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VIVA: Member Spotlight: Liberty University

Virginia's Academic Library Consortium

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Transformation through Pandemic: 

Liberty University

October 2020

Share a success story from your library's response to the pandemic?

  • One of the many success stories that emerged from the shift of residential classes to a virtual environment was a huge increase in the awareness and use of our virtual research consultations which had launched shortly before the onset of the pandemic. As a result of the additional support needed to help residential students and faculty transition to a virtual environment, we were able to post an alert bar on the top of the library’s homepage which provided information on all of the ways that students and faculty could access research assistance, including the virtual consultations. The alert was hyperlinked to the research and instruction landing page as well as directly to the Microsoft Bookings calendar for quick access to scheduling an appointment. It also included a message and link for a Libguide that we created to summarize the ways that JFL was adapting services to meet customers’ needs. As a result, we saw a significant increase in the virtual consultations, which offer in-depth assistance and average approximately one hour in length. 

What are you most proud of in your library’s response to quickly shifting needs both on and off campus, virtual and in-person?

  • The JFL has a unique customer service philosophy known as WIFI which stands for Welcoming, Informative, Fast, and Impressive. Having this philosophy engrained in our organization on all levels helped us to be flexible and quickly pivot our services to meet the needs of residential students and faculty who were suddenly operating in a remote environment. While we already had many systems, resources, and services to serve Liberty University’s large online population, it was necessary to help residential students and faculty gain awareness of and become comfortable with accessing the library in a virtual capacity. To that end, we made a large number of changes in a short period of time which included: 
    • Creating and offering a webinar, Using JFL’s Online Resources: A Brief Refresher, for residential students taking classes remotely to help them become more familiar with using online library resources.
    • Expanding our Interlibrary Loan Services so that residential students taking classes remotely could submit an Interlibrary Loan request to have items from the library’s physical collections shipped to them, a service that had already been in place for online students and faculty.
    • Waiving overdue and lost item fines that had accrued since March 1, extending the due date for materials until the end of the summer, and emailing customers who had items checked out about these changes.
    • Contacting faculty who had items on reserve to inquire if they needed us to explore options for providing digital access to the materials.
    • Reviewing educational use of copyrighted material in light of the extenuating circumstances so that library faculty could confidently assist with navigating copyright questions that arose.
    • Expanding Purchase on Demand (POD) acquisitions to address limitations of Interlibrary Loan services resulting from reduced participation from other libraries.
    • Contacting customers with Interlibrary Loan items to assure them that the due dates for those materials would be flexible given the extenuating circumstances. 
    • Posting notices on our campus portal, social media, and Interlibrary Loan webpage regarding changes to library hours and services as well as limitations to ILL services so that customers would be informed of potential delays in receiving materials. 
    • Scheduling more social media posts highlighting electronic resources.
    • Providing research support beyond the building hours.
    • Refreshing all librarians on using the online chat service so that even those who do not normally cover chat services would be available and ready to provide support if the need arose. 
    • Holding our residential Inquiry 101 instructional sessions in a virtual capacity.
    • Transitioning our semi-annual De-Stress for Exams event online by providing a variety of virtual activities and encouraging post on our social media platforms.
  • We are also proud that we were able to also keep our facility open the entire time and keep all of the library faculty and staff gainfully employed and contributing to operational success in the midst of so many uncertainties. We did this by transitioning as many faculty and staff as possible to a work-from-home environment by using technologies such as Microsoft Teams, WebEx, and Jabber to seamlessly maintain serves. Key actions that enabled us to keep the building open included setting and posting occupancy limits for each space, closing all entrances and exits except the main entrance to monitor capacity, socially distancing furniture, posting handwashing reminders and additional hand sanitizing units, moving some of the computers out of our technology commons and into our classroom space to meet the computing needs of our students while also maintaining occupancy limits and social distancing, moving a print station into the atrium area to allow for quick printing needs in an open space, and closing spaces that could not be easily monitored for occupancy. 

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

  •  One creative solution that we implemented was placing collection boxes in the residence halls to collect library materials from those moving out. We checked the collection bins several times a day and removed the boxes at the end of the move-out period. This eased the stress and process for the students while also assisted us in getting materials back that students did not need during the remainder of the semester. 
  •  Another creative solution involved our Curriculum Librarian’s response to phone calls from parents with questions about resources to teach their K-12 children who suddenly needed to complete their school year at home. To meet this unexpected need, she curated a list of online PreK-12 resources, which she listed on the Curriculum Library Research Guide and communicated to the inquiring parents as well as to local school librarians to aid them in finding appropriate educational resources. 
  • Lastly, this fall we found a way to effectively offer our annual Library Services Fair to a virtual environment by hosting short videos featuring library resources and services and providing giveaways to those who participated by watching and commenting on the video content. Rather than offering this as a one-day event, we posted a new video each Monday for six weeks. This enabled us to not only communicate the information to our residential populations in a socially distanced manner but also to help inform our online students as well. 

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

  • Membership in VIVA has been an important component in JFL’s success in serving the Liberty University community in the midst of the pandemic. VIVA's negotiations with vendors on behalf of members as well as the webinars on negotiation skills yielded lower costs and ensured continued access to essential electronic resources to support our students and faculty in a virtual environment. The VIVA Reopeners webinars and the VIVA COVID19 Office Hour meetings provided practical guidance as well as reassurance during an uncertain time. They better enabled us to navigate issues as they arose while also proactively seeking solutions to anticipated problems. The COVID-19 Institutional Statuses spreadsheet was also extremely helpful in determining the current status of resource sharing operations at our partner institutions.

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?

  • There were a number of opportunities to partner with other university departments as the situation evolved. We assisted the Center for Research and Scholarship with shifting the annual spring  Research Week to a virtual event by hosting virtual presentations in our institutional repository, Scholars Crossing. This not only allowed the students’ hard work to be showcased and judged, it also raised awareness of our repository. We partnered with the university’s communications team on a news story to help raise awareness of the library’s efforts to support students and faculty. We partnered with IT and the Student Health & Wellness to establish a system for students to tap in and out of the library’s main entrance in order to facilitate contact tracing and monitor occupancy limits. We partnered with the Student Health & Wellness and the Marketing Department on consistent signage to communicate changes. Likewise, we partnered with the Student Wellness Office and the facilities team to develop a new furniture plan and facilitate increased sanitation of spaces. These partnerships not only met the practical needs for adapting to the situation, but they also have served to strengthen lines of communication with these vital campus departments.