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My new job

I’ve got a new job: I’m co-director of the Harvard Library Lab, a part of Harvard Law School. I’m excited.

The Lab (the name is going to change) was created by John Palfrey a year ago when he became head of the Harvard Law Library (and Vice Dean for Information and Library Resources at the Law School). JP had been executive director of the Berkman Center. The key thing to understand is that the Lab was established by someone with a commitment to openness, collaboration, the importance of libraries, and the goodness of the Web. JP’s short form mission for the Lab is to “hack libraries” — in the good sense, of course, of innovating to expose even more of their value. Libraries are the centers of communities of scholars and researchers offline, and they ought to be (or at least inform) the centers of those communities online as well.

I’ve been consulting to the Lab for the past year, reporting to the fabulous Kim Dulin, lawyer and librarian, who is now co-director with me. We have a small but extraordinary team of folks who combine knowledge, imagination and vision with the ability to incarnate all three in software. The Lab has been working on a handful of small projects and one very large project. For now let’s just say that the projects generally take advantage of what libraries know — content, librarians, the users, all their interactions, all the metadata they generate — in order to help researchers and scholars find what they need, understand it, and share what they’ve learned. Something like that.

Also, the projects are awesome. And open source. And, whenever possible, collaborative in every direction. I’m there half-time so that I can finish my book, but my spirit is there 100%. (Also, my spirit works nights and weekends.)

There’s tons to do and a fantastic set of people to work with. I can’t wait to begin next week.


Frequently Asked Questions that no one has actually ever asked:

Yes, I’m still a senior fellow at the Berkman Center.

Yes, the Lab and the Center are independent of one another, but there’s a fair bit of happy overlap.

Yes, we know that Lab’s Web site needs work. We’re working on it! Jeez!

Yes, the Lab is part of the Harvard Law School Library, but we take our mandate as being more general than that.

No, the Law School Library Lab that I’m at is not the same as the new Harvard Library Lab. The latter is a university-wide group that is going to spur and encourage library innovation by funding projects and pulling together the community of people interested in the future of libraries. The LibLab that I’m at will be changing its name soon because it’s just too damn confusing.

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24 Responses to “My new job”

  1. Congratulations on the new gig, David. Looks like exciting new work.

    Does this change your role in Radio Berkman?

  2. Thanks, Dan. No, it doesn’t change my role at Berkman at all. (Just for the record, you asked before I appended the FAQ to this post.)

  3. Congratulations, David. Sounds like an exciting new adventure. Best of luck.

  4. Mazel Tov, David. Looks like fun!

  5. Have great adventures at your new gig. I look forward to reading about it here. tbf

  6. Congrats, David! The Lab will undoubtedly benefit from your leadership.

  7. Related, unordered thoughts…

    Have to hurry with the big project… to come out with the universal, global, truly cosmic book check in/out service… before Fourbook does it (soon to be followed by Amazon, Google, and Facebook).

    Ask not what the web can do for the libraries… but what libraries can do for the web.

    Tim Spalding could be a wonderful contributor to these projects.

  8. Thank you for the congratulations.

    Emil, your “Ask not…” motto is just right. That is _exactly_ what our Lab is asking.

    And, yes, Tim Spalding of LibraryThing has thought innovatively about these issues longer, deeper, and more fruitfully than just about anyone. We’re already talking. In fact, one of the great things about this new job is that there are so many fantastic people we get to talk with!

  9. Thank you for your quick reply David…

    Your post kicked off a series of thoughts in my head immediately (your excitement is contagious obviously)… books as “places”… web of books… people checking in/out of books… books as “libraries”… and all the ensuing social goodness… Good stuff to work on… :)

    And Tim’s experience is absolutely unique.

  10. OK, that just shot to the top of the list of places I’m going to be trying to volunteer at once my schedule opens up in a couple of weeks. (I just got my MLS, and am staring at the gaping hole in the economy where interesting, challenging library jobs used to be…) Do you all have any use for a lackey with an MLS, teaching experience, and a tiny (but rapidly expansible) smattering of code?

  11. Intriguing.

  12. Congratulations David. Your energy and enthusiasm are amazing. To quote William Blake: “exuberance is beauty”!

  13. Congratulations, David.

  14. Andromeda, give us some time to figure out how to connect with talented, eager people. But stay in touch! Please!

    Thanks, Ray and Mark.

  15. I’ll ping you in a few weeks :). Congrats on the post! It sounds really exciting.

  16. This is exciting news! Congratulations David.

  17. Congratulations! Will you all be raising a $100 million dollar venture capital fund? :-)

    It’ll be fascinating to see what you folks come up with, and I mean that most sincerely.

  18. Fantastic news, for you and for the Lab (and the Web)!

  19. Congratulaions David !
    books couldn t find a better teacher for their new digital life
    keep us posted on the solutions you are goin to try

  20. Congrats — seems like a great fit for you, and great addition for John. Do wonderful things.

    How about calling it the Harvard Labrary?

  21. Clever idea, Kevin. But then we’d spend the rest of our careers saying, “No, that’s ‘labrary’ with an ‘a'” :) I’ll raise it with the group. Thanks!

  22. Congratulations, brother!!!

  23. Congratulations!

  24. Congrats!

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