The opening of the academic year brings a mix of anticipation and anxiety for parents and students. Ordinarily, anticipation far outweighs anxiety, with students eager to return to campus and resume studies. This year has been anything from ordinary, and the effects of the pandemic on all aspects of life, work, and education have been inescapable.
The UMass Amherst Libraries have been able to quickly shift focus to supporting students and faculty at a distance because we’ve long been leaders in the adoption and promotion of digital resources for teaching, learning, and research. Not only are the Libraries the most visited place on campus, library.umass.edu is also the most visited UMass website. In person and online, Library staff pair deep knowledge of academic subject areas with a keen awareness of forward-thinking library initiatives, including digital scholarship and publishing, the creation of digital media, including 3D printed materials, and open educational resources. A growing number of faculty are working with the library to integrate open education content as an alternative to expensive textbooks, lowering the amount a student must spend on materials.
The Libraries can help your student with what they need to be successful, regardless of their physical location.
For example, we provide:
- Access to the Libraries’ extensive collection of online resources, including journals, e-books and streaming media
- Online course reserves
- Online consultations and contactless pick-up of 3D printed objects from the Digital Media Lab
- Online access to librarians for student research questions via our chat services, as well as through email
- Contactless pick-up for library materials (for students located in the Amherst area)
In addition, librarians are also teaching in online classes and helping students identify materials for their classes, as well as introducing students to the vast collection of digitized materials through our Special Collections and University Archives.
I hope this information helps alleviate some of the worries you and your family may feel about the challenges you are facing this semester, and demonstrates our commitment to you, even from a distance. We look forward to the day when we’ll once again see the Libraries filled with students. Until then, please be safe and well, and know that the Libraries are available to help.
Dean of Libraries
There is no better time than now to support the UMass Amherst Libraries.
August 3, 2020: As fall semester 2020 approaches, library, faculty, and staff are working to provide alternative access to print course reserves. To support instructors and students over the next several months, we are utilizing different approaches to how we acquire course textbooks to ensure that students have access to needed resources in alternative learning environments.
The cost of textbooks and other course materials are a barrier for students at every university. To avoid fees, some students don’t purchase textbooks, instead, they use a copy on reserve. A significant portion of print books on reserve are required textbooks, which students are unable to use without coming into the library building. Complicating this work are textbook publishers, who often do not make electronic formats available to libraries for purchase as they have built their business models around selling e-textbooks directly to students.
Unfortunately, this is not solely a library problem. Textbook costs impact everyone in higher education: students, faculty, advocates in support and success roles, institutional research output, and grant funding.
Despite libraries’ attempts to make copies of selected textbooks and course materials available to assist those students who are unable to purchase their own, the following publishers will not allow libraries to purchase e-textbook versions of their publications:
- Elsevier imprints (especially in veterinary and health science) such as Elsevier Health Science, Mosby, and Saunders
- McGraw Hill
- Most publishers of ‘common reads,’ popular fiction, and popular nonfiction
Due to these constraints, we are working with faculty and instructors to explore and identify viable textbook alternatives, including:
- Adopting open educational resources (OER). OERs are freely available educational materials that are openly licensed to allow for re-use and modification by instructors.
- Creating digital course materials lists in Blackboard or Moodle by requesting scanned individual book chapters or excerpts subject to fair use determinations and licensing availability.
- Linking to content from the library’s existing collection of electronic resources (e-books, journal articles, streaming media, and other digital materials)
- Requesting that the library purchase new e-books (many academic e-books aren’t considered textbooks, and are therefore available for the library to purchase).
Efforts will be made to secure online materials that are free from digital rights management restrictions (DRM) in order to ensure unfettered student access. DRM includes limits on the number of users that can access a resource at any one time, as well as limits on copying, printing and downloading.
Questions? Any instructors teaching a fall course are welcome to contact the library at any time for support with sourcing their course materials. Contact your departmental liaison librarian.
During the first 48-hour Sciathon hosted by the Council for the Nobel Laureate Meetings, Steve Acquah, the UMass Amherst Libraries Digital Media Lab Coordinator and Associate Research Professor of Chemistry, worked as part of a team (Group Clifton) to develop a science news verification tool, authentiSci (authentisci.com). The Clifton group became finalists at the end of June and were recently awarded second place in the category of ‘Lindau Guidelines’ and a shared prize of 1,000 Euros. AuthentiSci can be accessed through the website authentisci.com and will primarily be used through a Google Chrome Extension, which is now available at the Chrome Web Store. The extension is one of the first of its kind that gives scientists the ability to score science news stories, providing a measure of confidence for the reader.
The section of the Lindau Guidelines had the highest amount of competition, with 23 out of the 48 groups working on Lindau Guideline based projects. The other project sections focused on the topics Communicating Climate Change and Capitalism After Corona.
The extension was produced in response to the Lindau Guidelines introduced by Elizabeth Blackburn during the 68th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting held in Lindau, Germany, in June 2018. To use the extension, scientists would authenticate through their ORCID account, insert a URL from a news story, and follow the prompts to evaluate the story on authentisci.com. With the extension now available, people from around the world will be able to see verified news stories.
Acquah produced a video during the 48-hour event highlighting the work of the team.
“I thank the Council for the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings and the judges for the opportunity to present our work,” says Acquah. “Our team will continue to develop authentiSci and support the communication of science news.”
Fifteen jurors decided on the finalists and winning project groups that presented their work during the Online Science Days to an audience of Nobel Laureates, Lindau Alumni, young scientists, young economists, and guests. The jury was comprised of scientific chairpersons of the Council, scientists, journalists, and friends of Lindau including:
Wolfgang Lubitz - Scientific Chairperson Chemistry, Council for the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings, Professor Emeritus, MPI CEC, Germany
Klaus Schmidt, Scientific Chairperson Economic Sciences, Council for the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings, Professor, LMU Munich, Germany
Hans Bachor, Secretary for Education & Public Awareness, Australian Academy of Science
Jürgen Kluge, Chairman of the Board of Directors, Foundation Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings
Andrew B Holmes, Melbourne Laureate Professor Emeritus, University of Melbourne, Australia
Himla Soodyall, Chief Executive Officer, Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf)
Andrew B Holmes, Melbourne Laureate Professor Emeritus, University of Melbourne, Australia
Adeline Lim, Deputy Head, National Research Foundation, Singapore
The UMass Amherst Libraries announce the publication of a chapter, "Sharing the End of the World: Students’ Perceptions of Their Self-Efficacy in the Creation of Open Access Digital Learning Objects," co-authored by Lisa Di Valentino, Law and Public Policy Librarian, Sarah Hutton, Head of Student Success & Engagement, and Paul Musgrave, Assistant Professor of Political Science, as a part of the Rebus Community's Open Pedagogy Approaches, released at the end of June 2020.
The chapter presents their study on the impact of student-authored, open, creative scholarship on student confidence in understanding content and conceptualization of ideas as part of the final examination for Musgrave’s course, “The Politics of the End of the World.” The students were required to research, record, and release podcasts that explored major changes in Massachusetts history.
For this study, Di Valentino, Hutton, and Erin Jerome, Open Access and Institutional Repository Librarian, have been working closely with Musgrave to build out a course content site for his students' podcasts, hosted on ScholarWorks, the digital repository for the research and scholarly output of the UMass Amherst community.
Research results from this course were encouraging; basing questions on Bandura's model of self-efficacy and previous studies on open content created in courses using open educational resources (OER), the study asked students about their perception regarding how well they had learned the content, how confident they were sharing that content with a global audience, and how an open pedagogical model changed their approach to research and project management. Student feedback included that the course model made them seek out high-quality and accurate details for their podcasts, knowing that others could listen to them and they didn’t want to mislead anyone. Students said they conducted in-depth research in historiography, and also applied modern social science theory, allowing them to see the broader application of content. The findings have implications for more engaging course designs for undergraduate student learners.
The intent of this open pedagogical model is to teach students about Creative Commons licensing, open scholarship, and how they themselves become scholars over the course of producing, and openly publishing, these informative podcasts as a part of a renewable assignment model. By hosting these podcasts openly, future iterations of the course can build on previous research.
“We intend to work with students to help them develop and upload content, learning how repositories and open scholarship work,” says Hutton. “Learning about Creative Commons licenses, copyright, and fair use in their undergraduate career, these students will be better prepared to engage in global communications and scholarship in their professional careers beyond UMass Amherst.”
Krishna Poudel from the Department of Health Promotion and Policy received a Faculty Research Grant to help provide a video-based smoking cessation intervention for people living with HIV. Collaborating on the grant are Dr. Steve Acquah, Research Professor of Chemistry and Digital Media Lab Coordinator at the UMass Amherst Libraries, Dr. Damon Vidrine at the Florida Moffitt Cancer Center, and K. C. Prawchan at SPARSHA in Nepal.
As part of the feasibility testing for the faculty research grant, the team will evaluate the response to the videos from people living with HIV that attend an HIV clinic ‘SPARSHA Nepal’ in Kathmandu. The clinic already provides various services to including HIV testing and counseling, in-house crisis management, and community and home-based care. Previous work by the Principal Investigators in 2019 established the feasibility of cellphones as an effective delivery mechanism for videos in Nepal.
The UMass Amherst Libraries Digital Media Lab (DML) will develop a system to allow the participants to read messages and respond to questions. The participants will also receive text messages, including a link to video clips. During the pre-quit period, the participants will receive standardized motivational messages focusing on preparing them to quit smoking, highlighting the benefits of quitting. After the set quit date, the group will be asked if they have quit smoking. Those who quit smoking will receive a link to watch a subsequent video clip, while those who have not yet quit smoking will receive additional motivational messages for setting a new quit date.
“This project is the first step in creating better outcomes for smokers living with HIV,” Acquah says. “The media production team at the Digital Media Lab, including Yuntian Hu and Adam Quirós, are also supporting the development of the videos and the App. The DML is positioned to provide direct collaborative assistance on research projects, from the development of prototypes, audio/video production, and the drafting of proposals that address the research and broader impacts of federally funded grants.”
The Digital Media Lab has increasingly been involved in research projects supporting faculty and students, aligning with the strategic goals of the Libraries and UMass Amherst as well as reflecting the changing nature of the services it provides.
The UMass Amherst Libraries recently announced the recipients of their 2020 Open Education Initiative (OEI) grants. Six UMass Amherst instructors received funding to adopt, adapt, or create open educational resources (OER). OER are teaching materials released with an open license which allows for their free revision and redistribution.
The Open Education Initiative at UMass Amherst aims to:
- Encourage the development of alternatives to high-cost textbooks by supporting the adoption, adaptation, or creation of OER
- Provide support to faculty to implement these approaches
- Lower the cost of college for students in order to contribute to their retention, progression, and graduation
- Encourage faculty to engage in new pedagogical models for classroom instruction
Thanks to generous funding from the UMass Amherst Libraries and Provost’s office, this year’s winners represent a broad range of disciplines across campus, including:
- Stacy Guifre and Melina Anne Masterson who plan to create an openly-licensed Italian textbook for Italian 110, 120, and 126
- Matthew Sherwood, an Accounting instructor who is adapting software packages and instructional materials to integrate with original instructional videos, assignments, case studies, and quizzes into one centralized resource
- Wayne Xu and Martha Fuentes-Bautista from Communication who plan to update and integrate existing mini-lecture podcasts and student blog entries on key class topics into "interactive lecture notes”
“We are thrilled to receive these funds so that we will be able to create two updated, more diverse Italian OER textbooks that will not only make Italian a more inclusive course offering for UMass Amherst students, but can be shared with other Italian programs in the US and abroad,” says Melina Masterson.
“We are seeing more and more faculty wanting to create customizable teaching tools that are not only free for students, but can also improve how students learn,” says Jeremy Smith, the Libraries’ Open Education and Research Services Librarian. “By utilizing or creating openly licensed teaching materials, instructors are removing a barrier to student success that high-cost textbooks often create. OER are not appropriate for every class, but as the number of newly-created OER has drastically increased over the past three years in a wide range of topics, it has become easier to find and customize material for college courses.”
Now in its eleventh cycle, the Open Education Initiative has generated a total savings of more than $1.8 million for students in UMass Amherst classes that utilize OER or existing Library materials. The Libraries partner with the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL), Instructional Design, Engagement and Support (IDEAS) group, and Provost's Office to support these efforts.
The UMass Amherst Libraries, in collaboration with the College of Natural Science and the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, recently received an Interdisciplinary Faculty Research Award for georectifying, analyzing, and distributing historical remotely-sensed images from the William P. MacConnell Aerial Photograph Collection, Special Collections and University Archives, UMass Amherst (SCUA).
The collection consists of photographs from 1951 to 1999 that “provide unmatched insight into the historical geography, land use, planning, and climate of Massachusetts.” With georectification, which “assigns geographic coordinates to an image in order for it to be displayed and analyzed spatially using a geographic information system (GIS),” the collection’s data would be accessible and usable by researchers and regional planners.
“The process enhances the research value of the photos because it makes them easier to find, if a geospatial search portal is set up, and use in geospatial software,” explains Dr. Rebecca Seifried, Geospatial Information Librarian at UMass Amherst and project team member. “Applications are limitless, from finding out what a specific property looked like in the past, which many members of the public want to know, to investigating large-scale changes to environment, infrastructure, and land use.”
Funding from the grant will be used to support a graduate research assistant who will work with the team on georectifying the collection. Additionally, the team plans to use the georectified images to develop an AI-enabled tool to assist with auto-georectification of future projects.
Once completed, the georectified photos will be available on Credo, SCUA’s online repository.
JUNE 2, 2020
The University of Massachusetts Libraries stand with the University and Chancellor Subbaswamy in denouncing acts of racial violence, anti-Blackness, and institutional racism. Recent acts that have ravaged the country have a long history and are deeply embedded in our society.
Over the last few days we have witnessed a national outpouring of anger and grief as communities across the Commonwealth and the nation express outrage at the killing of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. One of many recent acts of violence against Black, Latinx, Asian, and Native American people across this country, it comes at a time when tensions are high as the nation deals with the health and economic impacts of the global pandemic that has already highlighted entrenched disparities of treatment, care, and access among our communities. These overt acts of violent racism and bigotry are a highly visible part of a deeply-rooted systemic prejudice that goes back centuries.
Many of us in this country have been the beneficiaries of this system, whether willing participants or not. The UMass Libraries, as part of a system of public land-grant institutions, exists to provide access to knowledge, and to help in the education of our students and the citizens of the Commonwealth. Yet libraries are far from neutral, having benefited from a system that privileges a dominant narrative and the perspectives and experiences of a select portion of our society. Libraries, including ours, are working to make collections, spaces, and services more inclusive and reflective of a truly diverse society, but we still have a long way to go to in making substantial change. We must continue to strive to do better.
As Dean of the Library that is home to the papers of W.E.B. Du Bois, I have been inspired by his writing, and also saddened by the fact that 150 years after he was born in Great Barrington, MA, a system of institutional racism remains in place across this country. I am not a scholar of Dr. Du Bois, but I would like to think he would be inspired by the energy of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. I acknowledge the fact that I am able to move through the world on a daily basis with little thought to the systems of oppression that inspired Dr. Du Bois to dedicate his life to fighting for change, and I commit to working toward change, by first reflecting on how I can do better.
I invite you to explore our guide on Resources on Color and "Race”, created by members of the Libraries’ Diversity and Inclusion Committee. I am inspired by those who have raised their voices in anger and protest, while recognizing that there is much work to be done to create real, sustained change. We must all commit to engaging in the difficult work of anti-racism, with our colleagues at UMass, across the Commonwealth, and the nation.
Dean, University Libraries
Update on Library Services for Fall 2020
Given the recent message from Chancellor Subbaswamy announcing the revised reopening plan for fall 2020, the UMass Libraries will continue to provide our services remotely, supporting the UMass community through our online services and access to resources. Although our physical facilities will remain closed for the time being, the Libraries are committed to meeting the needs of our students and faculty as teaching, learning, and research resume in earnest.
Our Interlibrary Loan and Library Express services can facilitate access to materials not available online, and UMass faculty, students and staff will have the option to pick up library materials with our new ‘contactless’ pick-up service, due to be launched shortly.
Information for faculty on digital course reserves is available here. Please note that the Libraries will not be able to support print reserves for the 2020/21 academic year. The Libraries are working closely with the Center for Teaching and Learning, Instructional Design, Engagement and Support and UMass IT to support online course development.
UMass faculty, students and staff who wish to access Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) will be able to do so this fall, by contacting SCUA to identify their specific research needs, and to arrange access by appointment.
For specific questions related to research needs and library services our librarians and staff specialists are available by email, and through our chat service to assist you. Our database of frequently asked questions is also available for you to reference. We encourage you to reach out with any questions you have!
While we miss the opportunity to welcome our users back to our facilities, the safety of our staff and the UMass community continues to be our priority. We will update our website with new information as it becomes available. In the meantime, the Libraries look forward to assisting you with your research, teaching and learning needs. Please don’t hesitate to contact us!
Stay safe and well,
Dean, University Libraries
Thanks to the UMass Amherst Libraries’ partnership with a consortium of academic and research organizations, UMass Amherst students, staff, and faculty now have temporary access to digital versions of approximately 1.5 million volumes held by UMass Amherst.
The consortium, HathiTrust, is providing emergency access to member institutions, including UMass Amherst, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on its 2018 holdings, about half of the Libraries’ print collection overlaps with the HathiTrust digital collection, so the new temporary service now provides access to the digital versions of more than 1.5 million print volumes for the duration of the emergency.
“Through the UMass Amherst Libraries’ partnership with the HathiTrust, we are able to provide digital access to a portion of our physical collections while our facilities are closed,” says Simon Neame, UMass Amherst Dean of Libraries. “It’s during times like these where we see the true power of libraries working together to provide access to knowledge.”
Many items in HathiTrust are protected by copyright law, and no further reproduction or distribution is permitted by any means without the permission of the copyright holder.
UMass Amherst Libraries users may also take advantage of many other Resources for Remote Learning and Instruction available to support research and teaching needs.