Savoring Spring, Planning for Fall
As vaccination numbers rise, and COVID-19 transmissions decline, the Libraries have at long last been able to reopen a limited number of study spaces to our students – and it is wonderful to have students taking advantage of the opportunity! We have implemented a number of safety measures to ensure that those who use our spaces will face minimal risk of infection, including a reservation system for seats in both the W.E.B. Du Bois Library and the Science & Engineering Library (SEL), as well as mandatory compliance with the campus “Green Checkmark” protocol, overseen by Environmental Health & Safety. We’re happy to note that our students are taking safety for themselves and our staff as seriously as they’re taking their study time, and the Libraries are once again filled with the sound of laptop keys clacking and pages turning. (Music to a librarian’s ears!)
The limited springtime reopening also includes resumed access to the newly renovated and expanded Digital Media Lab (DML), adjacent to our Learning Commons. Our DML staff each have significant expertise in new and emerging technologies that enhance student research and learning, such as 3D printing, virtual and augmented reality technology, and video and audio media production. Opportunities for learning these technologies and integrating them into the student learning experience is growing ever more critical in our increasingly online world, something the COVID-19 pandemic has made all too apparent.
We continue to prepare our physical spaces for the return of all students to campus for the Fall 2021 semester, with students being able to look forward to refreshed study spaces in both Du Bois and SEL. The planned return to campus, however, has not lessened our focus on the availability of e-resources and digital media, including access to electronic journals, books, and monographs. Even with curbside pickup of materials available during the pandemic, we’ve seen a decline in physical circulation, and a corresponding increase in access to electronic materials. This trend offers benefits even beyond the obvious convenience of not having to dash across campus in the rain or snow to return a book. For example, many open educational resources are available in digital form to support student research and learning, and faculty who create and use them are able to target them directly to the classes they teach. We’ll maintain our support for students remaining off-campus as remote learners until all students are able to return to campus. And our librarians will remain available to all students through chat and email to assist with research, identifying and obtaining resources.
Spring at the UMass Libraries also means the return of the peregrine falcons that nest on top of the Du Bois Library tower. Thanks to the collaborative efforts of members of our Libraries staff from Communications and Library Technology services, along with the UMass Amherst Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research & Engagement, the UMass Amherst Physical Plant Division, the UMass Amherst Information Technology (IT), and the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife), we are able to bring you a livestream of the nest. Many of these institutional partners are also joining us for a one-day FalConference on May 21 (via Zoom), which is free and open to the public. Please register to join us if you can!
My best wishes to you and your loved ones,
Dean of Libraries
There is no better time than now to support the UMass Amherst Libraries.
APRIL 30 – MAY 1, 2021 | FREE. ONLINE. OPEN TO ALL.
Inspired by the recent acquisition of Daniel Ellsberg’s vast collection of personal papers by UMass Amherst Libraries' Special Collections and University Archives, this free online conference brings together more than two dozen distinguished historians, journalists, activists, whistleblowers, and former policymakers on the eve of the 50th anniversary of Ellsberg’s leak of the Pentagon Papers. The conference will include a keynote address by Daniel Ellsberg as well as and seven roundtable discussions, in which presenters will explore the major issues that have engaged Ellsberg’s life: the Vietnam War, nuclear weapons, antiwar resistance, the Pentagon Papers, Watergate, whistleblowing, and the wars of the 21st century.
This conference is the culmination of a year-long course taught by UMass Amherst historian Christian Appy and journalism professor Kathy Roberts Forde in collaboration with UMass alumnus Charles Sennott '84, founder of The GroundTruth Project, and fellow alumnus Jeremy Smith '94, the Daniel Ellsberg Archivist in Special Collections and University Archives, UMass Amherst Libraries, the repository for Ellsberg’s papers.
In addition to the conference, a website titled the Ellsberg Archive Project, will house conference materials, as well as items from Ellsberg’s papers selected by the students of professors Appy and Forde, and a five-part podcast series called The Whistleblower: Truth, Dissent & the Legacy of Daniel Ellsberg produced by GroundTruth in collaboration with GBH.
The conference was collectively organized by the UMass Amherst Departments of History and Journalism; UMass Special Collections and University Archives, UMass Amherst Libraries; the UMass Amherst College of Humanities and Fine Arts; and The GroundTruth Project, with generous support from the Office of the Chancellor.
The UMass Amherst Libraries are pleased to coordinate efforts for the Pioneer Valley’s participation in the annual international City Nature Challenge (CNC). The Challenge consists of a submission period from April 30-May 3, 2021, during which participants submit observations (such as photos or audio evidence) of wild plants, animals, and fungi using the free mobile app iNaturalist, and a crowdsource-based identification period from May 4-9, 2021.
According to the CNC website, the Challenge was started in 2016 by citizen science teams at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco “as a fun way to capitalize on their home cities’ friendly rivalry and hold a citizen science event around urban biodiversity.” Additionally, the wildlife information gathered during the Challenge “gives scientists, educators, urban planners, and policymakers insight into the biodiversity of urban locales throughout the world.” Last year, more than 800,000 observations were made.
Recently, Challenge organizers released a statement saying “In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 City Nature Challenge will not be focused on competition; instead we want to embrace the healing power of nature and celebrate tens of thousands of people all around the world, searching for and documenting their local biodiversity, together in this event.”
This year marks the second year that the Pioneer Valley is officially participating. Melanie Radik, librarian in the Science and Engineering Library, is spearheading organization efforts with an information guide and virtual workshops on April 29 and May 4 for interested participants.
RefWorks requires a subscription that is paid for by the University Libraries. Due to budget pressure, declining use, and increasing subscription cost, the Libraries have decided to cancel the subscription to RefWorks effective July 31, 2021.
Considerations that went into this decision include:
Declining usage of RefWorks and continuing cost increases;
Availability of free alternative citation management tools such as Zotero and Mendeley available to students, faculty, and researchers.
The UMass Amherst Libraries are committed to supporting our community though this change and are providing assistance with migrating from RefWorks to another citation management tool. We will be offering workshops throughout the spring to help those using RefWorks to transition to a different citation manager, if they choose to do so.
Due to the short time we will retain access to RefWorks, at this point, we DO NOT recommend new users select RefWorks as their citation manager.
Signs of spring are beginning to slowly appear on campus, though we’ve still got a little while before the snow is fully gone. Along with warmer weather (and a decrease in COVID-19 cases on campus), the Libraries are preparing to implement our plans for student access in keeping with the guidelines from Environmental Health & Safety and University Health. All of the necessary details will be available on the Libraries’ website, and any changes to our protocols will be posted there.
Students on campus will be able to make use of our renovated and refreshed Library spaces. 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, identifying and obtaining resources, and ensuring that those resources are made available virtually wherever possible, but in hard-copy when necessary through the USPS with Library Express.
We also want to highlight the work of Annette Vadnais ‘99, our Undergraduate Outreach Librarian, whose role it is to work closely with undergraduates, including first year and transfer students, to introduce them to the Libraries. Annette has a particular affinity for first-generation students, having been one as a UMass undergrad herself. Your students may know her as the “Purple Hair Librarian” due to her distinctive hair color, which you can see for yourself in this welcome back video in this video created to welcome students back this semester.
In addition, the W. E. B. Du Bois Center hosts a weekly “Breakfast with Du Bois” event via Zoom each Monday at 9:30 a.m. 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.
Deserted Villages: Perspectives from the Eastern Mediterranean published this week from The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota brings together nine peer-reviewed studies of abandoned villages from Greece, Turkey, and North Dakota authored by leading scholars in their fields. Each study not only documents specific abandoned settlements in detail, but also offers nuanced analysis of these sites and the processes that led to their abandonment and current state. The book is edited by Deborah E. Brown Stewart, head of Penn Museum Library at the University of Pennsylvania and Rebecca M. Seifried, geospatial information librarian at the University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries.
People usually expect archaeologists to study abandoned sites to understand past societies. In the Eastern Mediterranean, however, the most commonly imagined sites are usually buried beneath meters of earth and require careful excavation to reveal their secrets. The book invites the reader to explore the vegetation overgrowing the hamlet of Pentaskouphi, the abandoned churches of Kythera, the roads and paths of the Western Argolid, and the imposing stone houses of the Mani peninsula. Reflections on sites as diverse as the settlement of Lakka Skoutara in the southeastern Corinthia and the town of Wheelock in Western North Dakota prompt historians and archaeologists to come to terms with abandonment as a process and state.
Brown Stewart noted that these villages often elicited mixed responses from people who encounter them: “Some people dismiss them as unsightly ruins, others photograph them as romantic, and still others might think about the potential for investing and restoring to create a lovely summer place in the country. Archaeologists instead see opportunities to reveal the stories of people and communities that are too often missing from history and our understanding of the past.”
The countryside of the Eastern Mediterranean is filled with abandoned villages, hamlets, and settlements that are often still standing. The residents of these sites abandoned their homes after World War II for many reasons ranging from the convenience of mechanized agriculture to the appeal of urban life, the dislocations of war, and the changing character of the global economy. Archaeologists have regularly made note of these abandoned settlements, but until now, there wasn't a single volume focused on their archaeology.
Seifried suggests “while we focus on work being done by medieval and early modern archaeologists, the topic as a whole speaks to the kinds of questions that scholars of other time periods and even entirely other fields are asking, and this makes our book a contribution not only to Mediterranean archaeology, but also to a much more wide-ranging body of scholarship. I believe that anyone interested in life in rural villages, about the process of abandonment, or about how reuse and adaptation affect material signatures of the archaeological record will find something of delight in this book.”
Like all books published by The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota, Deserted Villages is available as both a free download and as a low-cost paperback. William Caraher, director of The Digital Press, remarks: “It's particularly important for books that seek to draw attention to an often overlooked aspect of the Mediterranean landscape to circulate as widely and freely as possible. Open access publication ensures that anyone with even a casual interest in the sites, methods, and problems associated with these kinds of sites can read and engage the work in this book.”
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