This story was originally published on June 3, 2019.
The MIT Libraries are committed to supporting the research and learning needs of the Institute community, and one important way we meet these needs is through physical space. In imagining a new Hayden Library, one key goal is to keep research at the center of the library experience. MIT students, faculty, and staff need access to tangible and digital collections and ways to make connections between the two. They need computational access to information and serendipitous browsing, space to work together as a group and space for quiet reflection. We’re working with the talented and creative team at Kennedy & Violich Architecture to create flexible, multi-use spaces in the renovated Hayden Library that will support multiple forms of research and learning.
The Future is Digital and Physical
In its report, the Institute-wide Task Force on the Future of Libraries wrote, “the future of libraries is more complicated and interesting than a simple transition from a predominantly print world to a digital one…many undergraduate students, faculty, and staff expressed the desire to use some materials in physical formats.”
The importance of tangible materials, and the ability to browse them, is critical to teaching, learning, and research at MIT and has long driven decisions related to library space. Counter to the prevailing trend at peer institutions, the number of books on campus has grown slightly over the last three years. That the proportion of our on-campus collections that circulates is also higher than that of many of our peers speaks to a well-curated collection aligned to our community’s needs. In configuring library space for the renovation, we have prioritized the needs of scholars who rely on access to print materials by committing to a design that allows us to maintain the current size of the print collections in Hayden.
Access to Hayden Book Collections
In order to realize our vision for Hayden, the library must close for construction from December 15, 2019, until the fall of 2020. During this phase, we will not be able to provide access to the general collections located in the Hayden basement.
In a May 28 letter to the MIT faculty, Libraries Director Chris Bourg outlined several factors that required closing the Hayden basement:
- The Libraries 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 reopening.
- 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.
Meeting Community Needs
The Libraries will provide interim services during the renovation to mitigate the impact of the closure on students, faculty, and staff. Wherever possible, our collections and services will be made accessible at other library locations on campus, and access to the vast majority of the materials located in the Hayden basement will continue to be available from other sources.
All MIT community members have borrowing and on-site browsing privileges at the Harvard Libraries, and we are working with colleagues at Harvard to expedite registration for MIT community members before the Hayden closure. In addition, 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.