Providing Access in the Age of COVID

Published on June 22, 2020

Books available for pick up at Weldon

It’s been 96 days since we closed to the public. Back in March, our staff quickly settled into their new routines, and we expanded our already-robust online services. We strived to support you in finishing your courses remotely. Virtual chats replaced in-person research appointments, instructional videos supported research skills development, and we acquired new digital content with our print collections temporarily inaccessible.

Now, just over three months later, we can take the first steps to re-introducing library services — starting with access to print collections.

As of June 22, Western faculty, students, and staff will be able to take advantage of digital delivery and no-contact pickup services for print collections. You will be able to use the Request button in Omni, the library search tool, to request either digital delivery of an eligible print item (such as a scanned book chapter) or no-contact pickup for a book. We’ll reach out to let you know when requests are ready and provide instructions for safe pick up from The D.B. Weldon Library (Weldon).

“I'm very excited to be back on campus,” says Kelsey Bron, a Library Assistant. “I'm hoping that our new enhanced services will help our patrons get the resources they need for their continued work.”

We’ve made sure our services follow guidelines provided by the Provincial Government, as well as health and safety practices recommended by the local health unit and the University. “In the past, handling books in their thousands is something library staff did every day without a second thought,” explains Rick Kirk, Facilities Operations and Records Centre Services Manager. “Fortunately, we are a research institution and have many sources of information to draw from. It’s certainly been a crash course, but in the end we’re able provide safe handling protocols with confidence.”

With libraries around the world having to alter their practices, there’s no shortage of inspiration. The International Federation of Library Associations website compiled a number of key resources that have informed some of our decisions. For example, we quarantine material returns for 72 hours based on how long COVID lives on various surfaces. We’ve also re-designed workspaces in our libraries to provide adequate physical distancing between staff and reduced the number of staff working on-site.

Our staff returned to campus a week early to prepare for the launch of our new services. Step one was processing the backlog of returned materials, approximately 3,000 items. We also had to tackle over 60 bins full of new acquisitions. Now we’re focused on the expansion of our digital delivery service and the launch of no-contact pickup. We hope these services will go a long way towards supporting our campus and community. Next, we'll turn our attention to developing safe ways to provide public access to our libraries. Stay tuned to our website for updates.

If you have any concerns, please contact Jennifer Robinson, Associate Chief Librarian, User Experience and Student Engagement. We want to understand how we can best provide public services in the age of COVID.