Title

Lessons Learned from COVID-19: Envisioning a New Model Library

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Submission Type

Paper Abstract Submission

Symposium Selection

A “new normal” agenda in a COVID-affected world

Keywords

COVID-19, Academic libraries, Public libraries, Library models, Libraries & Community, Qualitative research, Global leadership

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic fundamentally changed the way that people lived their lives and created an opportunity to re-evaluate the role libraries play in a rapidly changing society. It led to leaders having to re-imagine services, collections, and operations. What is their long-term vision for libraries as a result of changing practices and environments? To answer this question, we conducted 29 semi-structured interviews from April-July 2020 with leaders from public and academic libraries around the world. Their visions of transformation represent pathways toward a New Model Library equipped to continue the library mission in a changing landscape.

The New Model Library manifests itself in three different ways:

  • Work experiences: Flexible and changing job environments
  • Engagement experiences: in-person and virtual connections
  • Collections experiences: Physical and digital resources

In our research library leaders reported the need to cross-train and upskill staff. This has implications for LIS curricula and continuing education for current staff in the form of more direct collaboration between other related disciplines and professions, the library profession, professional associations, and LIS programs.

The pandemic also highlighted the importance of ensuring staff well-being during a crisis and as a daily practice. Libraries often are under-staffed and employees underpaid which can cause additional stress and discontent. The reduction of budgets and loss of staff during the pandemic means library workers will continue to be asked to do more with less. This makes it even more important to support staff in multiple ways – flexible schedules, adequate staffing, more and different forms of communication, attention to staff wellness needs, and training and educational opportunities.

The data also indicated the necessity for access to broadband and devices when developing online collections and virtual library experiences. With library closures, people could not file for unemployment or seek healthcare. Students could not connect to virtual classes and were writing papers on their phones. Access to physical resources was limited or impossible, making e-resources more crucial. These changes have exposed the depth of the divide between the haves and have nots in access to technology, digital content, and online teaching and learning (Levander and Decherney 2020; Hazlegreaves 2020; de Marcellis-Warin, Munoz, and Warin 2020). The accompanying need for digital literacy skills - how to navigate, evaluate, and determine the credibility of online information - cannot be overemphasized.

Our findings are a lens into what global leaders in multiple library types envision as they move toward their New Model Libraries. While the experiences shared in the interviews differ in the specifics, the direction and intensity of change were similar. Our findings will help the field develop the agenda for librarianship of the future.

References

Hazlegreaves, Steph. 2020. “Global Digital Divide Jeopardises Remote Learning during Pandemic.” Open Access Government (blog). November 3, 2020. https://www.openaccessgovernment.org/global-digital-divide-impact-covid-19-remote-learning/96902/.

Levander, Caroline, and Peter Decherney. 2020. “The COVID-Igital Divide.” Education in the Time of Corona (blog). June 10, 2020. https://www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning/blogs/education-time-corona/covid-igital-divide.

Marcellis-Warin, Nathalie de, J. Mark Munoz, and Thierry Warin. 2020. “Coronavirus and the Widening Educational Digital Divide: The Perfect Storm for Inequalities?” California Management Review. 2020. https://cmr.berkeley.edu/2020/07/covid-education/.

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Lessons Learned from COVID-19: Envisioning a New Model Library

The COVID-19 pandemic fundamentally changed the way that people lived their lives and created an opportunity to re-evaluate the role libraries play in a rapidly changing society. It led to leaders having to re-imagine services, collections, and operations. What is their long-term vision for libraries as a result of changing practices and environments? To answer this question, we conducted 29 semi-structured interviews from April-July 2020 with leaders from public and academic libraries around the world. Their visions of transformation represent pathways toward a New Model Library equipped to continue the library mission in a changing landscape.

The New Model Library manifests itself in three different ways:

  • Work experiences: Flexible and changing job environments
  • Engagement experiences: in-person and virtual connections
  • Collections experiences: Physical and digital resources

In our research library leaders reported the need to cross-train and upskill staff. This has implications for LIS curricula and continuing education for current staff in the form of more direct collaboration between other related disciplines and professions, the library profession, professional associations, and LIS programs.

The pandemic also highlighted the importance of ensuring staff well-being during a crisis and as a daily practice. Libraries often are under-staffed and employees underpaid which can cause additional stress and discontent. The reduction of budgets and loss of staff during the pandemic means library workers will continue to be asked to do more with less. This makes it even more important to support staff in multiple ways – flexible schedules, adequate staffing, more and different forms of communication, attention to staff wellness needs, and training and educational opportunities.

The data also indicated the necessity for access to broadband and devices when developing online collections and virtual library experiences. With library closures, people could not file for unemployment or seek healthcare. Students could not connect to virtual classes and were writing papers on their phones. Access to physical resources was limited or impossible, making e-resources more crucial. These changes have exposed the depth of the divide between the haves and have nots in access to technology, digital content, and online teaching and learning (Levander and Decherney 2020; Hazlegreaves 2020; de Marcellis-Warin, Munoz, and Warin 2020). The accompanying need for digital literacy skills - how to navigate, evaluate, and determine the credibility of online information - cannot be overemphasized.

Our findings are a lens into what global leaders in multiple library types envision as they move toward their New Model Libraries. While the experiences shared in the interviews differ in the specifics, the direction and intensity of change were similar. Our findings will help the field develop the agenda for librarianship of the future.

References

Hazlegreaves, Steph. 2020. “Global Digital Divide Jeopardises Remote Learning during Pandemic.” Open Access Government (blog). November 3, 2020. https://www.openaccessgovernment.org/global-digital-divide-impact-covid-19-remote-learning/96902/.

Levander, Caroline, and Peter Decherney. 2020. “The COVID-Igital Divide.” Education in the Time of Corona (blog). June 10, 2020. https://www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning/blogs/education-time-corona/covid-igital-divide.

Marcellis-Warin, Nathalie de, J. Mark Munoz, and Thierry Warin. 2020. “Coronavirus and the Widening Educational Digital Divide: The Perfect Storm for Inequalities?” California Management Review. 2020. https://cmr.berkeley.edu/2020/07/covid-education/.