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Dean’s UpdateWill the Pandemic Forever Shift the Libraries’ Connections?

September 14, 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic batters higher education’s finances, Drexel University is not alone in allocating its resources to health and safety responses that most directly enable the continuation of its academic experiences through teaching, research, and self-directed learning.

What resulting changes will remain as we restore “normalcy” beyond this crisis-focus on the pandemic’s impact and uncertainties? The necessity of this institutional prioritization emphasizes the challenges the Drexel Libraries has in identifying its essential contributions to the University’s success during this crisis and in adjusting its strategic planning of services and operations for years beyond the pandemic.

However, to remain an integral and interwoven part of the institution, the Libraries cannot focus only on the essentials for the moment, but must continue building the University’s library-managed capacities to excel in providing both Drexel’s legacies of experiential and technology-enhanced education, and its civic commitment to solving society’s problems through applied research and engineering innovations. 

For over 10,000 readers who have demonstrated interest in the Drexel Libraries, In Circulation is a central venue through which the Libraries shares its evolving strategies for adjusting to changes academic libraries face and illustrates its specific services, operations and innovations to achieve these ambitions. We certainly are not the model solution for all academic libraries, nor can we simply replicate everything our professional colleagues do within their unique institutional settings. The COVID-19 pandemic highlights commonly faced challenges among academic librarians, while shining a spotlight on opportunities to continue our deeply established professional practices that include collaboration and free exchange of information, experiences and expertise.  

In this month’s issue of In Circulation, we continue to report current services and progress in building the Libraries’ capacity for its innovative long-term strategies to strengthen Drexel’s connections to scholarship.

The article Welcoming the University Community Back to the Libraries reports what we are doing this fall to adjust to address immediate changes imposed by the pandemic. The planning behind the adjustments raised attention to what seems essential for the Libraries to offer especially when it is missed—for example, student inquiries about essential amenities on campus identified the Libraries’ quiet environments without distractions and with reliable Wi-Fi as different from other study spaces across campus.

The introduction of DragonSearch, a new tool to search information resources from the Libraries website, highlights the strategy to leverage technologies for improving such connections made remotely, in cyber spaces.

And Brad Eden, Director, Scholarly Connections offers reflections about the Libraries’ programs and aspirations for its strategic directions to strengthen Drexel’s connection to scholarship through greater attention to exploring research output management, and evolving venues to ensure access to published, deposited, and archival materials. He highlights a few of the adjustments made in the Libraries programs toward advancing this core library obligation in the midst of raised appreciation for licensed access to e-journals.

I can’t help but wonder how many of the introduced changes made during this pandemic will contribute to sustaining our core obligation to inspire self-directed learning through engaging informal learning environments, to improve Drexel’s connections to scholarship, and to contain rising costs of higher education.  We will continue to look for new solutions as we shift attention—one pivot step at a time—between being a virtual and an on-campus library.  

Best wishes for a healthy and productive academic new year are sent remotely but are directed to your physical site—stay safe!

Danuta A. Nitecki, PhD
Dean of Libraries