March 22, 2018

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 Provost for the Harvard Library Mary Lee Kennedy.

That’s Access Services, Information and Technical Services and Preservation, Conservation and Digital Imaging Services, Finance, Human Resources, Information Technology, Project Management, and Communications.

Shenton and Kennedy attributed the lack of layoffs to the voluntary early retirement program the university announced in February. Some 65 members of the 280 eligible library staffers took early retirement. (Cheryl LaGuardia, LJ blogger and Harvard research librarian, gave a shout out to many of the departing in LJ’s E-Views.)

Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW) director Bill Jaeger was quoted in the Crimson as saying, “It looks to us as though some of the slightly more significant changes are going to be at the middle managerial level […] It seems like a lot’s going to be done by working it out voluntarily.” HUCTW had recently circulated an open letter claiming Harvard libraries were already understaffed.

The library had 930 full time employees before the buy-out (down from 1,200 full-time employees in 2009). Some 26 new positions have been created since January, a university spokesperson told LJ, so after the early retirements took effect June 30, the total complement should be about 890.

Meredith Schwartz About Meredith Schwartz

Meredith Schwartz ( is Executive Editor of Library Journal.

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  1. Not Rosy Over Here says:

    As someone who works at a Harvard Library, and is part of those who may “nearly” (please note the use of quotations) have a job, the title of your article is misleading at best. By stating “nearly all” staff will have positions, those running this transition have left themselves plenty of wiggle-room to still lay off staff. The implication that library jobs were saved as a result of the retirement package offered, is a nice bit of spin but I’m not sure it’s entirely true. Several people at my library were already planning to take retirement, or decided to do so due to the uncertainty of having a job in the future. I wanted to read the Harvard Crimson article that this information seems to have come from, but unfortunately the page won’t load. August 1st we’re supposed to find out who we report to, and if we’re still employed. The reality is that ALL of us face the chopping block, both regular employees and managers; this is not a “staff vs. managers” type of deal and the transition team has been stingy with details throughout this process. The environment at my library has gone from fear and anger to morbid joking about what will happen. Morale is shot, I know many people looking for jobs, and despite the 26 jobs that appeared somewhere we are still very much understaffed and still working our behinds off to make it all work. The rosy implications of this article are not the reality we are faced with currently.