“Never let a serious crisis go to waste”: Libraries transforming in the age of Corona

In just a few months, the corona virus has totally turned the world upside down. The virus are spreading like a wildfire leaving death, isolation and closed communities behind. A tragedy of global dimension but in all the misery, fear and chaos I also see people and institutions transforming and adapting to a new reality in innovative ways. “Never let a serious crisis go to waste” former Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel said ones and I think we can learn a lot from how we are reacting and responding to the corona crisis – things we can use now in the middle of the storm but also when the situation is back to normal.

This highly include libraries; across the world library buildings are closed, staff sent home and libraries are transforming services and outreach in different ways to remain having a positive impact to their communities under these extreme circumstances.

I have tried to create and overview of some many initiatives raised. I’ve divided the list into activites from public and academic libraries. If you know of any great library intiative that should be added to this please reach out to me in the comments or on my Twitter profile

Thanks to everybody who contributed with library ideas and activites from all over the world – that global library community is strong y’all

 

Public libraries

Use a virtual librarian: One of the most valuable assets of the library – the help from library staff – is still available in many public libraries via chat, mail, phone or a video meeting. At Roskilde Libraries you can book a librarian for an online session and in Denmark we have a national chat reference called ‘Biblioteksvagten‘ – ‘The Library Watch’ – which are staffed with library workers across the country and can be accessed on both weekday, weekends and evenings.

Virtual book clubs: Some libraries had already moved part of there book clubs only and with physical libraries closed many libraries follow these days. Here are a great example from D. C. Public Library inviting author Elizabeth Acevedo to discuss her book “With the fire on high” online with the local community: https://www.dclibrary.org/node/67004

Online story and rhyme time for kids: A program in high demand in normal times has moved to digital platforms in many libraries. Here is a great example from Swindon Libraries, UK, that has put there Rhyme Time on YouTube and a fantastic reading of “Zog and the Flying Doctors” from Medway Libraries

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Online readings for adults: As in normal library life this activity typical come in two formats; One where it’s library staff that reads and one where it is an author reading. Both are pretty easy to move online and many libraries has done so. Notice that if it’s not the author itself that reads there might be copyright issues attached to the activity. At Roskilde Libraries we only do readings from public domain literature. During the corona crisis two more reading formats has seen light; Citizens voluntarily reading to fellow citizens and celebrities doing readings – for the last one here is a great example of Patrick Stewart reading every Shakespeare sonnet on Instagram

Promoting public domain electronic resources: A pandemic doesn’t remove copyrights and a lot of libraries are doing a great job listing public domain electronic resources and promote them to there communities. Here are two great list collected on Google Docs:

Virtual recommendations of literature, music and film: Libraries don’t just create access – they curates, recommends and promotes relevant resources that meets the needs of community. A lot of this has moved online in both picture posts and videos. Here it is our awesome music librarian Sofie from Roskilde Libraries that recommends “Just Kids” by Patti Smith on Facebook – the title is of cource avaliable to library users as ebook

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Library podcasts: Many libraries has already taken on podcasts as a way to promote stories, knowledge and literacy and the format is great for deeper insights to various subjects. I’ve put together a list of 57 awesome library podcast (both public and academic libraries featured) from around there world: Tune in and turn it up: List of library related podcasts

Libraries as food banks: An example out of the ordinary; In Toronto, Canada, 30% of the food banks are closed because of the pandemic so Toronto Public Library has partnered with food banks to open pop-up locations in library branches staffed by library staff volunteers. Read the whole story here

Transforming library programming into online live events: While many of the above showcases hot regular library program activities has been transformed to online platforms Blackpool Libraries also communicates this in a very fine a clear way by a weekly online program;

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Reaching out to elderly citizens: Cleckheaton Library has been ringing 17.000 local citizens above 70 years of age to check on their welfare as well as helping them to access online resources

Virtual code clubs: Live online code club for kids with vovlunteers tearching children to code. Here is an example from Wirral Libraries, UK

Helping citizens keep in touch with there friends and families: It is not everybody who just go on to Zoom or Skype and call up there families. Many citizens are not navigating easy and free on digital platforms and more libraries are reaching out to assist. At Roskilde Libraries we offer tutorials and staff help on FaceTime, Messenger, WhatsApp and Google Duo

Academic libraries

Ask a Librarian online: A service that is already common in most academic libraries has now been the primary way to get help from library staff. At Loyola University of Chicago Libraries they offer assistance by chat, email, text and phone and you can request and online appointment: http://libraries.luc.edu/ask/chat

Boosting electronic resources: Most academic libraries are already huge on ebooks and online journals but still we see libraries and that is only expanding these days with an extended focus on providing digital content to the academic community. I would like to hear from academic librarians if the situation has an impact on open access initiatives?

Virtual information literacy sessions: Supporting information literacy online both with live training sessions and tutorials is a great way to keep up the important work when we are apart. An example from the library at Open University

3D printed face shields: Face shields are in high demand these days and some places communities are struggling to meet the demand. Academic library makerspaces across the world has started 3D printing face shields to help out. Here is an example from the Universy Library of Johannesburg

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Columbia librarian Madiha Choksi used the 3D printer to make her prototype (right) before scaling up production at the 92nd Street Y (left). (Photos courtesy of Madiha Choksi)

Virtual language cafes: Online language café for foreign students and staff to practice the local language and socialize. Here is a great example from SLU Library in Sweden

Shut Up & Write sessions: The Wohl Library at Institute of Historical Research, UK are setting up ‘study situations’ for students with 25/5 min write/break pomodoro timer sessions moved online with Twitter prompts (see below). Will also facilitate students reading together in a Zoom library reading room

 

Books that Comfort You: Vrije University Library, Amsterdam are promoting books that brings students and faculty members comfort in this new reality, inspires you, makes you laugh, gives you energy or is the best book you’ve ever read, and which you think everybody should read? They encourage students and faculty members to make a short film (15 secs) and explain why and / or take a picture of your copy and write in max. 100 words why. The film will become an Insta-story, the text / photo part of a blog

Themed playlists on Spotify: Music has a positive effect on us so various libraries are promoting Spotify playlists that they put together around different themes and moods. Here is an example that wants you to Jump up & Dance from Glucksman Library at the University of Limerick, Ireland.

Other overviews of libraries handling lockdowns

#LibrariesFromHome by Libraries Connected: Libraries Connected are showcasing the best digital services from public libraries in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Find the great overview at Libraries From Home

Coronavirus – Public library ideas and responses: Public Library News has made a great overview of public libraries taking action in Great Britain: https://www.publiclibrariesnews.com/about-public-libraries-news/coronavirus-public-library-ideas-and-responses

Creativity in Public Libraries During Covid-19 (An Ongoing List of Cool Things): Public library hero Justin Hoenke at Wellington City Library has put together this great list of libraries being creative during lockdown: https://justinthelibrarian.com/2020/04/08/creativity-in-public-libraries-during-covid-19-an-ongoing-list-of-cool-things/

Hope some of the above can be of inspiration both in the age of corona and afterwards. If you know of any great library intiative that should be added to this please reach out to me in the comments or on my Twitter profile

Stay safe and continue being awesome

Christian

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New normal: Libraries across the world are using digital platforms to reach out to communities

 

14 comments

  1. Hi! I am a teacher librarian at a high school. I was wondering if I could please share your link to the “Resources/activities made available free during COVID 19”?

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  2. “I would like to hear from academic librarians if the situation has an impact on open access initiatives?”
    » One of my colleagues in our German university library said: “When, when not now?” when we were talking about open access initiatives.My answer was “Yes, but …”: “Our” academics are mostly busy with “digitizing” their lectures and classes (in Germany the summer term was about to start in april; the date had been delayed to April 20) and don’t have much time to think about making their publications open. And the library colleagues responsible for the repository and the copyright checks are also quite busy. That’s why we haven’t started an initiative yet, but we’ll keep it in mind.
    The library of TU Berlin has e.g. posted about it: https://blogs.ub.tu-berlin.de/publizieren/2020/04/wissenschaftliche-inhalte-frei-zugaenglich-machen-in-zeiten-von-covid-19-und-darueber-hinaus/
    And there is a “Call to action” for green open access by the German OA2020 initiative: https://oa2020-de.org/blog/2020/03/25/staerkung_gruenesOA/

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  3. In Germany there is e.g. a networking initiative for public libraries called “#wirbibliotheken”. This blogpost: http://blog.bibliothekarisch.de/blog/2020/04/16/wirbibliotheken-vernetzungsaktion-fuer-bibliotheken-vom-27-04-11-05/ [in German] gives some details about it and also lists some CfPs from German library journals for “library life in Covid-19 times” articles, with some first texts already published.

    And there e.g. the initiatives “#twittothek” and “#BibAtHome”: https://stadtbuechereienduesseldorf.wpcomstaging.com/2020/03/26/die-twittothek-ist-wieder-da-und-diesmal-sind-wir-nicht-alleine/ & http://blog.bibliothekarisch.de/blog/2020/03/22/virtuelle-infotheke-twittothek-hier-wird-ihnen-auf-twitter-geholfen/

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  4. […] I’ve described our actions of closing down in the blog post “Coronavirus and libraries: Staying safe and staying relevant”. Our first actions after closing down library buildings and taking care of staff was – like almost any library around the world – to transform our programs and services and move them to digital platforms insisting that the library was not closed during the pandemic, it was just different and could still make a huge and positive impact on communities. I collected a lot of this in the blog post “Never let a serious crisis go to waste”: Libraries transforming in the age of Corona“. […]

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  5. […] I’ve described our actions of closing down in the blog post “Coronavirus and libraries: Staying safe and staying relevant”. Our first actions after closing down library buildings and taking care of staff was – like almost any library around the world – to transform our programs and services and move them to digital platforms insisting that the library was not closed during the pandemic, it was just different and could still make a huge and positive impact on communities. I collected a lot of this in the blog post “Never let a serious crisis go to waste”: Libraries transforming in the age of Corona“. […]

    Like

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