the entire Harvard Library and beyond.
  5. Partner with faculty and students to envision, develop, and curate teaching and learning materials in digital and other formats.


  1. Every library, special collection, and archive will write and share collections and content development policies that will facilitate communication, coordination, and collaboration across the Harvard Library.
  2. Establish and implement structured, intra-Harvard collaborations across all the Harvard libraries to create more coordinated collections and content development.
  3. Identify, facilitate, and build sustainable external collaborations to provide access to the broadest array of materials available.
  4. Review the current use of and support for the Harvard Depository and establish uniform guidelines and policies for the future.
  5. Develop a strategic and coordinated Harvard Library-wide program for digitization.
  6. Prevent unnecessary prospective duplication of materials in order to reduce lifecycle costs and allow the reallocation of funds.
  7. Establish a campus-wide courier service for any material that circulates, to provide easier access to the wide array of materials at Harvard.
  8. Establish a qualitative and quantitative metrics-based assessment of collections and content development that allows the Harvard Library to regularly measure costs and efficiencies, patron satisfaction, and continued alignment with research and pedagogy.
  9. Establish methods to facilitate implementation of the recommendations.

Plans for implementing the report’s recommendations begin soon in consultation with key constituencies. 

Affinity Groups:

Leslie Donnell, Affinity Group 1
Pam Peifer, Affinity Group 1 Coordinator
Lynne Schmelz, Affinity Group 2
Douglas Gragg, Affinity Group 3
Ann Whiteside, Affinity Group 4
Megan Sniffin-Marinoff, Affinity Group 5