Opportunities and Challenges Offered by the Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Academic Libraries

Opportunities and Challenges Offered by the Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Academic Libraries

Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-6449-3.ch018
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A study was conducted to examine the opportunities and challenges offered by COVID-19 on academic libraries during closure. Telephone interviews were conducted with 75 academic librarians to understand their reaction to library closure. The opportunities and challenges experienced were unpacked to show how academic librarians took advantage of imminent closure to continue offering services. It was discovered that physical buildings were closed, and some librarians were visiting the library to assist patrons virtually. The major opportunity was the introduction or enhancement of virtual services. The major drawback was the non-circulation of print resources and unavailability of seating space for patrons. The author recommended that institutions should provide internet connectivity for librarians to assist patrons from home.
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Zimbabwe currently has 24 registered universities, 12 polytechnics, and 15 teachers colleges (Garwe and Thondhlana, 2019) which are regarded as institutions of higher learning with academic libraries. The closure of physical libraries due to the COVID-19 pandemic presented a number of opportunities and challenges which affected service provision in academic libraries in Zimbabwe. It is stated that the library’s purpose is to serve students and faculty needs at the same time ensuring that the campus community is protected (University of Illinois (2020). On March 30, the Government of Zimbabwe (Government of Zimbabwe, 2020) announced an indefinite lockdown which led to the closure of institutions of higher learning and all the services, including library services. There was a shift from face to face to online learning and in-person gatherings were cancelled. Students were barred from accessing all the campuses and were supposed to learn from home. Librarians were also supposed to work from home to ensure that library services were not affected in support of teaching and learning. As a result, both librarians and students were supposed to maintain social distancing and wear masks and gloves to protect themselves, patrons and the collection (Mehta and Wang, 2020). A study done by Hinchliffe and Wolff-Eisenberg (2020) showed that libraries were putting in place preventive measures of cancelling public events, providing hand sanitizers for patrons and thorough cleaning of libraries to deal with the effects of COVID-19. In light of the above, the chapter seeks to meet the following objectives:

  • 1.

    To identify the opportunities that were brought about by COVID-19 in academic libraries.

  • 2.

    To examine the challenges that was conveyed by COVID-19 in academic libraries.

  • 3.

    To offer solutions to some of the challenges faced by academic libraries during the lockdown period.

  • 4.

    To establish information services that different academic libraries were offering during the pandemic.

  • 5.

    To document the lessons learnt from the COVID-19 lockdown in academic libraries.

The library is now accessible twenty four hours as long as someone is connected to the internet. The library is also regarded as the hub of teaching and learning at higher education institutions. The opportunities and challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic are presented below.


Opportunities Offered By Physical Library Closure

The section reviews literature on opportunities created by library closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Mehta and Wang (2020) pointed out that libraries had been developing digital services to meet the needs of patrons from different backgrounds, and there is no need for patrons to physically visit the library to use the services. The virtual services include reference services, bibliographic instruction, and e-resources usage including electronic journals and books, past examination papers and the institutional repository to support the learning, research and teaching activities in higher education institutions. The COVID-19 pandemic assisted in increasing the use of the library webpages, email, online public announcements, and social media platforms to market the virtual library services. Libraries had also introduced self-service and touchless interactions such as self-checkout, curbside pickup, scan and deliver in order to curb the spread of the disease and reduce traffic in the library (Cox, 2020).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Digital Repositories: These are information systems that ingest, store, manage, preserve, and provide access to digital content.

Embedded Librarian: It is a librarian who participates in an academic course on an on-going basis, teaching information literacy and working with the faculty to develop course content.

Higher Education Institution: It is an institution of higher learning which includes universities, polytechnics, agricultural colleges, which specialise in different fields such as engineering, agriculture, medicine, pedagogy, the arts, and economics among others.

Academic Library: It is a library attached to a higher education institution which is there to support the curriculum and the research of the university faculty and students.

Teleworking: It is the process of working from home while communicating with the office by phone, email, or other virtual services.

Open Educational Resources: These are teaching, learning and research materials in any medium that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license where researchers can access, use, adapt and redistribute at no cost no or limited restrictions.

Online Teaching: It is the delivery of instruction using different web-based technologies, from the Internet or an intranet and other communication technologies that enable students to participate in learning activities beyond the campus.

Social Distance: It is also called physical distancing which means keeping a safe space between yourself and other people who are not from your household to avoid the spread of diseases.

Off-Campus Access: Accessing information resources outside of the area of land that contains the main buildings of a university or college.

Lockdown: A state of isolation or restricted access instituted as a security measure.

Online Learning: It is also referred to as e-learning which is education that takes place over the internet.

Virtual Service: It is regarded as a means of connecting the library to the public via an electronic network.

Space Redesign: It is the revision in appearance, function, or content of space in libraries.

Disaster Preparedness: It refers to measures taken to prepare for and reduce the effects of disasters.

COVID-19 Pandemic: It is also known as the coronavirus pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).

Library Instruction: It is also called bibliographic instruction, user education and library orientation which consist of instructional programs to teach library users how to locate the information legally and ethically.

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