Gateway employee speaks in nationwide Library COVID-19 Response webinar | GCTC

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Gateway employee speaks in nationwide Library COVID-19 Response webinar

Published on Jun 15, 2020

A new survey from the American Library Association (ALA) captures how public, academic, and school libraries are continuing to adjust services while preparing for phased reopening of their facilities to the public. Gateway’s Dean of Institutional Effectiveness, Denise Fritsch, Ed.D., participated as a webinar presenter, discussing survey results, trends, and reopening practices, as well as new data on current and projected library budget and staffing impacts related to the crisis.

The webinar took place on Friday, June 12, with over 900 participants live.

This survey of U.S. libraries documents a shift in services to support students, faculty, and communities at large during the crisis and phased preparations for the months ahead. More than 3,800 K-12 school, college and university, public, and other libraries from all 50 states responded to the survey between May 12–18, 2020.

“Gateway’s library, being mostly digital already, has a robust embedded librarian program. This program places a librarian in every class. Pre-pandemic, we expanded from online classes to include face-to-face, which meant we were well-equipped to handle the transition,” said Fritsch. “At the time we had no idea the library’s student and faculty-centered decision-making process would position us for a pandemic response.”

Fritsch was joined by Anastasia Diamond-Ortiz, Chief Executive Officer/Director, Lorain Public Library System; Dawn La Valle, Director, Division of Development, Connecticut State Library; Mary Jane Petrowski, Associate Director, Association for College and Research Libraries; and Emily Plagman, Manager, Impact & Advocacy, Public Library Association as speakers during the webinar.

Highlights from the survey include:

While virtually all libraries (99%) report limited access to the physical building, survey respondents shared leaps in the use of digital content, online learning, and virtual programs. Several themes emerged from the survey results, including that libraries are: involved in community crisis response, cautiously planning for re-opening facilities, committed to meeting the educational needs of students and researchers, and experiencing ongoing or increased demand for library programs and services.

COVID-19 crisis response: of respondents involved in community crisis response, the majority reported new partnerships, distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE), addressing food insecurity, and sharing accurate community information and resources.

Caution with facility re-opening: Virtually all libraries have expanded virtual and phone services during the crisis, continuing a trend of library activities beyond physical walls. The survey finds that most libraries have limited access to their buildings while they work to establish health and safety protocols for staff, social distancing requirements for patrons, and processes for sanitizing materials. Curbside pickup, delivery, and by-appointment services are the most common next steps as national and state/local guidance evolve. Over one-third (37%) of respondents expect phased re-opening in June and July, and almost half (47%) are unsure when buildings will begin to re-open to the public.

Public demand for library services: libraries overall report increased use of virtual library cards, digital content, and virtual programming. As libraries re-open, they anticipate demand for access to physical and special collections, access to computers and the internet, helping students make up for lost ground, supporting faculty and teacher needs, and application support for government services and employment. More than half of public library respondents reported they were transitioning summer learning programs from in-person to online.