UMass Libraries: Report on Activities 2020-21

Welcome to our Report on Activities. We share here with you, our stakeholders, how patrons used the Libraries; our response to COVID-19; and how we have engaged with our communities.


The Libraries’ immediate response to the pandemic was to support remote teaching and learning by ensuring access to our core services and resources for use no matter where patrons were, such as curbside pickup—a new service—to make up for the suspension of on-site services and resources. The Digital Media Lab went above and beyond by producing PPE for local organizations.

3,197 Items of PPE printed

To help combat the COVID-19 pandemic, the Libraries spearheaded a response to fabricate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for our community. Dennis Spencer of the Digital Media Lab printed 3,197 pieces of 3D PPE thanks in part to many collaborators, and $540 raised by students in the Pre-Medical Society. The items were delivered by a community volunteer to Springfield’s Baystate Medical Center and Noble Hospital, Holyoke Soldiers Home, The Arbors in Westfield, Heritage Hall North in Agawam, and Landmark Senior Living in West Springfield. 

2,948 Curbside Pickups

Contactless pickup and printing were new services offered by the Libraries in response to the pandemic. On-site staff pivoted in the spring of 2020 to offer curbside pick-up of materials—anything from books and musical scores to DVDs, laptops, and 3D printed items.

Materials Mailed Increased by 1,654%

To accommodate patrons, we expanded the criteria for materials we mail through the US Postal Service. Prior to the shutdown, we mailed only UMass-owned items to patrons outside of the Pioneer Valley. We now mail materials from other libraries as well, to any patron, not just to those on campus. Many of our mailings contain multiple items.

Mass Aggie Seed Library 2021

Gave 1,416 seed packets to 214 patrons

The first two seasons of the Mass Aggie Seed Library in the Science and Engineering Library coincided with Covid-19, and a global uptick in home gardening. In 2020, librarian Paulina Borrego mailed 1,019 seed packets. Still in remote mode in spring 2021, Borrego mailed 864 packets, and also packed up her car and operated a mobile seed library at locations throughout the Pioneer Valley, delivering another 552 packets to 46 pop-up patrons.

Student Care & Emergency Response Fund

Alumna Annette Vadnais ’99, Student Success and Outreach Librarian, also known as the Purple Hair Librarian, spearheaded a ”Shave the Date” fundraising campaign to support students in need. Donors stepped up and cheered Vadnais live online as she shaved her purple locks, raising more than $5,300 for the Student Care and Emergency Response Fund.

How Patrons Used the Libraries

When library buildings closed in mid-March 2020, we expected the drop in physical circulation and patron visits. As a result, the Libraries’ experienced sharp increases in requests to mail resources directly to patrons, full-text downloads, and online services such as ASK US and live chat.

Patrons accessed items through Hathi Trust 8,445 times

The consortium HathiTrust provided emergency access to member institutions, including UMass Amherst, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on its 2018 holdings, about half of the Libraries’ print collection overlaps with the HathiTrust digital collection, so the temporary service provided access to the digital versions of more than 1.5 million print volumes. (March 2021 accounts for more than 30% of all use for a full year of access, which included 123 uses of “A Modern History of Japan: From Tokugawa Times to the Present,” by Andrew Gordon, 1945, and 198 uses of a nineteenth-century literature criticism monograph series, for content published between 1985-2008.)

Live Chat up 82%

Between March and August of 2019 and March and August of 2020 live chat increased by 82% as patrons connected with librarians, resources, and services in real-time.

ASK US! Usage Increased by 58%

Patrons used our online Ask Us! feature like never before to gain access to online resources.

Use of openly accessible works up 44%

Use of openly-accessible works through
ScholarWorks@UMassAmherst increased from
2.4M+ uses in 2019 to 3.5M+ in 2020.

Physical Circulation Down by 72%

Even with an active curbside pickup service, circulation of physical items declined when patrons were unable to access spaces and book stacks beginning mid-March 2020. In April 2021, the Libraries welcomed students back into the Libraries for socially distanced study spaces available by appointment and by summer 2021 will be fully open.

Course Reserves Up

In fiscal year 2021, the Libraries supported 999 courses through providing materials on reserve direct to students, a 30% increase over FY20. We provided 11,877 items on reserve, a 25% increase over FY20.

Full-Text Downloads Jumped 12%

We saw an increase in full-text downloads, with remote learners, staff, and educators accessing more materials online.

Libraries Workshop Series


In its third year, the Libraries’ Workshop Series transitioned from in-person to online in spring 2020. Workshops included citation management, research and scholarship assistance, Zotero, infographics, Photoshop, W. E. B. Du Bois, and more.

Library instruction and consultations increased

The upward trend of library instruction—librarians teaching alongside their faculty peers online and in the classroom, educating students on information resources in their major of study—has corresponded with a reduction in need for traditional reference. Instead of going to the library, we meet students wherever they are, and in 2020, that meant on zoom: While no instruction sessions occured via Zoom in 2019, 204 took place on Zoom in 2020.

Special Collections
& University Archives

301 Research Appointments

Special Collections and University Archives opened for limited access by appointment soon after the onset of the pandemic, with safety barriers and protocols in place. Physical access to unique materials was of irreplaceable value to researchers in need of continuing their work.

Database help graph

Database Help up 110%

With nearly all library research happening via online resources, students and faculty have relied on an increased amount of support navigating these resources and the systems that provide access to them. Database Help fixes broken links, troubleshoots login and authentication issues, and are the trail guides bringing lost researchers to the ebooks, articles, and databases they need.


Connecting with colleagues, friends, patrons, faculty, and the campus community helped sustain us during challenging times.

Connecting with You

We connected personally with nearly 1,000 students, friends, and donors at online events in 2020.

We missed seeing Friends of the Library in person, yet that didn’t dampen your generosity: 1,156 donors made a gift to the Libraries in fiscal year 2020. THANK YOU!

Student Success Events
Furnish Fun!

To help students relax, recharge, and connect during remote learning, the Libraries hosted a mini-series of virtual game nights on Zoom. Due to their popularity, these game nights have been expanded and rebranded as the Libraries Outreach Series, a robust program with weekly events, including games, concerts, and online visits with therapy dogs. Nearly 600 students attended virtually from fall 2020 through spring 2021.

“You and I can never be satisfied with sitting down before a great human problem and saying nothing can be done. We must do something. That is the reason we are on Earth.”

– W. E. B. DU BOIS, 1909

W. E. B. Du Bois Center

In a moment of global racial reckoning, the words of W. E. B. Du Bois were more relevant than ever: More than 400 people participated in more than 50 Du Bois Center events in 2020, including workshops, panels, and 46 Breakfasts with Du Bois. The Center had its best showing on social media in its decade-long history, including more than 850 people tuning in to watch a documentary celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Du Bois Papers coming to UMass Amherst in fall of 2020.

FOLIO: The Future of Libraries is Open

The Libraries’ FOLIO project—the development and use of a new open source library services platform within a global collaboration community—made gigantic leaps! Working groups have been busy loading our data into the new library system platform. Iterative data loads help us refine our process and inform data cleanup efforts to ensure final migration is smooth. These startlingly large numbers from our latest load tests represent an amazing amount of dedication and hard work by the staff.

984,411+ catalog records corrected

A sub-project of the FOLIO migration process, “Aleph Clean-Up” corrected thousands of records before moving them into the new catalog. These records needed their data structures to fit into FOLIO, so they will be findable by patrons and staff once there. Information Resources Management staff—and, during the pandemic, staff throughout the Libraries—have been working on these records for two years.

Most Popular Post of 2020:
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

May 23, 2020—World Turtle Day—we posted photos on Facebook of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle sculptures that are on floor 21 of the W. E. B. Du Bois Library, donated by co-creator Peter Laird ’76 and Mirage Studios.

More patrons and alums connected with us online during a year of remote learning and work: Twitter engagement was up 6%, Facebook 7%, and Instagram up 26%.