Submitted on Tuesday, 2/3/2015, at 1:08 PM

January 29, 2015


A student works at a table in Frost Library

The Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) has named Amherst College’s Frost Library a winner of its 2015 Excellence in Academic Libraries Award. The prestigious prize honors one college library, one university library and one community college library as “outstanding in furthering the educational missions of their institutions.” 

Frost Library and the other two winning libraries—those of Purdue University and Santa Fe College—all demonstrate “commitment to student learning, digital scholarship and data research services, with a focus on continuous innovation and engagement with the campus community, that exemplifies today’s best academic and research libraries,” said ACRL Executive Director Mary Ellen K. Davis. “Receiving an Excellence in Academic Libraries Award is a national tribute to each library and its staff for outstanding services, programs and leadership.”

Frost “impressed the [award] committee with its transformation to focus on its objectives of teaching students research skills, promoting and enabling universal access to information, and creating a new model of academic publishing,” according to a press release about the honor.

The library “emerged as a clear example of what it means to hold oneself to high standards and to set the bar even higher for what it means to achieve excellence as a college library,” said Steven Bell, chair of the committee and associate university librarian for research and instructional services at Temple University.

“Frost Library received considerable attention in 2013 when it announced the establishment of the first academic press in the United States dedicated to the publication of scholarly monographs solely under an open-access model,” he explained. “While that alone would qualify Frost Library for distinction, there is much more to the impressive accomplishments found in their award application. To vastly improve its delivery of instruction, a new unit was created and five positions were dedicated to integrating the library into student learning. Members of this unit played important roles in tutorials and seminars made possible by a Mellon grant to the College.”

“Frost librarians are truly teaching collaboratively with their faculty,” Bell added. Amherst librarians taught 221 class sessions last year. Some 86 classes (representing 45 percent of the student body) visited the College’s archives and special collections, housed within Frost; several new courses are built entirely around archival holdings.

Numerous other initiatives, all discussed in detail here, also impressed ACRL. These included the library’s efforts to promote new modes of scholarly communication and its commitments to open access. The library has  also done groundbreaking work with the College’s Information Technology Department to collect, create and preserve digital information, as well as work with faculty, students and interns on digital scholarship. It has been a national leader in promoting the unimpeded flow of scholarship and other information, and offered new and unique opportunities for original student research. It has engaged in the “iconoclastic” pursuit of “iconophilic goals.”

In recognition of its work, Frost will receive a $3,000 award and will be honored during the ACRL President’s Program at the American Library Association’s annual conference in San Francisco at the end of June.

“Our library has an extraordinary staff,” said Bryn Geffert, librarian of the College at Amherst. “They’re exceptional in every way: smart, adaptable, selfless, creative and tireless. I take this award to be as much an ‘excellent library staff’ award as an ‘excellence in academic libraries’ award.”

And how will he and his team celebrate the honor? “We’re planning a big bash for the entire campus later this spring.”

Additional information on the award, along with a list of past winners, is available on the ACRL website.