Global Collaboration for SLA’s Task Force on Reopening Specialised Libraries

Covid-19 caused libraries worldwide to close their doors. Seema Rampersad, chair of SLA's Task Force on Reopening Specialized Libraries, reports on their findings, including an event on how library professionals are coping in the pandemic and a coronavirus hub for relevant content.

Global Collaboration for SLA’s Task Force on Reopening Specialised Libraries

This year will be remembered mainly for the Covid-19 coronovirus, and its impact on the world, work and life in general. It has been a time of unprecedented challenges, changes and working together as the global pandemic forced us into a diversion and we adjusted the way we provide library and information services in-person and digitally.

In Spring 2020, SLA started programming events and discussions on the topic. At the direction of SLA president, Tara Murray Grove, the association set up the Task Force on Reopening Specialized Libraries. I was asked to chair this important committee and it was great to have representation from five countries. The task force is still actively monitoring the situation to relay and share relevant information about the pandemic with our professional community.

Initially, we searched best practice information from international organisations and within SLA. We used that as a basis for our own research into how organisations were responding to the pandemic. We found several insights, webinars, scientific research and ideas that could be used in specialized libraries. As a result, we provided our members with a reopening specialized libraries resources list, which made it easily searchable for finding organisations they can find information on this very new and unknown area affecting all of us.

Another main objective for the Task Force was to engage and reassure our communities, as we provided information to the SLA Board that highlighted some of the challenges we were all experiencing in our physical spaces, digital services, wellbeing and the profession itself.

The Task Force held two Roundtable discussions on the issues with our members. This open conversation allowed us not only to express our concerns but also to learn from each other, for example, moving in-house to a curb-side service or negotiation of electronic resources contracts for remote access. Our report was presented to the SLA Board with our findings highlighting issues such as wellbeing, health and safety, digital divide, budgets, accessibility, planning, preparedness, use of technology and asking for greater advocacy in difficult times. As a learning process, we also added the topic to the recent virtual SLA Conference, as it is a fundamental part of providing services in the pandemic this year.

In addition, as I am representing SLA Europe, we had one of its’ most popular event on “How library professionals are coping in the pandemic” where we held a panel discussion on the how to adapt to the changing environment and also how we can support each other. We also created a dedicated space as a Coronavirus Covid-19 hub with relevant content on the SLA Europe website.

We are still in the global pandemic, so do keep an eye out for virtual events SLA Europe is hosting and for any knowledge we are happy to share with you! Stay safe and well in the meantime.

Seema Rampersad is SLA Europe President for 2020.

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