About Harvard Library

We champion curiosity for the betterment of the world.

Who We Are

We are the libraries and archives of Harvard University.

Studying in Cabot Library
Photo by Steph Stevens

At Harvard Library, we are champions of curiosity. We aim to be global leaders in expanding world knowledge and intellectual exploration. We engage with our communities in the creation and sharing of new knowledge, connecting them with the vast collections that we curate and steward through collaborations around the world. At its core, our mission for over four centuries has been to advance the learning, research, and pursuit of truth that are at the heart of Harvard. Our efforts are motivated and powered by working collaboratively, embracing diverse perspectives, championing access, aiming for the extraordinary, and always leading with curiosity.

We are more than 700 staff across 28 libraries. Our collections number over six million digitized items, 21 million volumes, 400 million manuscripts, one million maps, and tens of millions of digital images, and our rare and special collections are amongst the most remarkable in the world. We collect collaboratively with peer institutions and facilitate international open access, multiplying our users’ access to materials. Established in 1638, we are the oldest library system in the United States and the world’s largest academic library.

Our Values

Our Purpose

We champion curiosity for the betterment of the world.

Our Vision

We aspire to be global leaders in expanding world knowledge and intellectual exploration.

Our Mission

We are expert partners on the pathways to knowledge. We engage with our communities in the creation and sharing of new knowledge, connecting them with vast collections that we curate and steward with collaborators around the world. At its core, our mission is to advance the learning, research and pursuit of truth that are at the heart of Harvard.

 

Our Values

Lead with curiosity. 

We expand intellectual frontiers and remain in awe of what we do not yet know.

Seek collaboration. 

We bring people and ideas together from within and beyond because we believe partnership creates more interesting results.

Embrace diverse perspectives.

We cultivate and celebrate diversity in our collections and our community to construct a more inclusive and just picture of our world.

Champion access.

We enhance access to information and advance inclusive models of scholarly communication.

Aim for the extraordinary.

We drive progress and deliver the unexpected, building on our past and forging the future.

 


 

Our commitment to antiracism

Harvard University aims to be the world’s recognized leader in sustainable inclusive excellence by fostering a campus culture where everyone can thrive. 

Working in close collaboration with offices across the University, Harvard Library is becoming one of the campus leaders in advancing equity, diversity, inclusion, belonging, and antiracism. We believe that an inclusive environment that cultivates and promotes understanding, respect, and collaboration across our diverse workforce enables our success. As well, we believe that our work with faculty, students and researchers to explore answers to intellectual questions, enduring and new, and to seek solutions to the world’s most consequential problems, requires that we not only reflect, but also advance our diverse society.

Harvard Library’s core values are the foundation upon which our antiracism agenda is being developed. Our values emphasize that we lead with curiosity, seek collaboration, champion access, aim for the extraordinary, and cultivate and celebrate diversity in our collections and our community to construct a more inclusive and just world. Our focus on antiracism is a commitment to live our values. It is about building not only a better organization, but a better research library – an exemplary antiracist research library. We aspire to be global leaders in expanding world knowledge and intellectual exploration, and that starts on our campus, where we are a center for knowledge supporting our faculty and students in pursuing antiracism through their research, teaching and learning.

Harvard Library's commitment to antiracism is a commitment to addressing other forms of discrimination as well, such as those based on gender, sexuality, religion or ability. Our antiracism work will continue a strong record of diversity initiatives, ranging from expanded collection development and the design of inclusive spaces to a learning journey for staff and a focus on employee recruitment and retention. We are deeply committed to increasing diversity in the profession, through activities such as our longstanding membership in the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) Diversity Alliance.

As part of our commitment to antiracism, our Confronting Anti-Black Racism project highlights Harvard research and resources on the history of racism in the United States and its impact on Black communities.

Our Organization

Harvard Library has evolved over four centuries to a collaborative structure spanning the University. 

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences and each of the Schools have administrative responsibility for libraries that provide collections, services and spaces tailored to their academic programs and research. Harvard Library drives the development and implementation of common strategies across the libraries and provides system-wide collections discovery, access, acquisitions, cataloguing, preservation and digital imaging services, and support for scholarly communications, research data management and digital scholarship. Harvard Library includes the Harvard University Archives.

Martha Whitehead headshot
Martha Whitehead, vice president for Harvard Library
Photo by Rose Lincoln

The Vice President for the Harvard Library and University Librarian is the senior administrative officer for Harvard Library, reporting to the Provost. This role is combined with senior administrative responsibility for the libraries in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences known as the Harvard College Library, reporting to the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Martha Whitehead is the current Vice President for the Harvard Library and University Librarian and Roy E. Larsen Librarian for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

The Harvard Library Leadership team is chaired by the Vice President for the Harvard Library and University Librarian and Roy E. Larsen Librarian for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. The team includes the Vice President’s direct reports, the directors of each of the School libraries, and the heads of Harvard Library departments. 

Several advisory bodies provide valuable input on the ongoing development of the Harvard Library: the Library Board, the Faculty Advisory Council, and the Overseers’ Committee.

 

Harvard Library Strategic Direction

Advancing Open Knowledge (November 2020) takes our vision—we aspire to be global leaders in expanding world knowledge and intellectual exploration—and discusses broad strategies for achieving it in the years ahead.

Advancing Open Knowledge (pdf)