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COVID’s Impact on Health Sciences Libraries in Kentucky

During our first ever virtual KMLA conference held July 21st, we joined together with other health science and medical librarians in the Kentucky area to discuss the impact that COVID-19 has had on our health sciences libraries. This discussion was open to both librarians and students who were in attendance.

The first topic covered in this discussion was that of reopening. It was shared that Kornhauser Library (UofL) has reopened on an abbreviated schedule. Kornhauser has put several protocols in place (plexiglass shields, changes in study room capacity, reorganizing furniture) to accommodate for social distancing. Rick Brewer, director of the UK Medical Library shared that their library has not yet reopened and that they are still in the planning and preparation stage. There’s so much to consider when reopening – how will students get access, what will the seating be like, who will staff the desk? “It’s a whole new world and a new way of thinking about your services”, said Rick Brewer. We also learned that Sullivan Library is also open on an abbreviated schedule. Several librarians noted that during this pandemic, they’ve worked on expanding their virtual services like virtual zoom rooms and Blackboard collaborate.

KMLA President, Rebecca Morgan pointed out that she has been much busier during this time of COVID. “It seems like we’re working much more than we were before, with a lack of boundaries”, said KMLA Secretary, Tiffney Gipson. Several of the librarians shared that sentiment. Working from home has made it difficult to honor those work and home boundaries that we had in place prior to COVID.

Hospital librarian Riley Sumner discussed the issues COVID has presented for hospital libraries. The Rowntree Medical Library (UofL) has not been able to close at this time even though staff were not able to be present. Hospital library patrons have had to adjust to having librarians who were fully remote. Despite the fact that Riley and Ansley Stuart (Clinical Librarian, UofL) were just returning to their workstations, there has been no lapse in their workload. Many of their meetings are happening remotely and patrons are continuing to make requests.

Finally, we discussed some of the challenges we have faced. COVID has exposed several weaknesses in the infrastructure of our libraries including access to collections, eBook usability (how many users can access a title at one time), and managing internet access issues. This has also caused us as library staff to adjust to using virtual technology. We’ve had to learn how to use Zoom, Teams, BlueJeans and other web conferencing software. It’s been a learning experience for everyone!

For all those who missed the discussion, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the impact COVID has had on your library and the services provided. Here are some of the discussion points we didn’t get to cover:

  • How has your library’s level of service changed while working remotely – has it improved service for patrons, has service declined?

  • What Innovations has your library put in place in response to COVID – have you created any new programs, services, or features to support your patrons during this time?

Additionally, please feel free to share your thoughts on reopening. Has your library reopened yet? If so, how’s it going? Are you still in the planning stages? How’s your work-life balance going? Let’s keep the discussion going, we’d love to hear your thoughts.

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