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College of University Libraries and Learning Sciences News

Library services during the pandemic

by Patricia Campbell on 2020-12-24T00:00:00-07:00 in Library | Comments

When UNM closed campus and pivoted to on-line classes in March, University Libraries was able to quickly respond to the needs of students and the campus since so many of our services were already readily available online. University Libraries employees remained working and were able to increase the availability of many services. We immediately launched a dedicated webpage to help students adjust to the new reality of no in-person library instruction and reference which was kept updated through the year as conditions changed. We were able to quickly deploy laptops to library employees who needed them to effectively work from home and also loaned many of our student-use laptops to UNM IT for long term loans to students in need of them to complete their classes.

During the temporary closure of buildings University Libraries quickly launched a carryout service for books from our main campus library collections allowing borrowers to pick them up from Zimmerman Library during a window of time once a week. This proved to be a highly popular service throughout the summer until buildings were able to reopen

In early September we were able to reopen our buildings for a limited number of hours to the UNM community but with significantly reduced seating as required by state government orders. The number of students, staff and faculty on campus for fall semester is much smaller than normal and the number of students in our spaces reflects that.

Many employees are working behind-the-scenes to keep all of these efforts functioning – from catalogers and electronic resource specialists to the web team and IT professionals.

University Libraries leadership continues to monitor the current situation and plan for whatever the next few months may bring.

Ask a Librarian Virtual Reference

As the pandemic stretches into fall and spring online help services and reference will continue to be available through our Ask a Librarian service, which offers live help as well as an FAQ. Chat services are also continuing on a limited schedule. Since the start of the Fall semester on August 17th, the Ask a Librarian service fielded 607 chats, 76 texts and 220 emails. In comparison, for the same time period in 2019, we answered 321 chats, 21 texts and 72 emails. Our online reference and information services traffic has doubled, or in some modes even tripled, since last year.

Specialized Assistance for
Faculty and Classes

Faculty librarians in Learning and Outreach Services are continuing to support students and faculty through online teaching, research, and collections. As a team they learned how to incorporate new online tools into teaching and consultations. They continue to provide online synchronous instruction, creating videos for asynchronous classes, and producing new online resources, including Research Bytes, a Library Orientation Guide, an Introduction to the Library and an Archives Toolkit. We’ve also noticed an increase in interactions with faculty as they contact us to ask about online resources for teaching and research.

Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections

COVID-19 changed the CSWR’s workflow and procedures. Many more reference questions were fielded virtually and staff did many more scanning projects to accommodate researchers needs. Starting in June the CSWR was able to offer appointment based on-site access for a limited number of researchers per day. Since mid-June they served an average of 3 patrons on site per day. About 150 patrons who represented the UNM, Albuquerque, and New Mexico communities, and a few out-of-state patrons (CA, MA, AZ, NY) have used the service. The CSWR has responded to more than 300 reference inquiries, many of them involving scanning requests

Some of the more interesting requests handled by CSWR staff and students were:

  • Assisted a patron looking into the time when Ed Abbey was editor of the Thunderbird in 1951 and the scandal that its cover caused at the time. Ed Abbey and all the other staff were fired from their positions over the scandal.
  • Assisted Jamie McGrath Morris on his home stretch to deliver his biography manuscript on Tony Hillerman to his publisher.    
  • Assisted a graduate student in Italy trying to figure out if our Japanese War Crime Tribunal Documents from 1946-1948 hold any of the documents she was looking for – four days before her master’s thesis was due. The CSWR is one of only a handful of institutions that hold these kind of records.

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