Historic Student Library Banished By UMass After Nearly 60 Years Of Operation

UMass science fiction library at their Campus Center location prior to their recent eviction. Photo: UMass Science Fiction Society

Source: UMass Science Fiction Society

The UMass Science Fiction Society (UMSFS) library is public lending library, founded in 1964, with over 9,200 items in its collection. A new policy by the University of Massachusetts Amherst, however, has taken away the permanent space for the library in the basement of the campus center. This new policy effectively denies the public access to the second-largest science fiction library in New England, which contains thousands of books, videos, and board games accessible to anyone who wants to get a library card. 

In addition to the books available for lending, the library serves as a reading room for its patrons, and meeting space for several clubs. The collection was built through generous donations from students, alumni, and other community members, and cared for by generations of student volunteers. As of June 23, over 2500 people have signed the petition to preserve this historic student library.

This new policy comes just after completion of the $62 million Student Union, half of which is paid for by an increase in student fees, with no mention ahead of time about the curtailment of permanent club spaces. It also comes as most students are finally able to return to campus. Under the new policy, clubs are not allowed to have “designated” spaces on campus. Instead, clubs must rent out rooms in advance. While this might work for other clubs, the library has a large collection which requires a more permanent space. 

UMSFS is one of the oldest college science fiction clubs in the country and once hosted Isaac Asimov. Countless students have benefited over the years from the chance to explore this deep and varied collection, meet other students with similar interests, deepen their connection with the college, find their niche and safe space. The students treasure this collection, their club, and their connection with its long history.

Notable alumni including Suzanne Palmer, a Hugo Award winner, and Jane Yolen, a prolific and award-winning author, have spoken out about the loss of the UMSFS library. Palmer tweeted “That place was my heart, the first place in my life I felt safe.” Yolen put out a statement on Facebook “I am appalled at such a possible move on the UMass library’s part and devoutly hope they will reconsider it.” Over 35 other alumni have sent in testimonials about the value of the UMSFS library. 

Three Clubs Affected
The library space and collections are shared by UMSFS, the Game Hobbyists’ League, and the Anime and Manga Club. The Game Hobbyists’ league has 242 items in its collection. The Anime and Manga Club has 1,026 items.All three of the clubs hold weekly meetings during the school year and organize events such as book clubs and film screenings.

Loss of the space has forced the removal of the books to storage in Bartlett Hall. It would not be feasible to run a lending library from long-term storage. The storage space UMass has provided is not climate-controlled, which could quickly and irreparably result in damage to the books due to heat and humidity. The library’s collections have numerous valuable and rare materials, including first editions, such as Survivor, Octavia Butler’s lost novel, and signed posters from science fiction giants such as Ray Bradbury.

The move-out is currently in process. The public is asked to assist by:

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1 thought on “Historic Student Library Banished By UMass After Nearly 60 Years Of Operation

  1. Sad that UMass Amherst has taken away campus basement space used for 60 years as a Sci-Fi Library run by its students and used as a space for students with shared interests. Maybe Margaret Atwood or Marge Piercy (both acclaimed writers with ties to Massachusetts) could help persuade UMass Amherst leadership to restore this important resource. I hope others sign the UMass Amherst student petition and share it on social media. If Covid-19 taught us nothing else, Issac Asimov’s quote once again proved true, “Today’s science fiction is tomorrow’s science fact.”

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