Five years ago, the Folger Shakespeare Library set a strategic goal of becoming the best independent research library we could imagine. For readers, we understood that goal to mean preserving our most valued traditions while also opening up to new fruitful ways of conducting research. On your trips to the Folger or through your use of our many digital resources, you will have seen a refreshed understanding of the services we provide for researchers, onsite and online; a series of experiments in community sourcing for transcription projects; a grant for a collaborative research initiative from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; and, again with the support of the Mellon Foundation, the launch of an accessible, interactive, digital assets platform. With these initiatives we are expanding scholarly conversations to include our public audiences, as well. From our position on Capitol Hill, we want to set a compelling example of the importance of the humanities.
Our strategic plan also aimed to provide pathways into discovery and engagement for the next generation. To do so, we are preparing for the next phase in the life of our magnificent Art Deco building. Plans for possible major renovations and expansion are underway. We want to create more accessible entries, enhanced ways to showcase treasures and tell stories from the collections, and purpose-built exhibition and meeting spaces. The Folger Board of Governors has commissioned a master plan. The Board has been closely considering the opportunities and implications of a major expansion and construction project on the Folger’s finances and operations for the years ahead. Architectural consultation is ongoing, and we are all evaluating the effects of construction on our work at the Folger.
We are bringing you into this conversation because we know that a closure of the Reading Rooms is possible, and that it will have a direct impact on our loyal readers for a period of time. Construction in the building could begin as early as January 2020, and it could last as long as two years. We know that as researchers, you have plans to make and predictable windows of opportunity in which to make them. We understand a closure of the Reading Rooms will entail lost opportunities to work with our materials here. That is why we are providing as much advance notice as we can, even as the news remains tentative. We are committed to provide ongoing notice to our readers as Board decisions and timelines warrant.
The Institute is actively reshaping opportunities for fellowships and scholarly programs with institutional partners. Here are two initial announcements. For fellowships, at the fall 2018 application deadline for long-term fellowships to be held in 2019-2020, we will experiment with semi-residential awards that allow for research at the Folger in the fall semester and offsite in the spring semester. In 2019-20, scholarly programs will host consortium-funded seminars and workshops at our member universities, with plans including the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. These are early examples. Watch for more.
Please don’t hesitate to ask questions and make suggestions about the Institute’s plans at firstname.lastname@example.org.