Library

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • Borrowing, renewing, buying, etc.
  • Journals & magazines
  • What's available
  • College history
  • Library spaces
  • Doing research
  • AC Links
  • Other common questions

What do I need to borrow materials from the Amherst College Library?

How do I borrow items from one of the other libraries in the Five College consortium?

How do I renew my books?

Can I borrow a book the library doesn't own?

Can I get books from Five College institutions on Amherst College thesis loan?

Can I return an Amherst College book at another Five College library?

How may I check my library account to see what I have checked out?

Who can borrow CDs from the Music Library?

Who can borrow videos from Frost Library?

How do I ask the library to buy an item?

What do I need to borrow materials from the Amherst College Library?

Amherst College students, staff and faculty use their college ID as their library card. Area residents must present a valid Massachusetts drivers license/state picture ID along with their Amherst library card.  Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, Smith and UMass Amherst students and faculty use their college ID as their library card.

How do I borrow items from one of the other libraries in the Five College consortium?

The Five Colleges have reciprocal borrowing agreements that allow members of the Amherst College community to borrow materials using their Amherst College Library ID card.   Online request are made through the Five College Catalog - request item button.

How do I renew my books?

You can renew materials you have borrowed in two ways:

  1. Renewing in person at the Circulation Desk.
  2. Renewing online: We encourage you to renew online. From the Library home page, you may renew by clicking on "My Account." You will need your barcode number (the 15 digit number on your ID card) in order to view your patron record. Material can be renewed online up to three times.

However, please note that:

  • Reserve books are not renewable online; they may only be renewed in person at the Circulation Desk.
  • Renewing by telephone is not possible.

Can I borrow a book the library does not own?

Yes, Interlibrary Loan services are available. You may speak with a staff member at the Circulation Desk at Frost Library, or you may send your request electronically through the library's Request Service.

Can I get books from Five College institutions on Amherst College thesis loan?

Amherst College seniors writing a college approved thesis are eligible to borrow Amherst College books on thesis loan, but are not eligible to borrow Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College or University of Massachusetts books or Interlibrary Loans on thesis loan.

Can I return an Amherst College book at another Five College library?

With the exception of Reserve materials, all Five College library books may be returned at any of the Five College Libraries. A delivery services runs between the libraries five days a week. However, you are responsible for the safe and timely return of all materials you charge out.

How do I check my library account to see what I have checked out?

You can check your account using My Account in the online catalog. You will need your 15-digit barcode number from your Amherst College ID card.

Who can borrow CDs from the Music Library?

Please see the Music Library's loan periods.

Who can borrow videos from Frost Library?

Please see the Frost Library loan periods.

How do I ask the library to buy an item?

Submit a request.

    Where are the journals shelved?

    How do I see if the College owns a specific volume of a journal?

    Where do I find government documents

    Can I borrow a journal?

    Where are the journals shelved?

    • Frost Library: Unbound periodicals are shelved alphabetically by title in the Friendly Periodicals Reading Room on the Main Floor of the Robert Frost Library. Bound periodicals are arranged in call number order and can be found in the stacks along with the monographs. Journals on microfilm/fiche are housed on the second floor of the Frost Library. 
    • Keefe Science Library: Unbound periodicals are shelved alphabetically by title. Bound periodicals are arranged in call number order and can be found in the stacks.
    • Morgan Music Library: Current periodicals are near the entrance of the library.

    How do I see if the College owns a specific volume of a journal?

    1. Click on the Journals tab in the Library Quick Search at the top of the page
    2. Type the title of the journal (not the article) into the search box [NOTE: if you are searching a single word title, we recommend changing the search type from Begins with to Exact match.]
    3. You will be presented with the titles that matched your search.  Select the correct title.
    4. A menu of choices will open showing the online availability of the title and a link to the online catalog entry for the print version, if available.

    Where do I find government documents?

    The Robert Frost Library has been a Federal Depository Library since 1884. Government documents are not shelved in a separate location, but are located throughout the collection, according to subject. See our research guides for US legal materials , the US census, and US Congressional publications for more specific information.

    Can I borrow a journal?

    Journals, magazines and newspapers circulate to Amherst College faculty and staff only although other patrons are free to view these within the library.

      Where can I use my laptop?

      Is there a typewriter I can use in Frost Library?

      Where are lockers in Frost Library & who may use them?

      May I examine Emily Dickinson or Robert Frost manuscripts?

      Where can I find the portraits of Joseph Hardy Neesima and Kanzo Uchimura?

      Where are microfilm and microfiche readers and printers?

      Where are microcard readers?

      Where can I find a computer scanner?

      How do I make a color photocopy?

      What special physical accommodations are available for visitors with handicaps?

      Where can I use my laptop?

      Both Frost Library and the Keefe Science Library have electrical outlets and ethernet drops for laptops. Refer to the floor plans on this web site or ask at the Reference Desk for specific locations. Wireless networking is also available throughout Frost and Keefe Libraries.

      Is there a typewriter I can use in Frost Library?

      No, there are no typewriters available to the public.

      Where are lockers in Frost Library & who may use them?

      Frost Library makes lockers available to Amherst College students, faculty and staff free of charge on a first-come, first-served basis. All library materials stored in lockers must be charged out. Patrons should not store journals or newspapers in the lockers. The lockers are cleared at the end of each Spring semester and patrons must remove all materials from their locker by that time. More information ...

      May I examine Emily Dickinson or Robert Frost manuscripts?

      Because of the fragile nature of these unique materials, access to the original artifacts is extremely limited. Digital images of all Emily Dickinson manuscripts at Amherst College can be found online here: Emily Dickinson Collection. Manuscripts from our collections are occasionally exhibited in Archives & Special Collections, but are generally not available on demand.

      For more information about Robert Frost, see Robert Frost at Amherst: a timeline.

      Where can I find the portraits of Joseph Hardy Neesima and Kanzo Uchimura?

      Neesima was the first Japanese graduate of Amherst (Class of 1870), and the founder of Doshisha University in Kyoto. His portrait hangs in Johnson Chapel.

      Uchimura was the second Japanese graduate of Amherst (Class of 1887), and a prominent missionary and Christian scholar in Japan. His portrait hangs across from the Frost Cafe at the west end of Level 1 of the Robert Frost Library.

      Where are microfilm and microfiche readers and printers?

      These machines are available in the microform area on the 2nd floor of Frost Library.

      Where is a scanner in Frost?

      There are multiple scanners in Frost.

      How do I make a color photocopy?

      There are no self-serve color photocopiers on campus. Collective Copies, located nearby on the Amherst common, will make color copies for a fee.

      What special physical accommodations are available for visitors requiring them?

      We are committed to making the libraries as accessible as possible.

        How can I find out something about my family member who went to Amherst College?

        Where can I find some information about an Amherst College building

        How can I find out more about the history of Amherst College?

        I've got things related to Amherst that belonged to a family member and that I'd like to give to the College. How can I do that?

        How can I find out something about my family member who went to Amherst College?

        Archives and Special Collections maintains a biographical file on every alumnus of the College. Brief information, in a "Who's Who"-type format, can be found in various editions of the Biographical Record, published at intervals. The 1973 edition is the most complete and useful for older alumni (before 1950). It is available at the Library's Reference Desk and in the general stacks of Frost Library (call number: LD152.4 .A5 1973). A copy is also available in the Higgins College History Room of the Archives and Special Collections. If you have a specific question, you may speak with, phone or e-mail the staff of Archives and Special Collections.

        Where can I find some information about an Amherst College building?

        Stanley King's book, The Consecrated Eminence, is available at the Library's Reference Desk and in the general stacks of Frost Library (call number: LD153.K5). A copy is also available in the Higgins College History Room of Archives and Special Collections. Archives and Special Collections maintains extensive historical files (many of which were used by Stanley King), including plans and photographs, on College buildings. If you have a specific question, you may speak with, phone or e-mail the staff of Archives and Special Collections.

        How can I find out more about the history of Amherst College?

        A brief college history is available on the Amherst College web site.

        The Higgins College History Room in Archives and Special Collections has a wide selection of materials by and about the College available for browsing, including complete runs of the Amherst Student (the student newspaper), the Olio (the yearbook), course catalogues, and various historical writings about the College and its alumni. Some of these College publications are also in the general stacks of the Frost Library.  There are also many Amherst College historical resources available online.

        In addition, the Archives and Special Collections has extensive archival and manuscript records covering all aspects of the history of Amherst College. If you have specific questions, please consult with staff of Archives & Special Collections.

        I've got things related to Amherst that belonged to a family member and that I'd like to give to the College. How can I do that?

        Please read our statement on Giving to the Amherst College Library.  Then contact a staff member in Archives & Special Collections.

          Where is the best place to study in Frost, either by myself or with a group?

          How do I reserve a faculty carrel in Frost Library?

          Where is the Map Room located?

          Where can I find a photocopier?

          Where can I get change or a copy card to use with a photocopier?

          How do I find out about areas in Frost Library that are named for specific people?

          How can I find out if any group studies are available?

          Where is the best place to study in Frost, either by myself or with a group?

          Frost has a large variety of study spaces.

          How do I reserve a faculty carrel in Frost Library?

          Amherst College faculty members should contact the Library Administration Office to request use of a carrel.

          Where is the Map Room located?

          The Map Room is in Frost Library, Level B, adjacent to the south stairwell.

          Where can I find a photocopier?

          The Amherst College main library and all of its branches have photocopying machines. Please check library floor plans or speak with the library staff for locations.

          Where can I get change or a copy card to use with a photocopier?

          None of the College Libraries is prepared to make change.  Some photocopiers will accept $1.00 or $5.00 bills, but only if the machine has enough change. In other words, a machine will only accept a $5.00 bill if it already possesses enough coins to return $4.90 to you. This may not always be the case.

          Amherst College faculty, students and staff may use their OneCard (i.e., their College ID card). For students, the cost of photocopying will be deducted from your AC Dollar$ account (as long as the account has a positive balance). Employees of the College will have the cost of photocopying deducted from their next paycheck.

          How do I find out about areas in Frost Library that are named for specific people?

          There were many generous supporters of the Frost Library when it was constructed in 1965. For a list of all the named rooms organized by location, see Commemorative Spaces in the Robert Frost Library.

          How can I find out if any group studies are available?

          Check at the Frost circulation desk or look here.

            How do I find out the full title of a journal if I only have the abbreviation (e.g., Am J Anat or J Psychol Jud)?

            How do I get access to the Library databases from home or other places off campus?

            How do I correctly cite the books, articles, and websites I quote in my paper?

            How do I find an article in a journal once I have a citation?

            How do I find an essay or chapter in a book once I have a citation?

            How do I know if the website I found is reliable?

            How do I know if the book I found is by a reputable scholar?

            How do I know if the Library has an electronic version of the journal I'm interested in?

            I want to find journal articles on my topic.

            I want to find the best websites on my topic.

            I want to find background information on my topic.

            I want to find fulltext articles in the Library's databases.

            I want to find an article from a "scholarly" journal, but I'm not sure what journals are considered "scholarly"?

            I want to find videos or recordings having to do with my topic.

            I want to find a good online dictionary.

            I want to find books in the Five College Library Catalog when I only have a topic in mind and not a specific book or author.

            I want to organize the sources I used for my research.

            What are primary sources? Secondary sources?

            The catalog says the book I need is in Archives & Special Collections. How do I get access to it?

            Can I get a thesis binder at the Library?

            Can I get thesis guidelines, including format requirements, in the Library?

            How do I find out the full title of a journal if I only have the abbreviation (e.g., Am J Anat or J Psychol Jud)?

            If you found the abbreviation in a footnote in a book or article, the easiest way to find the full title is to check the bibliography; often the full title will be included in a bibliographic citation.

            If this doesn't work or if the abbreviation came from another source, search for the abbreviation in the Journal Locator. In some cases, it will tell you the full title. If that doesn't work, go to Abbreviations.com or ask about additional resources at the Reference Desk.

            How do I get access to the Library databases from home or other places off campus?

            All Amherst College students, faculty, and staff can connect to most electronic Library resources from off campus following the instructions here.

            How do I correctly cite the books, articles, and websites I quote in my paper?

            A variety of style manuals, resources providing information about citing sources, are available on the Library's Citing sources page. You might also stop by the reference desk to consult printed versions of the MLA Handbook, the Chicago Manual of Style, and others.

            How do I find an article in a journal once I have a citation?

            A citation to a journal article includes the author, title, year of publication, and journal title, volume, and page numbers. To use this information to find the item you're looking for, check the Citation Linker. You can enter as much or as little data about the article as you like. The Citation Linker will provide you with options for finding the article online, in print from the online catalog, or via request through InterLibrary Loan.

            How do I find an essay or chapter in a book once I have a citation?

            A citation to a book article includes the author, title, editor, publisher, year of publication, and book title. To use this information to find the item you're looking for, check the Five College Library Catalog by searching for the book's author (or editor) or title. NOTE: Book article and chapter titles and authors are not included in the catalog; you must search for the book's title or author/editor.

            How do I know if the book I found is by a reputable scholar?

            The best way to learn about a book and its author is to consult book reviews. To find book reviews, use the resources linked to the Library's Book Reviews page.

            How do I know if the Library has an electronic version of the journal I'm interested in?

            The best way to find out if the Library has an electronic version of a journal is to search the Journal Locator.

            I want to find journal articles on my topic.

            Guidelines for finding journal articles is available on the Library's Articles page. Information about published articles can be found in general or subject specific printed and electronic Indexes & Databases and bibliographies. To find printed indexes and bibliographies on your topic, search the Five College Library Catalog or Ask Us.

            I want to find background information on my topic.

            Basic background information--including general summaries of events, short biographies, and facts such as dates--about many topics is available in an encyclopedia, such as Britannica Online.

            The Library also owns subject specific encyclopedias in many subject areas. If you can't find a subject-specific encyclopedia relating to your topic, stop by the Reference Desk or Ask us or check the Library's Encyclopedias page.

            I want to find full-text articles in the Library's databases.

            Most of the Library databases include only citations (author, article title, journal title, date of publication, volume, page number) and/or abstracts (brief summary of an article). Some Library databases do include full-text access to journals and newspaper articles. Be aware that few databases are entirely full-text, and often only a limited number of articles are available from a particular periodical.

            The Library has electronic access to many journals directly from the Library Catalog. If you have a citation or know the name of a journal in your subject area, do a Journal Title search with the title in quotes (e.g. "art bulletin") to see if the Library has fulltext access. Also search the Journal Locator or check our E-book collections.

            I want to find an article from a "scholarly" journal, but I'm not sure what journals are considered "scholarly"?

            Scholarly journals, as opposed to news sources or popular magazines, include academic articles written by individuals with considerable expertise in the subject area. They generally report on research and almost all have bibliographic citations indicating resources quoted in the article. Some scholarly journals are called "refereed" journals, meaning that the included articles that have been reviewed, or "refereed" by scholars or experts in the covered field of study.

            I want to find videos or recordings having to do with my topic.

            To search for films and videos in the Five College Library Catalog, click on the "More" tab and select "DVDs/Videos/Films".

            Once you've created a search in the Library Catalog using keywords, author, etc. you can limit your results to a particular "Material Type" (such as videos, recordings, maps, musical scores) by clicking on the "Limit Search" key at the top of the results screen, and selecting a particular material type.

            I want to find a good online dictionary.

            There are many dictionaries online created for specific languages or uses. Try the Oxford English Dictionary or visit the Library's Dictionaries & thesauri page.

            I want to find books in the Five College Library Catalog when I have only a topic in mind and not a specific book or author.

            The Library Catalog is a flexible search tool that can be used in a number of ways to find books, journals, films, and other resources on your topic. One easy way to search is by Keywords anywhere. Search for one term or combine or exclude terms from your search: "Death Penalty," "Modern Art AND Germany," and "AIDS AND NOT hearing" are just a few basic examples of keyword searches.

            You can also search the Catalog by subject. In the Library Catalog, the term "Subject" refers to the Library of Congress Subject Headings, a special vocabulary used to describe topics. To do successful Subject searches, you must use the vocabulary's particular terms-for instance, "Capitol Punishment" and not "Death Penalty." A reference librarian can help you locate the correct subject heading for your topic.

            Once you find a book or journal about your topic, click on the Subject Headings on the bottom of the record to see other books with the same subject heading. You can also click on the call number to see the titles of books with nearby call numbers in all the Five College Libraries.

            I want to organize the sources I used for my research.

            We recommend Zotero, a freely available bibliographic-management tool. Learn more about Zotero, or attend one of the workshops that are held throughout the year. Amherst also has a site license to EndNote, and it is available to the AC community through the K:drive. Contact Susan Kimball for assistance with EndNote.

            What are primary sources? Secondary sources?

            A primary source is firsthand evidence created within the immediate context of a historical event, crisis, or time period; a secondary source is an interpretation or recollection of an event from some considerable distance removed. Historians draw on numerous primary sources when creating secondary sources. If you were researching a topic on World War II, for example, a letter, photograph, diary, or magazine article created during the war would be considered a primary source, while an article or book about the war written by a historian much later would be considered a secondary source. (Retrospective works, such as an oral history interview or memoir by someone who had lived through the war, would not be considered as valid a primary source as something that was created at the time the events took place.) The library maintains a list of Archival & primary sources.

            The catalog says the book I need is in Archives & Special Collections. How do I get access to it?

            Copies of books held in Archives & Special Collections (designated as "AC/Arch-SpecColl" in the online catalog) may be read in the Archives & Special Collections reading room, located on Level A of Frost Library, open weekdays from 9-12 and 1-4.

            Can I get a thesis binder at the Library?

            Used thesis binders in good condition are available for $5 apiece in Archives & Special Collections, located on Level A of Frost Library.

            Can I get thesis guidelines, including format requirements, in the Library?

            See Requirements for Format and Deposit of Theses for Honors,  set by the Registrar's Office.

              What do AC Links do?

              Why aren’t all AC Links choices offered all the time?

              I did a search in a database, and I find no links in my results. Don’t all library databases have AC Links?

              I clicked on AC Links and was connected to the journal’s homepage, not the article. Why?

              How do I get help with AC Links?

               What do AC Links SFX button 2011 small do?

              AC Links can link you directly from a reference in a databases to a menu of choices for finding the item you want. AC Links might offer to let you:

              • Connect to electronic full text
              • Check for the journal or book in the Five College Library Catalog
              • Ask for the item via Interlibrary Loan
              • Search for article title on the Web
              • Ask for help from a librarian via email

              Why aren't all AC Links SFX button 2011 small choices offered all the time?

              The AC Links system is programmed to sort through choices and pre-select appropriate ones. For example, if Amherst College Library can supply an online copy of an article, the AC Links menu will not let you order that article through Interlibrary Loan.

              I did a search in a database, and I find no links in my results. Don't all library databases have AC Links SFX button 2011 small ?

              Many, but not all, library databases support AC Links. Each database must be pre-programmed by the publisher for the technology of the linking system to work. The actual link may vary in appearance from one database to another, depending on that publisher’s requirements, from the AC Links to another, smaller blue button, or a link that says “Full Text Available Here.”

              I clicked on AC Links SFX button 2011 small and was connected to the journal’s homepage, not the article. Why?

              AC Links will take you as close to the full article as it can, given the structure and quality of data supplied by the online publisher. Sometimes you'll have to navigate the publisher's site yourself to get to the full text.

              How do I get help with AC LinksSFX button 2011 small ?

              Ask Us for email help. If you need help more quickly, call Reference at (413) 542-2319 or come in when there is a librarian at the Reference Desk to help you.

                What are the library's hours?

                What do location codes mean in records of the online catalog?

                What is the Depository and where is it?

                What is the Center for Russian Culture (CRC)?

                Why is the main Amherst College library named for Robert Frost?

                Who is the Keefe Science Library named for?

                Who is the Morgan Music Library named for?

                How do I print from public computers in the libraries?

                How do I find out about the portraits and other artwork displayed in the College libraries?

                What software is available on Library computers?

                Where can I see a floorplan of the College libraries?

                What is Amherst's relationship to the Folger Shakespeare Library?

                What are the library's hours?

                Detailed hours can be found online.

                What do location codes mean in records of the online catalog?

                Please look here.

                What is the Depository and where is it?

                The Amherst College Library Depository is a remote storage facility located inside Bare Mountain in South Amherst. It is owned and operated by Amherst College. Materials housed there are available for loan.

                What is the Center for Russian Culture (CRC)?

                The Center for Russian Culture is a collection of books, manuscripts and other materials donated to the College by Thomas P. Whitney, Amherst College class of 1937. The collection is housed on the second floor of Webster Hall, at the south end of the Freshman Quad and much of it is cataloged in the Five College Library Catalog. For more information on the collection, contact Professor Stanley Rabinowitz (sjrabinowitz@).

                Why is the main Amherst College library named for Robert Frost?

                Robert Frost was associated with Amherst College from the time he gave his first reading on campus in 1916 until his death in 1963.  For more details, see Robert Frost and Amherst College. For a chronology of the library, see The Amherst College Library, 1821-1999.

                Who is the Keefe Science Library named for?
                The Library was a gift from Harry S. Keefe '43 in memory of his college roommate and lifelong friend, Bruce B. Benson '43, professor of Physics, 1947-1990.

                Who is the Morgan Music Library named for?
                The library is named for Vincent Morgan, Professor of Music at Amherst College from 1935 to 1968.

                How do I print from public computers in the libraries?
                Anyone may print from any of the Library's computers to any campus printer. Follow these printing instructions.

                How do I find out about the portraits and other artwork displayed in the College libraries?

                All the large framed photographs located throughout the libraries are reproductions of original historic images in the Archives and Special Collections. Labels for each photograph provide details. Information about these photos, as well as many other images, is available in the Exhibitions page of the Archives and Special Collections. For graphical art and sculpture in Robert Frost Library, see this list.

                What software is available on Library computers?

                See the list of software installed for the current semester.

                Where can I see a floorplan of the College libraries?

                Floorplans for Frost, Keefe, and Morgan Libraries are available here.

                What is Amherst's relationship to the Folger Shakespeare Library?

                The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. was established under the will of Henry Clay Folger, Amherst class of 1879, and is administered by the Trustees of Amherst College.

                Each year, two fellowships for two weeks of intensive research are awarded to Amherst College seniors and juniors with Humanities and Social Sciences majors whose work can be supported by the Folger's resources. The fellowships are held in January. For more information, contact  Bryn Geffert, Librarian of the College.