Amherst College’s Robert Frost Library was recently named one of the best academic libraries in the country. At first glance, something about this announcement feels wrong. That library, really? That same Frost library whose third floor has wi-fi black holes, whose C-level feels like a bunker, and whose pristine views of the Seven Sisters are blocked by rarely used carrels?
Yes, this library, because it’s the same Frost that houses five research and instruction librarians who last year worked in 221 classes to develop student’s skills for quality scholarship; the same Frost where the first entirely open-access academic press in the United States to focus on monographs was launched; the same Frost whose collection grows every day to reflect students and faculty requests for new books.
Frost the building is not Frost the library. The library, rather, is a repository of knowledge enacted as much by the human resources who maintain and develop it as the books in its stacks. Not only does it provide access to a wealth of research resources–including the extensive collection of archival materials and and specialized media editing softwares–the library also makes it its mission to teach invaluable research production skills that are all too often glossed over or hurried through during actual course time.
The interlibrary loan service delivers any article, book, or DVD not currently in the collection for student use in just a few days–a thesis-writer’s best friend and a tremendous resource for both academic projects and everyday enjoyment. The new Humanities Center firmly commits the library to Amherst’s mission as a bastion of liberal arts education, while the recent valorization of digital programs allows the institution to adapt to new modes of library-ing. Such recent improvements as outdoor patio seating, additional outlets, Frost Cafe, and a map of available A-level computers make the library one of the organizations on campus most sensitive to student concerns. Indeed, the zone-your-library project shows just how much effort Frost’s librarians devote to making their services and spaces accommodate students as much as possible.
If you still need to be convinced, or want to learn more about what the librarians do behind the scenes, don’t take it from me: hear it from the librarians themselves!