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VIVA: Member Spotlight: Randolph-Macon College

Virginia's Academic Library Consortium

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Transformation through Pandemic: 

Randolph-Macon College

October 16, 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?

  • Randolph-Macon College had never taught an online class before the spring of 2020, and so the fast transition to online classes required a lot of support. Making it to the end of the semester in late May is a success story in and of itself! In Spring 2020 our initial responses included extending equipment loans through the end of the semester and becoming an equipment distribution hub, circulating laptops that belonged to other departments since we already had procedures for tracking those materials. We added Springshare’s LibAnswers product and began developing a FAQ page to provide just-in-time support, and that has seen continued growth. Like many institutions, we needed to digitize or acquire digital versions of materials that had been on reserve, and licensing streaming media took a lot of time, especially in the spring. Instructional design is part of the Library at R-MC, and so we developed LibGuides to support both the faculty transition to teaching online and the student transition to learning online, and advocated for access to Internet (via hotspots), equipment, software, and resources for all students.

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

  • We evaluated campus needs and adopted new processes and procedures in response to those needs. All areas of the library became more flexible and adaptive, and all staff showed additional flexibility in their schedules, adjusting them to take on extended virtual reference shifts to provide support to students. Reference work is traditionally done only by librarians during a normal semester, so this all-hands-on-deck approach was a major shift that represented the desire to support our students in every way possible. We learned how to do things we had never done before (e.g., holds), and throughout it all, staff exhibited empathy and caring, putting user needs first.

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

  • The Library has collaborated to host Research Day in the library building on Reading Day every May for many years. We had rebranded the event earlier in the year to the Student Symposium of Research, Scholarship and Creative Work, and were faced with possibly having to cancel it for the first time since its inception in 2002. Instead, we quickly figured out how to collect submissions electronically, host those submissions, and hold a virtual event, with support from staff across the Library. There are ways it could be improved for the future, but we pulled it together and continued an important tradition.

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

  • VIVA allows us to provide access to electronic resources that we would never be able to provide to our users without VIVA support. Having so many of those resources already available to our community helped to smooth the transition to online learning, allowing library staff to focus on other elements of the transition, such as faculty support, knowing that we would be able to support academic continuity for our students.

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?

  • The pandemic forced us to make some changes within a matter of months that might have taken years to accomplish without COVID-19 as a motivating factor. Despite the challenges we have faced and will continue to face in the coming months, many of these changes have been good for the Library and will strengthen us in the long-term.