Since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses and organizations worldwide have sought new and innovative ways to continue to cater to their users and provide the best possible services in a truly unprecedented situation. The University of Cincinnati Libraries is no exception. Over the last three months library faculty and staff, in collaboration with university partners such as Student Government and IT@UC, and in conversation with faculty from across campus, have made a swift transition to remote online services. All the while, the Libraries has stayed committed to their mission to empower discovery, stimulate learning and inspire the creation of knowledge by connecting students, faculty, researchers and scholars to dynamic data, information and resources.
Through individual and library-wide efforts, UC Libraries is ready to serve the UC community. Highlights of work to provide library services and resources online include:
Peter Poulos, Computer & Information Analyst, Health Sciences Library
Computer and information analyst Peter Poulos supports technology at the Donald C. Harrison Health Sciences Library. With the closure of the university’s facilities, the Health Sciences Library IT department was tasked with transitioning high-stakes computer-based exams in the College of Medicine (COM) to remote testing.
The department worked closely with Dr. Ned Donnelly, chief proctor for the COM, and other faculty and administrators in the college to obtain exam monitoring technology to conduct secure and remote exams, coordinating institutional needs, purchasing, training and documentation. Library IT staff assisted students in obtaining, installing, configuring and troubleshooting required software. Students without computers, or ones that did not meet the minimum software and hardware requirements, were loaned laptops from the library. Support for all students was conducted via e-mail, telephone calls and remote desktop computer-to-computer connections prior to and during exams. Online examination integrity agreements were distributed and facial recognition data was established for secure login and use of the system. Sixty-eight remote exams were successfully completed during the closure, garnering the widespread appreciation of COM students and faculty.
Michael Alfieri, Assistant Director and User Engagement Manager, Research, Teaching and Services Department, Walter C. Langsam Library
As assistant director and user engagement manager in the Walter C. Langsam Library’s Research, Teaching and Services Department, Michael Alfieri has a dedicated interest in supporting library users no matter the circumstances. The pandemic provided an extreme circumstance to navigate, and, therefore, required the creation of new services to maintain the user connection while the Libraries work remotely. This led to the creation of the Libraries’ new Chat Service, which went live on Tuesday, March 26. Along with other library staff and student workers, Michael has helped to man CHAT, to answer user questions and provide immediate support.
One afternoon, while Michael was working CHAT, a PhD researcher from the medical campus reached out.
“He was extremely frustrated,” Michael explained, “He was doing research from home and was running into many difficulties accessing databases he uses for his research. In particular, he was trying to track down an article about the testing of N95 masks. Within five minutes I had e-mailed him the article that he needed and also provided the information required to access the databases from home. He thanked me repeatedly for all the assistance.”
Many questions from CHAT are detailed reference questions, making this a valuable tool to stay engaged with the library user base to provide seamless service in this difficult time.
Sally Moffitt, Reference Librarian and Selector
Sally Moffitt is a woman of many hats. Along with being a reference librarian in the Walter C. Langsam Library, she is the subject specialist for anthropology, history, philosophy, political science, Africana, Asian, Judiac, Middle Eastern and women’s, gender and sexuality studies, along with the Cohen Library Enrichment Collection.
Several months into the pandemic, Sally was contacted by a graduate assistant with the History Department whose research plans had gone awry and who was struggling to find digital and digitized resources including newspapers and magazines from the 1890s. After sharing their research topic, Sally was able to identify a host of accessible, online resources thus enabling the graduate student to continue with their work.
Access to collections is key for student and faculty research. Online and digitized collections, in particular, are now more important than ever before. The Libraries created the Online Library portal to direct users to essential resources and services to enable online research and scholarly work, as well as information on changes in services and access due to our current facility closures.