2020: Fond Farewell or Good Riddance?

by | Nov 5, 2020 | 0 comments

Erin Gallagher

This session featured questions and answers by a panel of librarians.

What is your library’s reaction to the COVID pandemic?

  • We went remote in March. Library on central campus reopened and did telereference. Staff stayed at home; some departments worked in the building as needed.
  • Switched to remote and did consultations with users from home. Now have staff on site to check out books, etc.
  • Libraries were closed in March, with staggered reopenings in July. They found ways to share physical spaces in online environment. Access to the library’s textbook collection was provided by on-demand scanning of a chapter at a time and sending them out to students who needed them.
  • The library opened for limited services in August. Stacks were open only to staff. Physical materials are quarantined when returned. Print items were bought only when electronic equivalents were not available, which made the library staff think about the role of digital lending, remote access to collections, and how to serve remote users..
  • We have a large print backlog awaiting processing/cataloging. But we’ve ramped up cataloging of e-materials and catalog cleanup to facilitate better access to online resources, so our catalogers have been busy. They are also going into the building a couple days a week to work on print.

Comments from the chats:

  • We cancelled most of our print approvals.
  • We were already e-preferred for collections so it wasn’t a huge shift for us.
  • We moved all approval subjects to e-preferred.
  • Print collection policies definitely changed for us. We are e-preferred as well, but many of our faculty still wanted print. Now, we’re not only almost exclusively purchasing online resources but we are only buying for specific courses or faculty/graduate research.
  • W could not receive any physical materials for several months, so had to switch to e-only for all books.
  • Our cataloger has temporarily moved to mostly cataloging our backlog of special collections.

Do you have a requirement to wear masks?

  • We have to remind students at times, so we put masks on statues around campus.
  • Luckily our institution has a firm mask policy that we can enforce, but we still have to enforce it daily.
  • it has been a big challenge, especially to get them to wear them correctly.
  • We are only open to staff and a limited number by the county health department. All staff must wear masks. Most people work half day shifts onsite.
  • We’re training a peer student team to wander the library and talk to misbehavers.
  • NYU hired Public Health Ambassadors to monitor compliance and distribute masks. It’s been very successful. Library staff are not involved in monitoring. We are way too busy paging and scanning! More info about the NYU program is here:
  • Our Dean goes out regularly (in addition to staff) to talk to folks not wearing masks.
  • We hired monitors who monitor masking compliance in the library. So far, there have been very few issues. The students have been wonderful.
  • We have a “mask enforcement team” to get students to wear masks.
  • Our library has been making hourly announcements about masks.

If you had to pick one thing that has become better because of COVID challenges, what would that be?

Collaboration via new tools

What has been gained and what has been lost?

  • Makerspaces have been lost. Participation has been lost. It is challenging to maintain enthusiasm when talking to a webcam.
  • We have gained creativity in how we teach.
  • Greater opportunites for transparency in communication.
  • We had to make huge cuts in collection budget which was not something that needed to be done in past years, so we had to communicate with the faculty about that, which made services more visible. We got more participation in classes.
  • Staff engagement has increased.
  • I don’t miss commuting 40 miles 5 days a week!
  • I gained being able to work remotely.
  • I am exercising more regularly because I now have the time
  • I have more time to read!
  • Collection development has been put on hold. I have been moved from doing my job (firm orders) to mostly buying streaming videos.
  • Acclimating my brain to work a bit differently has been difficult.
  • Are campuses feeling pressure to open back up and return to “normal”?
  • From vendors I would appreciate fewer emails since we are swamped
  • Zoom has been good for our Technical Services unit. We have all staff meeting twice a month.
  • We started a weekly “town hall” for users–at UF and got hundreds of attendees.

What about vendor contacts?

  • It is difficult to negotiate in a remote environment.
  • Vendors have been understanding and generous when they were asked for consideration of budget costs. Some of them are open to renegotiate yearly renewals. We must thank our vendors a lot for their understanding and flexibility. Vendors don’t want libraries to cancel. Some vendor websites are just SO MUCH WORK to search for films in. It’s rough and can take twice as long as it really needs to be.
  • All my vendors have been very helpful – inflation increases have been stable or none or very low
  • Individual reps are mostly super-nice people, but when I tell you all that we have zero capital budget and cannot buy any new materials, could you drop us off our product offer e-mails?
  • We appreciate those which have been responsive and understanding about price increases (and gave us none).
  • In regard to publishers – going flat on increases is excellent. However, I have found that many of our publishers and vendors do not want to narrow down packages so we can reduce our costs. I have one vendor for next year where I am going to give them a target amount that I can spend and see what it will buy.
  • Vendors, be aware that the funding that libraries and higher education have lost this year may never be restored. Be flexible in thinking with libraries how you offer products and subscriptions.

What are your library’s responses to uprisings and protests of racism? How are you conducting training?

  • Unconscious biases exists. Want univ to support what’s going on in the community.
  • At NCState, staff are required to take diversity training courses which library purchased.
  • Getting consulting group to do diversity tgraining with libr mgt and also doing a salary audit.
  • Providing a cultural memory for communities. Having open participatory environment.

How will the events of 2020 change our profession?

  • It takes longer to do things but helps to know that we’re all in it together.
  • 2020 is a perfect storm – I think that there are a number of institutions (both on the vendor and academic side) will face mergers or closures.
  • For those who didn’t know that libraries are essential before, they do now.
  • Just as COVID preys on people with any possible weakness – it does the same with organizations
  • We were the last entity to close and the first to open on campus
  • We’ve had to get a LOT better at engaging folks with webinars / virtual meetings.
  • The profession is coming together and growing in a different perspective.
  • Libraries are essential.
  • Spotlight on how adaptable we are and how we have coped with the changes, become more empathetic.
  • Greater collaboration. We are getting better at using technology.

What is giving you life now?

  • My 6-yr old sent his first email today, and he’s learning how to use computers.
  • I am surprised at how kids are getting skills like typing.
  • My dog has been my therapy dog through this.


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