Aisha Harvey selected as SILSAA Featured Alumna

October 14, 2011

Aisha HarveyThe SILS Alumni Association Board has selected Aisha Harvey (MSLS ’01) as their latest featured SILS alumna. Harvey, who is Head of Collection Development at Duke University’s Perkins Library, says that her job is not necessarily as traditional as it may sound.

“As information seeking behavior is changing with the advancement of eReaders, eBooks and platforms, so too is collection development evolving to meet those new needs,” says Harvey.

The usual aspects of collection development are still integral to Harvey’s work at the Perkins Library, of course. The central part of her job is ensuring that the scope and caliber of the library’s collections support the mission of the university as a whole. Additionally, along with supervisors and division coordinators, Harvey also oversees the recruitment, retention, training, and evaluation of subject librarians. But lately, says Harvey, “I have been very focused on ensuring that we are strategically prepared to grow our electronic book collections as public adoption of this format grows.”

As digital media and platforms become more central to the Perkins Library’s mission, Harvey finds herself focusing less on procurement of materials than on access to them. “Libraries are on the verge of supporting access models that may supersede traditional publication models.  By providing services like ePublishing platforms, digital archiving and metadata support, the library is expanding its reach beyond the IP ranges of our traditional constituents and potentially impacting a community of global researchers who affiliate based on shared interests.  This year I have learned to focus not just on purchasing information but to actively seek ways to facilitate access to information.”

Over the last year, Harvey has ensured that the Perkins Library has kept up with the pace of change in eReader technology. “I have added Kindles, Nooks, Sony eReaders and a vast amount of eContent, including data sets and streaming videos, to the library's collection,” says Harvey. “Our return on investment with these items has been relatively high, enabling library users to access this information anywhere they happen to be during their point of need. Empowering researchers in this way is very rewarding, but anticipating which format will best meet the needs of each researcher is challenging.”

The challenges created by rapid changes in technology can seem intimidating to new and veteran librarians alike. When change seems overwhelming, Harvey looks back to lessons learned at the School of Information and Library Science (SILS) for guidance. “At this point in my career, I benefit most from the core values that I adopted during my time as a student. This includes a willingness to learn more about my user community as it evolves, a tenacious commitment to obtaining information that meets their needs, and a continued commitment to protecting their privacy.”

Empowering the researchers at the Perkins Library by anticipating their needs is what drives Aisha Harvey’s commitment to building the library’s collections, digital and physical. “Technology has advanced and libraries have changed, but I find that the basic principles of information exchange have remained the same,” she says. “The scientists, philosophers, writers and readers who access our collections daily deserve a collection that informs their work and personal aspirations. Ultimately, empowering information seekers is empowering them to improve the world.”