Tag Archives: COVID-19

Digital Delights

Are Libraries Still Relevant?

How Future-Ready Libraries Overcame Physical Limitations to Serve Those Sheltering in Place

Estimated reading time for this article: 3 mins

By James Johnson

I recently completed a research paper examining the varied COVID-19 pandemic responses of North American libraries. Of the three major types reviewed (public, academic, school), a consensus was achieved: future-ready librarians, relying on prior years of commitment to digital resource acquisition from capable predecessors, were successful in pivoting to a new, remote mode of service.

In January of 2020 both the United States of America and Canada reported their first cases of the virus SARS-CoV-2. This synchronous infection caused most Canadian provinces and American states to declare emergency measures around mid-March of 2020, respectively. Libraries were ordered to shut in Ontario on March 17th 2020, by the Premier Doug Ford. Similarly, just across the border in New York at the same time, public libraries were shuttering for their part in stemming the corona virus tide

As the economy ground to a halt, so too did our cultural outlets. Concerts, museums, archives, galleries, and of course, libraries all closed. How these institutions responded to abrupt closures is indicated by their seamless ability to function in an entirely digital environment. Those who had prepared, dedicated and curated the components required to facilitate the inevitability of remote-access were incredibly successful.

The Toronto Public Library (TPL) system, an oft cited luminary here on Library Tech Files, provided even more digital resources than in pre-pandemic years, including 2.4 million more e-books than the previous year, an increase of 32%

Not only did TPL open its digital stacks to more Torontonians than ever before, other digital services number in the dozens. It’s sometimes overlooked that libraries are not simply vessels for passive entertainment. Research and education resources are jewels in the TPL services catalogue. Powerful research tools like Ancestry Library Edition were made available for at-home use. Wasting away at home because your job closed? Courses from Lydia, Sage, and Gale are freely available for skill development and enhancement.

I often hear from reluctant readers that news and current events can be hard to come by. Print papers are scooped up by early-risers, soaring subscription prices and soft-paywalls act as significant discouraging barriers. Whenever I hear this argument, at least from Torontonians, I direct them to PressReader, an app that lets users read a vast selection of magazines and newspapers of the day, both locally and globally. All you need is a library card. Everyday, I have the National Post and Toronto Star downloaded to my mobile device via my preference settings in the app. Of course these apps aren’t truly free, our collective citizenry pays for these services through taxes. By that standard, consider it your obligation to utilize them.

Not every library system has the resources or budget to come close to what TPL offers. I get that. I’ve seen the numbers. Every library has its limitations and If one day soon I find myself uprooted to a new, smaller township, I hope to view it as an opportunity to advocate and encourage development of the library-community engagement in an effort to increase the sorts of services I value.

Digital services will continue to develop and prove themselves valuable assets to the library and information user. How your library prepares for future use will determine the continuity of success and user engagement. Libraries have demonstrated that they are community resource organizers and not only relevant today, but perhaps more so than ever.

If you reside in Ontario, consult the ministry’s index for your library’s website and details.

Take some time to rest, reflect, and review this week

2020 has come at us hard. It’s been a hell of a year, and as we continue into the best season (honestly its the only time of the year I don’t sweat in sweat pants), take time this week to reflect on all you have and how that wealth can make each day better.

This past week I learned the fragility of peace and that stillness is a gift those dealing with pain often do not get to experience

By James Johnson

Another week has passed, as the fall term progresses. Welcome to another Monday, students.

The week in review continues as we watch the wheels of American progress leave the reality rails down south. Our neighbours have come to a crossroads, that much is certain. We will have to see if strong leadership, ethical platforms– and (most importantly) voter turn out –serve to reunite the peoples of the once great united states of America. Whatever route they decide on November 3rd, growth from all sides is going to be necessary if there is to be any healing between the rifts

As for me, well I’ve had better weeks. I’ve been waylaid by severe nerve pain caused by bone spurs on my cervical spine. For weeks now, shoulder pain mixed with neck pain and arm numbness have given me nothing but grief. The total amount of reading and writing that I am required to complete this term is intensive, even by my standards. But sitting at the desk and typing is agony.

The only peace from the gnawing comes from sleep which is hard to attain. The pain is unrelenting. After two visits to the ER and all the scans and tests one could image (thanks universal healthcare), I got a somewhat worrisome prognosis. I’m working through it and its not slowing me or the dog down on our sunrise walks along the boardwalk. Everyday is a little bit better. I have a new found respect for the dignity others show when living with chronic pain. It is not easy. I am not going to let this become my new normal however, so I have a tough row to hoe.

My son experienced his first week back-to-school and he says he doesn’t mind the mask wearing and the small group settings. Luckily his class size is down to 15, rather than 30. Again, we live with these changes and every day is a little bit better. The numbers of infected continue to rise as the second wave looms. But I count our blessings that we will be able to comfortably isolate ourselves until we are better, should we too become sick at some point. This is a comfort many can’t afford. It took great sacrifice and hard work to get to where we are today. So I remain grateful each day I have left. For now, we live each day as best we can. Our son is looking forward to resuming swimming and children’s yoga at our local rec centre. I hope he has lots of fun as he develops new skills and works on the ones he was developing pre-lockdown!

As for the Goddess Anastasia, she is kicking ass in the hospital day in and day out. She’s earning her stripes and contributing to the community. Its fascinating watching a career, one entirely earned by hard work and truly deserved, come to fruition before your eyes. She has worked her buns off for this and she is rocking it.

As for the coursework this term. I am doomed. I have four heavy classes that I am desperately trying to find the time and focus to work on. It is not going to be an easy fall term! I need to finish strong so going into placement looks nice and clean. I hope to impress my way into a permanent position, after all, which is the goal of most information professionals interested in paying off their mortgages and car payments.

Stay tuned for some more articles coming at you guys this week.

Thanks for reading