A New Library Mindset: Long-Term Consequences of Library Collections at Times of Pandemic

by | Nov 6, 2020 | 0 comments


Session summary: The COVID-19 pandemic hit libraries hard and fast leaving librarians little time to transition to remote access and scrambling to create more online resources for instruction. The closure of large print collections left librarians without access to the majority of their collections. This required a convergence of focusing on what was available in eFormats, quickly licensing a larger volume of resources, accepting publishers’ offers of short-term trials and free eContent, and working with teaching faculty who had to quickly pivot as well to remote learning defined Spring 2020. The generosity of library suppliers and publishers allowed libraries to stop gap and cover immediate needs for textbooks and compatibility with course management systems. The impact on all library units is evident as libraries build out their virtual stake.

This session addresses how librarians respond, cope, triage, and realign their efforts as they expand their resources at this critical juncture. Creating relationships with new information providers and vendors, taking advantage of formats that may not have been as vital before such as audio, more streaming video, and seeking free content that requires more curatorial support are the new challenges. Relationships between selection and acquisitions are more inter-dependent, new options with programs such as Hathi Trust, rethinking workflows, opening innovative access to print collections and responding to research programs that have evolved in response to COVID needs with ways to extend collection access become the new normal. The financial implications of investing in more digital content has huge consequences.

Julia Gelfand, Applied Sciences, Engineering, and Public Health Librarian, University of California, Irvine asked if we can define a “new normal”? What are the long term solutions? How long will we be closed and what does that mean? What about reopening and going forward?

The early days of COVID in March 2019. were marked by confusion, chaos, and upheval. Libraries had full shelves of books that could not be used. E-resources became essential, and new values about libraries evolved. The current situation has us working at home, but we cannot focus strongly without a lot of interruptions. We are dealing with identifying new e-resources, vendor and publisher offers, fast track licensing, challenges of textbooks, and the need for more software. Library services have been redefined . All of this has long term consequences: the nature of collections, will print ever resume, are we using preprints more, what about OERs, and what implications has all this had on staffing. Hopefully by next year, universities will have a better idea of what enrollments will be.

Discussion session and audience comments:

  • In terms of predictions for next year I don’t think our institution can plan for anything until we see enrollment improve, thus budgets improve.
  • Will the niche publishers survive. We are currently only buying e-books. Will some of the publishers that only have print or really weird online platforms be there when this is over?
  • We are still purchasing print, but not for course reserves. Our print course reserves are gone right now
  • Librarians can take a role and should lead conversations toward platform providers working with small publishers
  • Although we changed to e-preferred, we are still keeping an eye on print for that reason — for those things that are of high value but only available in print and that may have small print runs so we may miss them if we don’t order them.
  • I believe there will be a growing shift to online for those disciplines that have been the last print holdouts.
  • As more programs go online, we need more books on academic e-book platforms to serve ALL our students.
  • If niche publishers want to shift to an open environment: where will the funding come from?
    We will at least lose all open staff lines
  • I believe it will be harder and harder to justify staff positions the longer we work from home.
  • We have limited study space open right now and it is fully used. Though few students are on campus, many are right off campus.
  • With unknown budget situations in our state, we’re negotiating to have 0% inflation on our packages and databases
  • I think there will be more of a focus on the library in terms of providing services to their institutions and patrons, meeting them where they are, rather than people thinking of the library as a physical space
  • There is more of a need for trained staff that can work with systems and e-resources
  • Our preference is to do a 1-year license, but if we can get multi-year with flexibility an 0% increase, we are more likely to spend the money
  • At Baker & Taylor, our focus Is on building our STEM BOOK Content – we already offer (nearly) all STEM content via print, but moving toward more e-content in those areas
  • Our preference is to do a 1-year license, but if we can get multi-year with flexibility and 0% increase, we are more likely to spend the money
  • We are not able to fill our staff positions, even though we desperately need to… the shift to electronic requires a different skill set
  • There is more work for the back end of library services and less for the front end as instruction is online
  • As we look at potential budget cuts, we need to find a way to keep commitment to funding OA initiatives
  • Possibly the library as publisher in the sense of working with small publishers to produce open content
  • Hello from Brill: We are hearing about a lot of budget cuts and declines in print. We are also seeing more interest in evidence-based plans to provide access to monographs with a limit on spending.
  • Georgia is strongly encouraging OER
  • It’s important to leverage already existing e-book holdings to handle the textbook issue.
  • I am nervous about the print decline, not only for area studies, but due to what this means for ownership. The focus is on access now. For e-books to work, there must be more sharing, etc. that can match what we can do with print
  • I’m in a grad school, and OER won’t work. If the major textbook publishers don’t start making their books available on library e-book platforms, they may lose out.
  • We do OER and offer faculty incentive grants $250 – $2,500 from Provost funding (small, private 4 year university
  • There is difficulty in planning for spring semester when the situation with the virus is so unknowable. Will students be on campus? Could we offer reserves (there are no physical reserves this fall). How are others approaching this?
  • We need to redefine “textbook”. Some materials are labeled as textbooks and so are not available with library purchase options, although in reality these are more professional desk reference that students in professional programs are learning how to use.
  • At GOBI, we have seen a brisk move to almost entirely electronic. However, the publishers have been slower to provide everything in an unlimited access model. We’d love to see more options and opportunities for libraries to move to a complete e-Book collection, especially textbooks and popular texts.
  • There is a growing need for online resources other than books (video, 3D, etc)
  •  Also, there is an issue in what we can/can not do with these e-books (DRM, etc). Pressure needs to be put on DRM-free. Quality vs quantity.
  • UCB does have OER pilots but during the pandemic, we’ve ramped up e-reserves immensely which is saving students real money though obviously a considerable expense of the Library. We are scanning new publications at a very quick rate and hosting in Hathi.
  • We are also going back and re-negotiating all our academic pub agreements with a goal of multi user perpetual access at Baker & Taylor
  • Difficulty in even communicating to students that reading online still ties up the e-book.
  • Hard copy will continue to struggle as long as the health science has not advanced. no medical therapy = persistent need for quarantining materials in a world needing quick turnaround; the humanities are still rooted in print
  • At Harvard University Press, we are going through our titles to identify what wasn’t previously available in e and try to produce e-books ASAP and make them available in multi-user format
    I think the temporary solutions for e-books have hooked some of our academic departments MORE on commercial publishers than OER.
  • Kanopy is a HUGE money suck
  • A LOT of streaming requests and unfortunately, a lot of streaming requests for material that is on Netflix of Amazon Prime.
  • Has reliance on e-materials led to long-term uptake of them, vs. print, just given that people have had half a year of virtual reliance on e-formats (largely)? I.e. people have become acclimatized to reading electronic text?
  •  We need better licensing and rights-acquisition mechanism and hunting down film rights is very time-consuming
  • Video is very difficult – many titles faculty want are not available anywhere on streaming.
  •  E-Books won’t be as attractive as long as the pricing and licensing models stay as they are. So many books are not available in e-book format at all. I have returned to purchasing print materials in combination with e-books and digital resources based on availability, price, and licensing. It’s important to also remember researcher preferences as well as our long-term ability to share books and that serve as the basis of our access to HathiTrust collections.
  •  We need to look at how much students really learn from e-resources. Are we fostering growth in digital divide but in a new way from users who do not learn well in this e-environment?
  •  Working in Canada, a lot of titles are simply NOT AVAILABLE as e-books due to contracts and rights
  • Students are literally using Kanopy as Netflix for personal entertainment and it costs us $100+ a stream. This is insanity and not sustainable. But if we take it away, there will be a revolt.
  •  I am concerned that a move to e-only will greatly reduce our ability to collect diverse voices.
  •  When we see highly used titles, we try to contact the departments that might be using them to see if it’s just students watching as “Netflix” or if the film is actually being used for coursework/research. I’m not sure our protocols for doing that.
  •  We use PDA for Kanopy, it’s very expensive
  • We went with a capped purchasing model for Kanopy in 2019. So far it hasn’t caused a problem, but we’ll see.
  •  We had to limit access to Kanopy – it was not supportable.
  • Asynchronous learning has become very important and it may continue. It is an opportunity for librarians to create asynchronous materials (videos in particular).
  •  I would welcome working with vendors/publishers on approaches that offer the same content in both print and electronic versions, perhaps collaboratively through our library consortia.
  •  Some analysis is needed on cost of mailing out books to students vs. purchasing the item too. We’re just starting mail-out next week (within Canada using the book rate)
  •  I would welcome working with vendors/publishers on approaches that offer the same content in both print and electronic versions, perhaps collaboratively through our library consortia.


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