With Campus Opening, Schlesinger Library Moves Forward with Digitization and Diversification of Collections | New
The Schlesinger Library at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study plans to continue its digitization efforts and diversify its collection as its staff return to work in person.
Several Radcliffe staff have said Covid-19 is forcing the library to implement changes for the online transition, and further adjustments are needed to accommodate the return to campus.
Ellen M. Shea, head of research services at the Schlesinger Library, said the library has housed students and researchers during the pandemic by scanning requested documents.
âThroughout the pandemic, we did something with almost 200,000 pages of internally scanned material, and then another 80,000 pages of material that we sent to our colleagues in Widener Imaging Services, who were also open to part-time during the pandemic, âShea said. .
This digitization is in addition to the library’s separate âgrand digitization projectâ of digitizing entire collections and making them accessible to all, added Shea. Librarians choose which collections to digitize based on copyright and their relevance to Radcliffe’s values.
âWe have a Radcliffe strategic plan called Radcliffe Engaged, and some of the areas we are focusing on are law, education and justice,â said Shea. âWe are prioritizing the digitization of the collections of African-American women that copyright allows us. We digitized the collection of early female prison reformers because prisons and justice were at the center of Radcliffe. “
Librarians have also had to transition the library’s educational program to an online format during the pandemic. Tamar G. Brown, research librarian and education coordinator, said she believed prior to the transition, teaching at the library was done in person due to the “thrill” of handling primary sources. Brown, however, added that she found online education “rewarding.”
âCovid was a watershed moment in education at Schlesinger, but also fair in the world of education with primary sources in general,â Brown said. âWe could do a lot more collective work with documents, so it was a great discovery of how you can use digital faxing in education as well. “
During the pandemic, the Schlesinger Library acquired and continues to acquire new papers and archives.
The library aims to be “partly responsive and also partly strategic” in acquiring its collections, according to library director and history professor Jane Kamensky.
Ultimately, the library acquires everything that âtells the storyâ of the current chapter of the library, Kamensky added.
The Schlesinger Library serves not only Radcliffe Fellows, but also researchers around the world.
For this reason, Kamensky said the library makes it a priority to diversify its collections in order to create a “complex web” of diversity.
“We want to document all aspects of the competition so that researchers, whether they are on the Harvard campus or elsewhere, can understand these factions and viewpoints from within,” Kamensky explained.
Last summer, the library acquired a large collection of materials from The Sisters of Life, a New York-based Catholic women’s organization that opposes abortion.
âOn the pro-life side, it’s a huge collection,â Kamensky said. âMore than 400 boxes that we can serve to researchers.
The library was also able to acquire a collection of articles from South Asian director Mira Nair ’79. This was accomplished through a task force focused on acquiring material relating to Asian American women and the history of their impact on society.
To make all these collections easily accessible to researchers around the world, the library has set ambitious goals for its digitization project. Although it has digitized only 8% of its collections so far, the library’s digital archives are among the largest in the world.
âThe number of scanned pages in the collection rivals that of the New York Public Library,â Kamensky said. “It’s really a really big effort even though it’s a very small part of the collection.”
With Harvard’s return to campus, the library also returned to primarily in-person functions. Shea, however, said the library was in the process of hiring and training a “whole new team” due to the increase in vacancies during the pandemic.
She added that she hopes the library will return to “more normal operations” by the end of the semester.
Brown said students should take advantage of the library’s return to in-person assistance to use and benefit from Schlesinger’s large collection.
âThe message that I hope all students get is that even though these barriers are there, they are still welcome to enter and use the collections, and we hope people will come,â she said.
– Editor-in-Chief Christie K. Choi can be contacted at [email protected]