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Strategic Conversations at Harvard Library

Strategic Conversations at Harvard Library are designed to inform the strategic direction of the Library and foster a culture of innovation, entrepreneurship and collaboration among staff, faculty and others in the Library community. It aims to engage the Library Board and Faculty Advisory Council with issues that are facing libraries in general and the Harvard Library in particular in the emerging digital age. Strategic Conversations at Harvard Library are funded through the generosity of The Bradley M. and Terrie F. Bloom Family Fund.


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Upcoming Events

Why libraries matter more than ever in the age of Google
Tuesday, December 15, 2015
9:30 - 11:30 am

Refreshments are at 9:30 am; the program begins at 10 am.

Sperry Room, Andover Hall
Harvard Divinity School
45 Francis Avenue, Cambridge

Libraries were once storehouses for collections, often competing with one another for resources. New technologies have encouraged an age of cooperation and new ways of viewing and accessing information. In his provocative book, John Palfrey states that libraries “need to recast themselves as platforms rather than storehouses.” Join us for a talk with Palfrey about his book BiblioTech and how nostalgia is both an asset and a danger for libraries.

John Palfrey is head of school at Phillips Academy, Andover. He was the founding President of the Board of Directors of the Digital Public Library of America and served as the Henry N. Ess III Professor of Law and Vice Dean for Library and Information Resources at Harvard Law School. Palfrey chairs the board of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is also currently serving as the chair of the presidential search committee for Boston Public Library. From 2002-2008, Palfrey served as the executive director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, and has continued on as a faculty director since then. Prior to that he was at the law firm Ropes & Gray, where he worked on intellectual property, Internet law, and private equity transactions and served for three years at the United States Environmental Protection Agency.


Past Events

November 3, 2015
Making, Saving, Using: Audiovisual Collections in the Digital Age

What are the ways cultural heritage institutions are using and preserving audiovisual materials for a new generation of students and researchers? Join us as our panel discusses current practices in pedagogy and research at Harvard using audiovisual materials and brings perspectives from the Indiana University campus-wide Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative and the Austrian Academy of Sciences, moderated by the head of New York University’s Media Preservation program.


  • Silvia Benedito, Harvard Graduate School of Design
  • Michael Casey, Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative, Indiana University
  • Nadja Wallaszkovits, Phonogrammarchiv, Austrian Academy of Sciences
  • Howard Besser, Moving Image Archiving and Preservation Program, New York University (moderator)


September 16, 2015
The Teaching Library: Research and Learning Support in 21st-Century Libraries and Special Collections

Strategic Conversations FlyerKelly E. Miller, Associate Dean for Learning and Research Services, University of Miami Libraries, and Jay Satterfield, Head of Special Collections, Rauner Special Collections Library, Dartmouth College; moderated by Fernando M. Reimers, Faculty Director, International Education Policy Program, Harvard Graduate School of Education

Join us for a panel discussion of the expansive and continually evolving role that academic libraries play in supporting the teaching mission of the university. Our panel will introduce the Harvard community to cutting-edge ideas and current best practices in academic library research support from two complementary perspectives: general research, teaching and learning; and special collections.


  • Dr. Miller received her Ph.D. in Slavic Languages and Literatures from the University of Michigan in 2002. She was a Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Virgina during the 2005-06 academic year. Dr. Miller comes to librarianship from a teaching and research background. Her academic training and experience provide her with a unique perspective on RTL in the context of collections. Prior to her recent appointment at the University of Miami, she was the Director of Teaching and Learning Services and Head of the College Library at UCLA.
  • Dr. Satterfield earned his Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Iowa, where he focused his scholarly interests on the history of the book in the Americas. At Dartmouth, Dr. Satterfield is primarily interested in the use of special collections and rare materials in teaching. Under his direction, the Rauner Special Collections Library hosted more than 100 classes from 25 university departments during the 2014-15 academic year. In these sessions, the students learned how to handle and research with these types of materials, which greatly enriched their academic experience at Dartmouth.
  • Professor Reimers focuses his research and teaching on innovative global education policies and programs that help students develop twenty-first century skills. He chairs an annual Think Tank that examines state of the art practices and programs to help students gain global competency, and is also a co-chair of the Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative.

April 2, 2015
Consuming The Written Word

Digital technologies have changed the way we approach and interact with the written word, thus expanding the nature and scope of scholarly inquiry concerning the history of books and reading.

This Strategic Conversation brought together three leading voices from the field—Professors Robert Darnton, Roger Chartier, and Andrew Stauffer—to reflect on reading via the perspective of consumption.

Consumption accommodates a wide variety of formats and interpretations, from the consumer market for reading materials to the distant reading methods for “consuming” books made possible by digital platforms.


February 6, 2015
How Space Makes Place: The Changing Nature of Libraries

metaLAB’s documentary about the Harvard Library’s offsite depository, Cold Storage, premiered on campus at the inauguration of the exhibition Icons of Knowledge, followed by a roundtable discussion on the changing nature of library spaces from design, film and library points of view.

Cold Storage portrays the dislocated heart of Harvard’s library system, which is also one of the world’s largest book depositories. The film was directed by Cristoforo Magliozzi and produced and written by Professor Jeffrey Schnapp, Matthew Battles and the metaLAB team. It was inspired by Alain Resnais’s 1956 short film Tout la mémoire du monde, which will also be screened at the event. 

Icons of Knowledge is an architectural research exhibition in Gund Hall curated by the Graduate School of Design’s Daniel Rauchwerger and Noam Dvir.

Following the screenings, Professor Schnapp led a roundtable in discussion on the ways space makes place by delving into the ways changing spaces reflect new library culture, and how user perceptions of libraries transform when the physical spaces are changed. 

December 3, 2014

Discussion on "The Future of the Book"

December 11, 2014

Discussion on "How Journal Prices Impede Access"

December 17, 2014

Discussion on "Special Collections: Past Meets Future"

November 4, 2014

Special Collections: Past meets Future

While charged with preserving the past, special collections libraries must also serve contemporary researchers and plan for their future needs. Harvard’s Sarah Thomas and Alice Schreyer of the University of Chicago present talks that survey the changing landscape of contemporary research and reflect on the enduring relevance of special collections in the 21st century. Conversation will be moderated by Tom Hyry of Houghton Library.

(View a video of the event. See a summary of the event here.)

October 3, 2014

Suber and BergstromHow Journal Prices Impede Research Access: A Ted Talk

Join a “fireside” chat between Ted Bergstrom and Peter Suber on the prices of scholarly journals, why prices have grown faster than inflation for decades, how they have limited access to research and prospects for change.

This discussion will feature Ted Bergstrom, professor of economics at UC Santa Barbara and a leading thinker around the economics of scholarly journals. He will be joined by Peter Suber, director of the Harvard Office for Scholarly Communication and the Harvard Open Access Project, and author of Open Access.

(Listen to the audio from the eventSee a summary of the event here.)

September 19, 2014

The Future of the Book

Book history continues to be a thriving area of scholarship, engaging librarians and academics from across the disciplines, including business, history, classics, art and design and, more recently, the digital humanities.

Join us for a discussion that asks “What is the future of the book? How will recent developments in technology and publishing impact scholarship and publishing? Will—or should—the history of the book guide its future?”

The discussion will feature James O’Donnell, university professor and former provost at Georgetown University and author of Avatars of the Word, as well as Ellen Faran, director at MIT Press. It will be moderated by Ann Blair, Henry Charles Lea Professor of History at Harvard University, and author of Too Much to Know.

(See a summary of the event here.)

June 24, 2014

Surveying Faculty Members and Students about Their Practices and Needs with Ithaka S+R
Roger Schonfeld
Program Director for Libraries, Users and Scholarly Practices, Ithaka S+R

Roger SchonfeldRoger Schonfeld leads Ithaka S+R’s studies of academics’ and students’ attitudes, practices and needs, as well as research on the changing role of the academic library and scholarly society. He has also led the Ithaka S+R Faculty Survey, which provides institutions with a heightened awareness about their campus constituents and helps academic leaders manage and address environmental change.

Roger will share some background about Ithaka S+R’s surveys, including the questionnaire structure and methodology. He will also share some of the insights from its surveys on faculty and graduate students, both at a national and a local level, focusing on some of the lessons that can be learned by colleges and universities. These surveys can be used for strategy and assessment in a variety of ways. For example, surveys reveal faculty discovery methods, their changing perceptions of libraries, their preference for digital versus print, and other interesting trends.

This talk is timely, as the Harvard Library is planning faculty and graduate student surveys in the fall, which will help inform our work for the future of the library.

(See a summary of Mr. Schonfeld's talk here.)

June 17, 2014

The History of the World Library from the Year 2040 to 2090
Michael Cotta-Schønberg
Deputy Director General, Royal Library in Copenhagen, and University Librarian, University of Copenhagen

Michael Cotta-SchonbergMichael Cotta-Schønberg will be speaking NOT on the future of academic libraries, which he says he has done too much, but on the history of the World Library from 2040 to 2090. The presentation will take the form of a speech by the president of the World Library on the occasion of the 50 year jubilee of the Library. The audience will be transformed into members of the board of the World Library and the speech will end with a board vote on whether individuals should be able to have direct brain link-up with the Library.

(See a summary of Mr. Cotta-Schønberg's talk here.)

April 30, 2014

Vanessa KamThe Tenacious Book: The Curious State of Art and Architecture Collections in a Digital Era
Vanessa Kam, Acting Head of Music, Art and Architecture, University of British Columbia Library

To research her topic, Vanessa Kam interviewed librarians working in prominent academic and museum libraries in the US and Canada. She also interviewed publishers in the US and Europe about their visions for the future of art publications. Vanessa's findings reveal that while many other disciplines hold massive amounts of digital content, the print format plays a dominant role in art and architecture collections, despite the fact that such collections are evolving.

Vanessa argues that this idiosyncratic development poses challenges and demands special considerations for configuring art library spaces, for devising strategies to transition to an increasingly digital future and for demonstrating the research value of print collections.  Her research was supported by the H.W. Wilson Foundation Research Award from the Art Libraries Society of North America.

(See a summary of Ms. Kam's talk here.)

February 24, 2014

Nancy Fried FosterEthnography and Academic Libraries: Assessment & Design
Nancy Fried Foster, Senior Anthropologist, Ithaka S+R

Dr. Foster’s talk will cover the use of ethnographic methods in qualitative assessment of library services, technologies and facilities, including origin and relevancy of participatory design concepts, how participatory design is different from other approaches, when to use participatory design, what training and resources are required and examples of specific case studies.

(See a summary of Dr. Fried's talk here.)

Grants Panel: Building a Community & Culture of Grant-Writing within Harvard Library (May 20th, 2013).
Speakers: Amy Lucko and Christa Williford, Program Officers at the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR); Susan Gomes, Director of Research Development and Strategy at FAS-Harvard, with members of her team: Erin Cromack, Jen Corby and Caitlin McDermott-Murphy; Bonnie Tijerina, Head of Electronic Resources and Serials, Harvard Library, and founder of Electronic Resources & Libraries (ER&L)

Brewster Kahle, Digital Librarian and Founder of the Internet Archive (April 4, 2013).

Studying Library Users to Improve Academic Libraries (January 11, 2013).
Speaker: Susan Gibbons, Head Librarian of Yale University.

Conversations that Work at Work (November 8, 2012).
Speaker: Laura Crandall, President of Slate Communication.

Modern Mentoring Event (September 28, 2012).
Speakers: Wendy Brown, Access and Reference Assistant, Countway Library; Jane Eichkern, Manager for Metadata and Cataloguing, Information and Technical Services, Harvard Library; Kimberly Hall, Learning Technologies Manager, Harvard Law School Library; Joshua Parker, Head of Access Services for Humanities and Social Sciences, Harvard Library; Lisa Schwallie, Chief Financial Officer, Harvard Library.

Libraries are Obsolete: An Oxford-Style Debat (April 18, 2012).
Speakers: rofessor Jonathan Zittrain, Professor at the Harvard Law School, the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Science; Dr. James Tracy, Headmaster, Cushing Academy; R. David Lankes, Professor and Dean’s Scholar for the New Librarianship, University of Syracuse iSchool and Director of the Information Institute of Syracuse; Susan Hildreth, Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services; Professor John G. Palfrey, Vice Dean for Library and Information Resources, and the Henry N. Ess III Professor of Law at Harvard Law School; Sanhita Dey & Rishav Mukherji, student speakers from the Harvard Speech & Parliamentary Debate Society.

Mining the Gaps: A Library Conversation About Research, Teaching, Learning, and Today's Harvard Students (April 11, 2012).
Speakers: Alison Head, Co-Director and Co-Principal Investigator, Project Information Literacy
, Research Scientist, The Information School, The University of Washington
 Fellow, Berkman Center for Internet & Society and the Library Innovation Lab, Harvard University; Stephanie Kenen, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education and Director of the Program in General Education; R.J. Jenkins, doctoral candidate in the Department of English.

Libraries, Archives, and Museums: A Strategic Conversation (April 9, 2012).
Speakers: David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States; Holly Witchey, Professor, Johns Hopkins University, Interim Director, Marcus Institute for Digital Education in the Arts; Tom Hickerson, Vice Provost of Libraries and Cultural Resources, University of Calgary; Gunter Waibel, Director, Digitization Program, Smithsonian.

Poker as Strategy (March 9, 2012).
Speaker: Charles Nesson, Harvard Law School Professor.

Digital Public Library Of America (March 2, 2012)
Speakers: Robert Darnton, Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor & University Librarian, Harvard University; John G. Palfrey, Henry N. Ess Professor of Law and Vice Dean for Library and Information Resources at Harvard Law School.

How to Motivate Yourself & Others (February 27, 2012).
Speaker: Betsy Myers, author of Take the Lead: Motivate, Inspire, and Bring Out the Best in Yourself and Everyone Around You (2011).

Preservation in the Harvard Library: An Unconference (January 13, 2012).

Technology in the Collection (December 20, 2011).
Speakers: Andrea Goethals of the Harvard Digital Repository Services and Bruce Gordon of the HCL Audio Preservation Studio.

Transitioning to New Roles (December 5, 2011).
Speakers: Dorothy Africa, Conservationist, HLS; Devin Ryder, Trainer & Coach, CWD at Harvard University; Irene Good, CIO & Assistant Provost for Information Management at Suffolk University, Lee Fenn, Physical Collections & Logistics Librarian, HLS; Anne Margulies, University CIO, Harvard University.

Wikipedia Loves Libraries (November 17, 2011).

Strategic Collaboration in Collection Development (November 1, 2011).
Speakers: Bridget Reische, Debby Weiss, Marylène Altieri, Mark Shelton, Megan Sniffin-Marinoff, Rebecca Wingfield, Mary Beth Clack.

Harvard-MIT Open Access Discussion (October 28, 2011).
Speakers: Sue Kriegsman, Program Manager, Office for Scholarly Communication, Harvard Library; Peter Suber, Harvard and SPARC; Ellen Duranceau, Program Manager, Scholarly Publishing and Licensing, MIT Libraries; Michelle Pearse, Research Librarian for Open Access Initiatives and Scholarly Communication, Harvard Law Library; Tracy Gabridge, Head, Liaisons for Departments, Labs, and Centers, MIT LIbraries; Marilyn Billings, Scholarly Communication & Special Initiatives Librarian at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Productivity Tools: Taking Back the P-Word (October 19 & November 9, 2011).

Kick-Off Event for HLSC (October 4, 2011).
Mary Lee Kennedy, John Palfrey, MacKenzie Smith, Christine Barrett, Michael Hemment, Mary Lister, Peter Der Manuelian.


Planning Group

Current members of the Strategic Conversations Planning Group include:

Jennifer Allison, HLS
Abigail Bordeaux, LTS
Paul Hanna, AS
Colin Lukens, OSC
Violet Radnofsky, FAS
Jennifer Weintraub, Schlesinger
Ann Whiteside (Chair, Liaison to the Library Leadership Team), GSD
Susan Wyssen, FAS