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Welcoming the University Community Back to the Libraries (Both Virtually & On Campus)

September 14, 2020

After much planning and frequent adjustments to drafts of the Libraries “revised services” for the fall term, the Drexel Libraries is ready to welcome students and faculty for the start of the new academic year. For those returning, using the Libraries will be quite different from last fall, and for our newest Dragons, we introduce new ways to include engagement with a library in creating their academic experience during a pandemic. 


Our message is simple: We’re Open Virtually...and On-Campus. Designing what this means, however, has not been a simple task.     


We began in March with the commitment, messaged that We are Open...Virtually. We will continue to provide the same remote services we started then. Little about the pandemic changed how Libraries staff provide remote services, just that we all went home to deliver them. Knowing now that we will continue this emphasis for some time to come, we are increasing virtual service visibility through expanded communications, introducing a webinar series of staff-recorded instruction, and widely posting popular schedules for chat and opportunities for consultations by appointment.   


The pandemic’s impact has required us to reexamine, however, our on-campus services in detail.  We not only have reimagined and revised on-campus services to accommodate necessary precautions for everyone’s health and safety, but also to do so with “flexibility,” “adaptability,” “empathy,” and repeated “pivoting”—all added buzzwords that have become part of our vocabulary these past six months.  


By now, we all know the story: In March, 2020, Drexel University—along with universities across the country—shifted to remotely conducted classes and to restricting access to on-campus facilities to essential research and operations. With little time to plan, the Drexel Libraries closed its four physical locations and adapted its operations to provide virtual resources and services to support the Drexel community through this unprecedented time.


Since then, the Libraries tracked what other urban academic libraries in the city were doing, as well as looking to research reports on the COVID19 virus and its impact on materials housed in libraries. We deferred to the University’s recommendations and support for defining social distancing in different physical spaces, and expectations for everyone to abide by a Dragon Pledge to care for themselves and others. 


When the University announced earlier in summer its intentions for students, faculty, and staff to return in phases for hybrid modes of teaching and conducting research in multiple locations this fall, the Libraries started working on a plan to safely reopen all of our physical locations. We explored ways to return to delivering many of the excellent services we are known for, such as providing access to physical materials and engaging with clients in our informal learning environments.  After a few weeks, we were pivoting again when the University announced it would conduct undergraduate courses online.


We focused on providing two major library on-campus services this fall, taking all necessary precautionary safety measures. Staff designed procedures to manage access to the Libraries’ informal learning environments for support of focused work alone and amidst others by offering reliable Wi-Fi, quiet, low distractions, and clean spaces. Reservations will be required to access the limited number of available seats in the two facilities we are reopening. Group work and eating will not be permitted. Staff also developed protocols to offer access to the Libraries physical materials through staff-only retrieval and contactless pickup or shipping of loans and digitized segments of books and journals for electronic access.


We are optimistic to explore ways to expand on-campus services in 2021 to include some spaces for group learning, sharing equipment, and holding small events. However, we also temper our ambitions with greater appreciation for “pivoting” with short notice.


Visit the Libraries’ COVID-19 Response Page for more details and the latest news and information about our facilities, resources and services.