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News & Events

J.D. McClatchy: The Writer's Desk

Poet, editor, teacher, and critic, J. D. McClatchy, Yale University, will give a talk, “The Writer’s Desk” on Friday, October 14 at 4:00pm in the Pruyne Lecture Hall (115 Fayerweather).

J.D. McClatchy has published five collections of poems, most recently Hazmat (Knopf, 2002; a Pulitzer Prize finalist). He has been editor of The Yale Review since 1991, and is the American editor for the British publisher Between The Lines. He is also noted for his literary essays and edited volumes of noted poets such as James Merrill, ‘47. His most recent book, American Writers at Home (The Library of America in association with the Vendome Press, 2004), places noted American writers in the context of their surroundings and includes chapters on the homes of Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson.

Forum on the Patriot Act

Thursday, October 27, 2005, 8:00 p.m. Converse Hall, Room 108

Please join the Library and the following speakers:

  • Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Deputy Director of the American Library Association, Office for Intellectual Freedom.
  • Daniel Lyons, Associate Division Counsel, FBI.
  • Robert O’Neil, professor of law and director of the Thomas Jefferson Center for Protection of Free Expression. 

Sponsored by the Amherst College Library and the Amherst College Chapter of the American Association of University Professors.

Hawkins Award for Collection Development

Last May, the Library’s Collection Development Group awarded the first of what’s intended to be an occasional award for significant and longstanding contributions to building the Library collection to Emeritus Professor Hugh Hawkins.

For decades, Professor Hawkins has recommended purchases in his own specialty, American higher education history, as well as in a wide range of other fields within American Studies. Thousands of titles have been added to Amherst’s holdings as a result, enhancing opportunities for research and discovery.

The Collection Development Group, which coordinates materials purchasing for the College libraries, intends to select a recipient for what will be called the Hawkins Award every two or three years.

Library Welcomes Kosovo Interns

Ms. Shukrie Rama and Mr. Urim Sallauka of the National and University Library of Kosovo will have internships at the Library for one day a week throughout the fall term. The Institute for Training and Development and the Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science is conducting the internship and training program. The program’s goal is to expose the participants to the policies and procedures of academic libraries so that they may serve effectively as librarians in a new library of the University of Pristina in Kosovo.

Shukrie Rama attained her Masters of Art Degree in Philology from the University of Pristina in 2003 with a focus on Albanian Literature. As International Affairs Adviser, she now works closely with the director at The National and University Library of Kosovo. Urim Sallauka is at the end of his degree program at the University of Pristina where he majors in English Language and Literature. He has worked as a volunteer at the small English Department Library. “When I started to work in this library in 2002, the library was not in good conditions, and I thought seriously to change some details of the library.”

Students Active in the Library

The Student Advisory Committee of the Friends of the Library hosted a new, smaller version of its film series in the spring of 2005. This series, called “A Night in Hollywood,” focused on two

Student in bowtie
(Picture courtesy of Frank Ward, Amherst College, 2005)

Hollywood classics: “Casablanca” and “Some Like It Hot,” shown on Friday nights in the Library’s Barker Room. The students added pre-showing parties in the Archives and Special Collections. They were “semi-formal” events – and the group decorated the library and the Archives and Special Collections and encouraged participants to come dressed in a style in keeping with the film -- 1940’s fashions for “Casablanca” and cross-dressing or as Marilyn Monroe look-alikes for “Some Like It Hot.” “Mocktails” were provided along with snacks and hors d’oeuvres. The creative decorations transformed the Archives and Special Collections into a movie set, complete with a lighted Oscar-like red carpet to lead guests to the festivities. The occasions were very well attended, thanks in large part to the students’ advertising.

The program “Traditions and History of Amherst College: An Evening Celebrating Our History,” planned and organized by the Student Advisory Committee, was presented on September 4 in conjunction with 2005 Orientation, was also a great success.

Scrapbooks, photographs, old campus publications, videos, recordings, and such memorabilia as freshman beanies and class canes were on display and examined with great interest by the 90 students who came out on a Saturday night to learn about the College’s history.  

Emily Dickinson's Fascicles : The Fox & the Hound. A talk by Dorothy Oberhaus

Emily Dickinson daguerreotype

Thursday, December 8, 2005,  4 p.m.

In honor of Emily Dickinson’s 175th birthday, the Emily Dickinson Museum and the Amherst College Archives and Special Collections are delighted to present a lecture that investigates a subject at the heart of Dickinson’s work and at the center of Dickinson studies: her fascicles. The speaker, Dorothy Oberhaus, is Professor of English at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, New York, and is the author of Emily Dickinson’s Fascicles: Method and Meaning, 1995.

The talk will be held in the Archives and Special Collections, on Level A of the Robert Frost Library. (Free and open to the public.)

Daguerreotype of Emily Dickinson. Used with permission of the Archives & Special Collections, Amherst College.


Words Like Stars

by George Greenstein

As librarians love books, as writers love words, so do scientists love numbers. Here are a few numbers concerning the College’s one million books.

Words like stars
To a serious writer every word is important, and is chosen with care. How many such choices – how many words -- are contained in the Library’s holdings?

Some of its books are thin pamphlets, others immense tomes. We might guess that an average volume contains something like 100,000 words. In that case one million volumes would contain a total of one hundred billion words. By a delightful coincidence, that is the number of stars in our home, the Milky Way Galaxy. One of those “words” is the Sun.

How many miles to go before I sleep?
Anyone who has ventured into the Library has spent a good deal of time wandering its stacks. How long would it take to cover the whole shebang?

Those thin pamphlets in the stacks take up very little room, while the huge tomes have spines far too many inches thick. If we guess that the average book has a spine one inch thick, then a million books adds up to a million inches. That is about sixteen miles. Of course in the Library they don’t form a single row: they’re arranged in stacks, each containing a number of shelves. I’d say that you could walk past them all in about an hour.

Speed reader
How long would it take to read every book in the Library? I’m not a fast reader. If I love a book, I love to linger over each page. Wandering on at this pace, it might take me weeks to read a single work. Other works, on the other hand, I tear through at a rapid pace. If we suppose that on average I might read a book a week, reserving a certain amount of leisure time for other matters (eating, teaching – stuff like that), then I could read a million books in a million weeks, which is nearly 20,000 years.

That’s longer than the written word has been in existence. I’d better read faster.

New "Living Room" on First Floor of Robert Frost Library

painting by Graydon Parrish

Students, staff, and faculty love light, comfortable furniture, and art. Computer stations do not. The computers that had occupied the alcove on the north wall of the first floor of Frost Library, just beyond the Reference Desk, have been moved to new desks next to existing workstations. For this alcove the Library has purchased comfortable lounge furniture and created a new “living room”. In this space now hangs the large oil painting “Remorse, Despondence, and the Acceptance of an Early Death” by Graydon Parrish ’99. (For a full account of this extraordinary painting and the College’s acquisition of it, see Amherst Magazine, Summer 1999.) Bathed in the light from a full wall of glass, this new room provides a restful place for students and others to read, study, or reflect.

Student Information Campaigns Come to Frost

Amherst students have actively sought out the Library as a place to promote awareness of important topics and events. On December 1, a group of students staged a “die-in” in Frost Library to observe World AIDS Day. The students put together an impressive display of facts in posters and placards about worldwide AIDS issues today. The event highlighted the gravity of this global epidemic.

The China Awareness Organization, another student group on campus, sponsored an exhibit about the Nanjing Massacre (or, the Rape of Nanking) in December. The exhibit included photographs and information for individual viewing in the Mezzanine on the second floor of the Frost Library. A screening of a documentary and a discussion facilitated by faculty members complemented the display.

New Fellow in Librarianship

In October the Library welcomed Tracy Sutherland as the Library’s first Fellow in Librarianship. Designed for a new MLS graduate, this new three-year appointment will provide a range of professional public services experience and a solid foundation for a career in academic librarianship. Ms. Sutherland will be based in the Reference & Instruction Department but will also work on projects beyond the usual responsibilities of that Department.

Of course Tracy Sutherland, who received her MLS degree from Simmons Graduate School of Library & Information Science in 2005, is no stranger to the Amherst College Library. She has held paraprofessional positions in Access Services and Technical Services for several years. You have met Tracy Sutherland at the Circulation Desk; now you will find her at the Reference Desk.

"Eyes of the Rainbow"

Last summer we received a reference question from Mary Strunk of the Five College Women’s Research Center. Mary is writing about Assata Shakur (the Black Liberation Army leader who escaped from prison and was given political asylum in Cuba) and asked if we could help her see a documentary about Assata called “Eyes of the Rainbow”. The video was made by a Cuban director, Gloria Rolando and highlights Assata Shakur’s AfroCuban context as well as her history and life as a political exile. Because of the blockade it is not available in the U.S., but through a very circuitous route we were finally able to contact Rosemari Mealy (one of a few people in the U.S. who has a copy) and arrange for a showing. Rosemari was also a member of the Black Panther Party, and is a friend of Assata’s. She introduced the film and then led a lively and thought provoking discussion with the audience. About seventy people attended with each of the Five Colleges represented and with many activists from around the valley as well.

Rome in the Snow

Toga party
(Picture courtesy of Archives, Amherst College, 2006)

On a snowy evening last December the library returned to its classical roots. The Student Advisory Committee of the Friends of the Library screened the 1966 Zero Mostel comedy “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.” Students enjoyed a pre-screening toga party, held in the Archives and Special Collections, which was decorated with turn-of-the-century Greco-Roman costume drawings (originally used as classroom teaching aids) and faux grapevines!

Despite the weather, all the attendees dressed in togas – the range of colors was amazing and the means of attachment ingenious. One young woman who actually had had toga-tying lessons in the sixth grade taught the rest how to tie a toga correctly.

Refreshments, including several varieties of grapes, disappeared fast and everyone enjoyed the movie.

Emily Dickinson's Fascicles : The Fox & the Hound.

Dorothy H. Oberhaus lecturing

December 10, 2005 was the 175th anniversary of poet Emily Dickinson’s birth. To celebrate the occasion, the library and the Emily Dickinson Museum sponsored a public lecture by Dickinson scholar Dorothy Huff Oberhaus, author of Emily Dickinson’s Fascicles: Method and Meaning. The audience in the Archives and Special Collections reading room listened attentively as Oberhaus postulated her thesis that taken together, the poems in Dickinson’s forty bound fascicles make a coherent whole, a long single work. A lively discussion with the audience followed her formal talk.

The title of Oberhaus’ talk was taken from this c. 1865 Dickinson poem that is part of the Library’s Dickinson Collection:

Good to hide, and hear ‘em hunt!
Better, to be found,
If one care to, that is,
The Fox fits the Hound –

Good to know, and not tell –
Best, to know and tell,
Can one find the rare Ear
Not too dull –

The audience enjoyed a small exhibition of Amherst’s Dickinson fascicles and poem sets, installed for the occasion, and a reception that concluded the event.

Poem reprinted by permission of the publishers from The Poems of Emily Dickinson, Variorum Edition, R.W. Franklin, ed., Cambridge Mass: the Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Copyright 1998, 1951, 1955, 1979 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College; 1914, 1918, 1919, 1924, 1929, 1930, 1932, 1935, 1937, 1942 by Martha Dickinson Bianchi; 1952, 2957, 1958, 1963, 1965 by Mary L. Hampson.

Talk by Jason Opal on "The Ambitious Calvinist"

On Monday, April 10 at 4:30 the Library and the History Department will co-sponsor Jason Opal’s talk on "The Ambitious Calvinist: Edward Hitchcock and the Study of Cultural Change in the Early National Hinterlands, 1800-1835".

Focusing on the youth and early career of Edward Hitchcock (1793-1864), this paper draws from materials in Special Collections to engage one of the most controversial and revealing topics in early national culture: ambition. Long considered a dangerous, un-Christian, and anti-republican "passion," ambition gained a positive moral and social charge during the 1780s and 1790s, when certain elements and interests in early national society made cultural war on local customs, priorities, and values. Edward Hitchcock lived in the middle of the ensuing struggles. The life he made as a teacher, scientist, moral reformer, and professor at Amherst College speaks to the depth and ambivalence of a seminal transition from traditional to modern sensibilities.

Jason Opal is an Assistant Professor at Colby College. He first used Archives and Special Collections in the Spring of 1999, as a first-year graduate student at Brandeis University. His use continued through his dissertation research ("Beyond the Farm: Ambition and the Transformation of Rural New England, 1770s-1820s") and more recently as he has revised that manuscript.

The talk will be in Archives and Special Collections.

Library Services

Art Books: New Policy

Art books in libraries from the four colleges and the university will now circulate to all students, faculty, and staff of the Five Colleges. Art books have call numbers beginning with N in the Library of Congress collection and in the 700s in the Dewey Decimal collection. The loan period is 4 weeks with renewals available. These books cannot be requested online through the “Request Item” button, but can be checked out in person.

24-hour Study During Exams

Last year, in a meeting with Sherre Harrington, Librarian of the College, students from the Association of Amherst Students (AAS) requested that the Frost Library open as a 24-hour study space for exams. Since staffing and security issues in the main library complicate keeping it open all night, the Science Library was suggested as a possible alternative. Last fall, the Library experimented with keeping the Keefe Science Library open 24 hours during reading period and exams. Student help was solicited from all Library departments to make 24-hour staffing possible. The Science Library stayed open a total of 151 consecutive hours. An estimated 200 students took advantage of our overnight hours. Response from students was so positive that the Library decided to offer 24-hour study during the Spring term and will continue it in the future.

Library's Reference Department Becomes Reference & Instruction

Do you want your students to become more sophisticated researchers? Do you want an overview of new library databases or services? Then contact the librarians in the renamed Reference & Instruction Department (formerly just Reference). This change in name acknowledges the role librarians play in teaching students and other members of the campus community about up-to-date research techniques and the vast array of information sources available to them in – and often beyond – the Library.

Community Tea

The College Community is cordially invited to tea at the Robert Frost Library on Thursday afternoons at 3:30. Please come and meet students, faculty and staff, enjoy a cup of tea or coffee, and browse the new books on display. Sponsored by the Affirmative Action Committee on Collegiality.

C-Level Shelving Project

Last year some of the sensor mechanisms for the older, movable compact shelving on C Level began to fail. For safety the Library staff has taken measures to restrict access to the affected areas. Patrons should ask staff to retrieve books classed in the Dewey Decimal system from 266L to 330. In the meantime, the Library has been exploring short term solutions to the problem while long range plans are developed.

Some time in mid-February, a new row of shelving will be installed at the back of the stacks on C Level. The U.S. Congressional hearings will be moved to those shelves. Books, including oversized titles, classed in the Dewey Decimal system from 100-199 (Philosophy and Psychology) will be sent to the Amherst Depository. The remaining books in the broken compact shelving will be shifted to every other row. Patrons will still be able to ask staff to retrieve books from broken shelving during this process. In June, after Alumni Week, the empty rows will be removed and the remaining stacks will be re-wired to remain stationary. The Library expects that patrons will be able to browse the collection without assistance from the staff by the end of June.

Library Subscribes to the Web of Science

Do you remember the good old days of looking up your publications in the bound volumes of Science Citation Index or Social Sciences Citation Index to see how many times you had been cited? Now you can set up e-mail alerts and be notified whenever a newly published article cites one of your own. Web of Science includes both the sciences and social sciences back to 1994. In addition to citation tracking, Web of Science can be used to discover literature across disciplines through keyword searching. The “web” of citing and cited articles functions as an excellent discovery tool for both faculty and students who are unfamiliar with a subject area. You can move forward and backward through time using the citation trail.

Check it out at
A Web of Science demonstration will be held on Friday, March 3rd at 2:30pm in Webster 102.

Google Scholar and the Amherst Library

full house in Reference
Full House in Reference computer area.

Have you consulted Google Scholar? Are you using Google Scholar as a tool to find citations to interesting articles and books? If so, the Library now offers two services that help link Google Scholar citations to holdings in the Amherst College Library.

For journal article citations, there is a new Google Scholar Firefox extension that will put the AC Links button into Google Scholar results lists. As in other online databases, clicking on the AC Links button will take you to options for finding the article either electronically or in paper. To see the AC Links button in your Google Scholar results, you must load the Google Scholar Firefox extension on your computer. For instructions see

For book citations, click on the “Library Search” link under a Google Scholar citation. Type in the local zip code in the box. Search for the title in the Four College catalog by clicking on the catalog link in the “My Library: Amherst College” box to the right of the screen. Please note that this feature is not always accurate, a quick title search in the full catalog may yield better results.

New Resources

New Online

Westlaw Campus: Full text access to federal and state law, law reviews, American Law Reports, the European Union Library and the legal encyclopedia American Jurisprudence (access to Amherst College only).

American State Papers
: Full image database of the legislative and executive documents of Congress from 1789-1838 access to Amherst College only).

All Africa: African media site posting over 700 stories daily in English and French as well as a 400,000-article searchable archive (which includes the archive of Africa News Service dating from 1997).

Web of Science: Electronic version of the Science Citation Index and the Social Sciences Citation Index, interdisciplinary databases to journal articles that can track previously cited references to identify more recent articles; citations from 1994 to present.

AccuNet/AP Multimedia Archive: Database of Associated Press photographs and text dating back to 1826, extensive graphics files, and audio files dating back to the 1920s.

ACLS History E-Book Project: An online, fully searchable collection of over 1,100 high-quality books in history from the American Council of Learned Societies.

China Academic Journals: Full-text database of 5,300 Chinese academic journals across science and humanities disciplines.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: Online version of the biographical dictionary men and women who influenced the history of the British Isles; excludes living people.


Smithsonian Global Sound : Digital music files of traditional roots music from archives worldwide. Website also includes streaming media, educational resources, and detailed liner notes access to Amherst College only).

DRAM (Database of Recorded American Music) : A digital collection of sound recordings documenting American music largely ignored by the commercial recording companies. Some biographical and role information are provided for artists access to Amherst College only).

New in Microfilm

Check out the new microfilm reader on A Level of the Robert Frost Library. It includes an automatic load feature as well as an electronic fast forward / rewind option. Printing and scanning are also available.

New Microfilm Sets
El Universal (Mexico City: 1916) microfilm of newspaper (A Level) covering from October 1, 1916 to February 15, 1928 and April 1, 1929 to December 31, 1929.

Black Abolitionist Papers, 1830-1865 [compiled and edited by George E. Carter and C. Peter Ripley]. 17 reels of microfilm (A Level); Guide to the Microfilm Edition available in the Reference Collection (Level I) at E449 .B625 1981 Suppl. “writings of black Americans involved in the movement to end slavery in the United States between 1830 and 1865.”

The Library's First Floor and Reference Collection Improved

Carpenters at work in Frost Library  
Photo: Carpenters building new bookshelves for the Frost Library. Courtesy of the Amherst College Library.  

Public access computers have been moved from the alcove in Reference on the first floor of Frost Library to new computer stations in front of the Reference Desk. The alcove will be furnished as a comfortable "living room" soon.

This summer the Library’s Reference Collection has also been on the move: carpenters built new bookcases for large national bibliographies where once upon a time was the card catalog on the first floor of the Library. Volumes of indexes now online have been sent from Reference to the stacks. Catalogers reclassified subject bibliographies in the Reference Collection so that they now shelf beside encyclopedias, handbooks, and guides on the same subjects. This re-organization has meant that virtually every book in the Reference Collection has been handled and evaluated – not to mention moved. The newly arranged, more compact Reference Collection is less confusing and easier to browse.

Latin American Videos

After 15 years of distributing Latin American-produced documentaries, the Latin American Video Archives in Washington, DC has gone out of business. The Library had the opportunity to buy an additional 47 VHS documentaries at a discount from them. New titles include: Mariposas en el andamio (Butterflies on the scaffold, Cuba 1995); Tierra, sí, aviones, no! (Land, yes, airplanes, no!, Mexico 2002); Port-au-Prince is mine (Haiti, 2000); Estadio Nacional (National Stadium, Chile 2001). For a complete list of Latin American documentaries, check the online catalog.