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Reference Librarian, Harvard College Library, (Cambridge, MA)


Harvard Library seeks a user-centered, collaborative, and innovative professional for the position of Reference Librarian in Houghton Library.  The Reference Librarian is responsible for providing reference assistance, developing online guides, web pages, and other tools designed to enhance the use and understanding of Houghton Library’s collections. 

The incumbent should demonstrate a strong service orientation with the ability to interact positively and inclusively with students, faculty, and the public, and to create accessible reference tools. 

This position also participates in Houghton Library’s teaching and learning initiatives, including classroom instruction, January-term classes, and outreach activities. 

The position reports to the Associate Librarian for Public Services for Houghton Library.  Houghton Library has recently joined with the Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library, Fine Arts Library, Harvard Film Archive, and Harvard University Archives to create Archives, Arts, and Special Collections of Harvard Library, a new administrative unit currently planning integrated approaches to public services for archives and special collections across the portfolio.   


  • Participates in in-person, virtual reference, and research consultation services for primary source research methods, including digital and innovative uses of the Houghton Library collections.
  • In coordination with the Head of Teaching of Learning, work across curatorial areas to prepare and lead instruction sessions with primary source materials, including evaluating and selecting materials, developing class plans, and collaborating with faculty on assignment design and learning outcomes. Promotes inclusive teaching practices and a commitment to accessibility in the development and delivery of services and programs.
  • Participates in other Houghton Library teaching and learning initiatives, including printing workshops, January-term classes, and outreach activities.
  • Works in close collaboration with the Research Services Librarian (who is responsible for reading room operations) and the Reference Services Librarian (who is responsible for virtual reference) to assist with all reference services.
  • Ensures excellent service, friendly reception, and positive research interactions for researchers of all skill levels using Houghton collections.
  • Supports the use of LibAnswers, Houghton’s system for managing patron off-site research and information requests.
  • Creates and maintains reference guides (such as LibGuides) for Houghton collections and services.
  • Provides in-person and virtual reference assistance as needed, including 4-6 hours of weekly reading room shifts, one evening shift (5-7pm), and a rotating 8-hour Saturday shift.
  • Builds and fosters collaborative relationships with colleagues in other Houghton Library Divisions, Harvard College Library’s Archives, Arts, and Special Collections unit, and across the broader Harvard Library community.
  • Participates in ongoing learning and professional development relevant to position responsibilities and delivery of services and programs, as well as Houghton and Harvard Library committees and special projects. Collaborates with colleagues outside of Harvard and in national professional organizations.


  • This position may supervise library assistants, student employees, and temporary staff.

Basic Qualifications

  • Master’s degree in library and/or information science or equivalent experience.
  • Three or more years of professional experience in instruction and reference in an academic or research library environment.
  • Experience in providing reference and instruction in rare books, manuscripts, and archives.
  • Experience with research and teaching trends, methods, and best practices.

Additional Qualifications and Skills

  • Demonstrated ability to provide effective and efficient research services. Knowledge of best practices in virtual and in-person reference in a special collection environment, familiarity with the assessment of public services and related tools.
  • Demonstrated ability to bring inclusive and engaging pedagogical approaches to the interpretation of materials held by the Houghton Library.
  • Demonstrated commitment to equity, diversity, inclusion, accessibility, belonging and anti-racism, and to serving the needs of a diverse population.
  • Ability to manage complex projects and deliver to deadlines.
  • Demonstrated initiative, flexibility, and ability to work collegially and creatively within and across organizations.
  • Strong customer service orientation and success in improving the user experience.
  • Capacity to thrive in a changing working environment.
  • Experience working with highly sensitive and current records.
  • Ability to develop and sustain effective collaborations with students, faculty, academic departments, and/or academic support units, including working efficiently across disciplines and with diverse populations.
  • Experience with assessment tools and methods.
  • Excellent written and oral communication.
  • High-level judgment and discretion, and comfort with ambiguity.
  • Strategic thinking, negotiation, and change management skills.
  • Strong analytical and problem-solving skills.
  • Commitment to positive, solutions-driven responses to challenges.
  • Experience with or willingness to adopt new technologies and systems that expand access to collections and facilitate their use in research and teaching.
  • Record of engagement with professional groups and activities and/or contributions to professional or scholarly literature.
  • Working knowledge of a language other than English including, but not limited to Spanish, French, Italian, Latin, or any Non-Roman script [or alphabet] language.

Working Conditions

  • This is an on-site position.
  • The person in this role will primarily work Monday-Friday 9am-5pm.
  • The person in this role will be responsible for working one evening shift (5-7pm) and rotating 8-hour Saturday shifts.
  • Working hours can be adjusted to accommodate teaching needs.
  • Harvard Library is able to provide flexible work arrangements within the guidelines of the Harvard Flexwork policy and Harvard Library practices.

How to Apply

For more information and to apply, please go to the following link: .