Today, the coronavirus has the world in its grip. Stay-at-home orders closed the doors of all but essential businesses and that means public libraries and the libraries at universities, colleges, schools, etc. were forced to quickly pivot to serving their patrons online. Librarians answered the call and they're doing it brilliantly! The use of technology in the library can provide a bridge to reach new customer service excellence and do so efficiently.
Long before the Covid-19 pandemic shuttered libraries around the world, Dean and Systems Librarian, Janet Stewart, introduced the Clark Memorial Library team at Shawnee State University to Springshare tools. Suzanne Johnson-Varney, the Technical Services & Collection Management Librarian, recalls,
We needed a web solution for our webpage and way to share and update content without the webmaster’s intervention. We wanted a solution that featured responsive web design and a solution for updating URLs via a master list.
The right tools should solve problems, help your library achieve goals, and operate seamlessly ensuring the patron experience is the most integral element measured. Suzanne describes that,
Our student body is made up of non-traditional students, former and current military, online students, traditional students, and large College Credit Plus students (students who are attending high school/college simultaneously). We provide many services to our students, most fall within the typical library service model, but we are small enough to be able to go the extra mile to help students.
In recent times, our budget and staffing levels have been decimated. Springshare helps ease the burden on staff.
Despite staffing constraints, the library team at Shawnee State University has, as Suzanne notes, "...a robust liaison program and works with our departments to aid with accreditation and program expansion." They're excited to be offering their first doctorate program in the Fall.
The historical uphill battles for the Clark Memorial Library are easy for Suzanne to cite. She says that ten years ago,
We actually didn’t have any web-based tools to use. We didn’t have a content management system and had to update URLs on individual web pages. We couldn’t update anything in real-time or fix broken links. It made having a web presence virtually impossible to maintain and this was a huge disadvantage for our students.
They purchased LibGuides in 2010 and upgraded to LibGuides CMS three years later. Now, like so many libraries around the globe, the team has had to move instruction entirely online. Fortunately, the Shawnee State University staff has experience with distance learning. Suzanne explains,
We have incorporated our LibGuides into instruction and used the coding feature to pull them into Blackboard for students. Our university recently launched online instruction and our LibGuides are essential tools to reach these students. Their class work is all online and asynchronous.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic, their LibGuides usage statistics are showing that the guides are, Suzanne reports, "...being hit like crazy. We’re lucky to keep them updated at this point! The LTI embedding is our biggest improvement recently." Suzanne believes consistency helps their students. She shares that,
Suzanne points out that they launched fully-online classes in January of this year. They're very pleased with the whole process, adding that,
Everything is very easy to use. We are working hard to get the statistics integrated for automatic harvesting and other ways that help us adjust to a lack of staff. I suspect more of our LibGuides will be viewed by faculty using Blackboard for the first time.
With a determination to help everyone, the library is even developing online training aids for student employees working remotely during the COVID-19 crisis.
Because the LibAnswers Platform is designed to help librarians field and answer questions that come in via nearly any channel -- it certainly comes to the rescue when walking through the doors is not an option. When asked about their LibAnswers origin story, Suzanne began,
We needed a solution for Circulation Desk statistics reporting and LibAnswers was our solution. Students still keep tally marks and these are entered into LibAnswers. We, later, upgraded to get all the additional features. We need to be accessible and LibAnswers gives us everything we need to do that.
The students, faculty, and staff reach out to the library in every possible way including through the LibAnswers home page, text messages, phone calls, emails, and sometimes even through social media. Suzanne reveals that they get "...tons of directional questions, questions about events, and locations on campus."
The library staff uses social media and instruction to promote services like LibGuides and the LibAnswers Platform. Plus, they rely heavily on their webpages for advertising. Suzanne acknowledged that,
According to our statistics they are using them in huge numbers. Our Dean reports on our statistics and special projects to our Board. It’s invaluable to have a means to track all of our tasks.
Being able to continue to ask and answer questions from home means service doesn't have to falter during this unprecedented time where the comfort level with face-to-face interactions is changing.
The world is changing every day with each piece of good news...and sad. There's a lot of talk about the "new normal." While we can't predict the future, we can assess how we're handling the current situation. Suzanne confesses that, with regard to the university administration's reaction to the library's use of Springshare tools,
...the reaction has been amazement. We were able to move services remote without a hitch. I feel there is a total lack of understanding about library services and how we support the institution. We are bringing up many online courses and it’s imperative that we get in that game.
When we asked Suzanne for her take on how much technology has changed in the library over the years, she responded that just before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, she would have said,
...it has increased access for our patrons, but now it is the only thing keeping us in the game and our students on track. We are lucky that we had invested all this time and energy into our systems and solutions, so we literally were able to be remote with one day's notice.
Shawnee State University's library team uses the full Springshare Suite, so they're also working with LibCal, LibStaffer, LibWizard, and LibInsight. Suzanne comments on the value of the Suite saying,
...we couldn’t refuse, lol. Seriously the pricing for the Suite was/is amazing. It will give us the equivalent of an extra employee when we get all the features up and running.
Shawnee State University librarians work together and are determined to go the extra mile for their students and faculty. While people were panic buying, they were building. It's remarkable how swiftly they were able to move toward online instruction and support. When there's so much confusion and concern -- it's good to know the library's still open!