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Harvard Fine Arts Library May Move to Lamont Library, Feasibility Study Suggests

Lamont Library, located in Harvard Yard, is an undergraduate library housing Harvard's collection on the humanities and social sciences.
Lamont Library, located in Harvard Yard, is an undergraduate library housing Harvard's collection on the humanities and social sciences. By Camille G. Caldera
By Jackson C. Sennott, Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard is considering moving its Fine Arts Library into Lamont Library from Littauer Center, a change that would dedicate significant space in the historically undergraduate library to materials on arts and architecture.

The potential changes to Lamont were raised during a Harvard Library Spaces Community Update last month, discussing possible transformations of public access, usage, and design of Harvard Yard’s four libraries in the coming years.

Harvard is working to “develop a new vision for Harvard Yard’s iconic physical libraries” through its Yard Libraries Feasibility Study — a project launched this fall in collaboration with Ennead Architects and their research partner brightspot — according to the Harvard Library reference wiki.

“We heard from students that Lamont has a ‘homey’ feeling, and its own sort of charm, but it also feels a bit rundown,” Martha Whitehead, vice president for the Harvard Library, wrote in an emailed statement.

“As part of the Feasibility Study, we are exploring a variety of ways to relocate the Fine Arts Library to the Yard so its collections are closer for students to access,” Whitehead wrote. “And we certainly plan to maintain Lamont as a student study space, but those two ideas are not mutually exclusive.”

Beyond Lamont, specific aspects of the new vision may include significant changes to the Yard’s three other library spaces for students — Houghton, Pusey, and Widener.

The Fine Arts Library is housed in the Littauer Center for Public Administration.
The Fine Arts Library is housed in the Littauer Center for Public Administration. By Ryan N. Gajarawala

“We’ve heard ideas for ‘touch-down’ space, more open space, and more tech-enabled space,” Whitehead wrote.

The study is also considering expanding public access to the Yard libraries.

“There are limited opportunities for the non-Harvard community to engage with our physical collections and spaces,” Whitehead wrote. “We’re looking at ways to engage the broader community, say creating an exhibition space that highlights what everyone can get from our digital collections online.”

The Feasibility Study sought student input from August 2022 through January 2023, surveying around 150 affiliates on their views on the libraries through focus groups, tours, and other outreach initiatives.

“We ensured a representative group of students were taking part, including holding sessions to learn from students with disabilities and those from historically marginalized groups,” Whitehead wrote.

This plan is part of a series of changes to the Yard’s libraries in past years. Houghton Library’s renovation focused on improving accessibility and making the space more welcoming. Countway Library, the Harvard Divinity School Library, and the Harvard Radcliffe Institute Schlesinger Library were also renovated recently.

“Widener, meanwhile, was last updated nearly 20 years ago,” Whitehead wrote.

Whitehead stressed, however, that no action has been solidified or even planned yet, explaining that the project is currently in its information-gathering phase, which will likely be followed by a planning phase next year.

“This is not yet a plan,” she wrote. “We are still in an exploratory phase. We’re still looking at all the options, surfacing all the ideas, and examining all the possibilities.”

“It will be a few years before we’re seeing any of these changes,” she added.

—Staff writer Jackson C. Sennott can be reached at jackson.sennott@thecrimson.com.

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