Using R is often a pain. Using R on HPC is often even more so. The issue I’ve struggled with for a while now was how to (relatively simply) maintain a (relatively useable) library, i.e. how to install and keep track of specific versions of packages without running into permission issues, and without having to occasionally re-install everything from the scratch because of the dependencies conflicts.

I eventually came up with a relatively straightforward solution. In short: create a personal library and use it as a default location to install packages – this is accomplished by adding to your .Rprofile file the handy .libPaths() tweak described in this post.

A more detailed explanation.

Create a library directory in your home folder, e.g. ~/R/3.6 for R version 3.6. Then add the following lines to your ~/.Rprofile, making sure that the path in the last line matches the library directory created previously.

# user specific library
set_lib_paths <- function(lib_vec) {

  lib_vec <- normalizePath(lib_vec, mustWork = TRUE)

  shim_fun <- .libPaths
  shim_env <- new.env(parent = environment(shim_fun))
  shim_env$.Library <- character()
  shim_env$ <- character()

  environment(shim_fun) <- shim_env


To check that everything is working, restart your bash shell, start R and see if the .libPaths() outputs the specified library location.


Miles McBain’s blog post on hacking R library paths.