ANZ university libraries take innovative steps to enhance services while combating the spread of COVID-19

Academic libraries across Australia and New Zealand have demonstrated great innovation to transition a range of services to virtual delivery to support the continuity of essential services to students and staff as they transition to online teaching, learning and research. Library staff have worked tirelessly to transition services off-campus, to virtual mode, or to consolidate services across physical sites in the interests of high quality student experience and learning and research excellence and should be commended for their efforts.

University libraries introduce virtual kiosks to keep students and staff safe

All university libraries across ANZ remain open online and digital services and resources that support learning, teaching and research continue to be available. Where physical libraries are open, social distancing measures are being enforced in the interests of student and staff safety. Where libraries are closed or partially closed, everything possible is being done to support students who do not have access to technology off campus, or have nowhere suitable to study. In addition, CAUL has been working with many publishers to enhance access to digital materials, opening up access to better facilitate online learning and teaching.

CAUL recently conducted a survey of member institutions’ responses to dealing with the crisis including whether physical libraries have been closed or are remaining open or partially closed. Closure of some nature is in place at two thirds of all Australian university libraries with just over half of the 39 libraries now closed completely. All New Zealand university libraries are closed as a result of the national lockdown.

Open/closed status of the 39 Australian university libraries as at 31 March 2020, based on the survey responses:

Shows the number of Australian university libraries for each status

In all cases the majority of library staff are now working from home even if library buildings are still open to support student learning and research. Resource sharing of physical items and the treatment of returned items have posed a challenge to university libraries and some have discontinued these services.

The CAUL National Office is experienced in working from home with three out of five staff permanently working from home - during this time the two Canberra-based staff are also working from home. A dedicated COVID-19 page is maintained on the CAUL website, including a number of useful links to external sector-related COVID-19 resources.

Author Harry Rolf
Last modified 1 April 2020