Discover the hidden charms of the Science & Engineering Library
On the sprawling 1,450-acre flagship campus, the Science and Engineering Library (SEL) is a hidden gem. It’s tucked away in the northeast low-rise building of the Lederle Graduate Research Center; its second floor entrance and lack of an exterior sign make it a challenge to find at first. Once discovered, it provides an oasis to thousands of students and faculty that regularly seek out its welcoming vibes, dedicated staff, and unique resources.
The Science & Engineering Library (SEL) currently serves 13,342* undergrads and 3,359* graduate students enrolled in the colleges of Nursing; Computer and Information Sciences; Natural Sciences; Engineering; and the school of Public Health and Health Sciences—just over half of all students enrolled at UMass. (*2022 OIR Numbers)
- Innovation Station Do you have an idea for a better light bulb? SEL is home to one of only two designated Patents and Trademark Research Centers (PTRC) in the state, along with Boston Public Library, and one of about 80 in the U.S. The PTRC librarian answers questions regarding the patent and trademark processes and can assist in helping you learn patent and trademark searching by appointment. For more info visit: guides.library.umass.edu/ptrc
SEL receives new plant patents every month, which are filed and stored in the Plant Patent Room, dedicated to showcasing and making plant patents accessible in bright green filing cabinets on the third floor.
2. Plants & Seeds
Open to all, the Mass Aggie Seed Library on the third floor is a place where community members can freely borrow resources, build skills, and contribute their knowledge and their seeds back to the broader community. In addition to collecting and distributing organic, open-pollinated, and heirloom seeds for free to any interested patron, the Seed Library offers informative handouts, workshops, equipment for loan, and even puzzles and artwork on exhibit in this beautiful, colorful corner of the library. On the first floor of SEL, presiding over a quiet corner that someday could become an accessible entry-level portal to the library, are two ancient Mauritius hemp plants. They came to SEL when the Morrill Biological Science Library merged with the Engineering Library in 2004 and have been with us ever since. “They’re older than the hills,” said one long-time librarian. But don’t get too close—they are prickly!
On the first floor of SEL, presiding over a quiet corner that someday could become an accessible entry-level portal to the library, are two ancient Mauritius hemp plants. They came to SEL when the Morrill Biological Science Library merged with the Engineering Library in 2004 and have been with us ever since. “They’re older than the hills,” said one long-time librarian. But don’t get too close—they are prickly!
Photo left: Neeharika Karanam ’25 in front of hemp plant.
3. Fun & Games
The SEL Board Game Collection holds a variety of board games that bring a bit of science to game playing. Although no knowledge of science is necessary to play, you might find yourself in possession of a few more bird facts after playing Wingspan, or a better idea of programming after playing Quirky Circuits. These games were chosen to connect with our science and engineering patrons, and we have a game for every subject, from astronomy to zoology. Just like anything else we select for the Libraries collections, these games were chosen because they are highly rated by experts in the field—which means, players! SEL hosts a game event once a month during fall and spring semesters, open to all to learn the games and meet new people. Members of the UMass community may borrow the games for in-library use at any other time SEL is open.
- Window and Wall Murals
Students are amazing! They have decorated the windows and walls of the library!
Photo L to R: Neeharika Karanam ’25; Haknyeong Hong ’26PhD
5. Compact Shelving
SEL compact shelving has been retrofitted with manual hand cranks! This resolves a malfunction with the previous electronic motors that kept many of the bound periodicals difficult to reach. No longer! Drop by the lower level of SEL and try out the new hand cranks and explore.
Left: Retired science librarian Naka Ishii checks out the new system.
6. Space to Think
From needlework about metadata (see story Unseen Labor) to seed saving and library science, SEL hosts exhibits throughout the year, and some items are permanently on display. Need SPACE to study? Find the NASA memorabilia permanently displayed in the second-floor study area. Given by Paul R. Murphy ’73, the memorabilia include signed photos of John Glenn and Alan Shephard, as well as a publicity photo and stamp of the 1969 Moon Landing honoring the Apollo II crew. Another item on display worth checking out is the Thacher’s Calculating Instrument, a cylindrical slide rule, which was patented in 1881 by Edwin Thacher, a civil engineer, to assist in his calculations when designing railway bridges.
Gifted by Anne McIntosh in memory of her husband and emeritus professor Robert E. McIntosh, the slide (A scale) consists of two folded and graduated logarithmic scales; each scale from 100 to 1,000 is divided into forty parts of equal length. Thus, the number of exposed sides of the bars equals the number of parts of the logarithmic scale on the slide. The bars have upper and lower lines; the lower lines are each one of the forty parts of the logarithmic scale and are in contact with the slide underneath. The upper lines feature an extended scale of square roots.
- Schweet Schwag
Earbuds, notebooks, notepads, and rulers, oh my! Librarians bring these and other goodies to their information literacy classes and are always spreading the word about SEL!
- Women in STEM Homage
Portraits of women scientists devoted to serve as role models in their fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), made by female illustrators and commissioned by the Nevertheless podcast, are available for free download in eight different languages. SEL staff chose to display the free posters on the third floor to help raise awareness of their achievements and inspire a new generation of girls and women in STEM.
- Floors Galore
You wouldn’t know it when you walk in, but SEL has four floors of space and materials to support our hardworking STEM students. The basement has bound periodicals and oversize materials. The first floor is dedicated to bound periodicals and is a dedicated quiet study floor, with windows overlooking the new pedestrian walkway between Lederle and the Physical Science Building. The second floor, where the main entrance is located, is the go-to spot for checking out materials, printing papers, or students meeting their peers to study. It also includes group study rooms and the Learning Studio where classes take place. The third floor, which houses the monograph collection, is the largest area in SEL dedicated to study, with rolling white boards and tables and chairs galore!
- Night Owls Welcome
Open until 10 p.m. during spring and fall semesters.
Compiled by SEL staff