Friday, February 24, 2012

Library, HUCTW to Negotiate Through “Joint Councils”

The Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers will form three “joint councils” with Harvard Library management to negotiate the library system’s reorganization, according to a University spokesperson.
HUCTW Director Bill Jaeger said that union leadership proposed the formation of the councils late last week in an effort to improve communication between HUCTW and the University.
“We’ve been frustrated that there wasn’t more serious discussion going on about some of the crucial transition details and that there wasn’t better opportunity for our members to participate in thinking about how to build a greater library,” Jaeger said.
The reorganization has been a point of contention between the University and library workers since Harvard University Library Executive Director Helen Shenton announced on Jan. 19 that the library workforce would be trimmed down as the University moves forward with restructuring its library system.
A University spokesperson said that the three councils will be formed in accordance with the union’s contract with the University and will meet regularly starting in early March and through June 2012.
Joint councils will be formed to represent the Access Services, Technical Services, and Preservation and Digital Services departments, Jaeger said. The councils will be comprised of eight to ten people with equal numbers of union and Harvard Library representatives.
In addition, Jaeger said that HUCTW is currently working on an “open letter” that will be circulated through the Harvard community next week to garner sympathy for the union.
“We think that if faculty and students can see as our members see...they’re going to be concerned about deteriorating quality in the current library,” Jaeger said.
The letter will discuss the union’s concerns that the libraries are already understaffed and that outsourcing of services such as cataloguing might weaken the library system, Jaeger said.
“We want to pay particular attention to the question of what are the minimum staffing levels needed to have a great library,” Jaeger said. “We think that our community is very much in danger of not really having a world-class library.”
On Wednesday, HUCTW leadership sent an email to inform its members of the formation of the joint councils. Library assistant Karen L. O’Brien, a HUCTW representative, expressed skepticism about the effectiveness of the councils, saying that the University has provided the union few details thus far.
O’Brien said that despite numerous attempts from workers to give input to the reorganization, the University has been nonresponsive and “close-mouthed.”
Jeffrey W. Booth, also a library assistant and HUCTW member, said the councils would do nothing to mitigate the threat of layoffs, calling it a “regressive step.”
“They’re extremely ineffectual and often only take up minor issues,” Booth said. “I’m sure Harvard management is so happy.”
Booth, dissatisfied with the formation of councils, said that his union needs to respond more visibly to the University’s recent announcement. He suggested that the union conduct inclusive, membership-wide meetings that could lead to a strike vote, a large rally, or a sit-in of Massachusetts Hall.
“It feels like David and Goliath...but if David didn’t have a slingshot,” Booth said. “The union leadership is not arming the membership.”
Jaeger said that while HUCTW’s ultimate goal is to build a great library, the union is also striving to improve relations between workers and library management.
“We’d like to rebuild some trust and build some better relationships between union members and the key management leaders of the transition,” Jaeger said. “I think a lot of our members are quite deeply frustrated, and union leaders are as well. The state of the library workplace at this point, as far as we can tell, is basically chaos and demoralized disarray.”
—Staff writer Dan Dou can be reached at
—Staff writer Samuel Y. Weinstock can be reached at

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Boston Globe Gets Early Retirement Details Before Harvard Employees

In a letter sent Monday, February 13 (see below), Marilynn Haussman introduced the early retirement packages and said "details will be available on Wednesday."  Today, Tuesday, February 14, the Boston Globe published an article (also below) that has details already.  Why this discrepancy?  Why does the media learn about this before those workers who are affected?

Dear Colleagues,

I write today to let you know that beginning on Wednesday, February 15, Harvard will offer a Voluntary Early Retirement Incentive Program (VERIP) for eligible staff members in the Harvard University libraries (Harvard Library).  Generally, library staff members who are age 55 and over, have 10 or more years of participation service, and are participants in a Defined Benefit or the Defined Contribution Retirement Plan are eligible for this program.  Local Human Resources offices will distribute personalized information packets to eligible staff members beginning on Wednesday.  Eligible staff members will have 46 days to consider this offer.  During this time, a range of support services will be provided to help each person decide whether retiring makes sense.

The Library leadership has been working since 2009, beginning with the Library Task Force and then the Library Implementation Working Group, to create a strategy and structure to support the future of Harvard’s libraries given the profound changes occurring in research libraries and scholarship in the digital age.  At every step of the way, we have been aware of the needs of our staff whose work supports the University’s mission every day.  We are sensitive to the effect of these decisions on those who steward one of the most important collections in the world, support our faculty, researchers, and students, and who rely on the University for their livelihoods. 

With these thoughts in mind, the 2012 VERIP is designed to be a totally voluntary option that will offer choice and financial support to qualifying employees who may wish to retire.  Eligible staff members will receive individualized retirement benefit statements, and will be assisted in their decision-making through group information sessions and individualized retirement counseling.  Full details will be available on HARVie ( beginning on Wednesday.

We are grateful for the service, dedication, and contributions of our library staff, and wish those who will retire all good things in the next chapter of their lives.  


Marilyn Hausammann
Vice President for Human Resources

Harvard to offer voluntary buyouts to 275 as part of push to modernize library

02/13/2012 4:36 PM

Some 275 Harvard University employees will be offered voluntary buyouts in the school’s first concrete move toward modernizing its decentralized library system, university officials said today.
Workers there have worried about involuntary layoffs, which they were told to expect during a contentious set of internal meetings in January that led to protests – most recently, the “occupation” of a library café on Sunday by students and labor activists.

But the packages offered today are “totally voluntary,” said a letter from Marilyn Hausammann, the university’s vice president for human resources.

The targeted employees are largely 55 and over, with 10 or more years’ experience at Harvard. The buyouts will be offered starting Wednesday, and employees are due to make their decisions by April 2. The packages will offer a payment equal to six month’s pay plus two weeks of pay for each year of service in excess of 10 years, up to the equivalent of one year’s base pay.

On Friday, Harvard announced a sweeping overhaul of its library system, including the consolidation of services and the shuffling of many of its 900-plus employees. The college said the changes were necessary to bring the system, the world’s largest academic collection, up to speed in the digital era.
“The new Harvard Library improves a fragmented system by promoting university-wide collaboration,’’ library officials said in a statement today. “It will enable Harvard to invest in innovation and collections, make decisions strategically, reduce duplication of effort and leverage the University’s buying power.

“As Harvard works to respond to the evolving expectations of the 21st century researcher, university leaders have been acutely aware of the needs of Library staff who support the University’s mission every day,’’ it continued. “With this in mind, the University is implementing a generous, voluntary early retirement program that will both offer incentives to qualifying employees who wish to retire and help the Library meet the needs of its new organization.’’

Mary Carm ichael can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @mary_carmichael.

Layoffs Step 1: offer early retirement packages

University to Offer Some Librarians Early Retirement

The University will offer a Voluntary Early Retirement Incentive Program to library employees 55 years and older with 10 years of service under their belts, according to a University spokesperson.
Those who choose to accept the offer will receive six months’ pay, plus two additional weeks’ pay for every year of employment beyond 10 years. An employee cannot receive more than one year’s worth of salary under the package.

Approximately 275 employees are eligible for the plan. There are 930 full-time employees within the University library system.

Once they receive the details of their personal plan, workers will have 46 calendar days to decide whether or not to accept it.

Workers were informed of the program via email early afternoon Monday.

The plan is part of an ongoing restructuring of the University library system, which seeks to unify Harvard’s 73 currently independent libraries.

Harvard University Library Executive Director Helen Shenton had previously said at a town hall meeting with library employees that “the Library workforce will be smaller than it is now.”

In an email to the Crimson, a university spokesperson said that with improvement to the library system in mind, “the University is implementing a generous, voluntary early retirement program that will both offer incentives to qualifying employees who wish to retire and help the library meet the needs of its new organization.”

Bill Jaeger, director of the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers, said the offer was just another ambiguous message from the administration in a process that it has not handled well.
“It’s one more step that seems premature and that is poorly considered and not broadly enough consulted about,” Jaeger said. “There’s a record-breaking level of turmoil and anxiety among the staff. This just adds to the confusion.”

Jaeger said that this announcement did nothing to address the fact that, according to HUCTW members, the library is understaffed as it is.

“At this point, the case hasn’t been made for staff reductions,” Jaeger said. He added that if the library does not have a solid plan going forward, this program could cause it to lose money.
He also said that the possibility of a Voluntary Early Retirement Incentive Program was never mentioned in discussions between the union and the library.

“It’s really hard for the library staff to know what to make of the early retirement offer,” Jaeger said. “The big question that crowds out all the others is, ‘Why?’”

Karen L. O’Brien, a library assistant who noted that she was too young to take the offer, said that she thought that the announcement mirrored the steps the library took in the past when it sought staff reductions.

O’Brien said she thought that more employees were likely to accept the early retirement program if they had been previously scared by the threat of layoffs.

Since Shenton’s announcement, some library employees have taken to the streets to protest the possibility of layoffs, picketing outside of a meeting for library staff members and staging multiple public demonstrations.

Sunday night, members of Occupy Harvard took over Lamont Library Café, pledging to stay in the café until 10 p.m. on Friday in order to protest library staff reductions.

Andrew J. Pope, a doctoral student in history and Occupy Harvard supporter, said that the early retirement program leaves library employees with few options.

“If they don’t take the offer and are laid off, the family will be in a dire financial situation,” Pope said,

Rudi E. Batzell, another doctoral student in history who also supports Occupy, echoed Pope’s concerns.

“[The Voluntary Early Retirement Incentive Program] forces [workers] to make an economic decision without any sense of what their alternatives are,” Batzell said.

Sandra Y. L. Korn ’14, a Crimson associate editorial executive and a member of the Student Labor Action Movement, was skeptical about the early retirement program’s potential effectiveness.
“I think it’s stupid,” Korn said. “Harvard can’t completely revamp its library system in the next 46 days.”

The University has said it will provide more information on staff reductions over the coming weeks.

—Jane Seo contributed to the reporting of this story.
—Staff writer Hana N. Rouse can be reached at
—Staff writer Samuel Y. Weinstock can be reached at
—Staff writer Justin C. Worland can be reached at

Monday, February 13, 2012

Images from Feb 9 No Layoffs Protest

Students Occupy Lamont Library Café

Police in Lamont
Harvard University Police officers monitor the outside of Lamont Café while occupiers sit inside.

UPDATED: February 12, 2012, at 3:04 p.m.

Members of the Occupy Harvard movement parked themselves in Lamont Library Café on Sunday night, pledging to stay in the café until 10 p.m. on Friday in order to protest planned staff reductions in Harvard libraries.

More than 23 supporters of the movement gathered in the café to inaugurate the next phase of their protest, the first to involve a physical occupation since Harvard administrators removed the Occupy Harvard dome from the Yard on Jan. 13.

An undergraduate café employee called the Harvard University Police Department to report the protest, according to an email to café workers obtained by The Crimson.

Police officers arrived on the scene and asked the protesters to remove the banners and signs that they had hung in the café’s windows, according to protester Andrew J. Pope, a doctoral student in history

“Harvard’s free speech policy protects students’ rights to express themselves on campus,” Pope said.
Pope said that a night supervisor employed by the library told HUPD that the staff supports Occupy Lamont and that the protesters’ actions did not break any library rules.

HUPD could not be reached for comment on Sunday night.

“I hope it makes people aware that the Occupy movement is ongoing, and it’s building toward the future,” said Rudi Batzell, a doctoral student in history. “I think that the location [of the occupation] here is important, especially with ongoing library restructuring. It’s a show of solidarity with the library staff.”

On Sunday, Occupy Harvard also hosted an Occupy Boston Student Summit in Emerson Hall, which was attended by over 80 students from 18 campuses in the Boston area. In Lamont, occupiers chatted with summit attendees by Skype.

Protesters say that the purpose of the new occupation, which they call the “New Harvard Library Occupation,” aligns with the goals of the national Occupy movement that began in September.
“It’s a different movement, but a continuation of the same ideals,” Pope said.

Batzell added, “I hope that it will raise awareness that the Occupy movement is alive and growing. I hope it will connect the local struggle of library layoffs to larger issues of inequality and workers rights globally.”

Protesters said they will give out candy, offer tutoring services, and host twice-daily think tanks to include other Harvard students in their activism efforts.

“The hope is to build relationships with the broader Harvard community, including undergrads and workers, and engage with them in different ways,” Pope said.

Students plan to continue the occupation until Lamont Library, which is open 24 hours a day on weekdays, closes at 10 p.m. at the end of the week.

—Jane Seo and David Song contributed to the reporting of this article.
—Staff writer Eliza M. Nguyen can be reached at

Friday, February 10, 2012

Globe article on Layoffs

Harvard plans to consolidate library, reshuffle employees

Harvard University revealed its long-awaited plan for restructuring its library system this morning, calling for “changes that affect staff at every level” that are likely to include consolidating many services, reshuffling some employees, and offering buyouts to others.
Details will be finalized over the next few weeks, according to a statement from Provost Alan Garber, but the plan will surely include “adjustments in how and where many staff members perform the work that has made the library one of the university’s greatest treasures.”
With dozens of semi-autonomous branches, the library is the world’s largest academic collection, a point of pride at the school. But its size and structure have resulted in redundancy and held back efforts to adapt in an age of digital technology and increasingly expensive academic journals.

The plan calls for consolidating services across the branches -- from access to digital preservation -- and developing systemwide policies on what materials are acquired and how students and scholars can retrieve them. It also suggests that the branch libraries’ information technology staffers and resources be combined with those of the university as a whole.

“It replaces a fragmented system of 73 libraries spread across the schools with one that promotes university-wide collaboration,” Garber said in the statement.

Many of Harvard’s suggested changes have already been implemented at other universities, such as the University of Massachusetts Amherst, which overhauled its library system a decade ago amid budget cuts, eliminating many print journal subscriptions and shrinking its staff by 20 percent through an early retirement plan.

On Wednesday, Harvard President Drew Faust released a lengthy statement expressing both her love as a scholar for the university’s library and her concern that it is falling behind.

Its decentralized organizational scheme “has left us unable to make integrated strategic decisions about the digital future, so that we have not kept pace with essential new technologies,” she wrote in a letter to the Harvard community “It has led to duplications in services and acquisitions; it has caused us to miss economies of scale; and has produced overhead costs that are significantly higher than those of our peers.”

The new plan, based on two years of internal study, is designed to bring the library up to speed.
But many Harvard librarians said they felt left out of the loop, and some said staff cuts could hurt the library.

Rumors that the plan might call for massive layoffs have provoked a fearful outcry among the librarians -- especially after a series of contentious meetings in January, during which employees said they were told to fill out skills profiles and expect both voluntary buyouts and layoffs.

After those meetings, the surprised librarians took to Twitter, with one complaining that “all of Harvard library staff have just effectively been fired,” a statement that circulated widely on the Internet that turned out to be untrue.

Some 70 protesters -- including librarians, but also Occupy Boston participants and student labor activists -- held a rally in Harvard Square Thursday, chanting, “Hey, Harvard, you’ve got cash. Why do you treat your workers like trash?”

Librarians outside Harvard were also awaiting the changes with concern.
Steven Bell, a librarian at Temple University, wrote that the fury over change at Harvard might stem from the university’s stature and cultural resonance.

“The restructuring may not diminish the strength of the collections or services, but there is a strong emotional connection to what these academic libraries mean,” he wrote in the magazine Library Journal. “At your institution or mine, eliminating branch libraries may cause some departmental ill will, but ultimately it is seen as sensible and necessary. At Harvard, it is perceived as an ill-conceived tearing of the cultural fabric.”

A blogger named Chris Bourg, an assistant university librarian at Stanford University,” wrote that as Harvard goes, so might other universities: “If massive layoffs can happen at Harvard [with its huge endowments], then no academic library is safe.”
Mary Carmichael can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @mary_carmichael.

Rally Against Library Layoffs - Crimson Reports

Protesters March Against Potential Library Layoffs

By Samuel Y. Weinstock, CRIMSON STAFF WRITER
Published: Friday, February 10, 2012

Protestors join together in a rendition of “Solidarity Forever” in front of the Holyoke Center Thursday evening before marching through Harvard Yard in opposition to proposed reductions in numbers of Harvard’s library workers.

A crowd of more than 100 protesters gathered outside the Holyoke Center Thursday night in response to plans to reorganize Harvard University Library that could include involuntary staff reductions.
The protestors chanted and marched in a circle, after which several workers, students, and other supporters spoke to the crowd. They then walked into the Yard and circled Massachusetts Hall several times.

The rally sought to increase awareness in the Harvard community about the library workers’ concerns as well as to display opposition to the administration’s intentions, said William P. Whitham ’14, a member of the Student Labor Action Movement.

“I hope this lets the student leaders, lets the faculty know that this ‘glorious’ reorganization has a human cost,” Whitham said.

Library assistant Jeffrey Booth, who has worked at Harvard libraries for nearly 26 years, said that the threat of staff reductions makes him worried about his family.

“Our futures are at stake,” Booth said. “We’ve already had to make tough personal decisions because of the threat of being laid off.”

Library employee and elected Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers representative Emeka F. Onyeagoro, who spoke at the rally, said that he was opposed to the layoffs, which he said threatened an estimated 800 to 1,000 workers.

Onyeagoro said the layoffs have no financial basis, but are an unjustified attempt at greater efficiency.
Layoffs would also negatively affect workers who kept their jobs, since they would be faced with a greater workload, Onyeagoro said.

Ricardo R. S. Rey, a teaching fellow in the history department, said that he opposed the layoffs for practical, as well as philosophical reasons. He recalled an instance where he wasted time searching for documents with HOLLIS before a librarian helped him find a wealth of materials for his class.

“How are we going to find this [without librarians]?” Salazar said.

“There are people [here] that don’t normally go to rallies,” Booth, who is also a HUCTW member, said. “It’s hard to get up out of your seat and do something.”

Last Friday, HUCTW leaders met with library officials for a conversation that HUCTW Director Bill Jaeger described as “honest,” “difficult,” and “inconclusive.”

“So far we haven’t seen a change of heart, but we’re going to keep pressing, and press harder,” Jaeger said.
Jaeger said that the union still had two major concerns that the library board had not addressed sufficiently, if at all.

“We’re baffled by the unnecessary cloak of secrecy,” Jaeger said. “We don’t understand why such a committed and intelligent group would not have more access [to the community].”

HUCTW’s second concern, according to Jaeger, was that some library functions are already understaffed.
“We’re going to fight for great libraries and great jobs,” Jaeger said.

Yet Desiree A. Goodwin, a library assistant who spoke at the protest, said that HUCTW, of which she is a member, has not offered much information either.

“They’re not really telling us anything,” Goodwin said. “Not unlike the library board.”

Jaeger said that the email Faust sent on Wednesday to the Harvard community was encouraging to HUCTW members, since it referenced staff engagement.

Jaeger added, however, that so far, the administrations’s words and actions have not been consistent.
“There’s a worrisome disconnect between that quotation and the practical accessibility that our members have,” Jaeger said.

Booth said that he and his fellow workers found the content of the email to be misleading.

“They expect us to believe her assertions because she’s Drew Faust,” Booth said. “And that is insulting.”

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Crimson 2009 Archives - Faculty Calls For Library Funding

Faculty Calls For Library Funding 
Over 100 Professors support letter to University administration 

With budget cuts looming over Harvard’s numerous libraries, more than a hundred faculty members signed off on an impassioned letter calling on top University administrators to increase funding for library acquisitions.

The letter, sent on Friday to University President Drew G. Faust, Provost Steven E. Hyman, and Faculty of Arts and Science Dean Michael D. Smith, follows a report released last month by a University Task Force suggesting that Harvard could no longer “harbor delusions of being a completely comprehensive collection.” The University will need to drastically restructure its “labyrinthine” library system in the face of budgetary pressure, the report said.