The Changing Role of Library and Information Professionals in the New Normal: Towards a New Trajectory

The Changing Role of Library and Information Professionals in the New Normal: Towards a New Trajectory

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-8713-3.ch011
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The COVID-19 pandemic drastically altered the operations of libraries in providing services and products to patrons. In this pandemic period, the role of library and information professionals was changed from conserving and preserving books to facilitators of knowledge in the digital environment. A study was done to examine the changing roles of librarians in the new normal. A structured literature review was done, and personal experiences were also used in the study. It was noted that libraries have shifted to online services where emphasis is put on the acquisition of electronic resources and the utilisation of open education resources to support teaching and learning. It is recommended that librarians should continuously develop themselves to meet the needs of these changing roles and to remain relevant in the new normal.
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The COVID-19 pandemic greatly affected all sectors of the economy worldwide leading to the closure of physical libraries and students were banned from entry into campus as a way of curbing the spread of the disease and saving lives (Rafiq, Batool, Ali & Ullah, 2021; Bhati & Kumar, 2020). Teaching and learning was shifted to the online mode to ensure that classes continue and avoid the risk of losing an academic year. However, academic libraries were supposed to continue offering their services to meet these changes in the new normal. Most libraries were caught unaware and issues such as staff competencies and skills, the information communication technology infrastructure, the work culture, and the mode of the information services and products that were delivered greatly affected the way that libraries operated in the pandemic era (Chigwada, 2020). This called for investment of staff development and reassignment of staff roles and responsibilities to remain relevant in the online teaching and learning era.

One of the librarians stated that we have emergency plans for events such as fire and floods and there is need to develop plans for managing pandemics such as the COVID-19 (EBLIDA, 2020). The plans for dealing with pandemics should be part of the library policies so that every library staff is aware of what he or she is expected to do during such an uneventuality. The objectives of the chapter are:

  • a)

    To analyse the changes that were brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic in academic libraries.

  • b)

    To document the lessons learnt by academic librarians during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • c)

    To examine the challenges that were faced by academic libraries during the covid-19 pandemic

  • d)

    To propose strategies that can be put in place by librarians to meet the challenges of the new normal.


Covid-19 Pandemic And Libraries

The COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged the world and has caused loss of life and it is now in the fourth wave where the Delta Variant is affecting people. All these waves caused some imposed lockdown in various countries where all the library services from acquisition, circulation, reference, and research support services were affected. Some academic libraries closed their doors in March 2020 in response to the call by health ministries and WHO (Chigwada, 2020; Kavanagh, 2020) and had been opening and closing their physical libraries depending with the strength of the wave. The closure means that there was a shift of services from physical to online since libraries are key in the teaching and learning process (Fasae, Adekoya & Adegbilero-lwari, 2020). In service provision, the academic libraries always comply with the guidelines provided by their parent institutions and academic libraries faced difficulties in making decisions on which services to prioritise from minimum restrictions to temporary closure. As a result, librarians had been looking at what other libraries are doing during the pandemic period as a way of learning and sharing ideas on the best way forward since it was a new thing to most of the libraries in the world (Hinchliffe & Worf-Eisenberg, 2020).

Libraries are worried about how to open safely but since the future is not bright in terms of going back to the normal ways of doing things, librarians have realised that they should restrategise and work under the new normal to provide information. Many waves have already happened and it is now evident that the role of librarians have changed drastically due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the closure of physical library buildings, libraries have been mandated to continue offering their services and this has been done through digital collections Cooper, 2020; Guo, Yang, Yang, Liu, Bielefield, & Tharp, 2020; Hill, 2020; Sweeney, 2020; Mehta & Wang, 2020). This means libraries are changing their service models to remain relevant in the changed environment due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Academic Library: It is a resource centre that services institutions of higher learning such as a college or a university.

Open Educational Resources: These are teaching and learning materials that are either in the public domain or are released under a license that allows them to be freely used, changed, or shared.

Infodemic: It is regarded as an excessive amount of information about a problem that is not reliable, spread rapidly and makes it difficult to achieve a solution.

Library and Information Professionals: It is the people who are responsible for collecting, recording, organising, storing, preserving, retrieving, and disseminating information resources in the print and electronic environment.

Online Learning: It is an internet-based learning environment where students can access their learning materials online at any place and any time.

Preservation: It is the process or act of keeping something valued free from damage.

Delta Variant: It is a variant of the COVID-19 virus which is a new strain that emerged due to a mutation in the virus’s genetic structure.

Digital Libraries: It is a collection of electronic documents which are available on the internet or intranet where users can access articles, books, videos, or sound files.

Conservation: It is the process of preventing the wasteful usage of resources.

Virtual Services: There are online and digital services that are offered to patrons who are not physically available at a library.

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