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VIVA: Member Spotlight: Shenandoah University

Virginia's Academic Library Consortium

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Transformation through Pandemic: 

Shenandoah University

October 7, 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?

  • Like many other libraries, we had little warning about the sudden shift in services. We quickly reorganized the library website to highlight our distance-support features and created FAQs focused on accessibility, login troubleshooting, etc. We had been flirting with offering a chat service for years, so we quickly committed to LibChat and set up accounts for about half of our staff. We shifted our instruction and reference services online, creating tutorials and boning-up on Zoom and other platforms.

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

  • Personally, I’m proudest of our team’s flexibility. Within a few days, we redistributed responsibilities and trained people on totally new interfaces. The pandemic interrupted re-cataloging and collection-shifting projects, and several of our staff weren’t set up well for working from home. We had to find creative “homework” assignments for those whose campus duties didn’t translate well to a lockdown.

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

  • This might not sound exciting to VIVA’s larger institutions (which I assume addressed their problems with holograms and teleportation) but we worked with what we had available. Our students never returned from spring break, so many of them were left without textbooks or other course materials. We created a LibGuide featuring any free resources made available by vendors and publishers during the pandemic, including access to textbooks from RedShelf, VitalSource, and others. We highlighted OER. We continued to offer interlibrary loan for electronic articles, and temporarily expanded our ILL team. We also extended our loan period for items students, faculty, and staff needed to be able to study and work from home. This included MacBooks, books, and music scores.

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

  • VIVA’s communication was helpful. We found that the community calls for various VIVA working groups or committees helped us problem-solve and gave us a broader perspective on what “normal” looked like statewide. We appreciated a small group where we could share, listen, and ugly-cry with peers.

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 university leadership handled this turbulence well, limiting what could have been financially...problematic. Our Library Director at the time made some tough budget decisions and preserved our essential collection. Our COVID-19 story includes some irreplaceable library losses: When Shenandoah offered an early retirement option, the library was able to contribute generously to the university’s savings. In doing so, we said hurried goodbyes to many of the people who helped us through this difficult season and a few previous decades of seasons.