The day I sat down to write this note, Governor Baker announced that libraries across the Commonwealth may expand to 50 percent capacity as long as coronavirus infection rates remain low. This is welcome news, after months of complex challenges for all of us, for the Libraries, for the university, and for the entire globe. Though we know that things may need to change back quickly, at least right now we’re hopeful.
For months we have been planning and preparing to safely welcome patrons back into the Libraries. Explicit in our mission is the call to foster a diverse, inclusive, and user-centered environment for teaching, learning, and research—both virtual and in-person. Our pledge is that all individuals who enter the Libraries in their physical or digital manifestation will be treated with respect.
In line with our mission, some of our most important work as an organization this past year has been affirming that Black Lives Matter. Staff created a Library Guide featuring resources on race and identity, including new books, articles, films, and other materials to support both personal and academic research and inquiry.
We marked the 40th anniversary of the W. E. B. Du Bois Papers coming to UMass by documenting on film scholars’ thinking on the relevance of Du Bois’s work today. In this issue, we for the first time publish “Platform for the Progressive Party,” a piece of writing by Du Bois that shows how Americans 70 years ago were fighting for freedom. We are looking closely at our own practices within the Libraries, to see what we need to change to live our values.
I am deeply grateful for the collective wisdom of staff at every level throughout the libraries who guide our work. All of our services have been available online since March, and the libraries opened over the summer for contactless pickup and printing, as well as by appointment for activities that need to occur in person, like using archival materials and retrieving of 3D printed objects. It is a testament to the creativity and dedication of library staff that we were able to successfully pivot to remote work while providing all the high-quality services our students and faculty depend on.
We have learned significant lessons from our experience working outside of the physical confines of our building and away from our physical collections. Fortunately, our librarians have been adopting and teaching others about digital resources for 30 years, and are experts in these fields. We have learned that our work providing access to information is more important than ever.
In this issue you will find many examples of how our work continues, such as welcoming new staff, supporting students, working with researchers and historians, bringing in new collections, making sure our resources are accessible to all, and even documenting the campus experience of the pandemic.
Thank you for your support of the UMass Amherst Libraries. I hope you enjoy this issue of Bookmark —after all, it shows all the things that your support helps make possible.
Stay safe and be well,
Simon Neame, Dean of Libraries