Reorganizing the Harvard Law School Library

On behalf of all of us here at Harvard Law School Library, I am thrilled to announce that today marks the debut of our new Library organization.

For the past year, we have been working together to design a fresh model for the Library that incorporates our three strategic initiatives: providing outstanding service to all our users, especially our faculty; streamlining and modernizing our processes to take advantage of the best of the digital world while mitigating its risks; and participating in the Law School’s broad curriculum reform efforts.

A steering committee of Library staff members supported by consultant Maureen Sullivan, built the new model. The diagram below illustrates the four main service units within the Library. They are:

  • Collection Development and Digitization
  • Discovery and Access
  • Management of Circulating Collections
  • Research Curriculum and Publication Support


(Click for PDF to view additional unit functions.)

The Collection Development and Digitization unit differs most markedly from any unit in the previous organization. In addition to traditional collection development, it consolidates all aspects of support for the library’s digital initiatives in one place, with the ultimate goal of creating an in-house digital lab so we can initiate innovative digital projects right here at Langdell Hall.

Discovery and Access is the new home for our historical collections, as well as acquisitions, serials processing, and cataloging and metadata creation.

Management of Circulating Collections encompasses circulation, document delivery, and preservation of the modern collection.

The Research, Curriculum, and Publication Support unit is home to reference, teaching, and academic technology, as well as two exciting new endeavors already under way: implementation of Harvard Law School’s Open Access policy and, after a successful (and much oversubscribed) pilot program during the previous academic year, establishing full-time support for empirical research and teaching.

All four units are supported by an underlying administrative level that will not only provide traditional administrative support, but also take on project management and in-house training responsibilities to keep us nimble.

Unit functions are being streamlined for greater efficiency that will enable us to expand our services to continue to meet new demands: for empirical research support, for more interdisciplinary and international materials, and to support Harvard Law School’s Programs of Study and future curricular changes.

Other notable attributes of the new organization include a commitment to a concierge level of service, engaging with users through social media, cross-unit training and communication within the Library, greater flexibility in work design, and the use of teams to tackle the new challenges that we face. The new organization is less hierarchical than our previous one, which will give us greater flexibility as we continue evolving to meet the needs of current and future Library users.

On the individual level, one of the most exciting aspects of our new organization is the implementation of the Google 80/20 model of diversification of work activities. Approximately 80 percent of each person’s time will be spent on core work responsibilities. The remaining 20 percent offers opportunities for job enrichment through pursuit of interests outside of one’s main unit. This organizational feature was adopted in response to overwhelming staff interest in cross-divisional training and communication.

We are energized as we look ahead. We are eager to face the challenges, and to seize the opportunities, that confront all libraries in today’s fast-changing world of information. We no doubt will continue to reinvent ourselves as we move forward. We look forward to working with our library partners and the broader community of people interested in the future of information to chart a bright future together.

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