The OCLC Research Library Partnership

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Art and Architecture Group Town Hall Summary

OCLC Research Library Partnership
Wednesday, April 29, 2020
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For this town hall, we loosely structured our conversation around three questions:

  1. What have you and your library already done in response to the pandemic crisis?
  2. What actions are you planning in response to the pandemic crisis? For the longer-term, what are you “planning to plan”?
  3. Where are new opportunities for collaboration?

Participants were encouraged to consider these questions across a broad range of activities: 

  • Budget
  • Staffing
  • Workflows
  • Service provision and planning
  • Supporting remote workers
  • Reaching out to users, managing user expectations
  • Self-care, group care
  • Health and safety considerations


What has your library already done?

  • Libraries, even while closed to staff and patrons, are providing access to their materials in innovative ways
    • Delivering print and scans from print from offsite storage
    • Compiling and sharing links to online content, both free and licensed, by putting links in the local catalog as well as creating LibGuides for use by staff and, eventually, patrons
    • Relying on emergency access to digital copies of currently inaccessible items owned in print, via the Internet Archive and HathiTrust

What actions are you planning in response to the pandemic?  Longer term, what are you “planning to plan?”

  • Libraries -- particularly specialized libraries -- find themselves pivoting to provide access to whatever electronic resources they have available, after long focusing on special and distinctive collections that often have been accessible primarily to those who can travel to consult the materials onsite.
  • Libraries are scenario planning for re-opening their libraries to staff and, eventually, to patrons.
  • Libraries are documenting what has been learned about working remotely in case staff have to do so again in the future.
  • Libraries are planning changes and innovations in providing access to resources, and some are making changes they’d put in place during the pandemic permanent.
  • Libraries are finding productive tasks for remote workers who can’t do their regular work remotely.
  • Town Hall participants shared resources that will be useful when planning to reopen an institution’s physical spaces.
    • An article with advice about what a phased reopening plan for libraries might look like  
    • webinar that may be helpful in informing managing collections and spaces with possible COVID exposure 
    • OCLC, IMLS and Battelle have formed a partnership called REALM to provide science-based guidance for the safe re-opening of libraries, archives and museums.  (Go here to sign up to receive updates.)

Where are new opportunities for collaboration? 

  • Many open staff positions will not be filled, so libraries will need to be creative and collaborative in finding ways to do more with less.
  • Much of what has been put in place during the pandemic may stick around afterwards -- within the library, library to library, and also between libraries and vendors.  
  • There was a push at the HathiTrust fall board meeting to have smaller and specialized libraries be a part of Hathi.  This seems even more critical now in light of the pandemic crisis.
  • A conversation that started at the OCLC Shared Print/Offsite Storage meeting at the ARLIS conference in March 2019 has continued and evolved into a broader discussion of what an investigation of the art research library collective collection might look like.
  • The question was raised: what would good collaboration with vendors look like?
    • Some vendors are already our collaborators; they are partners in what we collect; they know our collections and often actively help shape them. 
    • Many vendors have stepped up during the crisis and provided free or reduced-cost access to their resources.  
    • Some would like to see new books ideally sold to the library as physical + digital at a price that is 50% higher than just the book so they didn't have to choose.

Parting thought: 

The longtime director of an RLP-affiliated museum library summed up the general feeling of many town hall participants: 
“I think this was very useful.  But I think we also understand that...we're all facing so much uncertainty.  It's everywhere we turn. There's uncertainty and I think at the same time, we also understand the magnitude of the health situation, the magnitude of the financial crisis, and it's going to be reflected with corresponding magnitude in our institutions and in our libraries....These are profoundly challenging times and new territory for all of us. We're taking it one step and facing dramatic, unprecedented changes in the financial resources that were available to us just two months ago.”