In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, many libraries have either closed physically and moved to online service provisionally or have closed completely and laid off their employees. My local public library, for example, has laid off 100 employees; but the academic library that I work in is still up and running in a fully work from home capacity. Many of the spring conferences have also either cancelled or moved virtually, including the cancellation of the ALA Annual conference; which is our industry’s largest. Obviously, these decisions are for the best for public health: we want to make sure that the rate of infection stays slow and low so that we don’t overwhelm our fragile medical systems. One of the big things for me because of this, and for other library professionals out there, is figuring out how to stay engaged professionally and connected with their colleagues when they’re not seeing them or speaking to them every day; and their chances to attend and present at conferences are drying up. I’ve found a couple of ways to deal with this situation (and I’m sure there are more), but here are the ones I’ve experienced already and that I’m planning to explore.
Librarian Twitter is a very interesting place. There are a lot of librarians on Twitter having great conversations all the time. If you’ve never thought about checking it out, now is a great time. You can connect with librarians from all areas and all walks of life to make some new connections and learn new things. One of my favourite features of Librarian Twitter is the Twitter chats, and that’s not just because I run one of them; although I am aware that this fact makes me biased. Twitter chats are fun, fast, and informative; and they’re a great way to network with a whole bunch of library professionals at the same time and get some good in depth conversation about library-related topics in a short span. Most Twitter chats run for an hour. They’re moderated and a host will post the questions using the chat hashtag and then participants can join in just by making sure their tweets include the same hashtag. The most well known librarian Twitter chat is #critlib, which runs every other week. There’s also the chat I run using #LISprochat; which we also run every other week most of the time with the occasional extra special event chat. The ALA’s New Member Round Table also runs one under the hashtag #nmrtchat. There is a non-updated list that contains a lot of the chat hashtags, but I can’t promise that they’re all still active.
Virtual Book Clubs
One of my colleagues suggested this when it first looked like we were going to move to working from home. We picked a book and then, once we were working from home for our meetings, we use Zoom, but you can use any video-chat software to make this work. You can even use Slack or another instant messaging service if you don’t want to have your book club meetings on video chat. It’s been great for us so far as we’re all reading for pleasure more and we get to talk to each other for at least an hour a week about things that aren’t directly work-related. You don’t just have to do this with your friends and colleagues from work: you could start up one on professional books and try to use it to connect with other professionals who work in the same type of work you do. You could even use it for programming for your patrons.
Screen-sharing Game Nights
Similarly to the virtual book clubs, this one can also be used as a programming idea in addition to working just to help you stay connected with your friends and coworkers. This one also requires video chat capabilities, and then either a cell phone or computer depending on the games you all want to play together. For our first virtual games night, we played Jack Box games. The host set up the games room on her laptop and then shared it via the video chat with us and we all joined in the game on our cell phones. We’re currently exploring other game options. Trivia nights could also work as I’ve seen those proposed by pubs and game cafes that usually run them in person, but they’re doing them online instead.
Online Professional Development Courses
There are a lot of platforms and tools out there for taking professional development courses in this day and age. They range in cost from free to really expensive depending on what you want to learn. You can find MOOCs from edx, Coursera, and Udemy among others. These platforms have a lot of content that is relevant to many LIS areas. There’s also Library Juice Academy. What I love about their courses is that they’re taught by LIS professionals who are actively working in the areas they are teaching about. LinkedIn Learning is another great option and, of course, you can always just search through YouTube to find relevant videos. You can and should also check out the virtual offerings from state/provincial library associations and the ALA. If you’re interested in learning coding, check out the W3School’s certification options. Interested in Copyright? Copyrightlaws.com has a wide variety of related e-tutorials. There really is a way to learn about pretty much every LIS-related topic online.
Were you looking forward to a certain conference? Check to make sure that they didn’t just decide to move it online instead of cancelling out right! There are also some conferences out there that do exist solely online, such as Library 2.0; whose next online conference is coming up in June. The ABC Copyright conference which runs in May is cancelled, but they’re holding an ABC Virtual event on May 21 and 22 that is expected to be free of charge at the moment. This could even be a great chance to flex some leadership muscles and initiative by getting together with a group of professionals to develop your own virtual library conference to fill some of the voids left by cancelled in person events.
I know it seems really hard right now, we’re all stressed from the constant change and uncertainty. We can get through this, but not alone. We’ll get through this by supporting one another. Stay safe everyone!