The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Category: Announcements

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:

For more information about Pen Pal, including how to order a copy:

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.


 Simon Signature

Simon Neame

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

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.
elp 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.

October 2020

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.

Screen Shot 2020 09 02 at 1.20.59 PM

Simon Neame
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

Sequence 03.00 00 11 03.Still001

FY21 Acquisitions Budget Reductions

The global pandemic has impacted budgets across campus, the Commonwealth, and the world. For the Libraries, the immediate need to reduce our budget comes on top of years of inflationary increases by scholarly publishers. Their practices have made it increasingly challenging for libraries and universities worldwide to provide needed resources for our faculty and students.

Budget Reductions

In order to meet our budget for FY21, the Libraries must reduce the amount we spend on scholarly resources by $445,000. Our annual budget for strategic investments—one-time purchases of e-book collections, databases, and special collections materials—has also been suspended for at least this academic year. 

Despite these cost-saving measures, the Libraries remain committed to purchasing information resources most needed by faculty and students within our budgetary constraints, and we value your input as we consider these difficult decisions. 

For those resources that we must discontinue, we will make every attempt to provide timely access to alternative resources to support the teaching and research mission of the campus. We are prepared to offer support for a number of options, including resource sharing (e.g., interlibrary loan), document delivery services, Open Access platforms, and more.

Scholarly Publishing Environment

We as an institution are operating in an unsustainable scholarly publishing environment. Despite our longstanding commitment to Open Access, scholarly communication systems continue to prioritize consolidated publisher profit, prestige and control over scholarly works and the platforms that deliver and preserve them. Many researchers, funders, libraries and other allies are developing financial models and infrastructure systems that support a wide variety of peer-reviewed, scholar-controlled works and equitable access to them. 

For example, the Big Deal, initially an incentive for libraries to invest in a broad range of scholarly journals, in practice encumbers over 80% of academic libraries’ acquisition budgets. Costs for these packages have risen by 3-9% annually for years, and are expected to increase again in 2021. (See Library Journal's Periodicals Price Survey 2020.) Costs of electronic books are 3 to 4 times that of print, with more access restrictions.

Even with modest cost-of-inflation increases to acquisition budgets, libraries cannot both maintain these agreements and support more diverse scholarship ecosystems. Now with financial hardship and budget reductions induced by the pandemic, the Libraries are hamstrung in our ability to invest intentionally in alternatives to limited, for-profit publisher systems. 

UMass Amherst is not alone in its struggle with these inequities. The SPARC Big Deal Cancellation Tracking project documents libraries’ efforts across the globe to extricate themselves from expensive and restrictive licensing agreements. We encourage you to explore how others have pushed back, and assure you that as we move through this current budget reduction, we are also looking ahead to implementing principle-based practices that will help us to reclaim control over our investments while we partner with you to build the infrastructures that support the works you produce, as well as improve access to and use of a wide variety of scholarship. 


Department liaison librarians carefully and thoughtfully reviewed lists of materials for possible cancellation using different criteria for each format type:

  • Databases: Content overlap with other resources, low usage, cost per use
  • E-journals: Cost per use (# of articles requested divided by the cost of the journal). We still have access to these titles via aggregator databases and Google Scholar. E-journals with a cost per use higher than what we would pay to receive the articles via interlibrary loan are the titles proposed for cancellation.
  • Print Journals and Serials: Electronic availability in our databases, low usage. The majority of these items have had no usage since January 2019 and are available electronically through our databases or available open access.

Faculty and graduate students were invited to provide feedback by Oct. 3. That feedback was reviewed and a final list of 795 databases and journals will be cancelled for 2021.

Cancellations List

Faculty Town Hall Presentation

Sally Krash
Associate Dean for Content and Discovery
UMass Amherst Libraries

Interlibrary Loan has released updated request pages on Tuesday, September 8th. Our new pages are much more user friendly (including being mobile responsive, meeting ADA accessibility standards, and being easier to navigate). 

Additionally, Interlibrary Loan has temporarily expanded Library Express services, and will mail items from UMass Amherst AND other libraries to off campus patrons anywhere in the United States. Our new request pages allow you to choose whether you want loans held for contactless pickup at your preferred location (the W. E. B. Du Bois Library or Science and Engineering Library at the Amherst campus, or the Wadsworth Library at the Mount Ida campus) or to have your interlibrary loan materials mailed to your home address. These services are available to current UMass Amherst students and current and retired UMass Amherst faculty and staff.

To make sure we know your preference, when you first log in to your Interlibrary Loan account after September 8th, you will be prompted to confirm your loan delivery preference and mailing address. You can change this information in your account at any time.


Interlibrary Loan (also abbreviated ILL) is a free service that allows patrons of the UMass Amherst Libraries to borrow materials and to receive copies of documents from libraries beyond the Five Colleges. This service is available to current UMass Amherst students and current and retired UMass Amherst faculty and staff.

Library Express is a service where Interlibrary Loan mails regularly circulating books from the University Libraries to the home address of current students and current or retired faculty and staff. There is no charge for this service.

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, 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.


Screen Shot 2020 09 02 at 1.20.59 PM

Simon Neame
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: 

  • Pearson 
  • Cengage 
  • 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 
  • Thieme 

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.  

Thank you to our colleagues at Grand Valley State University Libraries and the University of Guelph Libraries for sharing their language  documenting these challenges. We have adapted their statements with permission.