Providing Access Even in Difficult Times
Since March, we have focused our efforts on making our materials and services as accessible as possible to our patrons, despite the limitations imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. When the building closed in March, we prioritized access to course materials and sought short-term solutions to keep our faculty and student patrons connected to these resources. We managed to move online nearly 100 chapters from course materials to support students in spring and summer classes.
With public libraries closed, we decided to meet the need for popular reading materials by offering a pickup service for our Leisure Reading Collection. This eventually expanded into a popular Curbside Pickup program that launched in July, making all of our print materials and DVDs available to pick up without any in-person interaction. View a video on how to do this.
Throughout the pandemic, we have altered our policies to give our patrons greater flexibility in borrowing and returning items. Many of our students, faculty and staff are no longer able to come to campus, so we have eliminated overdue fines, extended the due dates for items borrowed before the library closed and offered longer, more flexible loan periods for equipment that students need to participate in class and complete their coursework.
While some students have returned to campus in the fall semester, many are still learning remotely, so we have continued these new policies and services and added to them in the hope of providing a seamless learning experience. Our staff worked hard over the summer to launch an expanded service for checking out digital copies of course materials. Students can access all of our most frequently borrowed items online, enabling faculty to continue to provide the same high level of instruction.
We also have focused on helping patrons access materials from other libraries in the University System of Maryland (USM) and across the country. With many libraries closed and print materials unavailable, our Interlibrary Loan staff has made an extra effort to find new sources for electronic options. We also collaborated with colleagues in the USM to resume sharing print materials in September, making many more resources accessible for student and faculty research.
In this time when in-person service is a challenge, we have prioritized customer service by reopening a staffed Library Service Desk and opening the Guerrieri Academic Commons for studying, computer use and browsing. With numerous health and safety protocols in place, we are happy to provide nearly the same level of access and service while offering students a bit of normalcy and human connection.