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Message from the University Librarian

Boston University Libraries

The Boston University Community led by President Bob Brown has articulated a vision and strategic plan, Choosing to be Great, for the University. It celebrates our strengths as a private, urban, research institution with a global outlook while recognizing what remains to be done to realize this vision. In Mugar Memorial Library and branches we have aligned the Library’s Strategic Plan with the University’s plan and use it to guide decisions and resource allocation.

The Boston University library system is composed of the Pappas Law Library, the School of Theology Library, the Alumni Medical Library, and Mugar Memorial Library and branches (African Studies, Astronomy, Music, Science and Engineering, Stone Science, Pickering Educational Resources, and the Frederick S. Pardee Management Library).


The libraries are actively integrated into the undergraduate curriculum by means of significant partnerships which recognize the centrality of information resources to the learning experience. Individual subject bibliographers and librarians in subject-oriented libraries serve as the primary contacts with faculty members in their respective fields. Notable examples of this kind of interaction include: the two-credit “Introduction to Critical Inquiry” course in Sargent College’s Health Science program, which is team taught by a faculty member and a librarian three times a year; and the Introduction to Biology program at the Science & Engineering Library. This latter program was co-developed by a faculty member and a librarian to introduce undergraduates to the culture of scientific discourse. Another example of such partnerships may be found at the Questrom School of Business. By collaborating with faculty and focusing on core courses, the Pardee Management Library provides robust instructional programming reaching hundreds of students in Questrom School of Business and elsewhere on campus each semester.

Librarians are also involved with curricula and instruction at the graduate level. For example, the Law Library provides extensive research and instructional support to law faculty members including current awareness monitoring, educational technology support, and research assistant training. Medical Librarians teach information retrieval skills and management, with an emphasis on Medline searching, Evidence-Based Medicine resources, critical evaluation of health and medicine resources on the web, and the use of citation management tools.

Reference Service is available in all major libraries on campus with subject specialists available for consultations. Telephone, email, and 24/7 chat services are available to all students and faculty, regardless of location.

Boston University’s commitment to global awareness and scholarship is reflected in the library system. For example, the African Studies Library is one of the premiere African research libraries in the country. Its collection includes documents and newspapers from many African countries, literature in various African languages, and scholarship about African countries, cultures, and languages. The African Studies Library works closely with the African Librarians Council, the African Studies Association, and the Center for Research Libraries. As another example, the Modern Languages bibliographer received a Fulbright to travel to Jordan to interview Arab women writers.


The University Libraries’ collections contain more than 2.4 million physical volumes, 45,264 current unique serials titles, and 77,000 media titles. Mugar Memorial Library and its branches have strong collections in many areas of the humanities, social sciences, and sciences.

Many of Boston University’s specialized libraries hold unique collections tailored to the particular research needs of their faculty and students. The collections of the Theology Library are particularly strong in missiology, hymnology, liturgy and worship, and the history of the United Methodist Church. In addition to a broad collection of primary federal and state legal sources, the Law Library has developed an extensive international law collection with emphasis upon materials dealing with the European Union, the United Nations, international trade, and human rights. The unique collections of the Music Library serve the faculty and students in music degree programs both on campus and through distance education.

The libraries have made great progress in increasing access to research materials via networked services. Regional library consortia – including the Boston Library Consortium (BLC), Boston Theological Institute, and the New England Law Library Consortium – give students at Boston University access to more than 35 million items.


Providing access to digitally available subscription resources exemplifies the power and necessity of multiple collaborative arrangements. Boston University Libraries have a tradition of sharing access to resources across the University, regardless of reporting structures or library affiliation. Whenever possible, the libraries ensure that contracts with publishers and vendors stipulate access to subscription resources for all students and faculty throughout the University.

Academic libraries, through their participation in and support of professional organizations such as the Association of Research Libraries and the Association of College and Research Libraries, collaborate on ensuring publishers understand the importance of including explicit, archival provisions in their contracts. These archival provisions in contracts with publishers of subscription resources have important implications for access to electronic resources by future generations of scholars.

Boston University Libraries also participate in regional and national collaborations for digital preservation and distribution, such as the Open Content Alliance and Portico. In 2007, Boston University made a multi-year commitment to the Open Content Alliance regional scanning center at the Boston Public Library.

As part of a wider University effort to enhance student services, the Boston University Libraries and the Office of Information Technology transformed the first two floors of Mugar Memorial Library into an information commons. The recently completed Common@Mugar brings together information and technology services from many parts of the University. Added services include an IT Help Center and Print Center, as well as expanded scanning services. The new location of the Research Center brings library staff into close proximity with students engaged in research, writing, and other academic activities. In addition, there is expanded capacity for extended research and reference consultations.

Future Projection

Information discovery without limits challenges libraries and librarians at Boston University to continue to transform their services and facilities to advance the creation, discovery, and archiving of knowledge. The effect of digital technology is felt in every area of library activity. In the future, the creation, dissemination, and preservation of knowledge will continue to be increasingly facilitated by and dependent on digital communication.

The libraries’ success will also be contingent on continuing to align library goals with the goals of the University as a whole. To this end, it is essential for the library system to provide leadership in the development of services and resources central to the strengthening the faculty, and enhancing the undergraduate and graduate education environments.

Boston University Libraries strive to provide the highest quality services and resources to the Boston University community. The Libraries recognize the importance of listening to constituents, assessing use of key resources and services, and providing decision makers with data for planning and resource allocation and have articulated a five-year Assessment Plan.

Boston University Libraries are choosing to be great, choosing to support faculty, administration, and students in jointly creating our shared vision of the future.