Susan Lee Retires
March 6, 2008 – Harvard College Library was a very different place in 1989 when Susan Lee arrived to take the position of Associate Librarian for Personnel. A snapshot of that year would reveal that HCL had just reached a goal of one PC in every library and initiated a fax service in the Photographic Services Division. Both the Widener Public and the University Union Card Catalogs were in still in use, and preservation standards emphasized replacing serial titles with microforms. The Office for Information Systems (OIS) was housed in Room 88—now ITS—on the ground floor of Widener; D-Level remained an unfinished storage space.
As Lee prepares to retire at the end of March after 19 years of service as an Associate Librarian, and most recently as Senior Advisor to the Librarian of Harvard College, she recently reflected on her tenure.
"My career choice to become an academic librarian has proven absolutely right for me. At Harvard much of my work has been behind the scenes. My goal has always been to push hard for the good of the College Library and, hopefully, I will be remembered for my energy and integrity. I am pleased to have had the opportunity to execute a smooth succession transition [with Rebecca Graham] and feel fortunate to be able to now devote more of myself to critical family needs."
Although pleased with her job in retrospect initially Lee, who was then Associate Librarian for Administrative Services at the University of Connecticut, thought long and hard about taking the job at Harvard. In his annual report Alan Erikson, then Librarian of Cabot Science Library, wrote, "It was a great pleasure to have participated in the search committee's decision to invite our initial first choice candidate, Susan Lee, to reconsider her decision not to come to Harvard." He went on to say, "[we] have been most pleased with her ability to run with the ball."
Run she did. During her tenure, Lee played a key role in instituting a senior managers group, integrating the HUCTW into the Library, forming a Joint Council, and implementing formal staff training and professional development programs. She also served as HCL's representative on the library job classification initiative undertaken by Harvard's central administration. In 1991 she became Associate Librarian of Administrative Services responsible for operational functions in support of the libraries As such, she instituted an Administrative Services program for HCL that included creating Information Technology Services, developing more robust Human Resource Services, Financial, and Operations/Security units, and laying the groundwork for what would become a world class Conservation program. By 1997 her position had evolved into Associate Librarian for Planning and Administration and she added long-range strategic planning to her portfolio. Under Lee's oversight, HCL built increased flexibility into its budget and opened up the process to include participation from the individual libraries.
Since 1996, the Library has undergone significant physical change, both in terms of construction and the opening and closing of service points. Lee has had a hand in all of it, from the five-year Widener renovation to projects at 625 Mass. Ave., the Collections Conservation Lab, and Lamont, Hilles, Kummel, Littauer, Cabot, and Harvard-Yenching libraries. She leaves with plans in place for major projects involving Fine Arts and Loeb Music libraries and additional work at 625 Mass. Ave.
"From the day that I arrived at Harvard in the fall of 1996, Susan has been an invaluable asset to my administrative team. She has an excellent knowledge of the history of all our libraries and has worked closely with so many units on budgets, buildings, and the development of staff. Over the years she has taken on challenging roles within HCL, all of which have moved us toward a more coherent organization with a shared administrative infrastructure," said Nancy Cline, Roy E. Larsen Librarian of Harvard College.
"If there is one single achievement of her Harvard career that rises above all others, it was her leadership on the massive Widener renovation (1999-2004). Working in the intersections among contractors, architects, FAS facilities staff, and our own HCL Operations group, Susan always knew the details of budgets and logistics amidst a sharply focused objective to bring in the project on time and on budget. Her tenacity, her knowledge of Harvard and FAS, and her desire to improve HCL were exceptionally valuable in the Widener project and have carried forward in the planning roles she has held for many other endeavors. I am personally grateful for Susan's unstinting service, her wise counsel, and the strong organization that she forged," Cline added.
Originally Lee planned to depart HCL in the spring of 2009 but moved up the date in order to assist with family-related health issues.
At her request, no formal reception will be held, but colleagues are invited to say their goodbyes between now and the end of the month.