This article was written by Associate Director for Knowledge Integration, Research, and Technology Bart Ragon, Ed.D, and edited by Kimberley R. Barker.
COVID-19 is having a devastating impact on academic health sciences centers and the libraries that support them. Health sciences libraries throughout the United States had to quickly adjust so that they could continue to deliver high quality services from remote locations. March seems like such a long time ago, and it is hard to remember how quickly the information was changing. No sooner had our library made one decision than new information emerged that needed action. Often, decisions made at the end of one day had to be readdressed first thing in the morning. As the Claude Moore Health Sciences Library was rapidly transitioning its services, I became curious about the experience of other academic health sciences libraries. Medical libraries are a close network of colleagues, but the organizations we serve can be very different. Were my colleagues making similar choices when it came to pivoting their services? Did they have methods for mitigating the stress that COVID-19 was placing on library staff? How was the financial implications impacting their collections?
It occurred to me that the situation was evolving so fast that I wouldn’t be able to remember all of the decisions we made, and likely neither would my health sciences library colleagues. I contacted library colleagues at the University of Florida and at Indiana University who I knew had similar questions, and we decided seek study approval from the Institutional Review Board (IRB). We designed a multi-site, mixed-method study to capture the evolution of academic health sciences libraries during the quickly-evolving crisis.
In the first phase of the study, a qualitative survey was administered to capture current evolutions of programs and services. An additional follow-up survey will be administered about every month to track updates from libraries as the situation continues to evolve. We plan to monitor the national and regional response of COVID-19 and continue to seek updates while it still seems relevant. The next phase of the study involves focus groups and creating a dialogue between the researchers and libraries.
We are at the stage where we have reviewed the preliminary data and preparing to ask for updates. It is interesting to see how similar, and yet how different, we are than our peer libraries. Our library has continued to change and I know it is the same for my colleagues. Many of them, like us, are starting to open, or at least planning to reopen, their space. I can’t wait to see the evolution of libraries over the next month and into the future. I also take comfort in the fact that we are not alone.