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Your ODU Library: 2020-21

2020-2021: ODU Library's Response to a Pandemic Year

An executive summary from Michelle Sarff, Director of Library Resources, Services, and Outreach.

Transition to Working Remotely

In March 2020, all of campus was sent home to work and try to keep things going through the rest of the semester under a “Stay at Home” order from the governor. Like the rest of campus, the library had to find ways to keep serving our students in a remote environment:

  • OhioLINK borrowing was put on hold state-wide; and since our building and all other libraries were closed, we helped students and faculty find and use e-books.
  • Our research databases remained our most popular resources; and through e-mail and chat, we helped those who were having trouble logging into them remotely.
  • We also assisted students with search strategies, choosing the best databases, and finding full-text articles if they weren’t available through certain resources.
  • We kept up traditional interlibrary loan on the articles side since that had already been electronic for years.
  • Reference through e-mail and chat had already been in existence for some time but during these first months of the pandemic, they were relied on heavily.
  • We were also able to continue with the creation of and maintenance of numerous guides and tutorials since they are all online.
  • We put together a COVID library guide and updated it regularly based on the services we were able to provide and how we could provide them.
  • Through the OhioLINK consortium and through individual vendors, we were granted access either a low, or no-cost to new resources such as databases of science labs and streaming videos so we set these up, learned how to use them, and communicated to the ODU community what they were and when they were available for use.
  • We upgraded our library system remotely with our vendor who resides in California and had to sneak onto campus one day to work on servers.
  • We officially requested acceptance into the OPAL consortium during these months away from campus, were accepted, and began the planning process of this major migration.

Also, like all others on campus, meetings continued and committee work continued, just through MS Teams instead of in person. The 3 main things not offered during this time were: our building space, the checking out of print materials, and in-person research assistance.

Back in Spangler Learning Center for the 2020-21 Academic Year

The library staff arrived back in Spangler Learning Center on June 15, 2020. At that time, we set out to create appropriate policies and procedures to safely welcome patrons back into the building come August. Furniture was moved and properly spaced, policy signs were hung, book quarantine procedures were put in place, etc. We supplemented our usual in-person services with as many remote/virtual services as possible, and we promoted heavily that we were here, what hours we were open, and how we could work with students. Reference services went virtual only and we were able to add virtual reference appointments and phone appointments to that repertoire. We also provided some class research instruction live through MS Teams and through recorded videos.

Once the Fall 2020 semester began, we were back to our regular hours and helping students with all the regular stuff – printing, PantherLearn, research, course reserves, OhioLINK borrowing, finding textbooks, etc. Our interactions at the main circulation desk were socially distanced and our research support was all virtual. Instruction of classes took place via MS Teams. Committee work continued virtually and some virtual professional development training occurred via free webinars. Books went through a quarantine process. The number of library student workers diminished significantly so it was “all hands on deck” at the circulation desk. Those of us working in the building just did whatever needed to be done to serve student and faculty needs. A couple of special projects were accomplished. We assisted in the development of the new Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship and the St. Mary of the Springs student lounge which includes exhibit space for this alumni group. We also accepted and worked with a donation of books and resources from the Diocese of Columbus, evaluating items with faculty members and students to decide what should be added to the ODU collection, what should be saved for the annual book sale, what students and faculty could take for their own, and what should be further donated.

By Spring 2021, the library became involved on committees that were now looking toward the future, such as, summer orientation committees. We also started to make plans for new Information Literacy efforts for Fall 2021. Along with Faculty Services staff, we created a new summer OER workshop for faculty and started to brainstorm what our “new normal” would shape up to be. This will entail keeping some new services that COVID brought on plus going back to some old ways of doing things that will possibly be slightly different. We surveyed the student body on how we did this year with library resources, library services, and building space. We began work with the OPAL consortium, a group of 29 Ohio independent university libraries within the broader OhioLINK consortium that will save the university money on new and existing resources through member negotiations with vendors, provide systems support, and provide professional networking and development. And after losing a fulltime position in the Fall, we began to brainstorm a shuffling of duties so that those of us still here could still cover all our bases.