The Library Innovation Lab at Harvard University

by Jade Mejia


According to their website, the Library Innovation Lab is “a dynamic group of thinkers and doers working to make libraries better by exploring the countless, dimly lit pathways that connect libraries to the larger world.” The Library Innovation Lab is located in the Harvard Law School Library, and their main focus each year is on large multi-year projects and a handful of smaller projects that they call sketches.

The Library Innovation Lab’s mission of “libraries being universal” is shown in their want and need for the projects to be seen and worked under multiple lenses, which is reinforced by the location of the lab, as the website states, “[the projects] benefit greatly from the deep legal thinking and scholarship that surrounds us. We often approach library challenges using our law school library lens, but we work hard to make sure our local efforts have broad application.” Under this mission and scope it gives people of multiple backgrounds the chance to add to the ongoing projects.

Outreach Aspect

The Library Innovation Lab (LIL) works at “the intersection of libraries, technology, and law”, and have four different ways a person is able to collaborate with the lab. These different ways are by: 1.) contacting them via email and stating your interest in one of their ongoing projects or sketches in order to be a general collaborator, 2.) applying to be a Summer Fellow, 3.) applying to be summer intern, and finally 4.) applying to be a Research Fellow. The LIL team is also heavily active on Twitter, and tout that it is the place to look for the most up-to-date information. Given the multiple outreach access points to those who are interested in projects that intersect library, law, and technology, this innovative group shows how easy collaboration can be.


      I.            Active Projects

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On their website, LIL has listed their ongoing projects as well as their past completed projects, so that possible collaborators can get an idea about what the institution is in the process of working on.  When you click into the project thumbnails you are led to a project summary, that outlines three main ideas: 1.) what does the project do/where you can find it, 2.) why does it exist, and 3.) how you can learn more in case you want to use the resource, or help work on it.

Pictured above are a few examples of their ongoing projects, such as H2O that is a platform made for sharing, creating, and remixing open access course materials, specifically legal textbooks and course work that are known for being expensive and too heavy for everyday carrying around.


      II.            Sketches

Sketches are the ideas and brainstorms about a topic before a project is actualized, or as LIL states: “Before it’s a project it’s a sketch. Sketches are a way to get a handle on an idea and see where it goes. It’s what’s on our mind.” On LIL’s website they showcase the sketches with thumbnail images, a quick description of the sketch, and the date it was started.

This method provides interested collaborators a way to figure what stage in a project’s timeline they want to participate, as well as giving collaborators an idea of what is to come from the innovation lab.  When you click into the sketch it outlines three main ideas, 1.) what does the sketch do/where you can find it, 2.) why does it exist, and 3.) how you can learn more in case you want to use the resource, or help work on it. Pictured above are a few of the sketches they currently have open.