Thanks to all who attended our virtual roundtable discussion about Supporting Online Teaching and Learning! Participants came with a range of experiences and lessons learned from the spring term. Here are a few items that were shared.
Some institutions are planning for a fully or partially remote fall term, with a variety of options for library instruction sessions represented:
Participants also shared tips that have helped them succeed in teaching synchronous library sessions and providing asynchronous materials and activities.
Here are some ways that librarians are contacting faculty about instruction and other opportunities:
Many librarians have seen an increase in the demand for electronic resources and are looking into purchasing more e-books and prioritizing unlimited licenses. Demand for streaming videos has also seen an increase, though many participants mention cost restrictions as a barrier. Some librarians have offered alternatives to faculty requests, such as offering a video on a similar topic or one that discusses themes or includes clips from the original request. Others have used this as an opportunity to educate and connect with faculty around open electronic resources and other available resources.
How has the library supported the transition to online learning at your institution? Join us for an informal discussion of lessons learned from two months of remote teaching and learning. We’ll discuss efforts in online collections and instruction, as well as collaborations with university-wide faculty and staff.
Date: Tuesday June 16, 2020
Time: 9:00 AM CST
Access to the Zoom meeting room will be provided upon RSVP.
Thanks to all who attended last month’s Remote User Testing roundtable, and thanks to Emma Boettcher (UChicago) and Eileen López for co-convening.
Pressing Areas for Testing
CARLI is moving forward with the migration to Alma/Primo in June 2020. User testing is not centralized through CARLI, in part because individual institutions are able to make many local customization (for example, search scopes, top-level menus, naming and ordering of facets). Many attendees had planned to do user testing this spring, so that work will either need to be done online or postponed until after go-live in June.
Other areas for testing include website or institutional repository development that was in process prior to COVID-related closures.
Remote Card Sorting with OptimalSort
Eileen López gave a brief presentation about a study she conducted on the University of Chicago Library’s intranet. This study served two purposes: testing the organization of content across multiple pages via a card sorting exercise and evaluating the utility of two platforms (OptimalSort and Qualtrics ) for conducting this sort of study.
After reviewing the features and functionality of both platforms, Eileen determined that Qualtrics could not support an open card sort. She used OptimalSort’s free trial, which allows users to create an unlimited number of tests of with up to 10 participants and 30 cards each, to conduct this project. The built-in tools made grouping and analysis of reports much easier than anticipated.
Other Strategies for Remote Testing
Attendees shared several strategies they’ve tried:
Remote testing presents different logistical challenges that in person. Participants have to use their own equipment rather than yours which will result in more authentic feedback about how your tool will function in the real world – but also means that you can’t control the environment, internet connection, device speed, etc in order to ensure that your tool is what is being tested. It is possible that your participant may not be able to access the thing you need to test!
Recruitment is also proving to be challenging in an environment where communication with patrons is often discouraged. Some attendees mentioned working with student workers or other affiliated student groups to conduct testing. Others are reaching out to pools of previous participants. All of these groups bring with them the caveat that they may be familiar with the library and its systems.
The roundtable closed with a discussion of future plans – or, rather, the difficulty of balancing work that can feasibly be done right now with the needs of our institutions longer term. Questions included:
Thanks to everyone who attended Thursday's Looking Forward to Going Back roundtable.
We were so pleased that so many of you expressed interest and were able to join us.
Thanks also to our panelists: Abby Annala (Loyola), Carolyn Ciesla (Prairie State), Ashley McMullin (DePaul), and Devin Savage (IIT).
All our institutions are in different places on the path to reopening. We are making plans for the summer while awaiting decisions from our institutions about the fall, all of which is contingent on changing guidance from local and state authorities, public health experts, and others. We are following the examples of public libraries and peer institutions while considering what is "legally allowable and medically advisable" for our patrons and staff.
Priorities for reopening are informed by many questions:
1. What's working well online?
If we are able to offer consultations and other reference services virtually, we don't need to rush to open a physical desk. Some indicated that the abrupt transition to remote learning opened up new opportunities for embedded library instruction. If these services are working well, it seems safest to plan on continuing in the fall, particularly as online delivery also extends library services to patrons who can't normally come to the building during normal service hours.
2. What can we safely do in person?
Regardless of other pressures, we must ensure that the safety and health of our staff comes first. We discussed a number of challenges and logistical issues that must be sorted out.
Many of our facilities closed on relatively short notice, with little time to allow patrons to return materials, much less prepare for the flood of materials that come back at the end of the academic year. Libraries are trying different strategies for managing returns, giving priority to those folks who won't be coming back to campus (or the city) in the fall:
Social distancing in physical spaces
Many of our physical spaces have been designed to accommodate group study and other kinds of gatherings. Removing computers and furniture will help but won't be enough to ensure that the modular furniture that was specifically intended to be moved around will now stay put.
As you prepare to reopen spaces, do walk-throughs to determine "pinch points" like bathrooms or security gates so that you can develop strategies to ensure social distancing (and cleaning). These walk-throughs, aided by your existing floor plans, can also help inform pathways or flows through the spaces. You will also need to think about who is responsible for enforcing social distancing, and how it will be done.
3. What might affect our colleagues' ability to return to work?
Many of our institutions are anticipating severe financial shortfalls that may have already started affecting staffing. Libraries are facing furloughs, hiring freezes, and the loss of student or temporary workers. While some institutions have been able to extend short-term benefits to those who can't work from home, those benefits will likely end once our buildings reopen. And unfortunately, those jobs that can't be done from home are more at risk of being furloughed - which may make reopening even more difficult.
In addition to specific health concerns due to the risks of person-to-person transmission of COVID-19, folks may face a number of other challenges in returning to work:
Some patrons rely on the library for access to computers or the internet. Others are really struggling with the transition online. However, our computer labs aren't set up for social distancing, nor are they cleaned regularly enough to be safe for active use. Many of our institutions circulate laptops, chargers, or wifi hot spots that can't reasonably quarantined since they are needed as soon as they are returned.
Several attendees raised the prospect of our engagement with contact tracing longer term. We recognize its importance during a public health emergency, but we are also loathe to get involved with surveillance. Some institutions already have entry data as a result of patrons scanning to enter the library building; these data are treated as operational and could potentially be used for contact tracing. Others are looking to their parent institutions for guidance and policy.
While some vendors have extended emergency access to collections during periods of closure, those will inevitably end. Some institutions are scanning materials as they are able; this may need to be expanded in order to meet the needs of patrons who are unable to return to campus.
Need for Communication
Finally, as we prepare to reopen, clear communication will be crucial for our colleagues, patrons, and institutions. Many aspects of library work aren’t clear to folks who don’t work at the library, so you may need to jump through extra hoops to make the case that student workers are essential, or that additional custodial services will be necessary. Careful planning will hopefully ensure that whatever plans we put in place can be scaled back in the event of a second wave.
Join Library UX Chicago on Thursday, May 21 from 2pm-3:30pm CDT for a conversation exploring how our institutions are preparing to return to our physical buildings over the coming months. While many of our institutions will be working within the guidelines issued by the State of Illinois, we welcome anyone interested in the topic.
Access to the Zoom meeting room will be provided upon RSVP. Devin Savage (IIT) and Abby Annala (Loyola) will facilitate this conversation.