VCU Libraries adapts to changing times due to COVID-19October 27, 2020
Today’s academic library is much more than just a place. People working inside libraries have long known this. In our digital age, readily accessible materials online and the expertise and knowledge of librarians who address researchers’ needs on varied platforms define excellence in libraries. VCU provides state-of-the-art facilities, so when COVID-19 arrived and closed our physical libraries, we never actually closed. VCU Libraries continued to provide robust services and expanded online materials and real-time, virtual contact with users.
During the closing, our two campuses and our library spaces were eerily empty, but library employees continued to advance student and faculty success remotely. [LINK TO DRONE VIDEO]
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Nearly all VCU Libraries employees successfully moved to a remote work environment from March 23, 2020 through the beginning of fiscal year 2020–2021. Staff not only maintained a high level of continuity but enhanced services in support of teaching, learning, research and patient care.
Services and expertise
- Transitioned all reference, instruction and orientation sessions to online environments. In just the first two weeks of remote teaching, VCU Libraries fielded more than 500 online requests for assistance, research consultation and instruction. During the COVID-19 semester, we answered hundreds of research questions weekly by chat, text, email, phone and Zoom consultation.
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- Scanned 20 course textbooks (5,773 pages) and provided digital versions to faculty on request, including Focused Inquiry textbooks for UNIV 111 and 112. The FI textbooks alone helped more than 3,500 students who were completing their studies for the semester remotely.
- Doubled the hours of online chat assistance for students and faculty to 107 hours a week (7 a.m.–midnight, Monday–Friday) and expanded email hours.
- Added chat widgets within VCU Libraries Search and in databases to better surface support at the point of need.
- Expanded chat services focused on health sciences users.
- Developed briefings for VCU Health Nursing on emerging COVID-19 research.
- Provided in-depth search assistance and literature tracking on recent COVID-19 publication for VCU Health and faculty at VCU Schools of Dentistry and Nursing.
Collections and materials
- Expanded access to ebook collections by implementing emergency access to HathiTrust materials (digital access to approximately 44 percent of VCU Libraries print monographs), adding high-demand ebooks, and, through select trials, providing access to electronic resource products.
- Purchased more than 15,000 new titles at a cost of more than $200,000, specifically to support online instruction, including high-demand streaming video titles and ebooks. https://apps.library.vcu.edu/dblist/category/150
- Provided access points, authorization processes and instructions for access to thousands of digital textbooks and other course materials temporarily opened to our students by publishers, including over 35,000 JSTOR ebook titles and 26 JSTOR archives in public health; Sage Research Methods videos, Sage Knowledge Books and Sage Reference (focuses on Social Sciences and STEM fields); and hundreds of titles from Art & Architecture ePortal, Bloomsbury Publishing and Harvard Business Review eBooks.
- Expanded shipping of library materials to all VCU students and employees.
- Delayed returns on checked-out books to give users ample time.
- Provided all students and employees with prepaid UPS shipping labels to return borrowed materials.
- in-storage collections and shipped them to faculty and students on request.
- Fulfilled nearly 30,000 interlibrary loan and document delivery requests for digital materials from our collections and from other libraries and document suppliers.
- Designed a Front Door Pickup service for users to retrieve library materials on site before buildings reopened.
Technology, infrastructure and communications
- Partnered with VCU Technology Services to send laptops to students and staff. VCU Libraries supplemented the university’s laptop inventory with laptops drawn from library classrooms and reconfigured for student and staff use. Library staff worked closely with Technology Services to provide this service.
- Partnered with VCU School of the Arts and VCU Technology Services to provide free Adobe Creative Cloud licenses to students through the end of the spring semester.
- Maintained access to Scholars Compass for graduate students to submit electronic theses and dissertations and undergraduate students to submit research posters.
- Updated research guide to provide timely information on COVID-19 health information for professionals and researchers. Guide includes access to high quality, and trusted resources. https://guides.library.vcu.edu/diseaseoutbreaks/COVID-19
- Created COVID-19 health information guide for patients and community members. https://guides.library.vcu.edu/COVID Created Keep on Connecting Workgroup to support VCU Libraries’ employees working remotely and to enhance ongoing working relationships among employees.
- Piloted technologies like Slack to facilitate communication and connection.
- Provided technical support to set up home offices for remote VCU Libraries staff.
- Trained staff on Zoom, a video collaboration platform, for teaching, consulting and meeting remotely.
- Set up a webpage banner and expanded landing pages to communicate COVID-19 service changes and improvements.
- Created a series of online programs titled VCU Libraries Community Zooms to maintain contact with the Central Virginia community and donors.
- Researched and developed new protocols for safe handling of library materials.
- Appointed a return-to-campus workgroup to research best practices, document procedures and plan for reopening buildings in collaboration with other units on campus.
- Used informed procedures to update library spaces in preparation for reopening, this included removing seating to provide more room for physical distancing, installing hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipe stations, and plexiglass.
More reading about COVID-19 responses and plans
- VCU Libraries ramps up efforts as VCU shifts to online learning during the COVID-19 crisis
- Virtual libraries video showcases new services, expertise and digital materials during COVID-19 distancing
- VCU Libraries prepares to reopen buildings in summer
- Access physical collection while buildings remained closed: Front Door Pickup service and enhanced scanning and shipping debut
- Study Safer campaign focuses on healthy behaviors in COVID-19 era
- Misinformation During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Tips for Evaluating Health Information and Sources for Finding Reliable Health Information