Librarians and faculty from across Harvard, the United States, and even across the pond gathered to share problems and brainstorm solutions around the long-term life of print materials in a digital age at the Harvard Library’s Symposium on Sustainable Models for Print Storage in 21st-Century Libraries.

Large themes and issues such as funding and institutional culture were tackled by the speakers and panelists. Sarah Thomas, vice president for the Harvard Library and Roy E. Larsen Librarian for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, likened the topic of print storage to a twisted ball of yarn — something actually comprising a knot of complex issues like collection policies, systemization, cultural shifts, user behavior change and collaboration. “Print storage gives us a lens through which we can consider and observe a variety of issues about access to and management of collections,” she said.

About half of Harvard’s collection of nearly 20 million volumes is housed in the Harvard Depository, which is nearing capacity. Supported by the generosity of the Bradley M. and Terrie F. Bloom Family Fund and the Arcadia Fund, the symposium was envisioned by Thomas as a way to explore innovative alternatives via technology and collaboration with peers before commissioning a new module for the high-density facility.