A letter from Chris Bourg about the Hayden renovation

The following letter was sent to all MIT faculty on May 28, 2019.

Dear colleagues,

I write today to share some important information about the upcoming Hayden Library renovation, and to respond to the questions raised in the May 21 letter from some faculty and students. During the construction phase of the project (from December 15, 2019, until Hayden reopens in the fall of 2020), we will not be able to provide access to the general collections located in the Hayden basement; although access to the vast majority of the materials will continue to be available from other sources.

The need to close the Hayden basement, with most of the collections in place, is driven by several factors:

  • We cannot safely provide public or staff access to the stacks because construction crews will need to modify much of the building’s infrastructure located there.
  • Covering the books in protective wrapping, in place, during the construction is the best way to protect them from potential loss or damage.
  • Because we are committed to providing impactful print collections across all locations, we have very limited empty shelving available at other MIT libraries.
  • We will continue to purchase new print materials for Hayden throughout the renovation, so will use much of the available shelving elsewhere for these new materials, as well as for Hayden materials that are checked out before the renovation and returned before the re-opening.
  • Moving the entire Hayden collection to an off-campus facility would be extremely expensive and time-consuming. Because the vast majority of titles in the Hayden collection are already available for paging and on-site browsing from other institutions (>80% at Harvard libraries, >90% via BorrowDirect from our Ivy Plus partners), this option does not offer advantages that outweigh the costs.

We recognize the importance of browsing collections for academic discovery, research, and learning and are aware that the lack of browsing access during the renovation will be especially difficult for those faculty and students whose work depends on timely, direct access to these collections. Unfortunately, there are no viable options for renovating the library that would allow us to maintain browsable access to the Hayden collections on the MIT campus during the renovation.

The MIT Libraries will  provide interim services during the renovation to mitigate the impact of the closure and will have a full list of those services on our website soon. Some highlights specific to collections access include:

  • All MIT community members have borrowing and on-site browsing privileges at the Harvard Libraries. We are working with colleagues at Harvard to expedite registration for MIT community members before the Hayden closure.
  • Our Ivy Plus colleagues are prepared to meet increased borrowing requests via our BorrowDirect service, and the MIT Libraries will reallocate staff resources from lending to borrowing, as well as from other Hayden public service functions, to meet increased demands during the renovation.

Finally, it is important to note that we have prioritized the needs of scholars who rely on access to print materials by committing to a renovation design that will NOT result in any reduction of book collections in Hayden Library. The renovation does require a significant overall reduction in library space, due to accessibility requirements, upgraded bathrooms, and the need to relocate affected SHASS offices; but we avoided taking that space from either collections or patron spaces by agreeing to a long-term relocation of more than 50 of our own staff to off-campus space in NE36.

There is no way around the fact that this renovation will be disruptive — students will have fewer study space options, library staff will be displaced, and scholars who rely on the Hayden collections for research and teaching will have to use other libraries for the duration of the renovation. The payoff, however, will be a library that supports more research, more learning, more interaction, more community building, and better access to both print and digital collections. Thank you for your patience during the renovation, and for your support for a renovation that will improve the Hayden Library experience for all.

You can learn more about the renovation at our FAQs. You may also reach out to the Hayden renovation project team at space-lib@mit.edu.

All best,
Chris Bourg