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Summary: September Core e-Forum, “From Reactive to Proactive: Tech Today and Post COVID”

Summary: September Core e-Forum, “From Reactive to Proactive: Tech Today and Post COVID”

Close-up view of young woman working on her project while drafting her idea on notebook in comfortable workspace

On day one, the first question “What successes or challenges have you experienced with pivoting library services during your COVID response?” garnered quite a bit of response. Libraries commented about leveraging electronic forms built in Excel to decrease item tracing and handling. Others commented on using tools such as QR codes on public printers to provide touch-free usage. There were several remarks related to challenges around supplying equipment needed for staff to work from home, and realigning technology and assets to allow for this. Of course, stress around the multiple unknowns still weighs heavily on people, and long range projects like facilities construction have been impacted. 

Question 2, “What has been your biggest challenge that you solved by applying technology during this time? Is this a new technological solution, or did you expand an existing solution to meet current needs?” resulted in a discussion around challenges with new online meeting software as well as moving displays and passive programming to LibGuides. Virtual exhibits were also discussed. 

Question 3 was: “What problems has existing tech caused you that you had to overcome?” Problems around capacity on VPN networks and virtual meeting software were again evident. It was remarked, however, that collaboration and team work seemed to improve during this time.

Responses to the fourth question, “To what extent do you plan to move toward more self-service tech solutions in the near future?”, ranged from ideas around providing print services in a minimally staff facility to increased investment in patron self service solutions.

The last question of the day, “Have you had to spend more to support your technology infrastructure since the pandemic began? If yes, do you think this will be a long term change in investment?” again reflected increased spending for remote tools such as meeting software and equipment and infrastructure necessary for staff to work from home. Increased spending in public libraries for additional mobile hotspots for circulation was also mentioned.

Day 2, which concentrated on long term changes to technology and tech planning, the question “What changes to library services have you made that you feel will become permanent—and why?” prompted a brief discussion about curbside services. It is felt that these services will survive after COVID, as they meet needs beyond just the immediate situation. Investment in online resources was also mentioned. Again, increased team work and collaboration among staff members was cited as a positive to come out of the shutdowns. 

There was a spirited discussion about the permanence of virtual programming in libraries, and a feeling that much of it will not survive the current needs. A hybrid solution of physical and virtual programming for some needs was seen as a probable outcome.

In response to the question “Are you planning any changes to your homeschooling support, and do any of those include tech solutions?”, one library mentioned a new “mini-library” product from TLC that could be leveraged in schools to provide resources for early readers.

Response to the last question, “Thinking about your long-term technology plan, what major realignments have you made or will you make over the next three years?” cited more API/EDI ordering, rapid cataloging from vendors, and further automation available from LMS vendors.

Although the second day of discussions was quiet, I believe the e-Forum did produce some valuable discussion about library response short and long term regarding technological change resulting from the pandemic. On behalf of myself and my fellow moderators, we appreciated the opportunity to participate.

– Carolyn Coulter, e-Forum moderator

Core e-Forums are two-day, moderated, electronic discussion forums that provide an opportunity for librarians and library professionals to discuss matters of interest on an email discussion list. These discussions are free of charge and available to anyone who wishes to subscribe to the email list.