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News & Events | Library Services | New Resources

News & Events

Free at the Library: A Reminder

Ever feel tempted by ads for services that claim to offer research support and access to books and resources electronically for a fee? Next time you see an ad for this kind of service, remember that the Amherst College Library offers for free:

  • More than 900,000 books and serials
  • A wide selection of electronic indexes and full text databases
  • Thousands of videos and DVDs
  • An extensive collection of maps
  • Thousands of government documents
  • Many musical recordings (CDs and LPs) and scores
  • More than 6,000 linear feet of manuscript and archival collections

In addition, you can take advantage of:

  • Free Interlibrary Loan Services
  • Five College Delivery Service
  • Personal reference service
  • Research appointments with librarians
  • Class room presentations by librarians
  • Opportunities to suggest new purchases

Staff Changes

Two new librarians have joined the Amherst College Library this semester. Peter Nelson, who was appointed Assistant Archivist in January, is returning to Amherst College where, as a graduate student, he completed an internship in Archives and Special Collections. More recently, he was project director for the Five-College Archives Digital Access Project and then worked as Curator of Special Collections at the Jones Library in Amherst. Nancy Kuhl, a recent graduate of the School of Information Studies at the State University of New York at Buffalo, became Reference/Instruction Librarian at the beginning of the spring semester. Before coming to Amherst, Nancy was a Reference Librarian at Buffalo State College.

Congratulations to cataloger John Myers, who recently accepted a position as Cataloging Librarian at Union College in Schenectady, NY. During his tenure at Amherst College, John has played a major role in enabling the Library to finish its retrospective conversion of the remnants of the Library's old card catalog into online records. The library now provides online catalog access to virtually all of its general collections. Outside the library, John was instrumental in coordinating this year's successful GLBT alumni/student Mentoring Day. We wish John much success in his new position.  

Writing a Thesis: A Panel Discussion for Next Year's Honor Students

At 4 pm on Wednesday April 4, the Student Friends of the Amherst College Library will present a panel discussion for students who will write honors theses next year. The panel will include a librarian, an archivist, a representative from the Writing Center, and seniors who have written honors theses this year. Attendees can learn about library research, services and materials in the Library and the College Archives, and the writing process. The Library encourages students planning to write theses to attend this program.   

African-European Encounters

On Wednesday, February 14, the Library joined with the African-American Religion: A Documentary History Project to sponsor a lecture by Albert J. Raboteau, Henry W. Putman Professor of Religion at Princeton University. Professor Raboteau spoke about "African Gods and European Saints: Religious Encounters and the Early Development of the Atlantic World." More information.    

Exam Study Breaks for Students

On December 13 and 14, 2000, the Friends of the Library sponsored an exam break in the lobby of the Frost Library. More than 400 students enjoyed the coffee, punch, cookies, and apples as they took a break from their studies at 9 p.m. This was the first in what the Library hopes will be a semi-annual event. The Friends will sponsor the spring study break on Sunday, May 13, 2001.   

New Web Page Design

The Library is working closely with Public Affairs to create a new design for its website. The redesign will incorporate features that resemble those used in other Amherst College web pages and add a greater sense of continuity within the College's website. The new pages reflect the Library's ongoing commitment to clear and concise information in an easily navigated web environment.   

History Notes—Converse Memorial Library: A Gift

Converse Hall 1917

As Amherst's President Stanley King observed (and we are currently acutely aware), "A college library is constantly outgrowing its quarters." In 1915, Librarian Robert S. Fletcher (AC 1897) faced that challenge. Morgan Library, built in 1853 and added to in 1883, was full. Though the Board of Trustees had been aware of the problem – because President Meiklejohn as well as the Librarian had been bringing it to their attention for several years – they could not see a way of funding a new library.

It was alumnus and Trustee William R. Mead (AC 1867) who made the construction of a new library possible. Mead, a partner in the architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White, was personally concerned. He studied the needs of the Library and took it upon himself to create plans, sketches and cost estimates for a proposed new building. On his own initiative Mead went about raising funds. He started with Dwight W. Morrow (AC 1895), a devoted alumnus, but at that time not yet a Trustee. Mead told Morrow to go see Mead's "kinsman" (whom he referred to as a "money grubber in Wall Street") Edmund C. Converse, who as a member of the financial community was known to Morrow. Converse's late brother James, a classmate of Mead, had died young. Mead told Morrow: "Go to him, and ask him to give a memorial library in memory of his brother, and tell him I will design it with real affection, for Jim was a warm friend of mine in college days."

In January 1916 Edmund Converse offered the Trustees $250,000 toward erecting a new library as a tribute to his brother James. He asked that he not be "publicly known" and that the building be completed in time for the fiftieth reunion of his brother's class in June 1917. The College accepted his offer.

The Completion was however delayed by the impact of the Great War on the College, and Converse Memorial Library was not finished until November 1917. On his death Edmund Converse left an additional $200,000 for the "upkeep and development of the library."

Converse, with one major addition in 1938, served as the College library until Frost Library was completed in 1965.

Piracy, Publishing, and the Amherst College Library Collections

On Tuesday, March 13, 2001, students, faculty, library staff, and other community members gathered in the Alfred Friendly '33 Reading Room to hear Meredith McGill's outstanding lecture "Piracy and Publishing in the Antebellum United States: Research and Sources at the Amherst College Library." McGill's lecture, one of a series of talks by researchers using the Amherst College Library collections, explored the growth of print culture in the US, and its dependence on widespread literary piracy. McGill, an Assistant Professor of English at Rutgers University, used many examples from both Archives and Special Collections and the general collection of "high class" piracies of important writers such as Edgar Allen Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Professor McGill's primary research interests include Nineteenth Century American literature, the history of the book, law and literature, American poetry and poetics and literary and cultural theory.    

Library Services

New Proxy Server

To enable Amherst College faculty and staff to access electronic library resources from off-campus, Information Technology established a new proxy server this fall. Through the proxy server, faculty and staff can use all resources linked through the Library's "Online Indexes and Databases" and "Reference" web pages. Proxy service will be extended next fall to all Amherst College students. For information about configuring your computer's web browser to access restricted resources through the proxy server, visit Amherst IT or call the help desk at 542-2526.    

Thanks to the Class of '03

Last semester, the Class of '03 gave Frost Library a new paper cutter. The new paper cutter is located at the Circulation Desk and is available to all library users. Library staff, students, and other library patrons are already making good use of this generous gift.    

Computer Printing Available in the Reference Area

The Library is now offering printing from the Library's public computers. To print documents, you must have a Copico card (available from the vending machine in the copier alcove on Level 1 of the Frost Library). Printing costs fifteen cents a page.

study area on Level 2

New Study Areas

In response to requests from students for more informal study areas, the Library has created several areas with rugs, sofas and chairs, floor lamps, and computer outlets on the second and third levels of Frost. The response has been favorable; students love the new study areas.


New Resources

Columbia International Affairs Online (CIAO) Designed to be a comprehensive source for theory and research in international affairs. CIAO includes working papers from research institutes, occasional papers, foundation-funded research projects, and proceedings from conferences.

Left Index Provides access to a wide range of literature from the political left. Topics covered include politics, economics, the labor movement, ecology and environment, women's studies, race and ethnicity, social and cultural theory, sociology, art and aesthetics, philosophy, history, education, law, and globalization.   

Subject Headings Update

Library of Congress (LC) subject headings using "Afro-American(s)" have been changed to "African American(s)." Amherst College Library Cataloging Department took the lead in updating the 4-Colleges database and was assisted primarily by Smith College. We are happy to report that, in an intense six-week process, new records were downloaded and all bibliographic records were systematically changed to reflect the new headings. The new authority records direct users from the former terminology to the new headings.

One of the principles of LC subject headings is to use terminology that is current in the literature or in standard usage. Glaring exceptions to this for many years have been headings with "Afro-American(s)," which were implemented in the 1970's to replace even older headings with "Negro(es)." For many years the number of records involved and the limitations of cataloging software caused LC to resist the change to "African American(s)." However, with the advent of a new system, LC finally was able to implement the change in December. Be aware however that many libraries' catalogs (including LC's) will probably include numerous incidences of the older headings, depending on how quickly they revise their records.

We invite all users to check out the changes in the catalog.   

International Television Programs
Available in the Language Lab/Media Center

International Television is available on the campus network. Several news programs are taped daily and available at the Language Lab/Media Center.  Also check out Foreign Language Resources website's International Television and Radio links.   

Check Out "Cool Edit" in the Language Lab/Media Center

"Cool Edit," new software that can be used to create MP3 digital sound files, is now available in the Language Lab/Media Center. Students can use "Cool Edit" to create files which can then be sent to professors via the drop box of CourseInfo. Faculty can create and post sound files such as dictations on their CourseInfo sites. Training for "Cool Edit" is available for students and faculty in the Language Lab/Media Center.    

400 New Electronic Journals Available

ScienceDirect, an electronic journal collection from Elsevier Science, is now available from all computers on the campus network. The package includes over 400 full text journals in all areas of science and some social sciences, especially economics and psychology. Eventually all titles in the collection will be accessible through the online library catalog, but you may reach them now at Click on group-wide login, then select from the buttons at the top of the screen to either browse the journal titles or search the contents. Searching can be limited to only the titles to which we have full text access or all 1200 journals included in ScienceDirect. Online coverage goes back to 1995 for most titles. Articles become available before the Library receives a paper copy. ScienceDirect features include:

  • Viewing or printing articles directly from your office or dorm
  • Accessing new articles before they appear in print
  • Receiving e-mail alert notices about new articles
  • Linking to articles from course websites

For more information about ScienceDirect or to arrange an individual or class demonstration, please contact the Science Librarian, Susan Kimball (sjkimball or x8112).