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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

11/27/23 pdf
November 27, 2023

The hidden value of Healey Library

Saichand Chowdary
Two friends utilize the group study space on the eighth floor of the Healey Library. Photo by Saichand Chowdary / Mass Media Staff

Healey Library is the biggest library I’ve ever seen. It has 11 floors, in addition to two lower floors, and each floor houses an overwhelming number of books and other free resources. Compared to my town’s library, it’s massive—you could probably fit the entire library inside of just one floor of Healey Library—which is why it’s so perplexing to me that many people don’t seem to take advantage of all of Healey Library’s endless offerings.  

Healey Library’s list of available databases is over 300 items long, including services that provide free movie and documentary rentals, advice for finances and taxes, genealogy and dozens more. Students can access almost all of these databases online, including from Chromebooks that can be rented out from the library or found in the library’s computer lab. On the sixth floor, patrons can choose between quiet and completely silent spaces, and on the eighth floor, there are brand-new group study rooms as well as drop-in tutoring services.  

Ann Marie Shafer, the library desks service manager at Healey Library, says the problem she encounters the most is patrons not knowing how to access the physical resources in the library. Not only are students confused about how to get to the library, when they arrive, they often question if they’re in the right place. “We get people asking, ‘where is the library?’ and we have to say, ‘you’re in it,’” Shafer recalled. Part of this problem is the ongoing construction.

Once you find it, though, the Healey Library is one of the most open and friendly spaces on campus. The librarians are more than happy to help patrons navigate the building and answer questions. In fact, Healey Library partners with other libraries across the world to maintain an online 24/7 chat feature where they provide help with databases and research.  

Shafer suggests that if you’re looking for more contemporary fiction, you might not find what you’re looking for in Healey Library’s relatively limited collection, but you might have more luck with a Boston Public Library e-card. The BPL, according to its website, is one of the largest and oldest public libraries in the country. Like the Healey Library, patrons can check out physical or electronic books as well as audiobooks, magazines, movies, streaming media and even historical maps, manuscripts, letters and drawings from the 10th century. The BPL also hosts clubs and events that are free to the public, including job training, adult certification and education classes, and tutoring and homework help.  

In fact, the Healey Library is part of the Boston Library Consortium, a collection of 26 libraries across New England, including the BPL. Through an online application, students and faculty can request a BLC card and loan materials from any of these libraries. This is related to Healey Library’s interlibrary loan system, which Shafer said is underused by most students: “[The interlibrary loan system] is excellent for research, but it’s usually graduate students that tend to take advantage of it. Undergraduate students, not as much.”  

Teresa Maceira, a librarian, seconded Shafer, saying the interlibrary loan system is one of the most underutilized resources, alongside research consultants who provide one-on-one help with school assignments and capstone projects. Maceira also mentioned, “The newspaper collections are fantastic, but many don’t know that we provide access to so many current and historical papers. Our latest subscription is to the New York Times.” Another librarian suggested that the archives and special collections go unnoticed by students. Maceira said, “The archives have so many fantastic collections relevant to the history of UMass Boston and Boston, such as the Thompson Island records, the Hip Hop collection, the Boston Busing records and so much more.” 

This is by no means a comprehensive list. Across the Healey Library’s 11 floors, students can find public restrooms and water fountains, print and copy stations, noise-cancelling headphones, an IT help desk, and plenty of comfortable seating. Even those not affiliated with UMass Boston can use any of the open spaces and anything out on shelves. Shafer stressed that everything at the Healey Library is completely free, aside from the vending machines. There are no fees and no overdue charges; the only thing you might be charged for is a small replacement fee if you damage or lose a book. And the best part? Increased demand for these resources leads to increased funding for the library, and it’s obvious that the Healey Library could use some extra money thrown its way. 

According to Shafer, many of Healey Library’s funding decisions are not made by the library staff themselves, but by other administrations on campus. For example, the café on the second floor is currently closed indefinitely, but there’s a huge push to bring it back. “We’re really hoping that’s something we can reintroduce… All of us are highly interested and motivated in the café,” she said. “There potentially could be petitions to reinstate it.” In the meantime, students can buy food from the Farmer’s Fridge vending machine.  

In a time when libraries are being consistently underfunded and abandoned in favor of privatization, the Healey Library and all the other libraries of Boston can use all the help they can get. Protecting libraries means protecting our future and the future of our education. Instead of studying at Starbucks, why not support the Healey Library and spend some time there?  

About the Contributor
Elijah Horwath, Opinions Editor