Amid Reorganization, Harvard Library Plays Down Fears of Mass Layoffs

Reports that Harvard Library employees were being let go en masse circulated on social-media sites Thursday, following town-hall-style meetings to update staff on Harvard’s continuing project to restructure its libraries. A librarian’s tweet announcing that “All of Harvard library staff have effectively been fired” was widely retweeted, and concern spread quickly (see the Twitter hashtag #hlth).

In a statement sent to news organizations, Kira Poplowski, the library’s director of communications, suggested the reaction was overblown. “It is inaccurate to say that all library staff will need to reapply for their positions,” Ms. Poplowski said. Thursday’s meetings focused on “immediate next steps” in the transition, “which include recommending a new organizational design,” she said. Details about how and when the changes will take place, and how they will affect the staff, will be shared next month at another round of meetings, according to Ms. Poplowski.

But in a post on the Feral Librarian blog, Chris Bourg, the assistant university librarian at Stanford University, summed up a general sentiment among observers that the day had produced more questions than answers about the fate of Harvard Library staff and what it meant for other institutions. “Plenty of folks are worried that as Harvard goes, so go other academic libraries—in other words, if massive layoffs can happen at Harvard (with its huge endowments), then no academic library is safe,” Ms. Bourg wrote.

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