Harvard’s Library Lab issues call for proposals from students, faculty, and staff

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The University’s newly created Library Lab is inviting students, faculty, and staff to collaborate with the Harvard Libraries and serve as co-creators of the information society of the future. The University-wide Library Lab is designed to leverage the entrepreneurial aspirations of Harvard students, faculty, and staff, who can propose projects in all areas of library activity.

“The Library Lab is intended to unleash the entrepreneurship of individual members of the Harvard community, enabling them to experiment with ways of improving library services, and leveraging their creativity with concrete support,” notes Stuart Shieber, James O. Welch, Jr. and Virginia B. Welch Professor of Computer Science in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and faculty director of the Office for Scholarly Communication.

“Unlike past efforts to change library systems,” Shieber continues, “the Library Lab will address issues observed by both library staff and patrons—that is, all members of the Harvard community who rely on library services. Already, we have begun receiving inquiries from creative students about possible projects for the Lab.”

The Library Lab is based on a model developed at Harvard Law School Library. John Palfrey, the Law School’s Vice Dean for Library and Information Resources and faculty co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, began developing the Law School’s lab “because we needed a theory of innovation at the highest level.” As Palfrey explains, “We were trying to do more than create greater efficiencies in the operation. We set out to free staff to do things that were different and experimental—and to think very broadly about incorporating research that we have about how people find information these days.”

Proposals for the new Harvard-wide Library Lab are being accepted on a rolling basis—in other words, at any time, with the first set of proposal reviews set for December 1, and funding announcements shortly thereafter. The proposal process is lightweight, requiring only a short proposal outlining the idea and any needed resources. “If you have an idea for the Lab,” Stuart Shieber advises, “use our online inquiry form to start a dialogue about your idea.”

“In the past,” says Ted Feldman G4, “I viewed the library only as a patron of an available palette of technologies. As a regular user of the library’s online tools and services, I’m excited to have an opportunity to re-shape and improve these interfaces.”

The Library Lab, which is managed by the Harvard University Library through its Office for Scholarly Communication (OSC), is made possible by generous support from the Arcadia Fund. For full information about the Lab and details on proposing a project, visit the OSC website at