Remote Services – Elsa de Almeida Valente, Sabrina Celi

This blog post is part of a series of posts from the ninth Knowledge Café, held during the 87th IFLA World Library and Information Congress in Dublin, Ireland, July 26-29, 2022. 

The session was co-sponsored by the Knowledge Management Section and the Continuous Professional Development and Workplace Learning Section and was co-chaired by Monica Ertel and Maggie Farrell.

Several Standing Committee Members of Management & Marketing were involved as facilitators or rapporteurs.

Many of the discussions are connected to management and management skills, why we have decided to publish the content also in this blog.

You find all of the content at: https://www.ifla.org/news/2022-ifla-knowledge-cafe-facing-the-future-together-connecting-learning-sharing/

Remote Services

Facilitator: Elsa de Almeida Valente  Head, Registration Collections, Erasmus University of Rotterdam NETHERLANDS

Rapporteur:  Sabrina Celi Università degli studi di Siena  ITALY

The topic of this table was remote services but many of the participants also wanted to talk about remote work at home during the lockdown and the forced situation of offering the services online. Everyone agreed that physical isolation helped librarians and patrons develop and improve their digital skills.  They were able to develop new services using digital resources and online tools. After the pandemic, some libraries continue with some of these remote services, and many were able to provide a hybrid of both. The librarians want to have patrons back in the physical library and discover theirs needs in the new e-life. That will be a challenge for libraries especially because the extras costs of digital resources and the IT support.

A librarian from an Australian academic law library shared that the pandemic period was very difficult; the situation is now better. Fortunately, during the lockdown, employers had their own laptops and the government and publishers allowed royalty free access to traditional resources and e-resources.  Now that the situation is back to the way it was pre-Covid, access to resources is back to being by payment.

In Egypt, the situation was completely different in terms of access to the library during the pandemic. The library was closed.  However, this resulted in a new point of view.  There is now an understanding that people want access to digital resources.  This librarian shared that even though the library is now physically open, not as many people are coming in as they are used to using the library remotely by using digital services. managing with physical spaces and return in presence it has been a problem, people don’t want to come back because they like the new digital services.

One participant from Zambia shared the unfortunate situation in which there was a total shut down of the library with no digital access or connections.

The Malawi Parliament was closed during the pandemic.  The library was able to get support from IT personnel to help manage the library’s data base and remote services.

The Finland public library was on full lockdown for four months.   They offered services remotely and luckily, had no problems with IT infrastructure, connections, registrations or to reaching users.  They also tried to find some new ways to engage users.   For example, they established online Finnish language conversation groups on different topics with volunteers on Zoom.  People joined from every part of the world.  They also set up an Instagram lifetime for teenagers to help create community. They also started using Microsoft Teams which they had not used prior to the pandemic.  One issue is how to continue to keep communication open – the human touch is so important. During this time, they have learned along the way.

A Canadian academic library shared that the transition has been difficult.  It took a while to get people used to working and accessing resources online.  Covid required this to change overnight.  However, now that the library is back open, the issue is getting people to come back to the library.  Some students who started during the lockdown, don’t even know how to use the library.

A Swiss public library is offering space to students as an alternative space to academic libraries which is very popular.  One of their new services in the ‘borrowbox’ that contains digital materials.  It isn’t perfect but they are learning.

A librarian from Estonia shared the positive news that thanks to the national IT infrastructure, they had no problems.  They have 5,000,000 users and they were able to get them registered for the library directly online.  They were able to continue to offer lending books online and in person using the space outside of their library including returns.  One difficulty was providing reference services by email.  Sometimes requests were too vague or too general.  One way they are getting people back in the library now that it has reopened, is to have reading room picnics.   They reopened their library in July.

And Irish library is now open 7 days a week. They have high circulation for videos and e-reading.  Borrowing through the online catalogue is used more frequently than pre-Covid.  Patrons appreciated the free wi-fi and e-books platform.  Online reading clubs were offered but people preferred face-to-face.  Fewer people are coming into the physical library and the librarians are doing all they can to get them to return.

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