Transformation through Pandemic
In March, 2020, libraries around Virginia were asked to respond to the unprecedented needs of an academic community coping with a pandemic and the immediate demands of the lockdown instituted to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Each institution had to meet the particular needs of their students, faculty, and staff, including an immense shift to online learning often paired with a loss of the public spaces that make academic libraries so central to the life of their campuses.
The VIVA Outreach Committee has been collecting stories of the transformations VIVA member libraries have, and are, undergoing to meet campus needs during these challenging times. Member interviews will be highlighted here.
Share a success story from your library’s shift online in response to the pandemic in the spring. How did your library change when campuses went online in the spring of 2020?
- Working at a liberal arts campus on which no undergraduate courses had ever previously been offered online, the magnitude of the shift to an entirely virtual environment was a shock to everybody’s system. However, the library (and Hollins as a university) successfully navigated the transition by consistently reminding ourselves of our mission. We moved our instruction online into both asynchronous and synchronous environments (one professor wrote, “I am very grateful for your unwavering support amid the tribulations and sacrifices made since the implementation of the virtual continuity plan in my course”); we delivered materials in new and unexpected ways to students and faculty (one professor wrote, “It's tough teaching a film course online, but I've proven this semester, with the help of the library, that it can be done”), and we even continued to share the legacy and work of the Hollins community through our institutional repository.
What are you most proud of in your library’s response to the rapid shift to online services?
- We prioritized equity and access for Hollins students, meaning that we immediately digitized all materials on reserve that were still needed for courses for the remainder of the semester, so all students could have access to those materials. We also helped identify online sources for materials as well, thanks to publishers and vendors who were making their materials freely available. Also as part of this work, we loaned our Chromebooks to students who needed devices, and (inspired by other libraries) initiated an HU effort to acquire hot spots for students who needed Internet access.
What is a creative solution your library staff came up with to meet users’ needs in this environment?
- Seeking ways to build community even though we couldn’t gather in person, we hosted a virtual silent study hall on Reading Day, the study day prior to Finals. Traditionally on this day, we are open all night, and we provide stressbusters and food in the library. Without our building available to us, we still wanted to provide a way for our students to gather in community. We provided Zoom library backgrounds that students could use if they wanted (helping to create the sense of being “in the library”), and we had more than a dozen students participate, and nearly a dozen faculty members make “guest appearances” over the course of the multi-hour event. One student shared, “Thank you so much, this really helped me feel like I am at the library.”
How did VIVA, either through resources or its collaborative network, support your community during the emergency switch to online learning?
- The VIVA e-book licenses with Wiley and Taylor & Francis, which had already proven their worth for our community, became even more important in the online transition. Being able to supply so many high-quality e-books was crucial to help offset the loss of access to our print collection.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your library’s experience supporting and/or collaborating with your campus community in the spring?
- I’ve never received so many questions about the availability of films, as professors scrambled to find streaming options for films they’d intended to show from our library collection or their personal library. I’d already known that the academic film streaming market is problematic, but this crisis particularly drove home the difficult situation academic libraries find themselves in, as they seek to provide access to many films for which there is simply not a streaming option available on the academic market.