Five College consortium to build library annex to hold excess 2.5 million volumes from member campuses

Last modified: Sunday, September 14, 2014

AMHERST — Prompted mainly by the need for more space at the University of Massachusetts and Smith College libraries, the Five College Consortium expects to begin construction next spring of a 2.5-million volume annex to hold lesser-used books and materials.

The consortium, based in Amherst, plans to purchase land this fall for a 24,000-square-foot building that will cost between $9 million and $12 million, communications director Kevin Kennedy said Friday.

He declined to be more specific about the location because sites are still being evaluated, although he did say it would be on the route of the consortium’s courier who makes regular trips to UMass, Amherst and Hampshire colleges in Amherst, Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley and Smith College in Northampton.

While it will mainly serve UMass and Smith, which is expected to use it during anticipated renovations at its Neilson Library, the annex will be available to the other three colleges as well, Kennedy said. “We expect their needs will be a small fraction of the total space,” he added.

Five College executive director Neal Abraham said the creation of the annex is the latest of many joint efforts by the campus libraries.

“There is a long history of the consortium pooling resources to improve library services for our students and faculty,” he said in a statement. Those range from the interlibrary loan system to the sharing of electronic subscriptions to databases, journals and e-books.

The Five College Board of Directors decided in May to move ahead with the construction with the goal of completing the building in the fall of 2015.

Planning for the structure began in 2011, based on needs identified in the master plan for UMass and projected needs of Smith College, which will temporarily relocate a “substantial share” of its collections when work begins on Neilson Library, according to the annex page on the consortium’s website. The UMass master plan predicts that the university will have to relocate 1.5 million volumes of its 4 million volumes from on-campus libraries during the next 10 years, according to web page, and, in fact, is already leasing off-campus space for some of its books. Those will be moved to the new annex.

The annex is intended to house print material in a climate-controlled building that is better for its long-term preservation than the library stacks, according to the Five College statement.

The materials, which mostly will be volumes that are rarely referenced or circulated, are expected to be available to Five College patrons via the courier, who will make morning and afternoon stops at the annex, according to the statement. Requests for journal articles will be submitted online and annex staff will provide photocopies electronically. There will also be a reading room at the annex.

“This is really a direct response to the needs of our member campuses,” Kennedy said. “There are dozens and dozens of other examples of how the consortium pools the resources of our campuses,” he added, citing academic enrichment for students, opportunities for faculty and cost-saving benefits for administration.

“Across the board for nearly 50 years the consortium has been working to best meet the needs of its campuses in ways they may not be able to on their own,” Kennedy said.

Five Colleges Inc. was created in 1965.

Debra Scherban can be reached at


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