Related product Public Services

Notes: The Pandemic Made Me Do It: Changing Public Services (January 2021)

Two Central Topics

  1. What changes in services should we keep in place, post-Covid?
  2. How has your outreach changed in the past year, and how will you incorporate this into your future outreach practices?

Outreach, Social Media, and Training

  • Increase of video instruction, including subject specific short orientation videos.
  • A number of libraries moved displays into the digital realm:
    • LibGuides: gallery views and lists
    • Instagram TV (IGTV) for programming and exhibit videos including interview series with library staff and student staff, IG Live, then published to channel. Series that focused on artistic practice
    • Embedding YouTube videos
    • “Take 5” guides that promote digital resources on discreet topics
    • Short (10 minute) tutorials on various topics and a LibGuide with an activity that faculty can use themselves or in class example.
    • Themed photo albums on Facebook highlighting heritage months etc.
    • Virtual escape rooms for orientation (used Google Form for this)
    • Banned Books bingo: curated collection of banned books in LibGuide with direct links to catalog
    • Some libraries have dedicated staff for social media and communication
    • UX outreach and testing and research projects not really possible during lockdown due to state rules about incentives

Reserves, Non-Circulating Material, and Digitization

  • Pandemic has created a vast need for digitized reserves.
  • Some course reserves were made available a chapter at a time for certain courses.
  • Alma offers a tool/request (not working since December).
  • IT developed a digitizing tool that allowed for the document to be read, but not downloaded, mimicking physical short-term reserves loans.
  • EDUCAUSE article by Steven Bell (Temple University) on the pandemic leading to end of print course reserves.
  • Moving away from print reserves could bring up some equity issues.

Chat, Zoom, Skype, Reference, and Research

  • A number of libraries had only “basic chat” prior to lockdown.
  • Many libraries have seen an increase in chat.
    • Will keep using screensharing for chat.
    • Will keep using virtual appointments.
  • Embracing a “whatever works” philosophy, but some concerns about scheduling and assigning these duties post-pandemic.
  • Services that had previously been focused on distance learners, such as digital reference and scans of material, saw significant upticks as students who had previously not been distance learners started using them.
  • For chat coverage: most libraries provided chat during library “open” hours, but some provided chat after hours and on weekends.
  • LibAnswers has a backup chat option. Some libraries had chat forwarded to email when chat was offline.
  • Some libraries developed a chat bot for virtual reference and used stock/canned answers for common questions
  • Some libraries had chat staffed by student workers, most did not.
  • Significant rise in phone calls to the reference desk; Cisco Jabber was deployed to answer the phone remotely.

Collections and Licensing

  • Cancelled print subscriptions and moved more onto Flipster or other digital platforms.
  • Collection development focused on electronic resources (eBooks, etc.), moving funds away from print acquisitions.
  • Big opportunity to promote and adopt OER material.
  • Video:
    • Swank (including Swank Digital Campus, which allows for access to a set of 50 films at a time, which can change as needed), Kanopy, Alexander Street Press
    • Some faculty played DVDs or other media over Zoom (doesn’t work as well over Teams because of DRM software). Some schools have adopted policies that allow for this practice so long as content is behind firewalls/password access.
    • Most schools had relied on licenses or only purchase DVDs that include performance rights.
    • Closely examining the requirements of the TEACH Act.


  • Curbside pickup likely to stay in place
  • Grab and go also being using for printing jobs
  • Virtual study rooms
  • Laptop loans increased so much that laptops were removed from labs, cataloged, and circulated. May have trouble getting them back in time for fall.
  • Circulation of mobile hotspots

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