Hope it works, Harvard

The hashtag #hlth kept popping up on Twitter this afternoon. I, along with many others, soon found out this was in reference to a restructuring announcement by the Harvard University Libraries.

Though no one actually lost their job today, layoffs are pretty much imminent. Most staff will have to re-apply for their jobs. As you might imagine, the news was not well received.

If you read the Vision and Overview on the transition site set up by the library, what they have in mind makes sense.

Ultimately, the University seeks to build the hallmark library of the 21st century, a cutting-edge, nimble organization that is collaborative both internally and externally. We want our patrons to be able to find anything at Harvard, whether it’s a book, a digital copy of a journal, or an object in one of our museums. And we want them to be able to access it regardless of their location.

In effect, we did the same thing at my workplace four or five years ago. Whether you want to see textiles, a typewriter, a manuscript collection, or a Connecticut imprint, you head straight to the Research Center and someone will help you. We have done our best to make connections among all of our materials in order to provide the best research experience possible. Additionally, we continue to work on making our resources available online.

It seems that the biggest problem today was that there were many questions, and few answers. In the short run, the announcement was unsettling to current Harvard employees. It had many of us wondering how this will effect both our profession and society.

When it comes to change, I am not generally the most enthusiastic. However, I really hope this works, and without hurting too many people in the process.



I enjoy explaining my job by saying that I read other people’s diaries for a living. Today I was working on a catalog record for Rev. Thomas Robbins’ diary (though, perhaps, autobiography would be more appropriate). Robbins was born in Norfolk, Connecticut in 1777. Among other things, he became a minister, collected a huge library, and would eventually become the first librarian of the Connecticut Historical Society.

About the time he turned 20, Robbins recorded his autobiographical diary. He wrote a short paragraph for each year.  My favorite was 1786, the year Robbins turned nine. “In May I accidentally fired a gun in the meetinghouse & broke a window very bad.”

Accidentally?? I just have to laugh. How do you accidentally fire a gun…in a church?!

Prison on Pearl

Did you know that Pearl Street in Hartford used to run to a prison? Tonight I read the minutes of the Court of Common Council’s meetings in 1812. I am preparing a magazine column (short, only 150 words) and it looks like I will focus on the naming of streets that year. I hope I can find a map at work tomorrow from the era. Most of the streets are described using landmarks that few of us would be familiar with today. For example, do you know where the late William Ellery’s store was? Neither do I.

Reading ~ 2012

Last year I decided to keep a list of the books I read. I didn’t read too many, and forgot to write down several titles, so that was a bust. It is the beginning of a new year, I have a new journal for recording such things, and have therefore started the list again. I should note that none of this falls in the New Year Resolution category. It just so happens that dark and cold January is a good time for reading. In the journal I intend to just list the titles. Thought I might expand a bit more here.

The other day I started Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. I’m not too impressed yet, but am only on page 38. I bought this several months ago and it has just been sitting on the shelf. As I recall, I bought it because I liked the title. However, a cousin whose reading list I follow closely, didn’t give it the best review. That dissuaded me from starting it. Since I own it, it may not get as much time in the next few weeks.

This evening I went to the library and checked out two more books. I had heard of Precious Objects, by Alicia Oltuski, but somehow missed the part that it is non-fiction. I don’t know much about the diamond industry, so it is interesting so far. Non-fiction generally has to be very compelling to hold my interest, though.

Rounding out the stack is Sally Gunning’s The Rebellion of Jane Clarke. Some time in the past year or two my book group read one of Gunning’s other novels, The Widow’s War. I knew there was a sequel to Widow’s War, but Rebellion is not it. Bound is the one I actually wanted to read. Don’t think it was on the shelf, though. After two chapters, Jane seems like it should be a fairly easy read.

I’m a little disappointed that none of these has really grabbed me from the start. Time will tell how far I get. I also have reserved The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer.