A new American Library Association (ALA) survey of U.S. libraries documents a shift in services to support students, faculty, and communities at large during the crisis and phased preparations for the months ahead. While virtually all libraries (99%) report limited access to the physical building, survey respondents shared leaps in the use of digital content, online learning, and virtual programs. More than 3,800 K-12 school, college and university, public and other libraries from all 50 states responded to the survey between May 12-18.
COVID-19 crisis response: of respondents involved in community crisis response, the majority reported new partnerships, distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE), addressing food insecurity, and sharing accurate community information and resources. “Our community has serious food insecurity issues, and we have been involved in addressing that for the past several years. COVID-19 has made the situation even worse. Ordinarily our (farmers) market has kids’ activities, but those are not possible now. We are focusing solely on the food and working hard making sure those who have SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance) benefits are aware of this opportunity,” reported High Point Public Library in North Carolina.
Caution with facility re-opening: Virtually all libraries have expanded virtual and phone services during the crisis, continuing a trend of library activities beyond physical walls. The survey finds that most libraries have limited access to their buildings while they work to establish health and safety protocols for staff, social distancing requirements for patrons, and processes for sanitizing materials. Curbside pickup, delivery, and by-appointment services are the most common next steps as national research and state/local guidance Thirty-seven percent of respondents expect phased re-opening in June and July, whereas almost half (47%) are unsure when buildings will begin to re-open to the public.
Meeting education needs: K-12 school, academic, and public libraries are working overtime to address the needs of remote learners, teachers/faculty, and researchers. Leading activities include providing: curbside pickup of items ranging from laptops to reading materials, virtual reference, new summer learning activities, and new “how to” resources for accessing virtual resources. “We checked out 143 laptops to students needing devices to do work online. This helped some students persist who may not have in this new learning environment,” reported Hawkeye Community College Library in Iowa. Information on K-12 school library services is available from the American Association of School Librarians, an ALA division.
Public demand for library services: libraries overall report increased use of virtual library cards, digital content and virtual programming. “We have been amazed by how far away our online story times have reached. People message us with thanks from different continents!” reported the Mulvane Public Library in Kansas. As libraries re-open their buildings to the public, they anticipate demand for access to physical and special collections, access to computers and the internet, helping students make up for lost ground, supporting faculty and teacher needs, and application support for government services and employment.
More than half of public library respondents reported they were transitioning summer learning programs from in-person to online.
Additional analysis and resources, including:
- Re-opening plans: with more than 1,500 responses shared about re-opening plans and processes, ALA now has a vast set of materials to review, catalog, and curate.
- Aggregate financial and staffing data
- Results by library type and peer groups
Webinar sharing complete findings and key takeaways, TBD in June
Direct to Full Text Report: “Libraries Respond: COVID-19 Survey
15 pages; PDF.
See Also: Take a Look at the Survey Questions
16 pages; PDF.