Library Unveils Set of Organizational Values to Guide Current and Future Planning

After a months-long process including input from users and staff, Harvard Library has articulated a core purpose, vision, mission, and set of values that are guiding us through the pandemic and beyond.  

Called the Values Project, this work began last fall in collaboration with the creative design firm IDEO. The start of the new academic year marks the public release of these collective values, which are listed in detail below and emphasize curiosity, progress, collaboration, diversity, and access. They speak to the strengths of the Library’s nearly 400-year history and our aspirations going forward.

The project was envisioned as a foundation for Harvard Library’s continuing development, both in the immediate and longer-term future.

Vice President for the Harvard Library and University Librarian Martha Whitehead said it has been affirming for her, as a leader still fairly new to the organization, to watch the Values Project work develop.

“When I joined Harvard Library last summer, I found an organization ready to come together as one library community to say who we are, what we care about, and the value we bring to the world,” Whitehead said. “As we put this work into action, I believe the shared values we have articulated together truly do reflect the ‘philosophical heartbeat’ of Harvard Library, and it is beating strongly through these challenging times.”

Working with IDEO, Harvard Library spent months collecting information and insights from our user communities and staff through focus groups, interviews, and surveys. Several library staff facilitated workshops where hundreds of their colleagues had a hand in finalizing the values language and shared ideas for how to enact the values in their work. Through an iterative process, this input was used to articulate a clear, shared understanding of our organization, how we relate to each other, and how we envision the future.

Now that the Values Project has concluded, it is key to share project outcomes with users, partners, and other stakeholders, Whitehead said.

“A strong organizational identity is important both within and outside of Harvard Library,” she said. “We want students and faculty to understand what we do and why it matters to them, our staff to understand the value their colleagues contribute and how best to leverage everyone’s skills, and our entire community to see a throughline between our established values and future strategic plans.”

Long term, this project will guide Harvard Library as we set multi-year strategic priorities to achieve our vision, and as we live our values day-to-day. In the immediate term, Whitehead said, our purpose and values serve as a “North Star” as we adapt to a hybrid of remote and on-campus work.

“As we prepare for an academic year full of unknowns, we need to ground ourselves in a strong foundation,” she said. “The current moment makes it more important than ever to look to our core purpose, vision, mission, and values.”



We champion curiosity for the betterment of the world.


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


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.


  • 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 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.