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News & Events

Consistent, Comprehensive, Clear: The New Library Website

Thanks to the efforts of the Library Electronic Resources Group, and the College's Web Designer, Willa Jarnagin, the new Library website was launched on August 1, 2001. The site's design, which is consistent with the College's other top-tier pages, provides a concise gateway to countless information sources. The new 200+ page Library site, with many revised and updated pages, will make it easier to find the information you need. From the "Research" link on the Library's home page, you'll find links to nearly one hundred electronic indexes and databases, various fulltext resources, electronic journals in all academic disciplines, government documents, images and visual resources, statistical data, and many more research tools and resources. New site features include:

· "Ask Us" e-mail reference on each page
· a new "Services for Faculty" page
· guides for finding books and articles
· special web pages for courses
· a comprehensive Site Map and Site Search
· a new "Fulltext Resources" page

The Library, along with many students, faculty and staff, and other friends of the Library celebrated the unveiling of the new website in the Robert Frost Library on Thursday, August 23, 2001.

New Web Look and Location for Archives & Special Collections

The new academic year brings a completely redesigned web site for Archives & Special Collections, and a new location as well: [updated in 2008 to <>]. The site was redesigned over the summer to make it easier to find information about the department's hours, policies and holdings, and to bring the look and feel of the web pages into greater harmony with the library's. As before, the Archives & Special Collections web site currently offers detailed online finding aids for fourteen of our major manuscript collections (with more to come); eight online exhibition galleries that feature archival photographs documenting the College's history; and a variety of information on publications, College history, and records management. Relatively new additions are information pages on commemorative spaces and artwork in Robert Frost Library. Please visit this site and look around. If you have suggestions for making it even more useful, contact Peter Nelson at panelson or 542-2299.

Math Meets Science

This summer, many of the books at the Olds Math Library were moved to the Keefe Science Library-some 6500 math books in all. The math reference collection, plus current and recent issues of math journals, remained at Olds. Older issues of many math journals were relocated to the Depository. Amherst College students and faculty, as well as members of the Five-College community, will find these changes improve access to math materials. Some of the vacated space in Olds will be renovated for faculty use.

Library Growth: The Numbers Are In

Last year's statistical report reveals the tremendous growth taking place in all areas of the Library's collections. For example, the Library currently subscribes to 1,522 electronic journals, the Music Library has 12,119 compact discs, the Media Center contains 8,191 videocassettes and DVDs, and the microform collection (fiche, film, and micro-opaques) stands at 505,175 pieces. At the end of the fiscal year in June 2001, the Library had added 23,800 items to the Frost, Music, Science, and Archives & Special Collections (rare books). In addition to adding new materials, 1,034 volumes that had deteriorated as a result of age or use were repaired by Library staff members and returned to the Library's collections. The new total of materials in the Amherst College Library is an impressive 938,983 volumes.

Many Thanks to "Operation Return"

Last year, when a number of little-used pamphlets of German classical scholarship printed between 1812-1912 were being considered for removal from the Library's collections, the Library contacted Professor emeritus Donald O. White. Professor White examined the materials and agreed with the Library that they weren't likely to be of use to Amherst students and faculty. It occurred to him that the libraries and archives at the institutions where each pamphlet was published might have use for the materials. And so began "Operation Return." Professor White spent the next several months writing to libraries across Europe, finding homes for well more than half the pamphlets. He received heartfelt thanks and even some copies of recent publications from their institutions for the Library's collection. The Library thanks Professor White for his hard work on this remarkable project. A more detailed account of Professor White's work with the German materials is available in the Friends of the Library Newsletter at [updated in 2008 to <>].

History Notes—Groundbreaking for the Robert Frost Library

Kennedy speaking at podium

"Libraries are memories, and in this library you will have the memory of an extraordinary American, but more than that, really, an extraordinary human being. Also, you will have the future, and all the young [people] who come into this library will touch something of distinction in our national life and, I hope, give something to it."—John F. Kennedy

On October 26, 1963, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Robert Frost Library. The groundbreaking was part of a special Alumni Weekend that also included a convocation to honor President Kennedy. The President addressed the College community at both events in what turned out to be one of his last public appearances before he was assassinated in November. President Kennedy's appearance at Amherst was the first official campus visit by a United States president in the College's history.

At the request of the anonymous donors (now known to be F. Otto Haas '36 and John C. Haas '40), the Library was named for poet Robert Frost, who taught at Amherst intermittently for more than 45 years. President Kennedy knew Frost late in the poet's life and had asked Frost to speak at his inauguration in 1960.

The Robert Frost Library, which opened in September 1965, is located at the most central point of the campus, on the site of Walker Hall (1868-1963), a classroom and administrative building that was razed to make way for the new library. The Robert Frost Library is the fourth library in the College's history.

Renovations and Improvements at Frost Library

Reference desk

During the summer and fall of 2001, several renovations and improvements took place at the Circulation and Reference Desks at Frost Library. The modifications made to the desks and the addition of new equipment will enable staff to work more efficiently and effectively. In addition, the changes will facilitate interaction between Library staff and researchers. Perhaps the most visible change is the addition of new, flat computer monitors, or "flat screens." The new screens are glare-free, making close work and reading on-screen much easier. One monitor at the Reference Desk is mounted on a flexible arm that can easily be turned to face Library users who are working with reference librarians.

Another Successful Exam Break

The latest Student Exam Break, sponsored by the Friends of the Library, took place on December 12 at the Robert Frost Library. Five gallons of coffee, four gallons of punch, 250 cookies, and 100 granny smith apples were served to about 230 students studying in the Library. Many left notes of gratitude on the student comment board; one response, representative of many others, read: "This made my day. You people are Awesome. The Library is the coolest place ever and the Friends rock!!"

Visual Resources Department Moves To Fayerweather Hall

Visual Resources is moving to Rooms 213 - 215 in Fayerweather Hall during January 2002. The collection's slides (in their cabinets) were moved on January 14th by National Library Relocations. The furniture was moved the following week. The collection should be fully operational by the end of February. For additional information, call the Department at x2263 after January 28th.

Join the Friends of the Library

The Friends of the Amherst College Library, a group of students, faculty, friends, and alumni, is dedicated to active support of the Library and participation in its development. The Friends sponsor many programs in the Library and generously contribute to acquisitions in the full range of library resources. Current Amherst College students are encouraged to show their enthusiasm about the Library by joining the Student Friends. Annual dues for students are just $1. To join, fill out this form.

Library Staff Changes

Rebecca Henning joined the Library staff as a Cataloger in December of 2001. Rebecca, a graduate of Colby College and the School of Library & Information Science at Simmons College, worked as a props artisan and stage manager in regional theaters around the country before becoming a librarian. She has worked in public and academic libraries, including the Denver Public Library and the libraries at Northeastern University and Simmons College. She comes to Amherst College from the Hamilton Campus of Miami University (of Ohio).

Reference/Instruction Librarian Nancy Kuhl will be leaving Frost Library in January. She has accepted a position as Assistant Curator of the Yale American Literature Collection at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University.

Amherst College Undergraduate Folger Fellowships

The Amherst College Undergraduate Folger Fellowships, sponsored in part by the Friends of the Library, are research fellowships held for two weeks in January at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC. The fellows are selected in a competitive search during fall semester; those applicants whose academic work can most profit from two weeks of intensive research in the Folger Shakespeare Library are awarded an all-expense paid trip to DC to study at the Folger Library. This year's fellowships were awarded to Ema Vyroubalová '02, Daniel Shore '02, and Rikita Tyson '02.

No Manuscript is an Island

On November 14, Archives and Special Collections hosted a lecture by Alfred Habegger. Professor Habegger's lecture, "No Manuscript is an Island: The Local and the Global in Biographical Research," discussed his use of materials in the Amherst College Library in completing My Wars Are Laid Away in Books, his recently published biography of Emily Dickinson. Professor Habegger's lecture was part of an ongoing series of presentations sponsored by the Friends of the Library.

Book in a Box, Or Preservation in the Library

Ever run across a library book wrapped in a folding paper box-cover? These preservation boxes are just one way the Library protects fragile, older materials. The Library's Technical Services Department has a book repair and preservation program which uses various methods to insure the long life of Library materials. Last year, the department repaired more than a thousand volumes and returned them to the stacks for general use.

The Library also has a special preservation program, known as "Care and Preserve," funded by the Friends of the Library. The program strives to restore time-worn items and to prevent deterioration of the Library's rare and unusual materials. The program has expanded the Library's preservation program to include conservation of individual items and it has helped to address broader areas that need attention. Since its inception, 49 people have donated a total of $8,292 to the "Care and Preserve" program. A more complete description of "Care and Preserve," including images of restored materials, is available on the Friends of the Library website.

2001 Robert Frost Library Fellow for 2001: Professor Marianne Constable

This year's Robert Frost Library Fellow, Professor Marianne Constable, visited Amherst College and the Frost Library in October. Constable met with students, faculty, and library staff during her week- long stay. The final event of the week was Professor Constable's lecture, "Silence in the Library." Professor Constable, an interdisciplinary legal scholar, is best known for her book, The Law of the Other: The Mixed Jury and Changing Conceptions of Citizenship, Law, and Knowledge which received the Hurst Prize by the Law and Society Association, for the best book in legal history in 1994.

Melvil Dewey

History Notes—22.02D515:
Melvil Dewey Classified

Melvil Dewey started life as Melville Dewey. He was a man with a passion for order, efficiency, time and labor saving devices, and an advocate of spelling reform. In his adult life, Dewey composed all his correspondence using simplified "fonetic" spelling, often signing himself Melvil Dui.

Dewey was member of the Amherst College Class of 1874 and received a master's degree from the College in 1877. As an undergraduate student working in the Library he found it to be "disorganized." Putting his exacting mind to solving that problem, Dewey devised the decimal classification system that bears his name in 1873. He submitted his proposed "Library Classification System" to the Library Committee on May 8, 1873. They were so impressed with his scheme that they authorized him to apply his system to the College Library. Dewey's 1873-74 report as assistant librarian summarizes the successful application of the new system : "The system is easily understood and applies equally well to a library of hundred vols or of a million, it being capable of indefinite and accurate growth; the system growing with the books in the same direction and at the same rate, an exceedingly desirable thing, wholly unattainable by any other plan yet proposed."

Dewey's idea was more broadly disseminated after 1876 when the first edition of A Classification and Subject Index for Cataloguing and Arranging the Books and Pamphlets of a Library was published while Dewey was serving as Acting Librarian at Amherst (from 1874 to 1877).

Dewey recollected the inspiration for the system (the odd spelling is his):

For months I dreamd night and day that there must be somewhere a satisfactory solution....The first essential of the solution must be great simplicity. The proverb said "simple as a, b, c," but stil simpler than that was 1, 2, 3. After months of study, one Sunday during a long sermon by Pres. Stearns, while I lookt stedfastly at him without hearing a word, my mind absorbed in the vital problem, the solution flasht over me shouting "Eureka!" It was to get absolute simplicity by using the simplest known symbols, the arabic numerals as decimals with the ordinary significance of nought, the number a classification of all human knowledge in print.

Dewey went on to devote his life to the library profession and to his interest in simplified spelling. Dewey served as the founder and secretary of the Spelling Reform Association from 1876 until his death in 1931. As a nationally active librarian, among other things, he founded the Library Journal in 1876, served as chief librarian for Columbia University, and founded the Columbia School of Library Economy in 1887, where, against the explicit orders of the Trustees not to admit women to the library school, he did.

Dewey maintained a life long affection for his College. In 1881, writing from the offices of the Library Journal, Dewey writes "Sum day, dear Amherst, may it be my happy lot tu pruv how great iz the love I bear yu. Proud, always, everywher to be counted among yur sonz, I am Very truly, Melvil Dui."

Library Services

Library Research Lab

Do you have questions about sources? Are you having trouble with research for course assignments? Consult with a librarian about papers and research projects during the Library's Research Lab. Stop by with questions, problems, or concerns about library research. No appointment is necessary. Librarians will be available in the Lane Room (Frost Library, Level A) during the following hours in November:

Tuesday 11/13 from 2-4pm
Wednesday 11/14 from 10-12pm
Tuesday 11/27 from 10-12pm
Wednesday 11/28 from 1-3pm

Can't make any of our Lab hours? Make a Research Appointment at [updated in 2008 to <>].

We're Wired and Wireless

The Library welcomes you to bring your laptop along when working in the stacks. Every floor of Frost Library is equipped with computer network hookups, and electrical outlets are readily available. Data ports are also available at the Keefe Science Library. And if your laptop has a wireless card, you can connect to the network from any public area in the Library. For information about configuring your wireless card, call the IT Help Desk at 542-2526.

International Television Now Available in the Language Lab

Television in all languages taught at Amherst College is now available for viewing in the Language Lab. The foreign language TV channels available on the campus network are:

If you have any questions about international TV or other language resources available in the Language Lab, contact Kara Schwartz, Language Laboratory Coordinator, at klschwartz or visit the Lab's website.

Library Research Labs

Bring your questions about library research to a reference librarian. No appointment is necessary. Librarians will be in the Lane Room (Frost Library, Level A) during the following times in April:

Wednesday 4/3 from 7-9pm
Thursday 4/4 from 2-4pm
Tuesday 4/9 from 7-9pm
Wednesday 4/10 from 2-4pm

Can't make any of our Lab hours? Make a Research Appointment.

Improved Access to Chemical Abstracts

The Library is now offering improved access to Chemical Abstracts through SciFinder Scholar, a new, simplified interface to the premier database for chemistry information. Students and faculty now have access to over 20 million bibliographic records from 1907 to the present. Researchers can search by chemical substance, research topic, or author name to retrieve journal article information. Direct links take users to the full text of online journal articles to which the Library subscribes. SciFinder Scholar requires special software which has been loaded on all Library computers and can be downloaded onto personal computers via the campus network. Please contact Susan Kimball, Science Librarian for more information.

New Resources

Current Alerts

Did you know that some electronic databases will notify you via e-mail when articles are published in your research areas? This service, which is currently available from ScienceDirect and American Chemical Society (ACS) journals, is an easy way to keep up with the latest research in many scientific areas. After creating a profile by inputting your e-mail address and selecting the specific topics you're interested in, you'll receive e-mail alerting you to recent publications in those areas. To set up your profile with ScienceDirect, follow the Science Direct link at [this URL no longer valid as of August 2008], then click on "Alerts." Receive alerts from ACS by visiting their sign up page at

New Databases

Stop by the Reference Desk for assistance searching these new resources:

Avery Index to Architectural Periodicals: The Avery Index to Architectural Periodicals indexes more than 2,000 periodicals published worldwide on archaeology, city planning, interior design, and historic preservation, as well as architecture. Coverage is from the 1930s (with selective coverage dating back to the 1860s) to the present. Produced by Columbia University.

GenderWatch: GenderWatch is a full text database of publications that focus on the impact of gender across a broad spectrum of subject areas. Dates of coverage vary by publication, but some publications are indexed as far back as the 1970s.
Research > Indexes & Databases > Women/Gender Studies

Grove Music: Grove Music includes the full text of The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition and The New Grove Dictionary of Opera.
Research > Indexes & Databases > Music

Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy: The online version of the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy Online features over 2000 original articles from over 1300 leading international experts across the discipline of philosophy.
Research > Indexes & Databases > Philosophy

More New Databases Coming this Semester

Stop by the Reference Desk for assistance searching these new resources:

Alt Press Watch (1995-present): Full text database of about 90 newspapers, magazines, and journals of the alternative and independent press.
Research > Indexes & Databases > General

Alternative Press Index (1991-present): Indexes nearly 290 alternative, radical, and left periodicals, newspapers, and magazines that report and analyze the practices and theories of cultural, economic, political, and social change.
Research > Indexes & Databases > General

Sociological Abstracts via Cambridge Scientific Abstracts: Indexes the international literature in sociology and related disciplines in the social and behavioral sciences. The database provides abstracts of journal articles and citations to book reviews drawn from over 1,700 serials publications, and also provides abstracts of books, book chapters, dissertations, and conference papers. Records added after 1974 contain in-depth abstracts of journal articles.
Research > Indexes & Databases > Sociology

CSA Biological Sciences: Abstracts and citations to research in biomedicine, biotechnology, zoology, ecology, and more from over 6000 serials, as well as conference proceedings, technical reports, monographs, and selected books and patents.
Research > Indexes & Databases > Sciences

CSA Worldwide Political Science Abstracts: Citations and abstracts from international serials in political science and related areas such as international relations, law, and public administration and policy. The serials list of this new database is actively expanding to include more international coverage.
Research > Indexes & Databases > Political Science

New York Times Backfile: Full page images of the New York Times from its first issue in 1851 to the 1990s.
Research > Indexes & Databases > General

New Electronic Journals in the Life Sciences

The Library recently subscribed to BioOne, a new collection of 46 online bioscience journals. The journals, primarily produced by scientific societies and non-commercial publishers, include The American Biology Teacher, The Auk, and The Wilson Bulletin. Each title is available in the online catalog and can be found by title or by searching BioOne as an author. BioOne was created by a 5-member collaboration, including SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition) whose mission is to create and promote an alternative to current academic publishing models; SPARC and its partners allow scientists to control the products of their research and provide others affordable access to those materials.