October 12, 2015

Harvard Launches User Research Center

Harvard User Research Close Up

In August, Harvard Library opened its User Research Center (URC), where library staff can discuss, design, and implement in-person and device-based user experience research. According to Susan Fliss, Associate University Librarian for Research, Teaching, and Learning and Director and Librarian of Monroe C. Gutman Library, this is the next step in a change in focus for Harvard’s library system. “Over the past several years, Harvard librarians and staff have been investing time in developing skills in anthropological survey design and user testing. While we had many people who were undertaking user design projects, the projects were dispersed across libraries and schools.” By creating a centralized Research Center, Fliss hopes that Amy Deschenes, Library User Experience Specialist, and Kris Markman, Online Learning Librarian, can coordinate usability efforts across all of Harvard’s libraries.

Harvard’s Copyright First Responders to the Rescue


While most academic librarians are familiar with the basics of copyright law, the questions they’re asked are getting more complex. Issues of fair use and open access, MOOCs and repositories, and the push to digitize mean that students and faculty need more guidance on copyright matters than ever. This spring Kyle K. Courtney, Harvard University’s Copyright Advisor, brought together a pilot group of librarians known as Copyright First Responders (CFRs) to address this situation.

Looking Through the Labrary Lens: Lessons from the Library Test Kitchen | Library by Design

SPACES POPPING UP (From l.–r.): Labrary’s Bookface installation; Makers seek to design at the Bubbler program at Madison Public Library; Brooklyn Public Library’s Info Commons recording and video space. Brooklyn Public Library Photo By ©2013 Philip Greenberg; Bubbler Photo Courtesy Of Madison Public Library

In fall 2012, the Harvard Labrary—a temporary “pop-up” space in an empty storefront in Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA—was opened as a public gallery for design student projects from the semester-long Library Test Kitchen (LTK) seminar at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design.

Making Room for Innovation

ATTRACTION ABOUNDS At top, the 4th Floor Maker space with its 3-D printing lab was a highlight of the night at the 2013 
Tennessee Library Association annual conference held in the library space; the Labrary storefront (bottom) likewise attracted passers-by into its experimental area to see how future library design might look. 
4th floor photo by Mary Barnett; Labrary photo courtesy of Jennifer Koerberber

Two library service prototyping spaces, in two very different places, have a remarkable amount in common. Nate Hill runs and operates the 4th Floor in Chattanooga, a large public library loft space operating as a flexible community makerspace and event space. Jeff Goldenson co-ran and operated Labrary, a 37-day design experiment occupying a vacant storefront in Cambridge.

Meet the Pierce Sisters, AKA the Future of Libraries | Not Dead Yet

Cheryl LaGuardia

Ever worry about where our profession is headed? I do—a lot—but then something happens to make me realize there is indeed a bright future for librarianship, and that library work still attracts talented, creative, and interesting people. I recently had the good fortune to meet two such individuals: Ashley and Heather Pierce. They’re sisters who both happen to work at the Harvard Law School Library (HLSL), and they’re both vibrant, motivated young women who enjoy their work immensely and are obviously committed to it.

Data Scientist Training for Librarians | Not Dead Yet

Cheryl LaGuardia

If I had to name the one aspect of librarianship that has changed the most since I was a newbie librarian, I think it would be data: its use, and librarians’ support of it for their patrons. I’m fascinated by data, and frankly envious of those who are fluent in its use. I also suspect […]

No Mass Layoffs at Harvard Libraries

Harvard University’s libraries will not resort to mass layoffs, student paper The Crimson reported on June 30. “Nearly all” library staff members whose jobs are classified as shared or support services will have a position once the reorganization is complete, according to an announcement, from Harvard University Library Executive Director Helen Shenton and Senior Associate […]

Harvard Library Forms Councils with Union, Names Group Heads

The Harvard Library management will form three “joint councils” with the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW) to negotiate the library system’s reorganization, according to Harvard student newspaper The Crimson. The joint councils are defined in the university’s agreement with HUCTW, and won’t have authority to contravene that agreement. The councils will represent […]

Harvard Library Releases Org Chart, Offers Buyouts

Harvard Org Chart

Harvard Library revealed its new organizational structure on February 10th. The restructuring focuses on eliminating redundancy across the university’s 73 libraries through the creation of shared services departments. As part of the restructuring, the university has offered 275 voluntary buyouts to library staff.

After Furor, Harvard Library Spokesperson Says ‘Inaccurate’ That All Staff Will Have to Reapply

Town meetings about the restructuring of Harvard Library stir concern about impact on staff.