Students talking to librarian

Librarian Sarah Hutcheon talking to students at Harvard Library.

Photo by Steph Stevens

Campus & Community

This fall, a library for all

3 min read

Harvard College and Grossman libraries merge, give full access to Extension School students

Every year, thousands of students from around the world enroll in Harvard Extension School classes. Each student has unique dreams and plans. Many have full-time jobs and family commitments. Some seek advanced degrees or certificates to propel their careers; others take classes for personal development or simply to satisfy curiosity.

In the past, only admitted degree candidates were eligible to use all of Harvard Library’s many resources. This fall, for the first time, every student enrolled in the Extension School, regardless of degree status, has access to the same library services and spaces as students in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. That means that this semester, an additional 7,077 students have access to Harvard Library’s full range of services and spaces.

The decision “is part of Harvard Library’s goal to increase access to the world’s largest academic library,” said Franziska Frey, chief of staff and senior adviser for University library strategy, planning, and assessment.

“If you’re a Harvard student, no matter where you study or what part of Harvard you’re enrolled in, the library is yours,” said Laura Wood, associate University librarian for research and education. “Not every Harvard Extension School student can visit campus, but those who do should be able to access the riches of the Harvard Library to advance their education and scholarship.”

“The integration of our students into the wider system of Harvard libraries is an outstanding resource for our learners, giving them a sense of inclusion into the broader Harvard community,” said Hunt Lambert, dean of Harvard’s Division of Continuing Education. “When I mentioned full library access to our alumni and students at an event last month in Seattle, everyone in the room gave us a standing ovation. That says everything about what this means to our learners.”

Extension School students on campus can now attend library skills workshops and book group study rooms. They can create projects in the media labs, borrow tech equipment and software development kits, and use Borrow Direct, Harvard Direct, and interlibrary loan to request books to be delivered to a Harvard library location that’s convenient for them. Whether settling in at Loker Reading Room to study before an evening class, searching databases, or engaging in a research consultation in Singapore, they can access one-on-one help, participate in online learning sessions with library staff, chat face-to-face with students in different time zones, and access Scan & Deliver to have scans of print journal articles or book chapters sent to their email accounts.

Folding the Extension School’s library services into the College library breaks down barriers to knowledge and simplifies the learning experience. All four full-time staff members from the former Grossman Library are now embedded at Widener and Loeb Music Library, and course reserves are centrally located in Lamont.

Harvard Extension School faculty are welcoming the change.

“The Harvard Library has resources that can open up unimagined worlds for all students who have access to its riches,” said Shelley Carson, associate of the Department of Psychology and lecturer in Extension. “That this access has been extended to Extension School students is an incredible privilege.”

“I was elated to hear the announcement,” said Don Babai, associate at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies. “The decision enabling this signifies more emphatically than any other initiative I’ve witnessed in the three decades I have been teaching here that the Extension School is now recognized as an integral part of Harvard.”