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
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