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Note from Sarah Thomas: Update from My First Few Days

August 21, 2013

Dear Colleagues,

The weather was beautiful as I began my new role as vice president for the Harvard Library on August 12. The sunlight and green canopies of leaves have welcomed me as I crossed the Yard to Wadsworth House, and you have welcomed me, too. It’s been a relatively calm and easy time. I expect the pace will pick up after Labor Day, when school’s in session and most people have had their vacations.

I’ve started what will be a journey of several months of visiting all of Harvard’s libraries. On August 13 Suzanne Wones provided an introduction to the Law Library. I met many staff and learned about the “Free the Law” project, in which federal and state case law  will be digitized. It was a pleasure to reconnect with Nancy Zaphiris, now working in ITS, with whom I worked in the 1970s in Widener. This week I’m exploring the Depository and touring LTS. In addition I’ve asked that many of my meetings take place out of my office in Wadsworth House, so I can get a view of the Library and its services from a variety of perspectives. I’m taking pictures on my visits; click here if you would like to follow my trail.

Several times already I’ve been at 90 Mt. Auburn, first for Helen Shenton’s farewell, and then for a Project Management meeting led by Jim Borron, and finally, rounding out the week with the Library Leadership Team meeting. Both Provost Alan Garber and Bob Darnton spoke at Helen’s party, in which she was praised for her energy and enthusiasm, and especially for the very fine team she had brought to the Harvard Library. The larger Library “team”, as represented in the Library Leadership meeting, certainly reflects this excellence. We had a lively discussion about the upcoming launch in September of the University’s Campaign, focusing on what our priorities should be. We also talked about how we can work with Schools to seek funding for initiatives and services that will have local benefits and raise the overall capacity and quality of the Harvard Library.

Other sessions I had during my first week were with Bob Darnton and some members of the Faculty Advisory Committee; with Sue Kriegsman on the Office for Scholarly Communication; with the heads of Shared Services; with Lisa Schwallie on the budget; with Kira Poplowski on communications; and with Gosia Stergios, knowledge and innovation strategist. This isn’t a comprehensive list, of course, but I hope it gives you a sense of how I am spending my time. I will continue with periodic updates. Harvard’s a big place, and I hope these emails will be one of many ways in which we can stay in touch.

Although there is pent-up demand to make decisions on some issues that have arisen over the past few months, I would like to have time to absorb information and learn more about the organization before making any major decisions. In September I will hold All Staff meetings in which I can debrief on matters such as the budget and the campaign, and where you can ask questions. It would be helpful to know what topics are on your mind.

It’s great to be back at Harvard. There’s much that is familiar, which is comforting, but also much that has changed, which is stimulating. There’s a lot to discover. I’m excited by the possibilities that lie ahead. We have terrific ingredients, including wonderful collections, spaces, and people—you, the staff of the Harvard Library, and our users, with whom we are embarking on a collaborative research, teaching, and learning effort. The start of the semester is always an exhilarating time, and I look forward to beginning the academic year with you.