Changes great and small are happening at the libraries this semester. For one thing, our students are BACK and the libraries are OPEN! And, as the old saying goes, absence makes the heart grow fonder—we’re so glad to welcome students back into the library buildings. Whether they’re settled in for many hours to focus, create, and collaborate, or stopping by the Procrastination Station to grab a coffee and pick up a 3D print from the Digital Media Lab, students make the library the scholarly hub that it is, and we have never been more grateful for them.
This is also my first semester as interim dean of libraries, and being open is at the heart of my vision for the libraries. We are open to change—to reexamining the past and continuously reinventing our future. Our doors are open: both physically and digitally, welcoming in a global community that sees itself reflected in our collections, spaces, services, and—most importantly—our workforce. Our collections are open: to reevaluation, and to being examined through the critical lens of scholars shaping an understanding of the world around them. Our minds are open: to reimagining scholarship, to breaking the barriers of conventional academic publishing, to helping to amplify marginalized voices in the knowledge creation process. Our hearts are open: to new possibilities, to new prospects, and to a better shared future for our society.
As I write this, we are participating in International Open Access Week, devoted to sharing resources that are digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. This year’s theme, “It Matters How We Open Knowledge: Building Structural Equity,” aligns nicely with both my vision for the libraries and our deep and abiding commitment to positive social change. Activities are taking place around the globe, including our keynote, featuring UMass Amherst professors Ethan Zuckerman and Martha Fuentes discussing the future of libraries. Their insights on the vital roles libraries play in the creation, preservation, and transmission of knowledge for the betterment of society—and the need to increase access to this knowledge by the removal of barriers—will shape the conversation going forward and inform how we recognize and approach inequities in our own community.
Commitment to open education is one that extends directly to my own practice as an instructor. My syllabus contains an open education statement, and this practice is now being adopted by others in the College of Education. I’m also proud of my work on the Museum in a Box initiative featured on page 6— this is another way to bring our collections freely to the community. As interim dean, I am thrilled to be able to support the development of an open science curriculum for K-12 students, using the libraries’ streaming falcon cam and a GIS map of falcon data, both supported by donors to the Library Sustainability Fund.
With winter ahead and COVID still with us, we are reminded to keep a sense of humor. “I am especially glad of the divine gift of laughter: it has made the world human and lovable, despite all its pain and wrong,” said W. E. B. Du Bois. I hope you’ll join us in person or virtually in February when we celebrate the birthday of Du Bois… and his wisdom. And laughter.
Interim Dean of Libraries