Continuing Online Access to PCC’s Libraries During the Shutdown
by Kanani Cortez
Like many of PCC’s student services, the library department has transitioned their operations entirely online while campuses remain closed.
All four campus libraries have closed their doors in line with PCC’s college wide closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and will remain closed for the remainder of spring term while plans for reopening are forthcoming. The increased integration of digital learning tools in schools has meant the library has been ramping up online resources for the last 10 years—so although the closure was abrupt, they were prepared for it in many ways.
Although physical items are unavailable for checkout, students can continue to access e-book collections, streaming services, and contact librarians through their website. All full time librarians have transitioned to working from home to continue providing one-on-one research support, expanding the e-library, and planning for the future of the library during the closure.
Library Dean, Michelle Bagley, oversees operations of the librarian department and works with all four campus libraries with a total of 40 full time staff altogether.
Bagley said the demand for online resources librarians have been racing to provide has been high, and due to the abruptness of the closures many students did not have time to prepare for the move to online. “[Campuses] closed before students really had a chance to think about ‘what are the things that I need?’ like a computer or laptop and other types of technology. By the time we reopened for spring term, the libraries were not accessible to students,” Bagley said.
Library Technology Manager, Maria Wagner, works with the tech and digital services departments which are responsible for purchasing new library materials and managing the catalog and subscription databases, respectively.
“The first couple of weeks were quite busy. We’re lucky it hasn’t changed a lot [for us.] More of the same kind of work we do, but it is more urgent,” Wagner said. The need to find online accessible alternatives for materials that were on reserve for spring term classes, research assistance and supporting instructors in finding online materials for their class curriculum have become new challenges.
“The ordering of physical stuff for the libraries, we have had to pause that completely. There are boxes of new stuff sitting in the library we haven’t been able to open. Our collection development group is talking about, ‘do we just approve a lot more spending for electronic resources right now?’ That is the plan,” Wagner said.
These abrupt changes required enhancing librarians’ work with instructors to bring their services into their virtual classrooms. What may have previously been a class trip to a library lab is now replaced with access to librarians via D2L. Instructors can invite a librarian to be in their class, allowing them to see all the course content to figure out how to support the students in any given class with research needs. Librarians are working closely with instructors to create targeted research guides for specific class assignments. Using the chat service on the library website gives students access to a librarian seven days a week and one-on-one research assistance.
Faculty Reference Librarian, Roberta Richards, advocates for open education resources and utilizing the various ways to connect with librarians during the closure. Richards describes the changes as a continuation of work they were doing before the closures, but with a higher demand.
The digital services are abundant, but the librarians have expressed their concern for those who utilized the library as a space for collaboration and community, and students who may not have all the resources they need to be successful students online. “We miss the library building, we miss the students, working in that collaborative environment. We do appreciate the opportunity to expand the tools in our toolkit to provide remote support,” Richards said.
PCC has recently announced that summer and fall terms will continue remote operations with exceptions to prioritize programs that are considered essential for health and safety in compliance with guidelines set forth by the Higher Education Coordinating Committee (HECC,) but there has been no official word on a timeline for reopening the library at this time.