In April of 2018, we introduced the story of the library team at Southern New Hampshire University. Jennifer Harris took us on a tour of their website built with LibGuides CMS. Plus, we learned about how they promoted the use of their LibAnswers system by linking to it absolutely everywhere they imagined a student might have a question. Now, one year into this global pandemic, we revisit the SNHU library to hear a new story. This time, we have a full uninterrupted account from the Manager of Library Information Services regarding their approach to this unprecedented time.
We were already very well positioned to serve our students in an online environment because we have a rich online presence, built on the Springshare platform.
Our chat service was already heavily utilized by our students, so it wasn’t much of a pivot for them to continue to use the service, and we were able to continue staffing it in the same manner as before. The use of our chat service continues to grow each year, and last year was no different! We saw enrollment increases in our online school, particularly over the Summer/early Fall of 2020, and we certainly felt it in our online chat Reference!
In the period between mid-March of 2020 to mid-March of 2021, we saw a 38.2% increase in our LibChat reference transactions over the same period from 2019-2020.
This number does not include our 24/7 chat transactions; I’m strictly speaking about the transactions handled by the Shapiro Library Reference team.
Similarly, we have numerous Research Guides – general purpose, course, and subject – which are very helpful to our users.
We create and update our LibGuides on a continuous basis, so that collection is always growing, and we’ve added several over the past year.
One resource that we created very quickly before shifting to remote work was the Shapiro Library Free & Fun Resources LibGuide, which compiled a variety of free resources for users to explore. Another resource we are constantly updating and creating new content for is our extensive database of FAQs.
I believe that our instruction team had to modify how they delivered their sessions to classes, with everyone being remote but other than that, I don’t know that we had to modify our services too drastically. As I mentioned before, we were already in a very good place to pivot to being an all-online service provider. We do have one team member who has been working consistently in the building to keep up with ILL and off-campus lending requests as we do ship print materials to our users.
Other than that, however, our collection of databases, FAQs, chat Reference service, and capability to answer phones via our laptops meant that we could maintain the level of service our users have come to expect even while working remotely.
We did update our homepage recently, too. Prior to the update, we’d been using the space near the Multi-Search to announce updates (especially regarding our closure status). One of the updates to the homepage was the implementation of a carousel (coded by Elyse Wolf, our Library Web Analyst, to ensure it met accessibility requirements) to the right of the FAQs. We have now moved important announcements to the carousel, and no longer need to take up “real estate” near the Multi-Search with potentially distracting announcements. We also added a link to the Advanced Search, and added a link to the DEI and Academic Integrity guides (which both launched during the past year and were created by Elyse, in conjunction with other University departments).
There has been increased communication and contact, and though everyone is perhaps a bit tired of meeting via a computer screen, it has been nice being able to interact with team members whom we might not normally have the opportunity to see.
In “normal times” we are open until 1 am Sunday-Thursday and for other team members who only work in the morning hours; needless to say, the opportunities for meaningful connections between day and evening shift personnel are few and far between.
That’s one thing I hope that we can carry forward…being intentional about creating opportunities for team connection that aren’t simply focused on working through an agenda, and instead address the holistic needs of Shapiro Library personnel.
Springshare is grateful to Heather and the team at the Shapiro Library for detailing the experiences of this last year. Indeed, we have talked about the pandemic lockdowns in terms of the scrambling to pivot to online services, the restrictions, the anxiety. But Heather has shown how prepared the SNHU Library was -- having Springshare tools in place and active for years. They had the opportunity to continue their work and to even slow down, come together, and create new meaning.