Our Mission

The Amherst College Library fosters inquiry, discovery, and creation.

The library fulfills this mission by ...

  • ... teaching the craft of research.
    We collaboratively teach habits, mindsets, and strategies for finding, questioning, and creating new knowledge.
  • ... organizing information and leading others to it.
    We describe, arrange, and digitize our collections for all who seek what they contain.
  • ... producing freely available scholarship.
    We solicit new work, edit it, publish it, and distribute it to everyone, everywhere, regardless of means.
  • ... curating collections for posterity.
    We acquire and preserve artifacts and information essential to our college and the world at large.
  • ... building community.
    We create spaces, sponsor events, and launch initiatives that celebrate and bridge the intellectual and the social.

    Our Aspirations

    In its strategic planning process of 2014-2015, the library staff developed the following "aspirational" statements, i.e., statements describing the library we aspire to create. A thriving library, in our estimation, is one characterized by the language below. These statements informed the library's most recent strategic plan, i.e. the plan designed to create that library. 

    Short Version

    The library operates as

    • a campus hub; in which it functions as an intellectual and physical space for a wide range of academic and nonacademic pursuits and events
    • a connector; in which it builds community by forging relationships and creating opportunities among a wide range of groups and individuals on campus and beyond
    • a responsive innovator; in which it perpetually assesses user needs to create expectations that are exceeded through a welcoming atmosphere and continuous staff development
    • a center of scholarly communication; in which it takes a leadership role in developing and offering new models of information exchange
    • a steward of resources and disseminator of the same; in which it creates, curates, manages, delivers, and preserves resources to support the community on campus and beyond, with an emphasis on removing barriers to use
    • a place of teaching, research, and learning; in which it works as a partner in academic research and personal development by prioritizing teaching and providing resources, spaces, and technology for exploration.

    Expanded Version

    Faculty and students from diverse backgrounds and with diverse interests receive exemplary support for research and coursework.

    • We understand how students learn and what they need.
    • We understand the Amherst curriculum and the research our students and faculty do. We craft our work accordingly.
    • We conduct meaningful assessments to ensure that data rather than anecdotes inform these understandings.
    • We respond avidly to immediate needs but we most value teaching students to fish: we measure our success in part by the ability of Amherst graduates to function as savvy researchers and critical users of information.

    The library conceives of research and learning as an integrated whole.

    • The library eschews narrow definitions of—and sharp distinctions between—research, writing, argumentation, and the processes and technology that enable and support all manner of inquiry. Hence the library works to eliminate barriers between librarians, writing center staff, academic technologists, Q Center staff, and all staff engaged in academic support.
    • The library plays a central role in teaching students to conduct independent research. Librarians work as true partners with faculty, serving as trusted sources of support, as well as collaborators and instructors in their own right.
    • We reject easy distinctions between teaching, service, and support.
    • The library embraces, enables, and teaches new types and modes of research, whether such research derives from new theories, new disciplines, new pedagogies, or new technologies.
    • We advance the integration of digital collections, tools, and technologies into the teaching, research, and scholarship in the liberal arts.

    The library understands scholarly communication as a part of a worldwide ecosystem; it thus views its collections as part of a universal collection and its service area as both local and global.

    • The library sets priorities and makes decisions with both local and global communities in mind. It zealously promotes free access to information: it makes its collections available to all, regardless of location, means, or ability to travel.
    • The library recognizes the crisis in academic publishing, and it commits itself to internal work and work with external partners to solve that crisis. The library builds a press to model a better, more effective, and more sustainable system of academic publishing.
    • The library adopts ethics, principles, and collection development policies consistent with these ideals.

    The library manages and preserves unique information for future generations.

    • The library eagerly accepts its obligation to preserve material—be that material print or electronic—that only Amherst owns and that only Amherst can preserve, including the historical record of the college.
    • The library recognizes that the scholarly record can be preserved through subsequent centuries only through close collaborations with multiple institutions, consortia, and cooperative initiatives.
    • The library takes a leadership role in digital curation, ensuring ongoing, sustainable access to and preservation for digital resources of enduring scholarly, cultural, legal, and administrative value.

    The library serves as a campus commons and a bridge between the intellectual and the social.

    • Library spaces support the serious and less serious, the high-brow and low-brow, the social and the intellectual, the intense and the relaxed. The library facilitates easy transitions between activities on these various spectra.
    • Frost Library in particular serves as Amherst’s “third space”: a comfortable, welcoming, and useful destination. Services within Frost together constitute and function as a one-stop shop for academic support. Its spaces support research, talks about research, symposia, individual and collaborative study, debate, conversation, colloquia, and recreation.

    The library seeks, hires, and supports dedicated, well educated, and energetic staff.

    • The library understands the work of catalogers, archivists, instructors, acquisitions staff, circulation and interlibrary loan specialists, and technologists as interdependent and equally important in supporting scholarship in its many forms.
    • We hire exemplary staff with whom students, faculty, and staff enjoy working.
    • Our staff understands the library’s mission and the work required to fulfill that mission.
    • We provides ample opportunities for professional development.
    • We value responsive, open-minded colleagues with a sense of humor, committed to collaboration, and eager to begin new work.
    • We support the next generation of librarians through internships and mentoring.

      Our Plan

      Library Strategic Plan

      1. Pursue a holistic approach to collection building.

      • Assess needs and develop an integrated stance on developing collections, be they print, non-print, electronic, digital, or archival.
      • Develop diverse collections reflecting our increasingly diverse curriculum and student body.
      • Evaluate the balance of prospective and responsive approaches to purchasing, licensing, and providing other access to resources.
      • Expand and accelerate efforts to identify, digitize, describe, and make discoverable material unique to Amherst.

      2. Improve outreach, communication, and engagement.

      • Promote better communication within the library.
      • Assess and improve the library’s outreach to students and faculty.
      • Commit to and advocate for open and effective information-sharing across campus.
      • Develop a new approach to fundraising, attentive to both annual and long-term goals.

      3. Ensure long-term digital preservation and access.

      • Strengthen and, in some cases, create policies for records retention and disposition in accord with legal requirements and best practices.
      • Create policies, processes, and systems for digital preservation.

      4. Move research instruction into an integrated and sustainable model.

      • Devise strategies to meet growing demands for research instruction.
      • Develop and incorporate effective means of assessing instruction.
      • Determine the goals of the Teaching and Learning Center and align the library’s instructional work with those goals.
      • Integrate the library with other instructional work and pedagogical discussions on campus.

      5. Generate and collaborate on digital scholarship projects.

      • Seed and cultivate innovative projects in consort with appropriate partners.

      6. Build seamless academic support across campus.

      • Define, create, and continue building partnerships with the Teaching and Learning Center, Academic Technology Services, the Writing Center, and other learning-focused units on campus.

      7. Ensure that our staff is diverse, representative of the campus, well-educated, and always learning.

      • Increase the number of staff members from traditionally underrepresented groups, both in our library and, through consortia, in our profession.
      • Define expectations and create opportunities for continuing education: coursework, publications, conferences, etc.
      • Cross-train staff in preparation for and in response to changes in work.

      8. Create, promote, and model effective and sustainable practices in scholarly communication, broadly defined.

      • Maintain library’s leadership in principles governing access to information.
      • Foster maturation of the Amherst College Press.
      • Provide college-wide education on copyright, open access, Fair Use, the Creative Commons movement, rights negotiations, and licensing.

      9. Create a culture and practices that focus on the user experience; employ a variety of assessment methods to inform decisions.

      • Question perceptions and evaluate assumptions against data.

      10. Plan for a new facility that supports these goals.

      Endorsed by the Faculty Library Committee
      March 2015