Yuntian Hu, the Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) leading developer at the UMass Amherst Libraries Digital Media Lab (DML), is working on creating an immersive virtual experience that will allow students and staff to navigate a 3D representation of the W. E. B. Du Bois Library. Visualizing the library space in this form will highlight resources and services, including some of the lesser-known support services and collections.
“The pandemic has shown us the importance of connections between our friends, family, and the university community. Technology has kept us connected in the shadow of in-person restrictions, helping us to adapt to and embrace new methods of communication,” says Steve Acquah, coordinator of the Digital Media Lab.
The DML is also currently collaborating on an interactive state-of-the-art virtual tour of the new facility, working with Adrian Chase ’23, a UMass Student and founder of tech startup Interactiva Studios. Chase says, “We’re super excited to be able to work with the UMass Amherst Libraries to pilot our tech to the campus community.”
“We are fortunate to be able to collaborate with talented students like Adrian and his team who have taken the initiative to help during these challenging times,” says Acquah.
I hope this message finds you and your loved ones healthy and well! As I write, the spring semester is underway at UMass Amherst. When the operating posture returns to guarded, we look forward to offering limiting building occupancy and have established a seating reservation system to aid us in de-densifying those study spaces that will be available. All of these details will be added to the Libraries’ website, and any changes to our protocols will be posted there.
When we can welcome students into the library, they will find renovated and refreshed library spaces awaiting their use. This includes the Digital Media Lab, which was relocated and expanded to a purpose-built space adjacent to our Learning Commons. Here, students and faculty can engage in projects and research including dynamic technologies such as 3D printing, virtual and augmented reality technology, and video and audio media production, supported by a staff with expertise in each of these areas.
Of course, our support for students remaining off-campus as remote learners will continue at the same level as before, with librarians available through chat and email to assist with research, as well as identifying and obtaining resources, and ensuring that resources are made available virtually wherever possible, and in hard-copy when necessary through the USPS with Library Express.
Back by popular demand this semester are virtual undergraduate-focused game nights and other fun activities open to all. Students involved in last semester’s game nights requested more such events, citing them as relaxing and fun, and a place to make connections and friendships outside of their courses. It provides the Libraries a low-stakes opportunity to build students’ comfort and knowledge of Library people, resources, and services, too.
In addition to marking the return to campus, February is Black History Month and—fittingly—the birth month of W. E. B. Du Bois, the namesake of our Library tower, which houses the W. E. B. Du Bois Center. To highlight these two important celebrations, the Du Bois Center will release a mini-video each week that highlights the history and impact of the Center. The month will culminate with a celebration of Du Bois’ 153rd birthday on February 23, featuring a live panel discussion in honor of the centennial of The Brownies’ Book, followed by a question-and-answer session with Whitney Battle-Baptiste, PhD, the Director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Center. In addition, the Du Bois Center’s weekly “Breakfast with Du Bois” events continue to be held via Zoom each Monday at 9:30am. You can learn more about these events on the Du Bois Center events page, and you (and your student!) may register for them by emailing Adam Holmes. We’d love to have you join us for these events if you’re able to do so!
Dean of Libraries
There is no better time than now to support the UMass Amherst Libraries.
January 27, 2021: When spring semester begins February 1, the Libraries will help welcome thousands of students back to campus. In order to safely open our doors, library staff collaborated with campus Environmental Health & Safety to minimize transmission risk for students, faculty, and staff who make use of the Libraries for study space and research support. We have limited building occupancy, and established a seating reservation system to aid us in de-densifying the study spaces available.
On-campus students will find a new facility for their use: The expanded Digital Media Lab is now located adjacent to the Learning Commons; it’s a space for students and faculty to learn and teach using dynamic technologies including 3D printing, virtual and augmented reality technology, and video and audio media production, supported by staff with expertise in these areas.
Our support for students remaining off-campus as remote learners will continue at the same high level, with librarians and staff available through chat and email to assist with research, as well as identifying and obtaining resources, and ensuring that resources are made available digitally whenever possible, and when necessary, through the US Postal Service with Library Express.
In addition to marking the return to campus, February is Black History Month and—fittingly—the birth month of W. E. B. Du Bois, the namesake of our library tower, which houses the W. E. B. Du Bois Center. To highlight these two important celebrations, the Du Bois Center has organized a series of events for the month, including the release each week of a mini-video highlighting the history and impact of the Center. The month will culminate with a celebration of Du Bois’ 153rd birthday on February 23, featuring a live panel discussion in honor of the centennial of The Brownies’ Book, followed by a question-and-answer session with Whitney Battle-Baptiste, PhD, the Director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Center.
Happy New Year!
Though the first winter storm of the season has blanketed Amherst with deep snow as I write this, the Spring Semester is only a few weeks away, and the Libraries are preparing to welcome students back, both virtually and for a limited number, on campus.
We’ve worked closely with UMass Environmental Health & Safety and University Health Services to ensure that our physical spaces meet campus safety protocols. For example:
- Our locations will be open on a reduced operating schedule
- Selected physical study spaces will only be accessible by appointment for campus community members holding a current campus ID
- Traditional document printing will be available by self-service to the campus community
- Printing services for large-format and 3D printing are available to the campus community by appointment and with contactless payment and pickup
- A paging service with contactless pickup will be provided for all physical Library materials located on site
- Physical items requested from other Libraries, including other members of the Five Colleges consortium, will be provided for contactless pickup or mailed to patrons within the United States via Library Express
Safety partitions, sanitizing measures, and a communication campaign on health and safety procedures have been deployed to ensure that safe navigation through and use of physical Library spaces is maintained. Building occupancy and traffic flow will be monitored regularly to ensure that appropriate PPE use and physical distancing measures are maintained.
If your student is among those returning to campus in the spring, I hope this provides some reassurance that we’re prepared to keep them safe and healthy while supporting their research and learning. And we’ll also continue to provide the same high level of remote services for any students learning from a distance. The Libraries’ website is updated regularly, with information on our services and resources, and provides the means for connecting with individual members of our staff for direct assistance.
On behalf of the UMass Amherst Libraries, best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year!
With my best regards,
Dean of Libraries
The UMass Amherst Libraries share news of the publication of Pen Pal: Prison Letters from a Free Spirit on Slow Death Row by Tiyo Attallah Salah-El. Pen Pal was published in October 2020 by the independent press OR Books, and all author royalties will be donated to the Libraries, where Tiyo’s papers are housed in Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA).
Born in 1932, Tiyo Attallah Salah-El died at 85 in 2018 on “Slow Death Row” while serving a life sentence in a Pennsylvania prison. He was a man with a dizzying array of talents and vocations: author, scholar, teacher, musician, composer, and activist, as the founder of the Coalition for the Abolition of Prisons. He was also, as seen in the letters he wrote over a decade and half to his friend Paul Alan Smith that make up this book, an extraordinarily eloquent correspondent.
Tiyo’s letters vividly capture the tribulations endured by those incarcerated, especially the nearly 60% who are non-white: habitual racism, arbitrary lockdowns, brutal beatings and hospitalizations, stifling heat and bitter cold. They describe Tiyo’s individual struggles with cancer, aging, and the sirens of personal demons. Yet, despite crushing hardships and indignities, Tiyo’s positive energy shines through, in dispatches that are generous, philosophical and often laugh-out-loud funny. We learn of his many friendships, including those with the historian Howard Zinn; a range of activists, advocates, and supporters on the outside; and two fellow people in prison who were leaders of the Black liberation group MOVE.
“We began working with Tiyo in 2006 to document his life, activism, and experience in prison,” says Acting Head of SCUA Aaron Rubinstein. “The voices of people in prisons are rarely heard, and Tiyo’s contribution to the prison abolition movement has never felt more timely. We are thrilled that Tiyo’s story can be known by so many people, and the donated royalties will support digitization of Tiyo’s collection and related work with our social change collections.”
At a time when the appalling racial bias of America’s police and criminal justice system is in the spotlight as never before, Pen Pal is both a vital intervention and a moving portrait of someone whose physical confinement could never extinguish an extraordinary free spirit.
Pen Pal contains a preface by Mike Africa, Jr., and the audiobook, released simultaneously, features the actors Carl Weathers and Adam Arkin, among others.
For more information about Tiyo Attallah Salah-El and his papers: http://findingaids.library.umass.edu/ead/mums590
For more information about Pen Pal, including how to order a copy: https://www.orbooks.com/catalog/pen-pal/
Home Stretch, Fall 2020
With the World Series, Election Day, and the first snow behind us, and with the end of the semester in sight, it’s a fitting time to take stock of where we’ve been and what we’ve accomplished together despite much uncertainty.
In the latest issue of the Library’s BookMark magazine, we share many things for which we are thankful. For one, it’s easy to see how we are all Connected by Gratitude in our 2020 Impact Report, which tells the ways donors have improved the Libraries for all students, from funding scholarships for outstanding undergraduate research about sustainability to supporting open educational resources. Like many Libraries, we have taken a stand regarding the exorbitant cost of traditional textbooks because we believe the price tag of information shouldn’t be a roadblock to education.
With the turn to remote learning, we heard from many students and faculty that our digital collections are more valuable than ever, including those in Special Collections & University Archives, such as The W. E. B. Du Bois Papers. In the issue we tell the story of how the papers of Du Bois, one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century, came to call UMass home 40 years ago. To mark this milestone, we share an unpublished piece by Dr. Du Bois, a Platform for the Progressive Party, which outlines a set of ideals for equality that still speak to our condition — and our continued yearning for equality — today.
The strength of the services and support the Libraries provide for our students depend on library staff. Library All-Stars introduces some of our newest librarians, specializing in subjects like data management, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and web services, reflecting changing academic pursuits.
I invite you will take some time to read and learn about the Libraries.
Dean of Libraries
There is no better time than now to support the UMass Amherst Libraries
The Five College Consortium, as part of its FOLIO beta partnership with EBSCO Information Services (EBSCO), has become the first consortia to implement Electronic Resources Management (ERM). The consortium includes the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, and Smith colleges.
“The Five College Consortium provides a unique environment for testing FOLIO as we use a shared catalogue collection among member institutions,” says Steve Bischof, Associate Dean for Library Technology at UMass Amherst, and chair of the Five College FOLIO implementation team. “Our testing ranged from filling the needs of UMass Amherst, a large research university, to those of smaller institutions with multiple collections, like Smith College. Adopting the ERM is the first step, and we expect to fully implement FOLIO in 2021.”
“The work accomplished by the FOLIO ERM team has been transformative, even in the midst of tremendous change at each of their home institutions due to the pandemic,” says Simon Neame, Dean of Libraries at UMass Amherst, and Chair, Five College Librarians Council. “They’ve demonstrated that the future of libraries truly is open—and collaborative—which will be of great benefit to all of our patrons.”
Members of the FOLIO ERM Working Group (FERM) include: Paul Trumble of Amherst College, Amedeo DeCara and Jen Bolmarcich of Hampshire College, Sara Colglazier of Mount Holyoke College, Jenna Lanterman of Smith College, and Jack Mulvaney (Lead of FERM) of UMass Amherst. FIT Liaisons are Kathleen Berry (Head, Information Resources Management) at UMass and Janet Ewing (Associate Director of Research and Instructional Support) at Mount Holyoke. The Five College Library Systems Coordinator is Aaron Neslin.
FERM was formed in May of 2020, and has been charged with reaching consensus on issues related to data conversion, data management, workflows, policies, and procedures for electronic resource management within the Five Colleges. Since October 2020, they have been the primary focus of the Five College FOLIO migration and were able to advocate for the needs of the consortium to the FOLIO development community, with our partners at EBSCO, and with colleagues across the consortium in order to configure, migrate, and adopt FOLIO in August 2020.
In 2018, the Five College Consortium announced a FOLIO beta partnership with EBSCO, which allowed the institutions to contribute to the development of the library services platform and test FOLIO in large, real-world environments and multiple institutional scenarios.
“This partnership offered the FOLIO community and EBSCO the opportunity to address issues library staff confront within and across a consortium,” says EBSCO FOLIO Consulting Services Manager Anya Arnold. “For ERM functionally to work, EBSCO teams worked with the Five College librarians ensuring that each library can still mange unique and independent electronic collections in a shared environment.”
FOLIO is a collaborative effort among libraries, vendors, developers, and consortia that leverages open source technology and a community-based effort to redefine library services and innovate based on library futures. By building on what libraries need and by leveraging library expertise as well as vendor capacity and velocity, FOLIO is designed to move libraries forward, build on the services they provide, and redefine the role libraries play within their institution. FOLIO also levels the playing field and makes open source technology available to all institutions regardless of size or staffing. FOLIO brings vendors together to innovate and host services for customers and introduces open source as a service to libraries. To sign up to participate or receive more information go to http://www.folio.org/.
About The Five College Consortium
Five Colleges, Incorporated, is a nonprofit educational corporation established in 1965 to promote the broad educational and cultural objectives of its associated institutions: four private, residential liberal arts colleges and the flagship campus of the state university. The consortium includes Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The member institutions have a history of successful collaborations dating to 1914 in the areas of library subscriptions, joint faculty appointments, public radio, and the history of science and astronomy. Long-standing cooperation among the consortium’s libraries gives researchers access to their combined strength, which currently totals some 10 million volumes. Each institution’s library has distinctive collections, most of which are broadly accessible for use by students and faculty members through a shared catalog.
The UMass Amherst Libraries announce the publication of An American Playgoer in London, an openly licensed monograph authored and assembled by Joseph Donohue. This monograph has a Creative Commons license, making it a free and openly available resource for anyone to use, share, and remix.
Over more than four decades, Joseph Donohue made London almost a second home, researching British drama and theatre during the day, attending performances of plays and operas at night, and recording his experiences in a series of meticulously kept diaries. He has now drawn together reviews of over one hundred twenty-five theatrical events that capture in vivid detail the immediacy of theatergoing and the vitality of live performance in a new open monograph, An American Playgoer in London. Featuring descriptions of productions of West End and Fringe theatres and the audiences that witnessed them, this collection should appeal to all who find interest in accounts of live theatre and the history of dramatic and theatrical art.
The announcement of the monograph’s publication coincides with Open Access Week from October 19-25, 2020, which provides “an opportunity to take action in making openness the default for research—to raise the visibility of scholarship, accelerate research, and turn breakthroughs into better lives.” It was established in 2008 by the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) and its student community partners.
An American Playgoer in London, as well as other openly licensed books, is available online or for download via Open Books Library, a catalog of open access books published by the UMass Amherst Libraries. The catalog is hosted on Pressbooks, an open source WordPress plugin that allows for easy reading on the web as well as PDF and eBook downloads for offline reading.
Staff are the Libraries' greatest resource.
Due to furloughs of Library staff before the end of the calendar year, patrons may experience delays in some services, both online and in-person, including turnaround times for items requested.
Help requests may be responded to more slowly and it may take longer than usual to restore service interruptions.
The Libraries will provide additional updates as they become available.
Thank you for your patience and understanding. We regret any impact this may have on you.
As I write this, we are five weeks into the fall semester. The nights in Amherst have taken a decidedly chilly turn, and Library staff continue to work diligently both on-site and remotely to support our students and faculty as I noted in my earlier message to you.
Spending as much time in Zoom meetings as I do, I’ve noticed the seasonal shift most dramatically as I see colleagues switch from iced coffee to hot coffee to fuel their work. It’s a fitting change, as we begin planning for the extended winter semester that was recently announced. Our course reserves staff and our subject liaison librarians are collaborating with faculty to identify resources that can be accessed remotely by students to support their studies. And of course, the Libraries continue to assist students conducting their own research, with librarians being reachable through email, telephone, and chat to answer both quick questions and in-depth inquiries.
On the topic of research, our Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) is a vital component of the Libraries’ contribution to teaching and research, and we recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of the acquisition of the papers of W. E. B. Du Bois. This collection is an extraordinary resource for students, faculty, and others who strive to understand Du Bois’ legacy of social justice and social change, and how his work continues to this day. In celebration, the W. E. B. Du Bois Center, housed in the Libraries, has put together a brief video featuring reflections from members of our campus community on the importance of this collection; I hope you’ll take a few minutes to watch it, and to join in our campus celebration.
Dean of Libraries
There is no better time than now to support the UMass Amherst Libraries.
The cost of liberty is less than the price of repression – W. E. B. Du Bois