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Top 5 Articles

Top 5 Articles on COVID-19 Pandemic: A Year in Review

Compiled and annotated by Erica Getts and Ruth Monnier, members of the DOLS Research and Publications Committee.

The COVID-19 pandemic has likely forever changed how organizations, including libraries that offer distance services, operate. One year in, let’s take some time to review the lessons learned, including the differences between regular distance librarianship and emergency distance librarianship, what changes might remain even once the pandemic is over, and how librarians still need to push back on the idea that learning online is somehow inferior to learning in person.

Fritz, S., Milligan, I., Ruest, N., & Lin, J. (2020). Building community at distance: A datathon during COVID-19. Digital Library Perspectives, 36(4), 415–428. https://doi.org/10.1108/DLP-04-2020-0024
Fritz, Milligan, Ruest, and Lin discuss the decision-making and logistics behind moving an annual in-person datathon (Archives Unleashed project) to a remote event in March 2020. Using the datathon as a case study, they explore the larger implications of transitioning event formats beyond the current pandemic. By exploring the datathon before and during the pandemic, the authors highlight the differences to both organizers’ and participants’ daily life (e.g., child care and heightened anxiety) and how that impacted their experience of the event. The authors provide questions to consider before shifting an event’s format, such as the purpose of the event, potential funding issues, organizers’ and participants’ familiarity with various platforms and tools, and recalibrating metrics for the event’s success. Once the decision to shift the event’s format has been made and the logistics determined, the organizers can benefit from reaching a larger and broader audience due to accessibility of the event. The format shift might require organizers and participants to learn new skills and find ways to build human connection through a screen.
Takeaways

  • Carefully consider whether a program suits your particular library. Reflect on staff bandwidth, funding, and the goals and intention of the program.
  • Communication and expectation setting are important in any collaboration, especially
    when a collaboration is digital only.
  • Dry runs or beta testing do not mean that technology will not change; be ready to adapt.
  • Virtual replacements can expand accessibility from mobility concerns to flexible time commitments.

Hodges, C., Moore, S., Lockee, B., Trust, T., & Bond, A. (2020, March 27). The difference between emergency remote teaching and online learning. EDUCAUSE Review.
http://www.cetla.howard.edu/workshops/docs/The%20Difference%20Between%20Emergen
cy%20Remote%20Teaching%20and%20Online%20Learning%20_%20EDUCAUSE%20(2).pdf

In March 2020, institutions were forced to quickly shift all previous face-to-face interactions into an online environment. This article explores the differences between emergency remote teaching (ERT) and online learning and how each should be evaluated. Effective online education or, as the authors call it, “online learning,” is created by careful instructional design, where course designers consider factors such as modality, pedagogy, and accessibility. Since ERT does not follow this well constructed online learning design, it needs to be evaluated differently. The authors suggest ERT should be focused on context, input, and process versus learning, because additional institution support and infrastructure is needed for the course to be successful. Even though COVID-19 will (hopefully) be a distant memory, the authors highlight the broader implications and other times when ERT might be needed and then evaluated.
Takeaways

  • Online learning is very different from emergency remote teaching and articulating these differences to stakeholders is important.
  • Creating the infrastructure to support online learning is just as important as an on-campus experience and does not happen in crisis situations.
  • Emergency remote teaching is providing a quick turnaround on a course information to a new format with minimum resources and little time during a crisis. Therefore, ERT should not be evaluated using the same methods as a standard face-to-face course or an online learning course.

Hudson-Vitale, C., & Miller Waltz, R. (2020, November). Caring for our colleagues: Wellness and support strategies for remote library teams. College & Research Libraries News, 81(10), 494-497. https://doi.org/10.5860/crln.81.10.494
This brief article, published in the Fall of 2020, acknowledges the many difficulties people have faced while working during the pandemic, such as caring for their families, working adjusted hours, being isolated, the lack of opportunities for physical activity, and managing stress and anxiety. Being conscious of this, the authors have put together a list of actionable items that library leaders can implement to support the physical, emotional, spiritual, professional, social, and mental well-being of their employees. This is a quick read that anyone in a leadership position can reference for suggestions on how to best support their colleagues in an emergency situation such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
Takeaways

  • All people are struggling in one way or another to function “as usual” during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Organizational leaders should encourage special activities (specific examples throughout the article) that promote well-being among their team while being mindful of “keep[ing] these additional activities and support options manageable and flexible” (p. 497).

Mehta, D., & Wang, X. (2020). COVID-19 and digital library services – a case study of a university library. Digital Library Perspectives, 36(4), 351-363. https://doi.org/10.1108/DLP-05-2020-0030
Published only a few months into the COVID-19 pandemic, this article provides not only a snapshot of the time, but also a roadmap for other libraries needing advice on how to adapt to distance/hybrid librarianship. This article not only covers challenges that the in-person and remote staff have, but also the challenges of remote library users. Additionally, the article addresses how different aspects of library work such as reference services, instruction, and providing e-resources were adapted to accommodate for being predominantly virtual. The authors provide specific examples for posterity of how their library, along with libraries across the globe, adapted to accommodate continued service to their communities during this “unprecedented time”.
Takeaways

  • The pandemic highlighted the great work distance libraries are doing and how essential distance librarians are.
  • Detailed crisis plans should be a part of every library’s policies and procedures.
  • Librarians should focus more on their e-resources infrastructure, including how users off campus access materials.

Rysavy, M.D.T., & Michalak, R. (2020). Working from home: How we managed our team remotely with technology. Journal of Library Administration, 60(5), 532-542. https://doi.org/10.1080/01930826.2020.1760569
Rysavy and Michalak discussed the benefits of a quick transition from in-person to work from home if there are already established tools, services, and workflows. The authors describe in-depth how they used tools like Slack, FlipGrid, Zoom, Notion, and SharePoint to collaborate and communicate with their teams. Using a variety of tools can be overwhelming. “Figure 4. Suggested Daily Workflow” (p. 541) set expectations for their library employees and highlighted the importance of building human connection as well as boundary setting with the “shut down ritual.” Tools and workflows are only as good as the people using them; therefore, authors emphasized the importance of providing concise feedback, having clear productivity expectations, and fostering a community mindset during this time of uncertainty and mainly asynchronous collaboration.
Takeaways

  • Employees working remotely need to have the trust and support of their managers.
  • Consider the technology and workflows needed for remote employees to ensure success.
  • Use different tools for different purposes in a remote environment, considering each tool’s limitations. For example, Slack is great for casual collaboration, check-ins, and team-building, but SharePoint is needed for sensitive information and institutional record. Consider what you need before you decide to use a tool and add it into the workflow.