Colleges and universities around the world are being affected by COVID-19, and many campuses are shifting to online and distance learning. Librarians need the support of vendors now more than ever to help manage their response and ensure continued access to information for students and researchers, no matter where they are. GOBI shares how they have been working with libraries as their priorities and needs shift as a result of the pandemic.

What are you hearing from libraries and their changing needs due to COVID-19 related closures?

Claire: Changing collection development practices to support online and distance learning has been the biggest shift I’ve seen, and for GOBI that has meant e-books in their different forms of acquisition. In the beginning it certainly felt like all of us — vendors, librarians, and people in general — were focused on changing gears as quickly as possible and supporting short-term goals. With the realization that online learning will likely be in the mix for a while, I think we’re starting to see more long-term planning come into play.

Brian: As Claire mentioned, libraries have had to switch from supporting classroom-based instruction to online instruction, which means getting students and faculty access to quality digital material as quickly, efficiently, and affordably as possible. And they have to do that while also managing suddenly working from home, perhaps homeschooling their kids for the first time, grocery shopping for a vulnerable relative, worrying about their own long-term job security, and generally getting used to the new normal — which is not all that normal, I must say! However, the role of libraries in the era of COVID-19 is essentially the same as it was six months ago — to support their patrons in the mission of higher education.

What are some ways GOBI is helping to support libraries during this crisis?

Brian: In the first weeks of the crisis, it was all about managing the shutdown of the libraries.  What do we do about shipping? Can they still receive shipments? If not, what should we do with open orders? What about material that’s already in transit? Throughout it all, our warehouse team has been phenomenal. They’ve stood their whole workflow on its head to accommodate the shipping holds for our customers, even allowing certain shipments to be invoiced and held onsite until libraries reopen. They’ve done all this, while at the same time managing all the social distancing and other safety protocol necessary in the facility, which those of us working from home don’t have to think much about, at least in our professional lives.

Claire: GOBI’s support role has really shifted and continues to evolve, but at the core we’re doing the same thing we’ve always done. I’ve seen so much dedication among my colleagues to do whatever needs to be done to support the needs of the libraries we work with, and I’ve seen that take stronger shape with this pandemic. We really sprang into action those first few weeks. There was a lot of proactively reaching out to libraries we hadn’t heard from, stalling or stopping shipments, and swapping print orders for e-books. Like Brian, I really commend our operations and warehouse teams for their flexibility and creating ways for us to store materials in a variety of ways.

Whatever reality a library is working with, whether it’s asking us to store their orders or asking for help in ordering an e-book for the first time, a library can know that for every one person they talk to at GOBI, there is a team behind the scenes helping it fall into place.

Libraries have had to switch from supporting classroom-based instruction to online instruction, which means getting students and faculty access to quality digital material as quickly, efficiently, and affordably as possible.

How is GOBI helping libraries navigate the shift from print to e-books?

Brian: I’m creating lots and lots of e-book lists — trying to match or replace what was being used in print for course materials or reserves. We’re also seeing a fair number of ageing titles, long since out of print, that have not been subsequently digitized. We’re seeing this brought to light at institutions nationwide and hope it might lead to new efforts once we’re on the other side of this tumult.

Claire: I’ve been helping libraries shifting from print approval plans to e-book preferred and assisting with print to e-book promotions and evidence-based programs. Much of that involves working with data, whether it’s detailing a shift in their budget or looking at trends in their purchase history to support different types of shifts to electronic/e-books. Like Brian, I’ve also been helping libraries with locating e-book formats for course reserves.

There are many libraries that hadn’t been purchasing e-books title-by-title before this, and the biggest role I’ve found myself in is as a resource for their e-book questions. What are the different purchase options? What does DRM-free mean? Why isn’t this print book also found as an e-book? What are the differences between the platforms you see in GOBI? A big part of this is helping to educate libraries on the wide range of e-book platforms we offer and the acquisition models we support, which has helped libraries transition from print to e-book.

What positive things are we hearing from librarians?

Claire: With so much uncertainty I think there is some justified anxiety and frustration in pretending everything is okay or will return to normal. It feels like March was 20 years ago and April only lasted for two seconds. But I’ve seen so much empathy and understanding between people in the last few months that it leaves me with a lot of hope for how things can be. I think we’re all trying our best to adapt to a different way of being at the moment and supporting each other as best we can.

Brian: Librarians always appreciate our willingness to listen to what they need and try to offer an honest solution. Because this crisis is so all-encompassing, affecting not only our industry but the world-at-large, it’s also been an opportunity to build better relationships, on a purely human level — beyond any direct concern for sales, or the bottom line. I’m fortunate in that I work from home most of the time already, and my five children are all homeschooled —meaning COVID-19 hasn’t been as much of a disruption for my household as it has been for others. The nicest moments for me thus far have been discussing (with both customers and colleagues) how to cope with all this newfound stress. It’s nice to be able to offer suggestions about how to make things better in someone’s life, not just their GOBI workflow. Even if it’s just a gentle assurance that no one minds the sound of a child suddenly breaking in on a conference call. It’s those little moments of solidarity that remind everyone we’re all in this together, even if we’re unsure what the future might bring.

We at GOBI Library Solutions are working to support customers whose campuses have been impacted by the effects of COVID-19. Due to the increase in distance learning needs, we are offering a range of e-book services and options to ensure that student learning and research proceed with minimal disruption. Contact your collection development manager to learn more.

In addition, EBSCO is making more resources freely available and expanding access to EBSCO and partner content. Visit the page below to view a growing collection of content offers, webinars and other resources designed to help library staff provide their students, faculty, researchers and patrons with expanded access to online resources that are now in critical demand.

Looking for information and resources to help during the COVID-19 pandemic?

EBSCO and our partners are providing free resources and expanded access to content to help you support your institutions.