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Modeling a Collaborative & Sustainable Library During COVID-19

May 5, 2020

Collaboration and coordination have long been cornerstones of librarianship. Libraries and their staff regularly look to one another for networking and professional development, information on trends and best practices, new solutions to shared challenges, and cost-sharing of resources.

The current public health crisis has made the need for collaboration—like library consortia enable and promote—even more apparent, as librarians across the world look for ways to help their clients through these challenging times.

The Power of Consortial Collaboration

The Drexel Libraries, for example, has long been a member of the Pennsylvania Academic Library Consortium, Inc. (PALCI), a group of nearly 70 academic and research libraries in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, West Virginia, and New York.

Under “normal” circumstances, PALCI members contribute to projects and initiatives that shape the future for academic libraries in the region and take advantage of other benefits like member meetings and programs, collections sharing programs like E-ZBorrow, plus cooperative purchasing discounts on e-resources.

With the outbreak of COVID-19 comes new challenges and new opportunities for collaboration among Consortium members. For example, shortly after the outbreak of COVID-19 in the United States, PALCI organized a regular virtual Zoom-based conference call for PALCI Deans and Directors to share and discuss their responses to the coronavirus outbreak. These informal meetings give leaders from regional libraries—including Drexel Libraries—an opportunity to share information and ask questions to help them develop and evolve their responses to the fast-changing needs of students, faculty and staff at the start of the pandemic.

PALCI members also come together to make difficult decisions, such as suspending all E-ZBorrow services until libraries throughout the region can safely reopen and send staff back to campuses. To keep member libraries up-to-date on fast changing policies and decisions, PALCI offers open (online) office hours and communications messages and tools, including a wiki and listservs, so members can share information (like template messaging on policy and service changes) and notify each other of changes.

Finding Other Collaborations

With campuses closed and print resources temporarily unavailable, many vendors and publishers are chipping in to support remote research, teaching and learning. Many have made some or all of their content freely available online for a limited time. To help Drexel faculty, staff and students utilize these resources, the Drexel Libraries created a resource guide that lists some of these offers, as vetted by our subject experts.

Of course, the Drexel Libraries continues to rely on collaborative relationships with other groups within the University to cross-promote resources and services and help members of the campus community navigate these challenging times. From including information about Libraries services and resources in various campus communications to an ongoing project with Drexel IT to develop talking points to help Libraries staff respond to IT-related questions that might come up during library chat sessions , we are now—even more than ever—relying on collaborative relationships to see our way through the pandemic. Because we certainly cannot do it alone.