Friday, January 20, 2012

Harvard Libraries Announce Unspecified Number of Layoffs

Libraries May Reduce Staff


Harvard University Library employees were informed Thursday at three town hall meetings that the ongoing restructuring of the world’s largest academic library system may result in a reduction in staff, according to people briefed on the meetings.

Prior to Thursday’s meetings, rumors abounded about the implications of the library restructuring on the size of the library staff.

Twitter was abuzz with speculation leading up to Thursday’s meetings and even during them. “All of Harvard library staff have just effectively been fired,” read one tweet.

The University announced in the fall that it would reorganize the libraries into affinity groups to bring together library units with similar missions.

“We are consolidating the libraries in a way that will save money, and that money saved will be plowed back into acquisitions and expanded services,” University Librarian Robert C. Darnton ’60 told The Crimson at the time. “It will make the library much stronger.”

Library leaders said that they were seeking a “smaller library” in Thursday’s meetings but left many questions unanswered, according to Bill Jaeger, director of the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers.

“There were vague references made to reductions in the size of the staff,” Jaeger said. “Despite persistent questions from the audience, the [library] leaders were not able or willing to provide anything more specific than that.”

Afterward, the University sought to dispel the rumor that all library personnel would be affected by the likely downsizing.

“It is inaccurate to say that all Library staff will need to reapply for their positions,” a statement from the University said.

“Our contract with the University requires union-management consultation when a department is considering [such changes],” Jaeger said. “We’re pretty confident that as this goes forward we’ll continue to hear from them.”

According to a University statement, staff meetings in February will be held to explain the organizational changes in more detail.

—Staff writer Justin C. Worland can be reached at

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