W. E. B. Du Bois Library

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W. E. B. Du Bois Library
W.E.B. DuBois Library.jpg
General information
Type Research
Location Amherst, Massachusetts 01003
United States
Construction started 1972
Completed 1974
Height
Roof 286.5 feet (87.3 m)
Top floor 28
Technical details
Floor count 30
Design and construction
Architect Edward Durrell Stone
UMass Amherst W.E.B. Dubois Library night 2.jpg
W. E. B. Du Bois Library at night
Country United States
Type Public
Established 1974
Location 154 Hicks Way
University of Massachusetts Amherst
Amherst, MA 01003-9275
Coordinates 42°23′23.42″N 72°31′41.65″W / 42.3898389°N 72.5282361°W / 42.3898389; -72.5282361Coordinates: 42°23′23.42″N 72°31′41.65″W / 42.3898389°N 72.5282361°W / 42.3898389; -72.5282361
Collection
Size 5.9 Million
Website [2]
References
[1]

The W. E. B. Du Bois Library is one of the two libraries of the University of Massachusetts Amherst in Amherst, Massachusetts, the other being the Science and Engineering Library. The W.E.B. Du Bois Library holds resources primarily in humanities and social and behavioral sciences. At 28 stories and 286 feet 4 and 1/8 inches (roughly 88 m) tall, making it the second-tallest library in the world, and the tallest academic research library in the world.[2] It is also the 23rd tallest educational building in the world. The building is so large that it maintains a security force, which is managed by various supervisors and student employees.

Present holdings at the UMass Libraries include over 5.9 million volumes and over 9 Million individual items, providing access to nearly 80,000 online journals, over 700,000 e-books, and more than 200 databases.

As part of the Five College Consortium, the UMass Amherst Libraries also have access to material from its partners in the Consortium: Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College, and Smith College. Students can also take advantage of the Interlibrary Loan Services to obtain materials from libraries beyond the Five College system and from all over the world.

History[edit]

As the University of Massachusetts Amherst began to grow exponentially in the 1960s it was decided by the Board of Trustees that a large University Library would be needed for the Library System to make the transition into the future. The designer was Edward Durrell Stone who followed recommendations by a Boston library consultant who recommended that the University would require a building of nearly 310,000 square feet to meet with the growing demands of students.[3] Ground was broken in April 1969 and the building was opened to the public in 1973, with an official dedication taking place in 1974.

The building was ordered closed in September 1979 by then Chancellor Henry Koffler to address the serious issue of "spalling" where bits of brick from the facade on the exterior building would fall away. The most important and most used volumes were removed to the former Goodell Library Stacks (located adjacent to the building) as well as the majority of the library departments. The building was closed to all except staff who were allowed to retrieve any books left in the building. In December of 1979 the building was reopened with a maximum occupancy of 500 persons, and a special ticket was required for entry. By 1983 the problem had not been solved and the University acquired 2.5 Million dollars from the State Legislature to begin a major revamp to the buildings brick veneer. The money would also be used to reconstruct the main lobby and resize the first few floors of the building. The building was restored to full usage in 1985 and students and staff led an initiative in 1986 called "Mass Transformation" to clean up and restore the interior of the building.[4]

The building was originally referred to as the University Tower Library, but was renamed the W.E.B. Du Bois Library following a popular student movement in 1994.[5] Special Collections is home to the memoirs and papers of the distinguished African-American scholar, writer, and activist, W. E. B. Du Bois, which were acquired by former Chancellor Randolph Bromery, a friend of Du Bois. The library is also the depository for other important collections relating to social issues, such as the papers of Congressman Silvio O. Conte, Horace Mann Bond, and Kenneth R. Feinberg.

General information[edit]

The library offers several computer labs, a tutoring center, the writing center, equipment lending from the Digital Media lab, the Digital Scholarship Center (formerly the Image Collection Library) and an IT Support Desk. The upper floors contain books from various academic fields focusing primaryon the humanities and social behavioral sciences,, including a sizeable East Asian Collection, Art Collections, UMass Thesis Archive, and "SCUA," the Special Collections and University Archives. Some floors also house special offices and study carrels that are available to graduate students and postdoctoral researchers seeking a private study area. The library offers tutoring, writing workshops, and supplemental instruction scattered among its 26 floors.

The topmost floors of the library are a popular destination for those wishing to see a panoramic view of the campus and surrounding Pioneer Valley. The 23rd has the best view as it is the highest floor from which patrons can view the Valley from each of the building's four sides.

The library is accessible to UMass Amherst and 5-College Students 24 hours for five days a week during the normal academic year. It is closed at 9:00 at night on Fridays, Saturdays, and select holidays.[6] The building is a public library so citizens of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts who are 18 years of age can access the majority of the building its and materials. An application for a borrowers card can be made online or on-site.

Peregrine Falcons have nested atop the building since 2003 and a camera was installed so that their nest box could be live streamed to the public.[7]

In 2011, Room 25 located on the Lower Level, was transformed into a "Team Based Learning Classroom" that can hold approximately 75 students.

The Science and Engineering Library, which holds the bulk of the STEM related collection is located at a separate location in the Lederle Graduate Research Center Lowrise.[8]

Learning Commons[edit]

A prominent feature of the W.E.B. Du Bois Library is the Learning Commons, located on the Lower Level, which opened in 2005. The Learning Commons provides a central location for resources provided by many departments across campus including Circulations/Reserves/Interlibrary Loan, the International Programs Office, the Writing Center, Reference and Research Assistance, the Assistive Technologies Center, an Information Technologies Help Desk, and the Learning Commons and Technical Support desk.[9]

The Learning Commons has over 30,000 square feet, with 450 seats available. There are 18 group study rooms which can be reserved,[10] so students can work together without disturbing others, and there are over 200 work stations equipped with Mac and PC computers. The computers have a broad range of software installed,[11] and are arranged in a variety of configurations to allow both individual and collaborative work. The entire building gained wireless Internet access in 2008. The North End is also home to the micro climate area, which consists of many experimental seating arrangements and television screens for group work.

Access to the Oswald Tippo Library Courtyard is on this level, which contains the statue entitled Searching for Buddha in the Mountains, designed by Thomas Matsuda in 1999 and installed in 2000.

Building Myths[edit]

The building has fallen victim to several myths since its opening in 1973, the most popular of these being a variation of the "Sinking Library Myth," where the architect supposedly forgot to account the weight of the books in the buildings designs, resulting in a settling of the building. This is a popular myth attributed to many university libraries and is untrue.[12]

The spalling of the bricks has also led to the common assumption that entire bricks fall away from the building, and invariably make contact with someone on the ground. While bits of material do occasionally break away, a full brick has never come away from the building, and a safety fence stands around the exterior of the building to keep passerby's safe from the small chips which do.

The unusual inclusion of carrel floors bred the belief that the building was not originally designed to be a library, but was supposed to be an office building and the plans were mixed up. The building was designed to work in units of three, with two stacks floors holding similar subjects and a a carrel floor to accommodate departments and librarians related to those materials. The plan never fully came to fruition, and carrels are rented by graduate students and professors as quiet study spaces. This myth gained further traction after the construction of the Standard Oil building (now Aon Center) by Durell's firm in Chicago which features a similar design with an exterior clad in marble.

Renovations[edit]

Throughout the years since the building was first built, many renovations and upgrades have been completed on the library. These renovations have included a new entryway, brand new elevator systems, a sprinkler system and fire suppression, a reconfigured cafe, as well as electrical upgrades and an HVAC system. There is also a new loading dock and service entrance being built in conjunction with the renovation of the South College Building on the west side of the Library.

Most recently the Digital Scholarship Center[13] and the Freshman Writing Program (both formerly located in Bartlett Hall) moved to the sixth and twelfth floors respectively, and renovations are being completed to provide additional space to the Learning Resource Center on the thirteenth floor.

Plans are underway for the eventual renovation of the lobby, the addition of a second teaching space for Special Collections and University Archives, the construction of a Graduate Commons on the fifth floor, and the continued updating of building systems.

References[edit]

External links[edit]