Invitation to Mason faculty to join the conversation on Sustainable Scholarship

Virginia’s seven public academic research libraries (George Mason University, along with University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, Virginia Commonwealth University, College of William and Mary, James Madison University, and Old Dominion University) will soon be at the contract negotiating table with Elsevier, the largest STEM scholarly publisher, in an effort to reduce our shared access costs to the Freedom Collection, Elsevier’s flagship academic journal bundle.

Our shared Elsevier contract represents a collective yearly expenditure of $10 million and is scheduled to expire on January 1, 2022, with five percent inflation in the final year of the contract. In light of substantial budget cuts and ongoing fiscal uncertainty – as well as the unsustainable models favored by large publishing conglomerates who control access to academic journals – Virginia universities are considering our next steps for both cost reductions and future sustainability.

In preparation for these negotiations, we are implementing UnSub, an analysis tool that will help us make sound, data- informed decisions about the value of the Elsevier Freedom Collection and our other journal packages. The data we collect, along with additional information about sustainable journal collections, will be made available to the university community on our website throughout the fall. For an example of one large university system’s effective use of UnSub, see this recent Science magazine article.

We know that any changes to the way we share and access information affects our entire academic community. Our faculty are key partners in making any necessary changes, and we welcome your input. If a successful outcome is not reached through negotiations, we – and our partner universities – will continue our common commitment to delivering the resources students and faculty need to do their research and academic work.

We invite you to attend the upcoming Sustainable Scholarship Virtual Forum on Friday, October 2 at 9:30 a.m., where VRL members will share information about the group’s collective priorities concerning equity, accessibility, and the costs of bundled scholarly journal packages.

We have collated some resources about sustainable collections and journal pricing on our Sustainable Collections site. We hope you will find this information, particularly the “Six Things Faculty Need to Know”, helpful. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have additional questions.

Samuel Clowes Huneke and Andrea Weeks Named 2020-21 Fenwick Fellows

Dean of Libraries and University Librarian John G. Zenelis is pleased to announce the annual Fenwick Fellow award recipients for 2020-21: Samuel Clowes Huneke, Assistant Professor, Department of History and Art History, and Andrea Weeks, Associate Professor, Department of Biology.

Professor Huneke’s research proposal, Visualizing Authoritarianism, is a three-part project concentrated on examining the East German regime’s visual propaganda and how it changed over time, through examination of the East German poster collection held by the Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center (SCRC). Professor Huneke will collaborate with both SCRC and the Libraries’ Digital Scholarship Center (DiSC) to accomplish his project goals: 1) migrating existing collection metadata into an Omeka S site (with the assistance of graduate research assistants); 2) conducting a qualitative assessment of the posters in the collection to augment the existing metadata and to create more nuanced descriptions of the posters; and 3) publishing a journal article of research findings and digitizing a sampling of the posters for inclusion with a digital exhibit.

Professor Weeks’ research proposal, The Extended Specimen Project, seeks to explore the extended specimen concept in relation to the curation of natural history collections using the methods of digital scholarship by focusing on an orphaned research collection recently acquired the University Herbarium. The collection, amassed over 40 years by a professor at Virginia’s Lord Fairfax Community College, contains 20,000 herbarium specimens and 18 collection notebooks of significant historical and scientific value for understanding the flora of Virginia and its exploration in the late 20th century. Professor Weeks’ project has two main goals: 1) creating a digital resource of the notebooks (which will be accessioned within the Libraries) and 2) cross-linking the digital images of the notebook entries with the growing database of herbarium specimens, with the assistance of DiSC. Professor Weeks’ also intends to publish and present on her findings.

Zenelis commented, “It is a delight each year to see Mason faculty’s creative proposals to use, build upon, and expand the Libraries’ collections. I am pleased to support the review committee’s endorsement of Professor Huneke’s and Professor Weeks’ projects, with their mix of archival and digital exploration. We look forward to the results of their research projects.”

Professors Huneke and Weeks will present on the outcomes of their projects in spring of 2022 at the annual Fenwick Fellow Lecture hosted by the University Libraries.

About the Fenwick Fellowship: The Fenwick Fellowship is awarded annually to one or two Mason tenured, tenure-track, or multi-year appointment term faculty members to pursue a research project that uses and enhances the University Libraries’ resources while advancing knowledge in their fields. The winning proposals are recommended to the Dean of Libraries and University Librarian by a six-member selection committee including three instructional faculty members and three librarians, with one of the Associate University Librarians serving as administrative coordinator. The recipients are provided with a fully equipped and furnished research office in Fenwick Library and an award of $5,000 to support the recipient’s research project. The term for the fellowship is one academic year.

Welcome to Mason + What’s New at the Libraries

Mason Libraries welcomes the Mason Nation to academic year 2020-21! We know things look different this year, but we are here to support your scholarly endeavors and to help you succeed in your studies. The best place to find out about our current services is our FAQ page, which we update regularly.

What to expect this fall:

Expanded Online Resources & Virtual Services. The Libraries will continue to support the Mason community through expanded electronic resources and virtual services, including virtual workshops, instruction sessions, and research consultations. We will also continue our expanded hours for our virtual reference service.

Library Access: Access to any library location will be limited to Mason students, faculty, and staff. Signage will be posted to indicate the university’s Safe Return to Campus guidelines – such as physical distancing, wearing face coverings, and other protocols – and those who do not adhere to the university policies and guidelines may be asked to leave. Our hours have been updated for the fall semester and may change if needed.

Closed Stacks: Circulation requests should be made via your library account, and the stacks will be closed for browsing. If you encounter difficulty placing your request, please email Requests for access to some collections (such as in our Special Collections Research Center) will be by appointment-only.

Study Spaces and Computers: To promote physical distancing and follow university guidelines, some tables, carrels, workstations, and chairs have been removed or marked out-of-use in each library. The number of people allowed in each library building will also be limited to allow for appropriate distancing. Some spaces and areas may also be closed. For example, group study rooms will be closed, while individual study rooms will be available for reservation.

Furniture: The furniture in each library location has been moved (or removed in some cases) and spaced to allow for appropriate distancing. Please help us all stay safe by not moving or rearranging the furniture.

Food and Drink: No food and beverages are allowed in library locations, with the exception of water in a closed container. Please help us maintain clean and safe spaces by not bringing in food or drink. Face coverings should be worn at all times, unless actively drinking.

Health & safety protocols:

Current status information:

The Libraries will follow university and state guidelines. Our FAQs will be updated as needed. Responses are based on Mason’s Safe Return plan and current information. Responses and available services are subject to change.

General information on library services:

Mason Libraries provides free 24/7 access to thousands of online resources for Mason faculty, students and staff – just use your Mason NetID and password. Visit to discover what the Libraries offer to support and enhance your learning, teaching, and research at Mason. Highlights include:

Extended: library books available through HathiTrust

As announced earlier this year, thanks to a cooperative agreement between University Libraries and the HathiTrust, Mason students, faculty and staff (and only one or more of those particular statuses) have online access to over a million titles from our library’s collection even as access to the stacks has been cut off due to COVID-19 concerns. This virtual access to our collection has been extended as the pandemic continues. We will update the Mason community if the situation or access options change. To access a digital scan of a book from Mason’s collection:
  • Begin a search in the library’s catalog
  • As you look through your results, books that offer a scanned copy of the text will be marked as shown by the red arrow in this illustration:
2020 07 31 11 33 58
  • To view the scanned copy, click that link then make sure you sign in at the HathiTrust website (you will be authenticating via your Mason network credentials).  If you don’t sign in, you will not be able to view the text as the HathiTrust site will not know of your Mason affiliation.
You may request contact-less pickup of titles that are not available via the HathiTrust program. To maintain compliance with the rules surrounding this agreement and to preserve access to our collection for the majority of our physically-distant users we are not able to circulate the physical copy of a book owned by Mason if it is also available via this HathiTrust Emergency Temporary Access Service (ETAS).  

New Social Justice Research Guide

The Libraries has compiled a research guide on social justice, which highlights Mason Libraries’ holdings (including databases, books, journal articles, relevant catalog subject headings, and more) as well as statements and resources from our university colleagues. The guide also provides links to external websites, materials, and other academic institutions’ library research sources. For more resources or help, ask a librarian.