Bibliotheca Class, and Learning and Teaching at Harvard

I’m having a huge amount of fun teaching a class at the Harvard Graduate School of Design with my friend Jeffrey Schnapp on the history, present, and future of libraries, called Bibliotheca.  The students are fantastic: twenty or so, mostly studying design and architecture, though there are graduate students in other fields.  We’re holding the class in an open, spacious basement room of the GSD’s Loeb Library, thanks to our collaborator Ann Whiteside, the library’s director.  Ann and her team are thinking collaboratively and creatively about how to use library space.  Opening up this big room, laden with visual materials, to us as an active teaching space is just one example of that.

Today, class opened with one student showing the photos he’d taken of a tour of the Harvard Depository, a huge facility about 25 miles off campus to provide storage and now access to books that don’t fit on campus.  A group of students from our class, plus a few others who heard about the trip and hitched a ride, piled into a bus we rented and spent a day last week on a spontaneous field trip.  The crew wants to go back with a video-camera.  The idea is to produce something, as part of the class, that we can publish openly about what we’re learning.  The photos prompt a series of questions about the organization of physical materials that tie straight into where we’re going with the class later.  It was an impromptu start to the class, unplanned, but opened new avenue.

After reflections on the HD visit, we welcome David Weinberger, author of Everything is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder.  We’re talking about how the design of physical libraries and the design of virtual spaces for knowledge and information relate to one another.  The topics are free-ranging and deep, with David — he’s a ph.d. in philosophy by training — and the students pushing one another about the role of libraries, the need for librarians in the future, the timeline for coming to a largely digital experience v. our current hybrid experience, and so forth.

A few choice quotes from David W., plucked out of context: “I like the Library of Congress!” says David.  And: “we need a paper back-up: everyone realizes that.”  (But students push back: is the physical only important as a “back-up” to the digital?  And concerns about the stability of the digital as a format: does that argue in favor of the physical as a resource for redundancy, or as something that ought to be in the physical spaces that we call libraries.)  And, again from David: “there are huge values associated with local libraries.  I just don’t pretend know what the future of libraries is going to be.”

After David W. leaves us after the first two hours of class and we take a break, a group of students will present on their review of Louis Kahn’s iconic library at the Phillips Exeter Academy.  I know that library well, but only from the perspective of a learner: I spent many happy (and some stressed-out) hours there as a high school student.  I’m excited to hear what students of design make of it.  This is a design principle of the class: students work in teams, of their own forming, to present excavations of library design projects throughout the term and then develop a final project, also team-based, at the end of the semester.

What this class has me thinking this morning about is not just the substance — the future of libraries, the organization of knowledge, how we store and provide it and think about it — but also about the possibilities for teaching and learning.  Yesterday, Harvard announced a landmark new gift: $40 million to catalyze innovations in learning and teaching from Rita and Gustave Hauser.  If we have the chance to spend those resources, and ideally more, that it catalyzes from other donors, over the next decade to improve our learning and teaching, how might we go about that?  There are many, many worthy places to focus and many great things going on here at Harvard to build upon.

Technology should surely be part of that focus, but not the starting point.  In my view, the starting point should be our pedagogical goals, which vary by discipline.

What’s so rich about this experience for me (and perhaps for the students?) of this class is the chance to spend several hours a week with Jeffrey Schnapp and great students and library staff from Harvard and a broad array of guests who have meandered through our shared exploration.  Our guests have been great experts in the history and design of libraries, some from the Harvard faculty and others from elsewhere: Matthew Battles, Greg Nagy, Ann Blair, Katherine Park to name just some of those who have already been with us.  We’re tying our themes and our exploration into the reform of the Harvard Library system that we’re a few years into, and which has scared up a huge number of interesting problems that we can take up.  Several librarians are coming to all classes, and we’re opening up some classes to a much larger group of librarians.  It’s been great to learn from their perspectives and incredible knowledge.  The class feels porous and connected.

There are challenges with the Bibliotheca style of teaching.  It’s intense and time-consuming for the teachers; it has two faculty members involved, which means it is expensive on a per-student-unit-of-credit basis; it has great support and involvement from lots of community members who are volunteering their time; the students are (or seem) dug-in and helping to co-produce the class and its outputs.  It’s tied into hard problems that we face on our own campus, and might even help us solve (address, at least?) some of them.  But it’s a ton of fun and makes me so grateful to be at a place that supports, and even privileges, this kind of approach to teaching and learning.

(P.S.: BTW, David has a new book coming out in January: Too Big to Know.  I’ve pre-ordered it already; you should too!  Plus, I read a late-stage draft, and it’s totally wonderful, building out the Everything is Miscellaneous argument, and many other strands, in fascinating ways.)

Future of Law Libraries: The Future is Now?

A group of us is gathered today at Harvard Law School for a conversation about the future of legal information, libraries, and the law itself.  It’s a fun and diverse group — about 150 strong — in Austin Hall’s north classroom.  The wiki for the conference has the schedule, the participants, and a lot of great suggested readings in a wide range of formats.  I’m intending to live-blog here, with the usual typos and caveats and imperfections, as much of the day as I can.

Robert Berring is the opening keynote speaker.  He started with references to John William Wallace, and an article on Wallace by Femi Cadmus (now of Yale, about to go to Cornell to be the law librarian there) that appeared in GreenBag.  Berring also recalls the work of the late Morris Cohen, who was the law librarian of both Yale and Harvard.  Forty years ago, Cohen called upon the profession to step back and to reflect on where we stand.  One of the books that Berring has recently read: Keith Richards’ autobiography.  Richards cared about the quality of the music.  And from there, to Confucius: the understanding at a deeper level of an entire way of life.  We need to work toward something that we’ve been working on all along, Berring said.  Librarians have always been, and are today, the great translators of legal information.  The big change of the recent decades: the culture of the book is not the culture that we live in today.  Books, now, have to justify their existence: they make sense and work for certain purposes, but now have to prove that they are the right format.  Librarians, too, will persist: we will justify our existence, too.  What we’ve been about: providing access to legitimate, stable information to the people who need it, as the translators.  Provocative closing thoughts: the legal education field is on the verge of enormous change, and librarians will need to be there to hold people’s hands as casebooks disappear, as the format of all these bits of information change, as the profession changes.

Carl Malamud and Joe Hodnicki lead the first session.  Carl cites Robert Byrd as his primary source for law and legal information.  As Byrd did, Carl re-tells the story of the Twelve Tables, a core element of the Constitution of ancient Rome.  The key part of the story: a demand for the codification of the law.  The beginning of written law, Malamud said, stemmed from this process, and represent the true formation of the republic.  The writing-down of the law and its safekeeping, Carl says, has become the job of the people.  Law libraries risk becoming a 7-11; instead, we should be the keepers of the Twelve Tables.  Our law libraries are not active in maintaining the corpus of American legal information, Malamud says.  Why have we not scanned the 25 million pages of Supreme Court briefs?  Why do we have $0.08 per page access to legal materials and state-level copyright over law?

Joe Hodnicki responds to Carl by describing a cultural divide between the legal documentation community and the law library community.  Print is just a technical accident that we’ve lived with for several hundred years, whereas text is not.  Text is enduring, Hodnicki tells us.  He points to the duopoly of Lexis and West, with their huge corpuses of text.  Print, today, is sold at a price that will price itself out of the marketplace, Hodnicki claims.  Fastcase is different, Joe says (looking directly at CEO Ed Walters).

Richard Danner starts up the Open Access session.  He provides us an update on our collective progress on implementing the Durham Statement.  He emphasizes that most scholars would publish in a law journal even if it were not in print.  (68%; whereas 32% said that print was still important to them)  Law journal editors expressed concern about the 32% that they would fear, in a competitive environment, they would lose.  Who will drive the movement toward electronic publishing for legal scholarship, Danner asks, given that student editors are in place only for a few years?  Even if they are committed to developing an open scholarly information environment, they often only get to that perspective late in their year or so in leadership.  Deans have not been strong leaders so far, even though in the long term they (and their schools) would benefit.  The law reviews of a few stop schools (Harvard and Yale, e.g.) could tip over to open access, and that might do it — but these top journals are today still making some money from print subscriptions.  Prof. Danner ends by pointing to cross-tabs that show that those who are younger are less likely to worry about publishing in print, which may be good news for open access for law scholarship in the future.

June Liebert responds to Dick Danner’s opening about open access with a peek where are are today.  It costs law schools $25,000 to $100,000 per article (cites to Prof. Richard Neumann).  She’s got an amazing set of five practical ideas for what we can do and can control as law librarians and law faculty: 1) new library publishing paradigm; 2) build institutional repositories; 3) focus on born digital documents first; 4) stop subsidizing journals in print — buy or print only where it makes economic sense; and, 5) faculty partner in the scholarship lifecycle.

Robert Darnton — eminent scholar and teacher of history and Harvard university professor and Librarian — kicks off the last pre-lunch session with a description of the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA).  Prof. Darnton tees up and debunks a series of myths about the DPLA: it’s *not* 1) utopia; 2) intended only to serve college professors; 3) cooked up at Harvard and elitist; 4) a threat to public libraries, not a complement; and 5) an anti-Google Books Search effort.  The DPLA is rather meant as a broad-based, open process and platform that will serve public libraries, academics, and individuals alike.

Siva Vaidhyanathan of Virginia responds to Bob by describing his idea for a Human Knowledge Project.  Side note: With my DPLA hat on, I am of a mind that the DPLA is one part of the Human Knowledge Project (HKP); if we were to stitch together, at the layer of open linked data, all the national and regional efforts like Europeana, we would have built just such a project.  The dream, Siva, says, is to provide universal, comprehensive access to knowledge.  Siva says that the Human Knowledge Project is a 50-year project, whereas the DPLA is a 10-year project.  To make the HKP happen, we need to coordinate and to compete; we need interoperability and open linked data; we need to emphasize search standards within and across these systems; we need to get serious about governance; we need global copyright reform.  The HKP ideals are high and broad and important and long-term — as well as achievable, Siva argues.  Very inspiring.

For the lunchtime keynote, Michelle Wu, Georgetown’s new law library director and professor, is making the case for Building a Collaborative Digital Collection, a Necessary Evolution in Libraries (forthcoming, Law Library Journal).  She says that Section 108 and a format-shifting argument make possible her proposal for shared print and scanned resources.  Librarians are adaptive, she says, and critical of existing products that are available.  If we can do it better, we need to get off the sidelines and drive information policy.  Librarians should be fighting for copyright reform, in particualar, Wu says.

After an un-conference break, we’ve re-convened to talk about hacking the casebook.  Our great colleague Jonathan Zittrain (JZ to those in the know) is in New Hampshire on vacation (his “first in ten years” as he reports), so I play a video presentation that he precorded.  Watch it here: available online here.  JZ’s talk, as you’ll see, is about the “hack the casebook” project to reconcieve and rebuild the law school teaching casebook from the ground up.  It’s built off of the H20 project and will be the torts casebook that JZ will teach from this fall.

John Mayer, Executive Director of CALI, responds, by talking about the eLangdell project.  John recalls a 2006 speech that he gave at Nova Southeastern Law School called “rip, mix, learn” on similar topics.  Law students spend about $1,000 per year on their books.  One of the tricks associated with this project is that faculty actually don’t agree on (at least) four things: definition of a casebook; definition of a chapter; copyright issues; and quality assurance.

Kathleen Price, professor emeritus of law at the University of Florida Levin College of Law and long-time leader of the law library field, leads the final session.  Professor Price urges the law librarian community to take pleasure in the service we provide and the partnership between librarians, faculty, and students of law.  The law library profession is in fact a young profession: it goes back not even a full century, Price argues, dating back to just pre-WWII.  This first group, Price says, were the Brahmins.  Post-WWII, a new group entered the profession: outsiders who were teachers, who created teaching materials and bibliographic materials, and those who made foreign, comparative, and international law at LC something we could work with.  The group that entered the profession in the mid-1970s was also a crew of “outsiders,” including women who were excluded from the important law firms of the day (“we already have our woman…”).  This group also became very successful teachers — the generation of Bob Berring, Kathie Price herself, and others fall in this group.  Rising tenure standards have caused the law librarians since this generation to turn to scholarship of novel sorts (blogs, tweets, creation of institutional repositories) as well as fundraising and business responsibilities that are increasingly significant.  Who will replace those who are now coming up to retirement?  Three possible models: 1) faculty (or firm) services types; 2) the new technology librarians; and 3) foreign comparative and international law library specialists.  We are in a moment of flux in the field, Price says, as more and more people are interested in East Asia and African law, especially, as well as Latin American and Eastern European law.  These positions, Price notes, are all public services librarians.  We have to look to whether we can give up certain kinds of cataloging, especially if we can move metadata to the cloud and do it only once. Price concludes by asking a series of very hard questions about the future of the AALL as the primary source of continuing education for our field; the kinds of skills needed for future hires; and the kinds of teaching that make sense for law librarians.

Sarah Glassmeyer, faculty services librarian and assistant professor of law at Valparaiso University School of Law, responds to Prof. Price.  We need to work with people who are “not like us” — she cites both Carl Malamud and, well, me (a non-librarian).  Meg Kribble also gets a nice shout-out as a future law library leader.  Tom Bruce (not a lawyer or a librarian) gets a shout-out as a good mentor.  Glassmeyer worries about the generations connecting as well as they might.  Please, she says, let’s share stories across the generations — through informal mentoring, the “boomer librarians” have a lot to pass on, and the Gen X librarians need to step up (and be supported in doing so) as well.

Ron Wheeler, professor and director of the Law Library at the University of San Francisco School of Law, is the last speaker of the day.  Wheeler feels like he has one foot in two different generations.  In thinking about the future, he thought about the skills and attributes he is looking for in his new recruits.  People skills is the first thing.  It means interacting with patrons, not sitting at the reference desk.  The second is teaching innovation: more inventive, clever, interesting, and passionate about things like legal research.  The third is teamwork: not just those who tolerate teamwork, but those who thrive on teamwork and collaboration.  A fourth: people not afraid to lead.  We need to try new services and projects, and we need people who can run with them — even if they fail.  Not just managers; do-ers, too.  And networkers: those who can work with those outside their immediate network.  He wants also, to see those who are focused on sustaining a profession, not mailing it in.  Personality types: able to embrace change, those with flexibility and adaptability, people bored with the status quo.  He is eager to see those who have a passion for doing things that are non-traditional library work.  We should teach in new programs as they develop, help to solve problems for law schools and universities as they seek to innovate at the institutional level.  Technology skills — the skills that June Liebert has — in a broad range of types.  And — second to last — it’s diversity, racial and gender and lots of other kinds of diversity.  Finally: he wants people who will show up every day and work really, really hard.

Henry N. Ess III Chair Lecture Notes

I’m preparing for a lecture tonight at Harvard Law School.  Here’s the abstract:

The Path of Legal Information

November 9, 2010

I propose a path toward a new legal information environment that is predominantly digital in nature.  This new era grows out of a long history of growth and change in the publishing of legal information over more than nine hundred years years, from the early manuscripts at the roots of English common law in the reign of the Angevin King Henry II; through the early printed treatises of Littleton and Coke in the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries, (including those in the extraordinary collection of Henry N. Ess III); to the systemic improvements introduced by Blackstone in the late eighteenth century; to the modern period, ushered in by Langdell and West at the end of the nineteenth century.  Now, we are embarking upon an equally ambitious venture to remake the legal information environment for the twenty-first century, in the digital era.

We should learn from advances in cloud computing, the digital naming systems, and youth media practices, as well as classical modes of librarianship, as we envision – and, together, build – a new system for recording, indexing, writing about, and teaching what we mean by the law.  A new legal information environment, drawing comprehensively from contemporary technology, can improve access to justice by the traditionally disadvantaged, including persons with disabilities; enhance democracy; promote innovation and creativity in scholarship and teaching; and promote economic development.  This new legal information architecture must be grounded in a reconceptualization of the public sector’s role and draw in private parties, such as Google, Amazon, Westlaw, and LexisNexis, as key intermediaries to legal information.

This new information environment will have unintended – and sometimes negative – consequences, too.  This trajectory toward openness is likely to change the way that both professionals and the public view the law and the process of lawmaking.  Hierarchies between those with specialized knowledge and power and those without will continue its erosion.  Lawyers will have to rely upon an increasingly broad range of skills, rather than serving as gatekeepers to information, to command high wages, just as new gatekeepers emerge to play increasingly important roles in the legal process.  The widespread availability of well-indexed digital copies of legal work-products will also affect the ways in which lawmakers of all types think and speak in ways that are hard to anticipate.  One indirect effect of these changes, for instance, may be a greater receptivity on the part of lawmakers to calls for substantive information privacy rules for individuals in a digital age.

An effective new system will not emerge on its own; the digital environment, like the physical, is a built environment.  As lawyers, teachers, researchers, and librarians, we share an interest in the way in which legal information is created, stored, accessed, manipulated, and preserved over the long term.  We will have to work together to overcome several stumbling blocks, such as state-level assertions of copyright.  As collaborators, we could design and develop it together over the next decade or so.  The net result — if we get it right — will be improvements in the way we teach and learn about the law and how the system of justice functions.

Danner: Taming Multiplicity in a Post-Print Era

Prof. Richard Danner of Duke Law School is giving a truly inspiring lecture today at Harvard about libraries and legal information.  He has grounded his talk in a lecture by Morris Cohen, a former Harvard Law School library director and professor (later, he had both jobs at Yale as well), about the “multiplicity” of legal sources at the end of the 19th century.  His talk is a fascinating tour of the intellectual history related to legal information and law librarianship, picking up on the words of thinkers from Joseph Story (a legal giant of the 19th century, credited with a key “founding” role for the Harvard Law School) to Robert Berring, Ethan Katsh, James Donovan, and Michael Carroll of the present day.

Danner makes a fresh argument.  In the 1980s, legal information became widely accessible in digital formats for students, faculty, and practitioners.  In the 1990s, the Internet made the same digital sources available broadly to the public.  There’s a new multiplicity of sources, Danner argues, many of which fall outside of the usual vetting and publishing process.  Berring began, as of 2000, to call for a new Blackstone, someone to reconceptualize the structure of legal information.  Danner recalls a report that calls for law librarians to work to provide legal information not just to our students and faculty and practitioners we directly serve, but more broadly, to the public.  Computer scientists and law librarians should work together to solve the problems of getting legal information to these joint.

One of the key jobs of those who think about legal information is to determine the core function (or the source of legitimacy) of law libraries.  The core function is service to a community, not so much collection development, Danner argues.  But at the same time, it’s important to think again, Danner argues, about the nature of the services that law libraries provide.  There’s no reason to be complacent about the role of librarians in the future.  Digital information is somewhat different than printed information, and the differences matter, Danner contends.  These differences can help to understand the job of the law librarian on behalf of the communities they serve.  Librarians provide significant value, but libraries are no longer gateways.

Digital scholarship is by nature collaborative, Danner argues (citing Stanley Katz).  Collaborative and interdisciplinary scholarship is growing in law as it is in other fields.  Law professors might begin to think of law librarians as collaborators, much as they collaborate with fellow law professors.  We are, Danner argues, a service profession, and faculty members think of librarians as service professionals — not so much as collaborators.  Interdisciplinary research might provide a way forward for librarians to function more like collaborators (listed as a co-author) than like service providers (thanked in a footnote).  Law librarians themselves have an area of study, just like Constitutional law or intellectual property are areas of study in the law, Danner argues.  So what is our discipline, Danner wonders?  Information science can provide the theoretical base for the practice of law librarianship, giving rise to a discipline of legal information sciences.

Librarians should not be passive disseminators of legal information.  We should be tool-builders, and to add value to the information that we protect and to which we provide access.  We need to be partners in new fields like empirical legal research.  We need deep, technical proficiency ourselves, and need to use it to build our own role in this new information environment, Danner argues.

And open access is a key part of the recreating of a legal information environment, Danner contends, especially for secondary sources of law.  The primary sources of law, too, are increasingly available through the free access to law movement — and, we hope, through Carl Malamud’s law.gov efforts; Tom Bruce’s LII at Cornell; and so forth.  A commitment to open access should be a responsibility of those of us involved in legal scholarship, Danner argues.  Open access repositories expose scholarship to broader audiences — worldwide audiences — and expanding the communities that we serve.  Through open access, we encourage a freer flow of information beyond the wealthy and privileged cloisters of academia in the US and other rich countries in important ways, and vice-versa.  Berring envisioned a complex information environment, in which users have more support to make their way through it; Danner’s view is that libraries can meet this need.  Librarians need to write more code, to collaborate with those in related fields, to make legal information –both primary and secondary sources — more broadly accessible and useful, to make connections between primary and secondary sources using social media and otherwise, and to do so with a global perspective.  (Bravo!)

Allison Hoover Barlett, The Man Who Loved Books Too Much

For Christmas, my good friend and mentor John DeVillars gave me a copy of “The Man Who Loved Books Too Much” by Allison Hoover Bartlett.  (There were several messages embedded in the giving of this gift, I’m clear on that much.)  I’ve been eager to read it, but it was fairly far down on the stack of books on my bedside table until last night.  It was worth the wait: a lot of fun and readable in a few nights, if you’re willing to stay up late.  It’s apparently non-fiction, but it reads almost like a mystery novel — about Bibliomania.

Bartlett tells the story of John Charles Gilkey, who steals a great many rare books, and the rare book dealer (Ken Sanders) who helps to track him down and warn his fellow dealers of Gilkey’s misdeeds.  Bartlett clearly spent an enormous amount of time reading about book collectors, dealers, and thieves and talked to a good many of them, too.  She tells the story of Gilkey, Sanders et al. in a manner that’s at once serious and reflective, and with a welcome sense of humor throughout.  Bartlett gets deeply into the topic herself through the research and writing process, which comes through clearly in the text in an appealing, human way.  She refers in the notes on p. 263 to a state of “research rapture,” which resonated for me.  For anyone who loves books and bookstores (or libraries, for that matter, which make a cameo appearance near the end, especially), it’s an interesting, fun (and quick) read.

For those for whom the book is not enough on this topic: I also enjoyed the Library Thing interview with the author.

Reader Privacy Event at UNC-Chapel Hill

Anne Klinefelter, the beloved law library director at UNC-Chapel Hill (you should hear her dean introduce her; really!), is hosting a Data Privacy Day event on reader privacy.  She makes the case in her opening panel remarks that, if we wish to translate library practices with respect to privacy into a digital world, we need to figure out how to translate not just law but also ethics.  Anne argues that the law needs updating to keep up with new research practices of today’s library users, especially as we shift from a world (primarily) of checking out books to a world (primarily) of accessing databases.  Her analysis of the 48 state laws with respect to user data privacy shows that the statutes vary in substance, in coverage, and in enforcement.  Anne’s closing point is a great one: if we’re in the business of translating these rules of library protection of user data, we need to bring the ethical code and norms along as well.

Jane Horvath (Google) and Andrew McDiarmid (CDT) take up the Google Books Search Settlement and its privacy implications.  Jane emphasized the protections for user privacy built into book search.  She also emphasized ECPA and the need to update it to protect reader privacy.  Google, she says, is “calling for ECPA reform.  It really is necessary now.”

Andrew described, diplomatically and clearly, the privacy concerns that CDT has with respect to the Google Books Search Settlement (which CDT thinks should be approved; EFF, the Samuelson Clinic, and the ACLU of Northern California have similar concerns, but oppose approval of the settlement).  The critiques that Andrew described are not limited to Google’s activities, he noted; Amazon and others need to address the same issues.  Andrew worries about the potential development of (too?) rich user profiles that may be the target of information requests for law enforcement and civil litigants.  Rather than regulate Google as a library, Andrew argues, we should focus on the kinds of safeguards that CDT would like to see apply.  The best recent restatement of Fair Information Practices is by the DHS, says Andrew.  Eight principles should apply: Transparency, individual participation (including the right to correct it), purpose specification, minimization, use limitation,  data quality and integrity, security, accountability and auditing.  CDT would like to see Google commit to specific protections in alignment with these eight principles.

Harvard Library Report

Over the past nine months or so, a group of us have worked on a Harvard-wide Task Force to consider our library systems.  The report is being issued today by Harvard’s Provost, Steven E. Hyman, who chaired our Task Force.  Over the next year-plus, we will be working to implement changes in five key areas of the Harvard University library system.

Harvard is fortunate to have one of the great library systems in the world as a crown jewel.  The library system plays a central role in the intellectual life of our community, both as physical spaces and as resources of teaching and scholarship.  The 1200 or so library staff at Harvard, as I’ve come to learn, are simply extraordinary in terms of breadth and depth of talent.   But we can do more with what we have, and we can better position ourselves for the future — a future that will be “digital-plus” — than we are today.

As Provost Hyman wrote about the report:

“The report of the Task Force on University Libraries is a very thoughtful document about an extraordinary system. But it is also a stark rendering of a structure in need of reform. Our collections are superlative, and our knowledgeable library staff are central to the success of the University’s mission. The way the system operates, however, is placing terrible strain on the libraries and the people who work within them.

“Over time, a lack of coordination has led to a fragmented collection of collections that is not optimally positioned to respond to the 21st century information needs of faculty and students. The libraries’ organizational chart is truly labyrinthine in its complexity, and in practice this complexity impedes effective collective decision-making.

“Widely varying information technology systems present barriers to communication among libraries and stymie collaboration with institutions beyond our campus gates. Our funding mechanisms have created incentives to collect or subscribe in ways that diminish the vitality of the overall collection.

“Libraries the world over are undergoing a challenging transition into the digital age, and Harvard’s libraries are no exception. The Task Force report points us toward a future in which our libraries must be able to work together far more effectively than is the case today as well as to collaborate with other great libraries to maximize access to the materials needed by our scholars.”

I am excited to work with members of the Harvard library community and many others — inside and outside the community — to build on the promise of this report and the Harvard library system.