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About the Libraries

Q&A with Dean of Libraries Simon Neame

Simon for CMS2

What interested you most about becoming the Dean of Libraries at UMass Amherst?

Having worked at the University of British Columbia (UBC) Library for most of my career I really enjoy the incredible range of activities and projects happening every day in a research library.  When I learned about the opportunity at UMass Amherst, I was ready for a new adventure.  I was excited to take a next step in my career, having been greatly influenced by the experience of being an Association of Research Libraries (ARL) Leadership Fellow from 2013 to 2015.

The UMass Libraries are known for their innovative approach to developing new services and meeting emerging campus needs and the chance to work in the Northeast region, among so many great institutions, was also part of why I decided to come here.

What are your top three priorities in 2017?

This is always a tough question when you’re new.  I have spent my first three months listening and getting to know the organization and campus.  There are some important projects already underway that I will continue to support, as well as some new directions we can take as a library to position ourselves for the next chapter.

Continuing to improve our Library spaces is an important priority, including establishing a Graduate Commons as well as upgrading space in the Learning Commons, the highest student-traffic space on campus.  Providing access to flexible and adaptable learning environments, where technology plays a strong supporting role, is an important mission of the Library. 

Another priority is to ensure the services we provide to campus that support research and scholarship continue to meet existing and emerging needs.  This includes new areas such as research data management as well as support for humanists and others to make the most of digital research tools and methodologies.  We will also be embarking on a comprehensive study of some of our large electronic journal packages to better understand how these large-scale journal bundles are being used by our faculty and researchers, and if this is the best approach to acquiring the resources needed to support teaching and research at UMass.

Continuing to support the acquisition and digitization of unique collections will also be a priority moving forward.  The Libraries have developed outstanding collections that tell the story of social transformation and change, in Massachusetts, and across the country.  We can continue to animate these collections by developing innovative programming and encouraging scholarship that will ultimately increase the awareness and use of these important materials.

What do you think are some of the biggest challenges for academic libraries today?

I see both challenges and opportunities!   One key challenge is finding a balance between meeting the current needs of the campus through existing services and collections, while thinking about new trends and anticipating emerging needs.  Change is constant and libraries need to learn how to thrive in an environment of change and turn challenges into opportunities.  For example, libraries are often a bellwether for changes that are going to impact our campuses in terms of new technologies and approaches to learning.   We have many opportunities to provide leadership for the campus in these emerging areas and this is an exciting role for libraries and something we should celebrate.  We need to do a better job communicating to our users the new things that we do, the ways we can help support their work, and that we are always open to new ideas. 

Of course, I wouldn’t be realistic if I didn’t acknowledge that we are always working in an environment of limited resources, so thinking about how to make the best use of our resources while having the biggest impact on research and learning is always a challenge. I believe this challenge drives innovation.  We are also fortunate to have strong support on campus as well as a wonderful community of donors —our Friends—whose generosity allows us to expand our services and collections in new ways.

What one thing do you want to see the Library do better to help students?

Even with all the great work that has been done to create high quality and technology-rich learning spaces in the Library we can do more, as demand is high.  This includes expanding our offerings of technology-rich learning spaces, where access and support helps students in their work as creators, not just consumers, of information.  We also know that students have different needs at various times of the year, so we still need to think about learning environments that are conducive to group work as well as individual study.  Sometimes the most heavily used piece of equipment is a whiteboard and dry-erase markers!

What do you miss about Canada? What do you love most about New England?

I do miss seeing the ocean everyday on my drive to work.  UBC is located on a peninsula surrounded by water.  For me one of the things I love most about New England is that you are always surrounded by history, around every corner there is something old to explore.   

From the Dean

Welcome to the UMass Amherst Libraries website. As the largest public academic research library in Massachusetts, we are a key partner in teaching, learning, and research at UMass Amherst and in the Commonwealth. By combining the latest information technology with excellent public service, the staff builds and maintains a rich information environment, facilitates access to it, and creates a place that functions as a hub of campus and community scholarly activity.

As you explore our website, you will find a broad spectrum of virtual information resources and services. These serve to supplement the extensive print collections and helpful personal service available in our campus library facilities.

I invite you to explore this site and visit our libraries. Discover for yourself the wealth of information resources and services we provide to members of our academic community and citizens of the commonwealth. Whether you visit us in person or stop by online, I hope you will come back again and again.

Simon Neame, Dean of Libraries

Mission Statement

As a gateway to knowledge, the Libraries are a key partner in teaching, learning, and research at UMass Amherst. Supporting freedom of inquiry, the Libraries foster a diverse and inclusive environment in which to engage with ideas and acquire the critical skills necessary for life-long learning. By combining the latest information technology with excellent public service, the staff guides and maintains a rich information environment, facilitates access to it, and creates a hub of campus and community scholarly activity.