Sidney Verba

Sidney Verba

Sidney Verba (1932- ) is an American academic, a librarian and library administrator. No less important, his doctorate, teaching career and publishing record are those of a political scientist specializing in American and comparative politics. He was the Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor at Harvard University. He also served Harvard as the director of the Harvard University Library from 1984 to 2007. As he gave notice of his intention to retire in 2006, Verba observed: "Academics are the only people I can think of for whom this sentence makes sense: 'I'm hoping to get some time off so that I can get some work done.'"Walker, Ruth. [ "Sidney Verba to retire; Appointed in 1984, Verba changed the face of the University Library,"] "Harvard Gazette." September 21,2006.]

Harvard faculty

As a member of the Harvard faculty, Verba's contributions to the life of the scholarly community extend beyond the realm of his academic discipline or his administrative title. For example, even though he "retired" in 2007, he continued to chair a University Committee on Calendar Reform which had begun its work in 2003. This committee was composed of students (undergraduate and graduate) and faculty members drawn from across the University’s Schools and Faculties. In 2008, the Committee's efforts reached fruition as Harvard President Drew Faust announced the adoption of a coordinated academic calendar that synchronizes the academic schedules of Harvard’s 13 Schools. Verba's committee managed to preserves the traditional eight-day reading periods for undergraduates, one of the best features of the former calendar, while eliminating impediments to student cross-registration. No less important, the Verba committee's work helped to aligns Harvard’s calendar with those of most colleges and universities in the U.S., making it easier for Harvard students to compete for internships, study-abroad experiences, and work opportunities during breaks and summer vacation. [ [ "Harvard announces coordinated academic calendar."] "Harvard Gazette." January 15, 2008.]


Harvard President Derek Bok named Verba to be director of Harvard University Library in 1984; and when news of Verba's retirement was received in Massachusetts Hall, Bok observed::"Professor Verba has led the Harvard libraries during one of their most transformative periods in University's history. ... When I appointed him more than 20 years ago, we were only beginning to realize what the revolution in information technology would mean. Sid's foresight has helped to preserve our valuable collections and opened Harvard's vast resources to scholars, researchers, and students throughout the world. I believe that generations of students will benefit from the doors that Sid has opened." -- Derek Bok. [Bok, Derek. [ "Letter to the Harvard community about Sidney Verba's retirement] (2006).]

When Verba retired from the post, he had served longer than anyone else who had held the title of director of the University Library; and not since Thaddeus Harris, whose tenure (1831-1856) straddled the card catalog revolution of the 19th century, had anyone spent so long at the top of Harvard's libraries. [see above] ]

Four specific areas in which Verba's contributions at Harvard have become the model for other academic and research libraries:
* HUL's "Harvard Depository" (HD) -- a "sophisticated way" of addressing the problem of needing to send books off campus. [ [ "The Harvard Depository Mission,"] HUL/HD web.]
**With a fully digitized collection, "Harvard users gain online access to the full text of out-of-copyright books stored at HD. For books still in copyright, Harvard users could gain the ability to search for small snippets of text and, possibly, to view tables of contents. In short, the Harvard student or faculty member would gain some of the advantages of browsing that remote storage of books at HD cannot currently provide. [ "John Palfrey" blog,] Harvard Law School, Berkman Center for Law & Society.]
* HUL's Digital Initiative -- influencing the ways libraries see themselves as responsible for creating and managing digital content. [ [ "Harvard University's Library Digital Initiative (LDI),"] HUL/LDI web.]
** "Plans call for the development of a unique union catalog linking the Google search engine with the online HOLLIS (Harvard Online Library Information System) catalog (, thus furthering retrieval of information on the location and availability at Harvard of works identified through a Google search. This would merge the search capacity of the Internet with the deep research collections at Harvard into one seamless resource-a development especially important for undergraduates who often see the library and the Internet as alternative and perhaps rival sources of information. [see above] ]
* HUL's Open Collections Program -- something of a counterpart to the Google project, though less well known, it aims to digitize and make available university resources on a given topic. [ [ "Harvard's Open Collections Program (OCP),"] HUL/OCP web.]
** "Women Working, 1800-1930." [ [ "Women Working, 1800-1930,"] HUL/OPC web.]
** "Immigration to the United States, 1789-1930." [ [ "Immigration to the United States, 1789-1930,"] HUL/OPC web.]
** "Contagion: Historical Views of Diseases and Epidemic." [ [ "Contagion: Historical Views of Diseases and Epidemic,"] HUL/OPC web.]
* HUL's preservation staff, facilities, and program. [ [ "Weissman Preservation Center (WPC),"] HUL/WPC web.]
**"The possibility of a large-scale digitization of Harvard’s library books does not in any way diminish the University’s commitment to the collection and preservation of books as physical objects. The digital copy will not be a substitute for the books themselves. We will continue actively to acquire materials in all formats and we will continue to conserve them. In fact, as part of the pilot we are developing criteria for identifying books that are too fragile for digitizing and for selecting them out of the project." -- Sidney Verba. [see above] ]


Verba's tenure as University Librarian has encompassed controversies which could not have been anticipated.

Harvard-Google digitization partnership

Verba was ultimately responsible for Harvard's participation in the Google Books Library Project, [Kamarck, Elaine. [ "An endless shelf for library books,"] "Boston Globe." March 17, 2006.] which involves a series of agreements between Google and major international libraries through which a collection of its public domain books will be scanned in their entirety and made available for free to the public online. [ [ Harvard + Google digitization project partnership] ] Verba's role encompassed developing digitization protocols, addressing logistical and operations issues, and administering the project. The more difficult part of his job required moderating the institutional debate about anticipated consequences inherent in conventional content-vs.-collection strategies; and sometimes he took on the role of public spokesman. [Verba, Sidney. [ "Harvard-Google Project: "Libraries, Books, Equality—and Google,"] "HUL web.]

idney Verba Endowment Fund

Friends and colleagues of Sidney Verba have established a $2.5 million endowment fundin his honor. The Fund benefits the Harvard University Library, which provides University-wide services, including digital acquisitions and collections, information technology, high-density storage, and preservation. Under the terms creating the fund, Verba himself was given the freedom to designate the purpose of the new endowment. [ [ "Library Visiting Committee Announces $2.5 Million Endowment Fund to Honor Sidney Verba; the new Sidney Verba Library Fund will benefit programs of the Harvard University Library,"] HUL news archive (2007).]

Political Scientist

However significant his work with Harvard's libraries, part of Verba's achievement has been that he somehow managed it all while remaining engaged as a political scientist. Most scholars put their own research on hold when they assume a time-consuming administrative role in the University -- not so Sidney Verba, who believed that his faculty position was "supposed to be a real job." During his years as HUL director, he maintained a halftime teaching load while also pursuing independent resarch projects. [see above] ] The central focus of Verba's work as a political scientist can be summed up in one word -- "participation." Expanding the subject somewhat, that topic might be elaborated to "the issues of political participation by different groups." The great framing question of his work has been, "Whose voice is heard by the government?" Verba himself argues that issues having to do political participation have become central in America's political discourse today; [see above] ] but he attributes his initial interest in the subject to the prescient encouragement of his mentor, Professor Gabriel Almond at Princeton University. [see above] ] Verba earned his Ph.D. at Princeton in 1959; [ Verba, GSAS faculty bio,] Harvard/GSAS web.] and in 1963, he was named as a co-author with Almond in "The Civic Culture: Political Attitudes and Democracy in Five Nations."

In retirement, he continues to explore his longtime interest in "the citizen voice" with a new study of interest groups in the United States, asking whom they represent - ethnic groups, women, trade associations, professions. His research goal is to produce "a kind of statistical model of what the interest groups in the U.S. look like." [see above] ]


* Johan Skytte Prize (2002) for distinguished contribution to political science. [see above] ]
* American Political Science Association (APSA), president (1994). [see above] ]
** APSA's Kammerer Prize (1972) for "Participation in America." [see above] ]
** APSA's Woodrow Wilson Prize (1976) for "The Changing American Voter." [see above] ]
** APSA's James Madison Prize (1993) for career contribution to the discipline. [see above] ]
* National Academy of Sciences (NAS), member. [see above] ]
** NAS Committee on International Conflict and Cooperation, Chair. [see above] ]
* American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS), fellow. [see above] ]
* Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS), fellow. [see above] ]
* Guggenheim Fellowship (1980). [ [ List of Fellows, Verba.] John Simon Gugenheim Memorial Foundation web.]
* Social Science Research Council (SSRC). [see above] ]
** SSRC Policy Committee, Chair. [see above] ]

elected work

* 2006 -- "Voice and Equality: Civic Voluntarism in American Politics." Cambridge: Harvard University Press -- with Kay Lehman Schlozman and Henry Brady. 10-ISBN 0-674-94292-2; 13-ISBN 978-0-674-94292-9 (cloth) 10-ISBN 0-674-94293-0; 13-ISBN 978-0-674-94293-6 (paper)
* 2005 -- "Contest of Symbols: The Sociology of Election Campaigns through Israeli Ephemera" by Hanna Herzog (Foreword by Sidney Verba). Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 10-ISBN 0-674-01796-X; 13-ISBN 978-0-674-01796-2 (paper)
* 2002 -- " Elites and the Idea of Equality: A Comparison of Japan, Sweden, and the United States." Cambridge: Harvard University Press -- with Steven Kelman, Gary R. Orren, Ichiro Miyake, Joji Watanuki, Ikuo Kabashima, and G. Donald Ferree. 10-ISBN 0-674-24685-3; 13-ISBN 978-0-674-24685-0 (cloth) ISBN 10: 0-674-24686-1; 13-ISBN 978-0-674-24686-7 (paper)
* 2001 -- "The Private Roots of Public Action: Gender, Equality, and Political Participation." Cambridge: Harvard University Press -- with Nancy Burns and Kay Lehman Schlozman. 10-ISBN-10: 0-674-00601-1; 13-ISBN 978-0-674-00601-0 cloth) 10-ISBN 0-674-00660-7; 13-ISBN 978-0-674-00660-7
* 1994 -- "" Princeton: Princeton University Press -- with Gary King and Robert Keohane. 10-ISBN 0-691-03470-2; 13-ISBN 978-0-691-03470-6 (cloth) 10-ISBN 0-691-03471-0; 13-ISBN 978-0-691-03471-3 (paper)
* 1985 -- "Equality in America: A View from the Top" Cambridge: Harvard University Press -- with Gary R. Orren. 10-ISBN 0-674-25960-2; 13-ISBN 978-0-674-25960-7 (cloth) 10-ISBN 0-674-25961-0; 13-ISBN 978-0-674-25961-4 (paper)
* 1963 -- "The Civic Culture: Political Attitudes and Democracy in Five Nations." Princeton: Princeton University Press -- with Gabriel Almond. [reprinted by Little, Brown, Boston, 1980. 10-ISBN 0-316-03490-8; 13-ISBN 978-0-316-03490-6 (cloth)] , [reprinted by Sage Publications, London 10-ISBN 0-803-93558-7; 13-ISBN 978-0-803-93558-7 (paper)]
* 1961 -- "Small Groups and Political Behavior: A Study of Leadership." Princeton: Princeton University Press. 10-ISBN 0-691-09333-4; 13-ISBN 978-0-691-09333-8 (cloth)


* Barringer, Felicity. [ "Washington Talk; Librarian of Congress: New Skills, More Roles,"] "New York Times." May 26, 1989.
* Campbell, Colin. [ "Tenure Denial of Noted Sociologist Stirs Troubling Queries at Harvard,"] "New York Times." April 21, 1985.
* Cowan, Alison. [ "For Dealer, Stolen Maps Point Way to Jail,"] "New York Times." June 23, 2006.
* Guernsey, Lisa. [ "The Library As the Latest Web Venture,"] "New York Times." June 15, 2000.
* Hafner, Katie. [ "At Harvard, a Man, a Plan and a Scanner,"] "New York Times." November 21, 2005.
* Hafner, Katie. [ "Libraries Shun Deals to Place Books on Web,"] "New York Times." October 22, 2007.
* [ "Harvard Cleared In Bias Case."] "New York Times." April 5, 2005.
* Hays, Constance L. [ "Tempers Rise Over Fate of Rare Book Collection at Harvard,"] "New York Times." December 29, 1989.
* Herzokovits, Zara. [ "New type of research journal gaining ground,"] "Boston Globe." July 11, 2005.
* [ "In Harvard Papers, a Dark Corner of the College's Past,"] "New York Times." November 30, 2002.
* [ "New Musical Archives For Harvard University,"] "New York Times." December 27, 1984.
* Kelly, Kevin. [ "Scan This Book!"] "New York Times." May 14, 2006.
* Keohane, Robert O., Stanley Hoffman, Joseph S. Nye, Jr., Robert D. Putnam, Sidney Verba. [ "Letter of the Editor: Was This Objectivity?"] "New York Times." May 17, 1987.
* Oreskes, Michael. [ "In a Surprise, Voters Say They're Watching a Lot,"] "New York Times." May 15, 1988.
* Page, Tim. [ "Music Notes: Festival Honors Musical Theater."] "New York Times." April 14, 1985.
* Pogrebin, Robin. [ "Renovations to a Study Room by Aalto Splits Harvard Faculty,"] "New York Times." July 10, 2006.
* Riding, Alan. [ "France Detects a Cultural Threat in Google,"] "New York Times." April 11, 2005.
* Romero, Simon. [ "Arts in America: Harvard Finds 2 Poems, and a Latin Romance Reignites."] "New York Times." September 19, 2000.
* Schmidt, Eric. [ "Half the Electorate, Perhaps Satisfied or Bored, Sat Out Voting."] "New York Times." November 7, 1996.
* Specter, Michael. [ "Computer Speak;World, Wide, Web: 3 English Words."] "New York Times." April 14, 1996.
* Steinfels, Peter. [ "Beliefs,"] "New York Times." May 4, 1996.
* [ Verba faculty bio, Harvard web site]
* Walker, Ruth. [ "Sidney Verba to retire; Appointed in 1984, Verba changed the face of the University Library,"] "Harvard Gazette." September 21,2006.
* Wyatt, Edward. [ "Google Adds Library Texts to Search Database,"] "New York Times." November 3, 2005.
* Wyatt, Edward. [ "Google Library Database Is Delayed,"] "New York Times." August 13, 2005.
* Zexima, Katie. [ "A Samuel Johnson Trove Goes to Harvard's Library."] "New York Times." March 18, 2004.

ee also

* Google Book Search
* Google Books Library Project

External links

* Installation of President Faust: [ "Harvard Faculty Greeting,"] -- video excerpt, Sidney Verba speaking on behalf of the faculty (5 mins).
* Harvard@Home video: [ "Teaching American Politics"] -- Professors Waters, Verba, Skocpol

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