So What HAS it Been Like to be Back on Campus?

Matt Cunningham, Loughborough

Delegates had an opportunity to hear first-hand experiences of campus and library reopening foibles, challenges and successes in this popular online event.

>A recording of the event is available: with thanks to the University of Birmingham for facilitating this media record.

Following on from previous and well-received virtual events, library colleagues from around the region joined an online event chaired by staff from the universities of Birmingham and Loughborough. For delegates, the focus of the event was to learn from the first-hand experiences of reopening academic  libraries, following the Covid-19 lockdown, from some of the regional pioneering institutions. Alongside this, attendees had the opportunity to share where their own institutions were, with respect to preparations for re-opening.

It was clear from discussions how every library service had adopted their own particular approaches, largely guided by their institutional priorities, although the variety of spatial and building configurations had required some creative approaches to ensure a safe re-opening. Some libraries were further along than others, with a number still, at the time of the event, having staff furloughed, while others had already been slowly re-introducing staff into their physical buildings. Naturally, academic library staff did NOT stop offering a vast range of services and support, even during lockdown or when working from home.

There were a number of key themes which emerged in discussions. Firstly, the need to be adaptable, a library staff strength, as often plans needed to be amended at the last minute: either due to changes in governmental guidance or responding to how people actually made use of reopened spaces and facilities. Secondly, delegates highlighted the importance in addressing the understandable concerns from both university staff, students and other patrons about the safety of returning to work within a physical library environment. Finally, and unsurprisingly, delegates explored the importance of good communication to library staff as well as those people who use their services. Part of this remit included the essential importance of working and liaising closely with other services around campus, to ensure an equitable service experience but also to share experience and advice on topics of mutual concern.

The organisers, alongside thanking the delegates for attending, would like to highlight how one of the best things about working in the academic library sector is the willingness to share information with others [Something which lies at the heart of the Mercian Collaboration’s goals and activities too – Ed]. Hence, if anyone is interested in any of the topics discussed during the event, please don’t hesitate to contact either of the co-chairs Matt Cunningham (Loughborough, or Teresa Jordan (Birmingham,