TITLE: The Global Response to COVID-19: Keeping the Community Connected with Library Resources and Services
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY This Director’s Brief aims to provide an examination of how libraries have adapted their resources to serve quarantined populations during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. This brief will begin by exploring how COVID-19 has affected the world, and then follow with an exploration of its impact on library users. The Hyperlinked Library model will provide a framework to examine the COVID-19 response of public, academic, and government libraries. Care was taken to examine library services both within the US and abroad — a global overview ensures that a greater variety of approaches can be considered for future response efforts. This brief will conclude with an outline of the affordances and negative issues resulting from the global library response, and suggest approaches for successful future implementation.
I chose to focus on “Learning Everywhere” for the Infinite Learning module. One of the articles that stood out to me was R.T. Greenwalt’s “Embracing the Long Game.” Greenwalt suggests that libraries can “play the long game just as well as any other innovator out there.”
Experimentation is essential for playing the long game:
“Will all of these new ideas succeed? Of course not. It wouldn’t be library science without a little experimentation, and some of those experiments are going to fail. But occasionally, an idea is going to succeed. And when it does, it creates an opportunity to reshape the notion of what our libraries can do” (Greenwalt, 2013).
In the article, Greenwalt draws a comparison between OPPL’s participatory space, the Idea Box, and the evolution of Twitter hashtags. Hashtags began as a small idea and quickly became an indispensable tool for the organization of content. Today, it’s hard to think of Twitter without hashtags as a central feature. Similarly, libraries have the same capability to implement innovative ideas, such as the Idea Box, which provide the beginning infrastructure for groundbreaking services and programming — and somewhere down the line, those pioneering services might become integrated into the library so seamlessly that it would be hard to imagine the library without them. As Greenwalt says, “getting patrons involved with simpler participatory tasks projects can often do a better job of preparing your community for much larger endeavors” (Greenwalt, 2013).
Budgetary restrictions can impose limitations on what libraries can do — some might view these financial constraints as an impediment for innovation. As I was writing my Emerging Technology Plan, I found myself exploring what augmented reality can achieve for libraries and I was impressed by the possibilities offered by this emerging tech. I was introduced to Miami University’s ShelvAR, an AR inventory management app. There’s also the MylibrARry app, which enables users to scan the cover of an item to retrieve IMDB trailers, Goodreads ratings/reviews, audiobooks, and the library’s catalog. It also provides the option to share the content via Facebook. The SCARLET project has explored how to use AR technology to access secondary source material while library users are accessing special collections.
These developments in AR offer much potential for bringing a library’s collection alive and animating a user’s educational experience. Imagine a student using an AR app while reading a heavily annotated text like Ulysses or Paradise Lost. Small scripts of annotations on the bottom of pages could be supplemented with photographs, video content, analysis, or reviews from other library users. AR apps can also expedite tasks related to inventory management, which frees up time for librarians to service users in more meaningful ways.
These developments in AR are exciting for libraries and I see this being a natural next step which utilizes physical collections while taking advantage of current technology. I also recognize that these projects require large amounts of funding and not all libraries have the resources to create an AR app. I think this is why Greenwalt’s suggestion to embrace the long game is an important point to keep in mind. Libraries can test the waters through free or low-cost AR apps while keeping the long game in mind (that is, the future which AR potentially holds for libraries). This also provides the added benefit of allowing library users to become habituated to using AR technology in library spaces, rather than launching a costly app from the get-go — one which they may or may not be ready to use.
As Greenwalt says, “Our services aren’t fixed points—they’re vectors, constantly moving our organizations and patrons in a specific direction. With that in mind, I urge you to think strategically about how you can get your community ready for more participatory library services. Let’s use 2013 to build the library of 2023. All it takes is the right idea” (Greenwalt, 2023).