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VIVA: Member Spotlight - Eastern Mennonite University

Virginia's Academic Library Consortium

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Transformation through Pandemic: 

Eastern Mennonite University


December, 2020

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?

  • EMU has offered online and hybrid courses for many years, but not at the undergraduate level, nor at the scale with which we went online in March. When the campus closed, we were able to offer some secluded spaces in our building for those students who lacked computers, good WiFi, or adequate home study spaces. Because of the relative sizes of our building and staff, we were able to have some folks on site to provide “takeout” of physical library materials at the front door (the photo shows a staff member in the early pre-mask days). This included printing documents for students. Because we were the only on-campus department with consistent staffing, we volunteered to become the pickup point for others who needed to get things to people, like distributing chromebooks for Information Systems, and the campus read books for the Intellectual Life Committee.

What are you most proud of in your library’s response to the rapid shift to online services?

  • I am proud of how adaptable and fast we have been. We’ve really lived out of our library DNA to be helpful. We scanned reserves and interlibrary loans, did reference by Zoom, made library orientation and tour videos (one with a dog!), mailed materials to students and figured out how they could get things back to us. We extended due dates, purchased e-books and streaming media, helped faculty members find alternatives to things we couldn’t get, and pushed out information about what publishers and online vendors were making available. At the request of our Student Government Association, we pulled together a list of resources on Race and Racism.

What is a creative solution your library staff came up with to meet users’ needs in this environment?

  • Besides the takeout option, we bought some single-person tables and put them on the walkways that surround our building so that people could access the WiFi even when the building is closed.

How did VIVA, either through resources or its collaborative network, support your community during the emergency switch to online learning? 

  • The online book and journal resources we have through VIVA have continued to show their value in our distanced situations. The regular check-ins with other library directors provided lots of good ideas, social support, and points of reference that I could share with my Provost when library services and resourcing were being considered.

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?

  • We learned that to show a film, putting a DVD on a computer and sharing one’s screen on Zoom doesn’t really work.