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ACRL DLSDG: COVID-19 Virtual Exchange: Continuing Remote Support Through the Summer and into Fall

April 26, 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to run its course, many Pennsylvania colleges and universities are faced with the probability of continuing remote instruction and support well into the Fall 2020 semester. The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) is presenting a Zoom meeting to discuss librarians offering remote reference and assistance to students, faculty, administration, and staff further into 2020. This will take place on Monday, May 4th, at 12:00 PM.

Register now and take a look at the other virtual sessions hosted by the ACRL.

How is everyone adjusting and managing? What are your college’s plans for the summer and fall semesters? Our college’s Summer I session will be completely online, but our Summer II session has yet to be determined. I can honestly say that I have been enjoying my time in my house and love working remotely. How does everyone else feel?

C&CS “Civic Minded Education” session now available

April 17, 2020

Hi everyone, we had a great discussion during yesterday’s session on Civic Minded Education with Lily Herakova and Jen Bonnet. Thanks to everyone who participated, and to Amy Snyder who moderated.

Video is available via our YouTube channel.

Some observations from the field a few weeks into “the new normal” . . .

April 7, 2020

I had intended to focus on information literacy for my first CRD post, but with the unprecedented changes necessitated by COVID 19, I’ll save that topic for another time.

For these past few weeks, I, like many academic librarians, have concerned myself with providing resources and services online ant reaching out to students and faculty as they scramble to teach, learn, and research, all using a new and hastily assigned playbook.  For me and probably others, the  most easily identified part of that process has been “skilling up” on various newly adopted tools.  For many of us, too, there is the remote location aspect.  Work from home, get familiar with some new software–how hard could it be?  I thought of my long list of projects that I typically chip away at, stealing ten minutes here, a half hour there.  It would, I thought, be so much easier to tackle.

After a week, I began informally comparing notes with colleagues.  After passing the two-week mark, I’m finding that I’m not alone in many of my experiences.  Sharing how it’s going has been cathartic.  The value in recounting is in providing an “early stage” platform for discussion.  The more venues to talk together in various groupings about how it’s going, the better.  And, I suspect, it’s a good first step in understanding how to best move forward.  With that in mind, here’s what I’ve learned so far:

Sitting for hours at a stretch at a computer is hard work and leads to a sore back. Like many other colleagues, I thought I just didn’t have a comfortable chair.  I felt a bit like Goldilocks, trying out my options, until I realized it wasn’t a matter of the proper chair–it’s getting up, stretching, doing planks or squats or walking the dog or washing a few dishes.

Sitting for hours (are you noticing a trend already?) at a stretch staring at a screen leads to headaches and eye strain.  Fiddling with the screen brightness, stepping away intermittently, or using inexpensive glasses that filter blue rays are all advisable to combat too much computer gazing.

Though there are less interruptions, it’s still difficult to get everything done. I thought I’d be SOOOO productive when encountering fewer distractions.  I’m getting a lot of work completed, but I’m not conquering my To Do List at the rate I’d anticipated.  The big lesson is that there will always be another task on the list before you get much crossed off.  And, of course, point-of-need service to patrons always comes first.

Skilling up requires patience, practice, and more practice. While I am determined to triumph over each new product designed to assist in delivery of resources and/or services, these last weeks have been humbling.  I appreciate a well-run (and patient) IT department and colleagues who are always happy to assist.

Loss of camaraderie and daily contact with colleagues makes for a very long work day. I knew my subconscious was up to something when I became fixated on having my dog show up for a small committee Skype meeting.  I really wanted to make my team laugh!  When another puppy showed up soon after (with several sets of hands visible maneuvering her into place and offering treats), I understood it wasn’t just me that needed some fun.  Another colleague opined that the serendipity of bumping into folks in hallways (en route to meetings, restrooms, lunches) was a loss of chance contact with people you don’t always work with; sometimes brief conversations led to discoveries of something new, a common interest, or a new approach to a situation.

There’s an emotional toll.  I’m worried about students, especially.   My university, like so many others, continues to work to address issues of food insecurity and homelessness.  Several new initiatives have been quickly launched to reach out and offer support.  The correlation of the spread of COVID 19 and social inequity is more and more apparent, distressing, and heartbreaking.  I’m doing what I can in this moment, but it’s increasingly clear that these efforts, though combined with those of many others, will likely be inadequate.

When I step away from the work at hand and think about the huge changes, I’m wondering how we are all doing.  While there are sure to be conferences, articles, webinars, and more offered about the various aspects of moving academic library resources and services online (in general or in specific circumstances), I’m most concerned that we don’t wait too long to debrief.  So consider this akin to a wave from a colleague from a virtual hallway: How’s it going?  I hope you are okay.

C&CS Presents: Health Information for Distance Learning, April 21 at 1pm EST

April 6, 2020

C&CS Presents

Health Information for Distance Learning

with Bradley A. Long and Kate Flewelling

April 21 at 1pm EST

Click here for Zoom registration link


As nearly all academic training and support has moved to remote learning, supporting students and faculty in health sciences programs can be a challenge. At the same time, many librarians are worried about their own health and the health of their families. Two experienced academic health sciences librarians will provide tips and resources for supporting health sciences programs and finding high quality health information remotely.

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Brad Long

Bradley A. Long is the Embedded Health Sciences Librarian for the Penn State College of Medicine’s University Park Regional Campus.  He has over 25 years of experience in medical librarianship, in both academic and clinical settings. Bradley has experience in reference and instructional services, curriculum development, consumer health and patient education, distance education, and collection development.  He is currently the Chair of the Medical Library Association’s Libraries in Health Sciences Curriculum Caucus and serves on Doody Enterprises’ Library Board of Advisors.



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Kate Flewelling

Kate Flewelling is the Executive Director of the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, Middle Atlantic Region, based at the University of Pittsburgh. After beginning her career as an Associate Fellow at the National Library of Medicine, she was Coordinator of Instruction for the SUNY Upstate Medical University Health Sciences Library. In 2017, she was named one of 50 Distinguished Alumni of the School of Information Studies, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. She is the current Chair of the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Medical Library Association.

ACRL Presents: Information Literacy at a (Social) Distance: Strategies for Moving Online

April 3, 2020

As the coronavirus continues to make headlines worldwide, numerous webinars have been presented on how to address the needs and inquiries of our students and patrons while working remotely.  To help with easing myself into the transition from working on campus to hibernating and eating every twenty minutes assisting students from the comfort of my living room personal computer (complete with candles, chillhop relaxing beats, and glowing cat), I recently viewed ACRL’s presentation of “ACRL Presents: Information Literacy at a (Social) Distance: Strategies for Moving Online” presented on March 17, 2020, by Melissa A. Wong, an instructor at the School of Information Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This hour-long webinar provides general strategies for moving your information literacy instructing online while ensuring that no student is left behind. Wong encourages instructors to teach how they are most comfortable but to keep your expectations reasonable. Start from where you are and keep it simple. Do not do more than you can handle or accommodate. Wong advises against developing a completely online course because of this pandemic but to just make tweaks and small changes to your current lesson plan to get your students through the remainder of the semester. (Do you have LibGuides? Tutorial videos?) Give yourself permission to stop at “good enough.” Assume that students are trying to access your content from their smartphones when planning your instruction. Be sure to make your content accessible for students with disabilities.

Keep in mind that your students are stressed and apprehensive right now, too, and the last thing they might care about is information literacy. Wong says that is alright. Students have been throw unexpectedly out from their dorms and into online education. Many students are now homeschooling their children, which can make it difficult to focus on their own coursework. Unemployment has become a consistent and enormous stress factor across the country. Still, others do not have access to broadband width and high-speed Internet, especially for those students living in rural communities. Additionally, many students may now be forced to share devices with other family members. All of these factors can contribute to making online learning a rather nail-baiting, worrisome experience.

Wong proposes that there are two ways in which to present your online instruction: synchronous and asynchronous. Synchronous would include everyone joining in on a Zoom meeting or in Google Hangouts. The instruction occurs in real-time. The advantages to this are that you can use existing lectures for instruction and the discussion is happening in real-time so you can answer students’ questions. Also, during this time of social distancing, synchronous instruction fosters and maintains a sense of community, allowing for simultaneous and spontaneous conversation. However, higher broadband is required for these real-time meetings, which might be a huge issue for those who do not have access. There might be limited mobile access. Additionally, there is a learning curve with some of the synchronous technology, which I, for one, have discovered while trying to use Zoom on my computer. My web camera will not hook up and I have no idea why!

Asynchronous, on the other hand, is instruction not involving real-time discussion. This would include previously filmed tutorial videos and assignments distributed through the students’ blackboard. The advantages of choosing this form of instruction are that lower bandwidth is usually required, it is more mobile-friendly, you can recycle content, and it is easy to replicate the instruction for future use. Students can log in at any time to complete the assignments, and they are most likely already using familiar tools within their blackboard. On the flip side, students might not be as motivated to engage with the instruction and with one another, and this can result in the potential loss of community.

So which instruction is right for you? Wong reminds us to consider campus requirements and to definitely not overwhelm students with too much information. Be sure of legalities. For instance, it is legally required to close-caption your videos. Unfortunately, most caption software is only 90% accurate, so Wong encourages you to do automated captions and then go back to edit them. I also never thought of those students who might be colorblind, because I am the Queen of All Colors and adore typing in different colors and breaking out the highlighters. Wong warns not to use different colors in your notes for this reason.

No doubt this a stressful time with new territory and each other’s backs to cover. It is an understatement to proclaim that we are currently tackling an unprecedented situation, the likes of which we probably have not seen since the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919, but should have been better prepared to deal with when it happened again, as is the nature of pandemics, especially in such a technological world of high standards. Nonetheless, we need to stick together while staying physically apart as we ride out this virus.