UMass Amherst SFF Library Still Homeless. Sign the Petition!

Paul Basile, a member of the UMass Science Fiction Society at UMass Amherst from 1966 to 1970, reports the group is flourishing but still has no space for its 9000-volume library two years after the university took away the offices they were using. File 770 signal boosted news of the eviction in 2021. The Daily Hampshire Gazette covered it, too, in “Storied sci-fi library lost without a space at UMass”, with response quotes from University spokespeople, and statements by other affected student groups.

Basile recently contacted NESFA and several fan news outlets to mourn that the state of affairs has remained unchanged since 2021, and ask fans to help by contacting the University, signing a petition at, or sending e-mails to the RSO asking them to reconsider.

Basile’s recent email reminded readers: “Two years ago the Office of Registered Student Organizations threw the club out of their offices where they maintained a library of over 9000 science fiction books. They were forced to put them in storage. These materials were available to the entire University community and the town of Amherst. I have been in contact with the group and have written many e-mails to the RSO office and the president of the University. They have done and will do nothing to help. The group has all its books in storage where they do no good for anybody. I have also contacted some former members of the club and the local TV stations as well as the Daily Hampshire Gazette, but no one seems able to change the RSO’s mind.”

The petition, “Help save a historic student library”, has gained over 4,000 signatures since it was created in 2021. Sign it at the link.

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14 thoughts on “UMass Amherst SFF Library Still Homeless. Sign the Petition!

  1. The UMSFS library – not just the club, although the friendships I made there have remained among my closest in the 40+ years since I graduated from UMass and moved away – but t he Library, a space where we could gather daily and discuss matters great and small without disturbing others (well… without disturbing TOO many others…), reach out to a nearby shelf to check some esoteric reference, was, over the years, a water hole in the Serengeti… It nourished and broadened not just future engineers, but doctors and lawyers, but internationally award-winning authors and artists both industrial and fanciful. It was a cultural resource for the University, the town,and the Five College community. It seems a sin and a shame to see a social and cultural hub in the community be… “destroyed” is not too strong a word… by an arbitrary and ill-considered diktat made by an office whose VERY JOB is supposed to be to SUPPORT student organizations rather than to eviscerate them, is heartbreaking. This needs to be fixed.

  2. I still find it ironic and sad that I finally have a roof over my head, with working utilities (long story, lemme tell ya later, I’m still writing it!) but a famous sci-fi library, and Waukegan’s Ray Bradbury Experience Museum now mark themselves as “homeless.”

    Also that a few years back, you shared my “home video” of the Waukegan Public Library getting the Ray Bradbury statue. That was the fiancé’s first concert with the Waukegan Symphony Orchestra again, after many years of both of us being homeless. This weekend, they’re doing the annual Young People’s Concert, theme of Superheroes! Orchestra was started by Waukegan’s other hometown hero, Jack Benny.

    Thanks to Waukegan charities, we’ve been in our apartment since September 2018. If you’re ever in the area, let me know. We can meet up at the Ray Bradbury themed bar, Nightshade & Dark’s Pandemonium Brewing.

    More irony? I didn’t know at the time, but where we’d set up our tent while homeless was the old lands of Bradbury & Spaulding (Ray’s grandparents)!

    I hope both the RBEM and this library get some very nice donations soon. Danged shame to see anyone homeless, including museums and libraries!

  3. There are supposedly statistics about how FEW people (college graduates, as well) actually read ANYTHING once they leave the hallowed halls of our “educational system”. Reading books rarely creates a marketable product. Books take up space and require maintenance. In our brave new world of digital this that and everything, with AI being developed by idiots to replace them at their own jobs, books and history no longer have any importance, or actual relevance to Humanity’s headlong rush to extinction (and why should they, given that homo sapiens learns nothing from its past?). I have a close friend whose personal SF library rivals this one, but he has children who are interested. I have 1200+ books about “the 60s” and cannot imagine where they’re going when I’m dead. Insitutions acquire libraries like this one and (eventually) more often than not, dump them into storage or sell them outright once the donors aren’t around to notice their breach of the terms of their acceptance of the collection. Like so much of what we do, this situation is lamentable and tragic, yet if one looks at a broader context of these treasures in relation to the Reality of our world, our leaps of imagination and creativity are of no value whatsoever to anyone or anything but us poor humans. To quote a 60s rock band…”I’d love to change the world, but I don’t know what to do…”

  4. @Michael Summerleigh–When you say there are “supposedly” statistics showing people don’t read, you are exactly right. The widely-circulated meme shows “statistics” that are, when not fake, completely misrepresented–e.g., using the number a Pew study found for the number of books people on average have read in the past year, and claiming it’s the number of books read in a post-high school lifetime.

    Also, this is not a collection of books donated by one or two moneyed donors and sitting unused. It’s a significant student activity, with students collecting and cataloging books, fanzines, and other materials, and, until the flood and the boneheaded indifference of university admin, maintaining open hours when not just students but the whole community could access those materials, and sign up for borrowing privileges for the lendable materials. It was also available to researchers at other institutions, who are, yes, really, doing research in which these materials are valuable resources.

    Some of those materials are not replaceable. Are you familiar with the “last copy” doctrine? Probably not. You probably think the reference librarian at your local library is clerical help.

    I’ll bet you can’t be bothered to read anything that isn’t either bite-sized chunks on the internet, or something essential to whatever it is you do for a living, though.

  5. I think you thoroughly misunderstood the nature of my comment, Lis Carey, which was in no way intended to minimise the importance of the Amherst collection. More and more people read less and less with every passing year, becoming incapable of digesting anything but what you accuse me of putting on my table. I likely have known a large number of the authors responsible for the material in the Amherst collection, and having resumed a brief writing career I began in the 70s and abandoned in the 80s, there is no way in the world I would even dream of disparaging the historical value of its contents. You can be as huffy with me as you like, but if you’re mad as hell that it’s in danger of being sacrificed to the ignorance and complacency of our profit-at-all-costs “culture”, then we’ve simply yet to meet each other at choir practise..

  6. @Michael Summerleigh–I am glad to know I misunderstood you!

    (However, the “nobody reads” statistics are bad misrepresentations of the studies they claim to quote from. Reading, including reading for pleasure, isn’t dying. And young people are more likely than older people to prefer print books.)

    (I think not being able to adjust the font size may not yet be an issue for them.)

  7. I think the “statistics” are, at one and same time, 100% accurate and totally off the mark, depending upon where you live, who you talk to, and those you count as friends..Having my sanity dependent upon reading books since I was seven or eight years old, I find it incomprehensible to encounter someone who does not read, and seems utterly unconcerned about much of anything except when the new Marvel Comics movie is due out. In Canada there is a very similar living library in Toronto with the Judith Merrill collection as its foundation. I believe it’s still a “going concern” ; perhaps relocating the Amherst collection might be in its best interests? At any rate, in spite of the fact I’ve written pretty much mainstream over the last ten years, it seems I’m getting drawn back into the f&sf community in spite of myself.

  8. Oh, sure, let’s move it not just out of Amherst, not just out of Massachusetts, but our of the country. Brilliant plan, totally tp the benefit of the students that di and have worked to build it, and the students who rely on it.

    The Pew study was not, in fact a study of my friends, nor have I ever heard from anyone who wasn’t far out on the raving right fringe that Pew doesn’t know how to construct a valid sample.

    And the memes promoting the nonsense that no one reads, outright lie about what Pew and other studies actually say.

    This is not about my literate friends vs. your (according to you) not quite so literate friends.

  9. It seems I’m not doing well with you today. It was a suggestion, perhaps not a good one, in an attempt to offer some kind of solution to the possibility of the efforts of yourself and your friends being undermined by apathy. I have no other opinions or suggestions to offer, other than a hope the Amherst collection and its usefulness survive.

  10. @Lis Carey
    “And young people are more likely than older people to prefer print books.”

    Just curious what the source is for this (not trying to dispute it).

    This Pew Study shows reading habits:
    % that read print books / % that read ebooks

    young people (18-29): 68/42
    old people (65+): 61/18

    68/42 is about 1.6; 61/18 is about 3.8. So a random old person who reads is much more likely to have read a print book lately than a random young person who reads.

  11. And I don’t know what the solution to the Amherst SFF Library problem is. I’m sure that Amherst (the school), the Amherst library management, and the community at large that uses the library see the SFF library as a niche collection; and that any space it occupies and any funding it spends could be better purposed to a room full of internet hubs.

    That’s what’s gone here in Huntsville AL at the public library — over the last decade, the reference collection has been halved or worse; shelves of print periodicals and cabinets of microfilm/microfiche periodicals have vanished; branches that were very “bookish” have been consolidated into facilities with puppet theaters and maker studios (neither of which ever seem to be in use), but with less shelf space; and new magazine subscriptions are much more sparse.

  12. @bill–I have to admit to not having a source handy, and feeling a bit too tired to go looking for one. Also, Cider is walking all over me, which doesn’t help with the online searching thing. But I’ve seen it, let’s be really precise here and use the best technical terms, a bunch of times, from different sources and in different contexts.

    Adjustable fonts is also a major reason why I’ve switched mostly to ebooks.

    This isn’t, as I’m presenting it here, an argument that should really change your mind. And you definitely get points for having found statistics from a very good source.

    So…maybe I’m wrong? Never say it!

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