The role of technology in delivering library services during a pandemic.
Libraries, information centres and learning commons are all places associated with information seeking, access and usage (IFLA, 2015). However, the COVID-10 pandemic and resulting lockdowns have changed how libraries meet the needs of their patrons, resulting in new and different ways information agencies are using to meet the needs of their users in a rapidly evolving environment. This is important as it is the efficacy of these connections that strengthen the relationship libraries have with their patrons now and into the future (Cordova et al., 2021, p.82-83). Therefore, educational institutions such as TAFEs and universities embraced technology to meet these needs by addressing how patrons seek, access and create information, as well as developing the information literacy skills of their community (Landgraf, 2021, p.32).
Technology assisting information seeking:
The use of technology is ubiquitous in information seeking as digital learning management systems are commonly used to catalogue and organise information. However, since the pandemic, some educational institutions have discerned the difficulty that remote users have with information seeking programs and therefore have embedded technologies to offer synchronous assistance in their strategic plans. The University of Newcastle’s (UoN) strategic plan acknowledges the importance of virtual library spaces mirroring the physical using innovative technologies to support students seeking resources both on and off site (Turbitt, 2021). This was replicated in Victoria University’s (VU) decision to use Zoom and LibChat to mimic that personal interaction via a virtual service desk because Zoom’s screen share function enabled staff members to assist students more effectively (Muir & Anele, 2021). Additionally, Victoria University (2021) strategic plan aims to ensure content and learning resources are integrated on the same webpage meeting the modern student need for both usability and utility from their information retrieval (Landgraf, 2021, p.30). These institutions strove to use technology in innovative methods to ensure that their students could successfully seek information whilst remote learning (Kloppenborg, 2021; Muir & Anele, 2021; Turbitt, 2021).
Technology assisting information access:
Whilst technology has been within the realms of information seeking for some time, its role in information access has significantly increased with the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns. The shift to remote learning has emphasised the need for libraries to use technology as a conduit to physical and digital collections. The past year has seen William Angliss (WA), VU, and UoN all report statistical increases in digital content access, especially with online databases (Kloppenborg, 2021; Muir & Anele, 2021; Turbitt, 2021). This increase was significant enough to warrant UoN to develop a ‘digital first policy’ in their collection development and management plan to ensure continued access to digitally curated content in a post pandemic world (Turbitt, 2021; Howes et al., 2021, p44). WA endeavoured to further support remote student learning by developing their patron driven ebook collection and digitising their special collection (Kloppenborg, 2021). This meant that that library was able to meet the needs of their students more effectively within the parameters of local government restrictions.
Technology and information literacy:
Educational libraries such as VU, WA and UoN all used digital programs and technology to assist students in developing their information literacy skills (Kloppenborg, 2021; Muir & Anele, 2021; Turbitt, 2021). These institutions offered synchronous on site information literacy programs through physical workshops with liaison or teacher librarians. Unfortunately, the commencement of remote learning identified a lack of synchronous digital information literacy programs to assist students in learning off site (Kloppenborg, 2021; Muir & Anele, 2021; Turbitt, 2021; Cordova et al., 2021, p.83). In order to address this skill deficit, information literacy frameworks were addressed within both UoN’s and VU’s current strategic plans (Muir & Anele, 2021; Turbitt, 2021). UoN advocates for the implementation of a digital capabilities framework for students, whilst VU’s vision is to offer information literacy training to staff and students in order to develop their digital capacity now and into the future (Muir & Anele, 2021; Turbitt, 2021). Their belief is that there is a greater impact upon student learning if the teaching staff are also digitally literate.
Technology and knowledge creation:
Technology is often used to create an environment that encourages the acquisition of new skills, information creation and knowledge construction, through the use of adaptive technology, varied learning spaces, availability of out of hours access and presence of makerspaces. WA offers adaptive services within disability services as part of its equitable access to resources, and their ‘learning pods’ allow students to access AV and other technologies individually or in small groups (Kloppenborg, 2021). Whereas VU’s online digital space known as VU Collaborate was heavily used during the recent lockdown and its success ensures that this virtual space will be continued even when onsite learning resumes, clearly indicating that off-site collaborative learning has proven beneficial (Muir & Anele, 2021; Murphy & Newport, 2021, p.39). This virtual space allowed students to connect at any time, from varied locations and met the strategic goal of using innovative technologies to develop a robust digital capacity (Victoria University, 2021; Howes et al., 2021, p46). This off-site virtual library was complemented by out of hours library access available at VU, WA and UoN, as it is a direct attempt to minimise the effect of the digital divide, as well as ensure students with diverse learning needs are given more opportunities to engage with the library, its resources and programs (Kloppenborg, 2021; Muir & Anele, 2021; Turbitt, 2021; Murphy & Newport, 2021, p.39; DIIS, 2016). The use of makerspaces in educational libraries allows students to actively develop their creativity and engage with a variety of technology for personal or academic purposes (Cordova et al., 2021, p.86). The UoN makerspace contains a variety of resources including, ‘high tech’ equipment such as 3D printers, ‘low tech’ materials such as lego, as well the presence of online digital videos the students can use to troubleshoot any technical issues (Turbitt, 2021).
Libraries are physical and virtual spaces where knowledge is sought, accessed, used and created. The information society requires technology integration into practices that extend the learning experience and facilitate meaningful relationships between information agencies and their patrons. Fostering relationships is essential for a library’s success as COVID-10 changed how libraries connect with their patrons when physical access is limited. This change in physical access has affected how educational libraries are able to meet the needs of their patrons at the point of need. William Angliss TAFE, Victoria University and University of Newcastle all use various formats of technology to facilitate relationships that are centred around the needs and purpose of their community. Their use of technology has enhanced their patrons ability to access the collection and as such, ensure the purpose of the library is met.
Cordova, L., Jasmin, H., Nelson, T., Strahan, K., & Wu, L. (2021). Rapidly remote: Providing seamless library support during a pandemic. Journal of Hospital Librarianship, 21(1), 82-92. CSU Library.
Department of Industry, Innovation and Science. (2016). Australia’s digital economy update. https://apo.org.au/sites/default/files/resource-files/2016/05/apo-nid66202-1210631.pdf
Howes, L., Ferrell, L., Pettys, G., & Roloff, A. (2021). Adapting to remote library service during COVID-19. Medical Reference Services Quarterly, 40(1), 35-47. CSU Library.
International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions. (2015). International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions School library guidelines 2nd Edition. International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions. https://www.ifla.org/files/assets/school-libraries-resource-centers/publications/ifla-school-library-guidelines.pdf
Kloppenborg, P. (2021, April 13). William Angliss Institute: Learning and information services [Recorded presentation]. ETL507, Interact 2. https://charlessturt.zoom.us/rec/share/IhJ3v7Kt_nqj35Y3BPbrZmfGaOlqTyeQ0NAxp-DnmtxKs_him4V4wuZeR29Gr9hq.xrASrXydXlTwi_95
Landgraf, G. (2021). How friendly is your website? American Libraries. https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/authors/greg-landgraf
Muir, R., & Anele, E. (2021, April 14). Victoria University: Libraries West [Recorded Presentation]. ETL507, Interact 2. https://charlessturt.zoom.us/rec/share/sPvHo3Ut_mNtN-qVtV_IjfRY8xxS6f3RNLmWYqBEp73gai2hpMMgIdG0WfEMjMeu.4eDYHq4PQuTGkb3f
Murphy, J., & Newport, J. (2021). Reflecting on pandemics and technology in libraries. Serials Review 47(1), 37-42. CSU Library
Turbitt, S. (2021, April 21). University of Newcastle: Ourimbah Campus [Recorded Presentation]. ETL507, Interact 2. https://charlessturt.zoom.us/rec/share/GeSI2jmxO8KOLZebTwrPWz4CMvt4EO9k–LkcIzpQSFSjKdEsMp8KBNrfciJMfI.B6pBPZnv-YnKIGlg
Victoria University. (2021, April 14). Virtual study visit to Victoria University [PowerPoint]. ETL507, Interact 2. PowerPoint Presentation (blackboardcdn.com)