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
Roof 296.50 feet (90.37 m)
Top floor 28
Technical details
Floor count 26
Design and construction
Architect Edward Durrell Stone
W. E. B. Du Bois Library
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
Website [2]

The W. E. B. Du Bois Library is one of the four libraries of the UMass Amherst Libraries at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in Amherst, Massachusetts. The others are the Science and Engineering Library, the Music Reserve Lab, and the Image Collection Library. The W.E.B. Du Bois Library is the main library on campus, with resources primarily in humanities and social and behavioral sciences. At 28 stories and 296 feet (90.32 m) tall, it is the second tallest library in the world, and it is the tallest university library in the world.[2] It is also the 23rd tallest educational building in the world. The building is so large that it needs a security force, which is managed by various supervisors and student employees.

Present holdings at the Libraries include over 3.6-million volumes, providing access to nearly 80,000 online journals, over 700,000 e-books, and more than 200 databases.

A blog is kept by staff of the library which can be accessed online at http://umassamherstlibraries.blogspot.com/

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.


Built in 1974 by Edward Durrell Stone, the library houses the memoirs and papers of the distinguished African-American scholar, writer, and activist, W. E. B. Du Bois, which were acquired by Chancellor Randolph Bromery, a friend of Du Bois. The library is also the depository for other important collections, such as the papers of Congressman Silvio O. Conte, Horace Mann Bond, and Kenneth R. Feinberg. It was renamed the W. E. B. Du Bois Library in 1994 after a popular movement on campus.[3]

General Information[edit]

The library offers several computer labs and a tutoring center. The upper floors contain books from various academic fields, including a sizeable East Asian Collection, Art Collections, Thesis Archive, and SCUA, the Special Collections and University Archives. However, not all of the upper floors are book stacks. There are many 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 buildings 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. [4]

The building is a public library so citizens of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts can access the buildings and materials. An application for a borrowers card can be made online or on-site.

In 2011, room 25, which is located on the Lower Level, was transformed into a technology-based classroom that can hold approximately 75 students.

Learning Commons[edit]

A primary 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, International Programs Office, Learning Resource Center, Writing Center, Reference and Research Assistance, Assistive Technologies Center, Office of Information Technologies Help Desk, and Learning Commons and Technical Support desk.

The Learning Commons has over 30,000 square feet, with 450 seats available. There are 18 group study rooms which can be reserved[5], so students can work together without disturbing others, and there are over 200 work stations equipped with Macintosh and PC computers. The computers available have a broad range of software installed, 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.


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, as well as electrical upgrades and an HVAC system. Most recently, the Lobby of the building underwent a renovation for a new cafe called The Procrastination Station.

Plans are underway for the eventual inclusion of the Image Collection Library as well as the Campus Writing Program to be incorporated into the building. 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.

Falling Bricks and Other Myths[edit]

There are several myths circulating around campus about the Du Bois Library. However, none of these are factual. The first myth—that the library was not designed with the weight of the books in mind—is false. The library was designed as a graduate library and research center, and has since morphed into the main library on campus. However, either way, the weight of the books was brought into consideration when the library was being built. Related to this myth is the claim that the building is sinking into the ground at a rate of about a quarter to a half inch every year. This myth is also false. The library is resting on a gigantic slab of concrete underground, which hasn't moved since the library was built in 1974.[citation needed] Both of these myths are likely variants of the "overburdened library" myth, which has been widely applied to many university libraries since at least the 1970s.[6]

The final myth - that entire bricks have fallen from the building - is also false. When the library was built, the sides were supposed to be skinned in limestone, but to cut costs bricks were used instead. Because of the weight of the bricks, a support shelf was necessary, and the sealant joint used on these support shelves needed to expand and contract with the weather. However, the sealant weathered differently from the mortar used on the bricks, and to disguise the difference the architects made a special brick shape which was an overlay. This overlay did not hold up under compression, so some small chips began to break off. The bricks have been spalling ever since, and every 10 to 20 years the bricks are checked and repaired if necessary. Although this myth does contain some truth because small pieces of brick have broken off, a whole brick has never fallen from the building, and no one has ever been injured due to the spalling of small pieces of brick.[citation needed] To ensure the safety of patrons, the footprint of the library is fenced off and not accessible to ensure that no one is injured in the future.


  1. ^ W. E. B. Du Bois Library at Emporis
  2. ^ "Ten Tallest Library Buildings", Scribd.com
  3. ^ "W.E.B. Du Bois Library (Umass Amherst)" from DuBoisopedia, University of Massachusetts Amherst Library. Retrieved May 11, 2012 from [1]
  4. ^ "Library Hours." University of Massachusetts Amherst. Retrieved December 4, 2009 from [<http://www.library.umass.edu/assets/hours2014-15.pdf
  5. ^ http://www.library.umass.edu/locations/learningcommons/reserve-a-group-study-room/
  6. ^ "That Sinking Feeling." Snopes.com. Retrieved December 4, 2009 from Snopes.com

External links[edit]