Rachel Payne Karasick


From the outset, the research plan for my time at LIL was centered on the Library of Things and resource sharing. My project was described early on by a LILer as “ILL for non-normal ILL things” and yes, true, that was the essence of the idea at the beginning. The baseline assumption being that libraries:

[try their best to get materials to the people] + [have developed smart systems to facilitate sharing] x [are now collecting wacky new things!] = resource sharing for the Library of Things 

So the original aim of the research was to figure out how we could adapt ILL for ‘things’ collections in libraries. We already share media, books, and digital resources through Interlibrary Loan — how could some of this institutional expertise inform a regional or national exchange of items from tool libraries, baking pan collections, musical instrument libraries, and maker equipment? It’s a valid question that has changed shape pretty rapidly over the course of the summer.



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Library Innovation Lab

I’ve spent a good chunk of this summer with the fine folks of the Library Innovation Lab, which is housed in Harvard’s Law Library. The Library Innovation Lab (fondly referred to as LIL) exists at the intersection of law, librarianship, and technology. The LIL team is working on solutions for libraries and educational institutions, or as their website succinctly puts it: “We build things in libraries.”


The themes and goals of LIL projects seem to careen all over the map, but ultimately support the mission and collections of the Harvard Law Library. Though with projects spanning from visualization tools for library collections to the physical construction of library talking spaces [currently manifest as a cardboard phone booth prototype], there  seems to be plenty of room to tackle more universal library problems. The lab is fueled by a mix of individuals with tech, design, data, and legal backgrounds, with some superlibrarians thrown in the mix as well. It’s a fascinating place to spend time.

This summer I’ve been fellow-ing as a part of LIL’s summer fellowship program. There are five other fellows floating around the Lab this summer, as well as three dynamic LILterns. I’d like to share more about the fellow/LILtern projects in the future, but in the meantime there’s more info up on the people section of the LIL website. I’m pretty thrilled to be spending time with this crew and all of their big thinking.

During the fellowship I’ve been working on a research project that is focused on seeing where we might incorporate foundational tenets of librarianship into emerging Library of Things collections. The Library of Things trend has rapidly gained traction in public and academic libraries over the past five years. I’m especially interested in resource sharing, collective purchasing, and access considerations. The scope of the project has veered from quite close to home (interviewing other academic librarians who support ‘things’ lending in the Fenway Library Consortium) and further afield, trying to connect with public libraries that have fully invested in robust Library of Things collections. More updates on my research and the LIL experience coming soon. Better late than never!