Creating a 21st century library for MIT

In a letter to the editor in Tuesday’s issue of The Tech, graduate student Juliet Stanton makes several observations about the current planning process for renovating Hayden Library. On behalf of the MIT Libraries I can say that we wholeheartedly agree with her views on carefully considering the needs of the entire MIT community as we explore additional ways to meet our mission to create and sustain an environment that advances learning, research, and innovation at MIT. We are committed to supporting students like Juliet, as well as all MIT students, faculty, researchers and staff in the important work they do.

The Libraries provide the MIT community with essential research and teaching materials in both digital and physical formats. As demand for digital content has exploded the Libraries have responded. However, we balance those online services with physical information assets and facilities desired by the MIT community. Despite the rapid transition to e-content, tangible materials still dominate the Libraries’ holdings and require significant resources and space to acquire, manage, and preserve. Our evolving “service model” is user-centered, informed by MIT faculty, researchers, postdocs, students, and staff, as well as the Institute’s mission and priorities.

Regarding the Hayden renovation, we have solicited the input of the MIT community, and strived to be as transparent as possible. You can find more details at http://libraries.mit.edu/future-spaces/. Fundamentally, we want to answer the questions posed there — What will a premier academic library look like in 2030? How does it support emerging teaching, scholarship, research, and innovation at MIT?

Of course the answers we learn will have to fit into the larger landscape of the fiscal and spatial constraints of the Institute. In launching the project to renovate Hayden Library we are responding to significant issues related to the building infrastructure — over sixty years old, Building 14 has significant accessibility issues along with outdated core systems such as power, HVAC, and windows. The proposed renovations also advance the concept of Hayden as an academic village, a concept embraced by the recent report of the Institute-wide Task Force on the Future of MIT Education.

We have previously met with Juliet and several of the faculty from the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy to listen to their concerns, and to assure them that their department’s needs will be factored into project plans — particularly their needs regarding on-site availability of print collections and concerns about access to offsite collections. We know that a one-size-fits-all strategy is not appropriate at MIT. And we welcome the opportunity to hear from all MIT departments, labs and centers, and to meet with other constituencies to understand their needs and concerns.

Steve Gass is the Interim Director of MIT Libraries