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Nation's second largest college-based science-fiction library booted by UMass Amherst

Western Mass News reports the Commonwealth's Flagship Campus has decided that after nearly 60 years, it no longer has space for a permanent home for the Science Fiction Society, which has a library of some 10,000 science-fiction books - second in size in the country only to MIT.

Society members this week hauled books out of their now former space in the campus center, to be stored in members' homes and rooms.

Petition to keep the library open.

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Comments

Sad state of affairs when university officials can't see the value of a decades-old collection of over 10,000 volumes. This should be considered a university asset, not a needless waste of space.

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Here's the meat of the story:

UMass spokesperson Mary Detloff explained in a statement that “more than 300 student groups are active on campus. A policy was developed that said based on equal treatment for all, no student group would be assigned permanent space.”

Detloff also told us they are working with the clubs affected to find funding for outside storage units, but sci-fi members said this new policy goes against what the club stands for since they can’t run a library out of a storage closet.

I'd like to know the definition of student group, and to know what student organizations are assigned permanent space.

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This sounds like the SF library was more of a club in term of organization so competing for space with all the other clubs on campus, many of which might have more demand from the students. If that's the case, fair enough especially given how many books are available to read through ebooks from public libraries. The club infrastructure on campus is meant for active students, not a musty museum to the days of yore. There's a very large library about 500' away - put the books there.

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The club throws events, is a safe place for students to be at the heart of campus, etc. It isn't a closet, it is a thriving, ACTIVE part of campus life.

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I just have no idea how popular this club is vs. other clubs which need space. I was very active in a different club at UMass and we had a small hole in the wall office which was shared with two other clubs. We certainly didn't have our own private library space. If this is a low membership club with a high demand for floorspace, maybe this was in the wrong place.

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If this is a low membership club with a high demand for floorspace, maybe this was in the wrong place.

Again:

A policy was developed that said based on equal treatment for all, no student group would be assigned permanent space.”
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Actually there is a collection in the Special Collections department of several thousand books from UMSFS already. However there isn't a CLUB space. Books can be stored. Not sure that the library can handle the lounge type atmosphere though.

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If the bottom line is 'we're losing our private clubhouse in the middle of campus center' which is far larger than most similarly popular clubs, that's unfair. I'd be interested in know how big this space was compared to other clubs.

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And a lot of older books are not available in e-format. Ask anyone who has been trying to replace a beloved tattered physical copy of a book printed more than 15 years ago.

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Funny -- I suspect that there's no problem finding storage space for the multi-million bust of a football team.

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UMSFS was like a second home and a second family. A quiet, safe space where people could go to take a break and catch their breath.

This is truly unfortunate, and a piss-poor policy change.

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Who like to read books! You have no place at today’s university.

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Amherst administrators made a good decision

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n/t

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n/t

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Instead of making assumptions?

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and other science fiction writers whose skin colors are on the brown color scale of human skin. And, omg, he is even Gay? Oi vey, a brown skin Gay science fiction writer. How weird!

There is something odd and peculiar about the bitchy tone of "Weird, and probably mostly westie white." Granted there is a bit of fun alliteration, albeit I don't get the sense that was a goal of the statement. Instead my sense is that it is a statement expressing unhappiness. To which I respond, write a science fiction story that can help you understand the source of the unhappiness.

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Notfromboston's original comment was a 'humorous' reference to 'west roxbury whites.' It should not have been posted in the first place, but having done so, he should own it.

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... to have no better way to spend one's time than (mostly malicious) trolling.

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I understand the desire to ensure that some groups are not given treatment other groups are not but if they are offering programming and allow access to the public to their collection then I don't see how they are not meeting the objective if a library. My question for UMass would be are there other groups looking to offer public services currently being denied? Are there other literary collections that were unhoused that were rejected due to space?

A library houses books. I realize modern libraries do so much more but at it's core it does this one thing that nobody else can do. Which means they really should be required to give an explanation as to why this selection is no longer welcome beyond a policy that does not take into account the service being offered.

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Umass Amherst at Newton?

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Too many administrators looking for something to administrate barging into systems they don't understand and disrupting them in search of a promotion for having administrated something.

This is a massive problem throughout academia and the solution is to GET RID OF USELESS ADMINISTRATORS or, at least, sunset their tenure. Then hire more full-paid faculty to improve that thing known as academic performance?

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Where else to go for the folks who want to stay in academia, but tire of the grind of teaching? Or don't have the political knuckles to defeat the competition for limited teaching jobs?

Other than producing good little economic units what good is teaching anyway? Humanities? Oh please; every human being, by definition, is an expert on humanity. Arts? Silly, Jackson Pollack proved that throwing paint onto canvas can make an artist. NB: my appreciation of Pollock deepened when I discovered he was messy alcoholic - I started to see his splatter paintings as mirrors of his alcohol laced mind).

Oh, heck. who needs to even know things such as NB, i.e., e.g., etc. and all those fancy latin abbreviations?

On the other hand, how would this look: An educational system where all undergrad colleges required a deep humanities education, where the ratio of teacher to students per class is around 1 to 10? Where from the top of our economic society to the bottom, money, wealth, property were not the most important secular religious value. Where from the thickest of high churches, to the most stripped down to emotional roller coaster, holy roller Evangelical churches, class, money, wealth and all symbolized by material wealth - the corporate form of the body of Christ - was not the highest value?

Maybe an overload of administrators is actually the easiest way to incorporate too many academicians who want to stay in academia, but are just tired of the struggle to stay academic? Who really wants to teach anyway?

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One detail about these old scifi libraries is that they include many autographed first edition books which are valuable. Those are kept locked up, but at the same time it's strange to have student groups holding onto them.

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The books in the UMSFS library were purchased and collected by the club and donated by members. Why shouldn't they be the ones to hold them?

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Who said they shouldn't? I just said it was strange.

It was also strange in the 1990s and 2000s when student newspapers at colleges accumulated six-figure bank balances, because the strong job market generated so much ad revenue from recruiters. Of course the group is entitled to the money, but you join a student newspaper to write articles, and end up managing a small endowment.

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Is UMass Amherst also throwing out the student-run radio station? Because if not, clearly they are picking which clubs they deem worthy rather than "equal treatment". Someone should explain the differences between equal / fair / equity / just.

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WMUA 91.1 FM is licensed to the University of Massachusetts not the student organization.

Very few college radio stations are owned by student organizations and not colleges. WHRB at Harvard is one.

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E-books are not a good substitute for a science fiction library. A great many of the older books are paperback originals that have not been put online in any form, not to mention the pulp magazines (30s-60s) and the digest-sized ones (70s-90s) and the small press originals... and so on. A collection like this is a true resource for fans and researchers particularly because it contains material that was considered ephemeral at the time of publication.

Having been involved in campus SF club activity back in my salad days, I can attest to what a great social resource it was for the geeky and obsessed young fans. "People like us!" SF is far more main-stream now, so maybe it's not so hard to gather a social group together who want to discuss Loki in the comic books versus the miniseries adaptation.

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With three permanent administrators. the books could stay.....wink wink, nudge nudge.

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I hadn't even known of this collection until right now, but it sounds like a terrific thing.

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... that the school has been interested in reclaiming the space used by this group for some time -- because they think they need it to create more space devoted to administrative purposes....

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It's like Captain Kirk said to the crew of the Serenity: "I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced."

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NO student groups are allowed to have permanent space? Even the groups that by their nature have a lot of stuff?

That's a good way to make sure you don't have a vibrant student group scene.

What does the student government have to say about this?

They must teach this stuff at sleazy administrator school. It's invariably right at the start at summer break that they pull things like this.

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It looks to me more like laziness or lack of principles. They can't be bothered to tell the difference between the SciFi Library and the Young Trumpsuckers Club. That one has a clear academic benefit, and the other is almost explicitly opposed to the principles of education and Democracy, well it's too difficult to choose to defend a choice.

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