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Harvard Library Is Advancing Open Knowledge

Harvard Library is proud to share our new strategic directions document, Advancing Open Knowledge, a high-level blueprint of what and who we aspire to be for the Harvard community and for the world at large.

Advancing Open Knowledge is the first public strategy document created for Harvard Library under the leadership of Martha Whitehead, who became the Vice President for the Harvard Library and University Librarian in 2019. It describes Harvard Library’s overarching priorities, which build on the concept of a global knowledge commons.

“In addition to stewarding vast collections and open digital content,” Whitehead said, “we at Harvard Library want to see communities in all parts of the world empowered to produce, share, and retain ownership of local research outputs and cultural resources.”

"We at Harvard Library want to see communities in all parts of the world empowered to produce, share, and retain ownership of local research outputs and cultural resources." 
— Martha Whitehead


“We believe this will benefit scholars at Harvard as well as people around the world,” she said. “It supports our aspiration to be global leaders in expanding world knowledge and intellectual exploration.”

This blueprint builds on the work of the Harvard Library Values Project, elaborating on its vision, mission, and values. It also outlines specific strategic priorities, each based on a key issue in the global landscape.

  1. Diversify and Expand Access to Knowledge — The information globe is still dominated by the wealthiest nations and by inequitable systems of producing and sharing knowledge that are not representative of all voices.

  2. Enhance Discovery and Engagement — We are witnessing a rise in disinformation; coupled with distrust of sources established as trustworthy. Information discovery mechanisms are also far from ideal.

  3. Preserve for the Future — Preservation of information, particularly digital information, is an unsolved problem: information can be here today and gone tomorrow.

These issues can have disproportionately harmful effects for some people, depending on factors such as race, ethnicity, economics, technical limitations, and disabilities. Harvard Library can address issues of bias and minimize oppression by achieving the specific priorities listed above, under the broad strategy of Advancing Open Knowledge.

Harvard Library will seek out partners to accomplish this work. We envision collaborative networks that support equitable access to a diversity of content, easy engagement with trustworthy information, and thoughtful preservation for the future.

Harvard Library itself is organized on the premise that there are significant user benefits to collaboration across libraries, with other University services and departments, and with peer institutions. These partnerships will be essential for reaching our goals.

As we engage in specific initiatives based on Advancing Open Knowledge, we invite continuing discussion and input from our users and partners. Comments are always welcome at harvard_library@harvard.edu.