UP Library Services adopts a ‘21st-century library vision’ in the time of COVID-19

Posted on May 08, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated the need and importance for some educational resources to be open access. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the disruption of teaching, learning and research has been devastating for the academic environment.

The closure of institutions, including brick and mortar libraries, has affected over 90% of the world student population, including here in South Africa. As necessitated by the emergency, the Department of Library Services quickly switched all its operations and services to digital mode, thanks to our digital and IT preparedness. It was necessary to transition smoothly into that mode and support students and staff in order to avert the spread of COVID-19 before the closure of the University.  Library management appreciated the timely interventions of the University’s COVID-19 response team, which continued to guide the library management until the President of South Africa announced a nationwide 21-day lockdown, which came into effect on 26 March 2020.     

All global libraries gave heed to a call by the International Federation of Library Associations. All libraries were, among others, requested to adhere to the following:

  • Understanding COVID-19 and its spread
  • Library closures around the world
  • Managing different approaches to restrictions
  • Staying safe at home and at work
  • Providing services remotely
  • Managing remote working
  • Reassigning  library resources
  • Communicating with users

As a library, we have been providing coronavirus information on our website to prevent the spread of the virus, in collaboration with established online and broadcasting media. Our Makerspace team stepped up and joined other international libraries, including the network of New York libraries to produce 3D-print face visors for frontline health workers. So far, the library has contributed more than 500 face visors used at our academic hospital facilities and some for Mediclinic.

Meanwhile, library staff took time to plan for the new services and operations. These services are geared to fully meet all the needs of users as we get into e-learning and research mode. Library staff will ensure that all our students and staff will receive uninterrupted online access and virtual support until the University Management believes it’s safe to re-open the physical buildings. All our users seem to prefer to use our spaces, and we noted that it was very difficult to keep them away when we introduced the more lenient COVID-19 restrictions. We definitely will miss our social partnerships and interactions with both students and staff.  

Our library director, Lindiwe Soyizwapi, created a COVID-19 task team that will continue to monitor the situation and to ensure the continuity of operations and business processes as the crisis continues. This has prompted the library management to adopt a 21-century library vision. This is the time to reset and embrace new global library trends. Our digital services and IT systems will emerge with advanced solutions and innovations to address the “new” ways of servicing our community. In partnership with the University’s ITS department, our library will strive to remain the hub for learning, teaching and research.

Read more about Library Services’ readiness to support online learning, teaching and research, click here

- Author Lazarus G. Matizirofa, Deputy Director

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