The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Archive: 26/08/2021

Dear UMass Families,

In my role as interim Dean of Libraries, it is my distinct pleasure to welcome your students back to the Amherst and Newton campuses, and to share with you some information about what they will find at the UMass Amherst Libraries, whether at the W. E. B. Du Bois Library, the Science and Engineering Library (SEL), or the Wadsworth Library.

Before I get too deep in the details, however, I want to share a little bit about who I am, and how I came to be interim Dean. Having grown up in a small town in Maine, I completed my undergraduate education at Lesley University, and received a Master's Degree in Library & Information Science from the University of Rhode Island. Prior to UMass, I spent several years at the University of Bridgeport, where I began developing my vision for how academic libraries support the student experience. I joined the UMass Libraries in 2010, and most recently have served as the Head of Student Success & Engagement (SSE), where I oversee the Learning Commonsthe Digital Media Lab, and Student Success and Outreach Librarian, as well as the Libraries’ own Assessment and Planning team, who help us to understand how our services can be made more effective in order to shape our future. Our mission at SSE is written into the name of our department, and while we may be most visible to students through the fun events we host throughout the year, we take seriously our charge to provide students with the orientation and access to the libraries that will support their academic success. 

Next month, our Provost John McCarthy initiates a national search for a new permanent Dean of Libraries and has asked me to lead the Libraries on an interim basis. I am honored to serve in this role.

When your students return to the libraries they will find several updated and refreshed spaces awaiting them, both at the W .E .B. Du Bois Library and the Science and Engineering Library (SEL). At Du Bois, the Digital Media Lab has both relocated and expanded; it now occupies space adjacent to the Learning Commons on the lower level, and features additional capacity for 3D printing and modeling, virtual and augmented reality projects, and sound and video recording. At SEL, the new Learning Studio features flexible space that can be configured as a multimedia-equipped classroom, event space, or student space for engaging  in collaborative work.

We have also expanded our online resources to meet student needs. We now provide access to LinkedIn Learning, which offers a vast array of tutorials on technology and professional development to support students as they prepare to enter the workforce. We’ve also added Academic Video Online to our list of available databases, so students will have access to over 70,000 high-quality videos covering a vast array of subjects.

Many students will be returning to campus hoping to join critical conversations about social justice. The W. E. B. Du Bois Center exists as a unique, interdisciplinary space on campus for the discussions of race, socio-economic inequality, discrimination, and legacies of colonialism. The Center looks forward to welcoming students interested in these important topics and those who want to explore the ways in which the past influences the present. We will be running a series of events throughout the semester about Du Bois's life, legacy, and significance, and will encourage students to consider the Center a welcoming home on campus for their ideas on the issues that most affect our society. As Du Bois wrote: "You and I can never be satisfied with sitting down before a great human problem and saying nothing can be done. We must do something. That is the reason we are on Earth."        

Students have also let us know that they value the libraries as a space where they have opportunities for non-academic engagement as well, and we’re very happy to support that with our Outreach Series, which consists of events like open mic nights, crafts, and trivia. These events are fun for both students and library staff, and offer a wonderful sense of community and collegiality. 

I hope this brief note has been able to convey how excited we are to see your students on campus again, and how many wonderful activities and resources await them here. 

Sarah Hutton
Interim Dean of Libraries

Hutton HS2023