In early March 2020, COVID-19 a lot of academic libraries had to close. Libraries during Covid times have faced many struggles and the future of libraries will involve change
Now with many libraries opening again there is a lot of discussion regarding how best to go back to normal. In person classes and close interactions are still to be avoided where possible. Access to physical collections could also prove to be an issue. Collaborative study is being shunned in favour of isolate studying or via online platforms. Social distancing in buildings means that libraries may only safely house half the people they used to.
For that reason even after the pandemic is over there will likely be a number of changes to how and what we perceive libraries to be.
Even despite the current crisis it has become increasingly clear how irrelevant a lot of print collections have become when a lot of the information can be accessed digitally.
Mass digitization and access versus archives.
For a long time now research libraries have engaged in print digitization efforts as back ups should anything happen to print copies. With print materials locked behind closed doors, in some instances emergency digital library were able to be accessed by its members. This is surely a trend we are likely to see happen from now on within the future of libraries. Whilst there are copyright issues further mass digitization efforts should be undertaken to preserve print copies and make them more accessible.
Demand for printed materials have decreased while use of electronic resources has skyrocketed in libraries. Over the following few years, budgets need to be allocated towards growing electronic collections. The future of libraries will involve developing new strategies for negotiating deals with publishers. Lobbying for greater access to streaming media and ebooks will also need to be pursued. New access models will have to be developed to encourage the adoption of e-books.
The end of huge deals.
The long-term financial implications of COVID-19 and inflationary increases by publishers have caused several institutions to reconsider multiyear licenses to large journal packages. Libraries will need to rely instead on resource-sharing and document delivery services, encouraging publishers to develop specific access options.
Distinctive collection digitization.
The best assets of an academic library’s collection are the special collections and archives. Often though, these materials are often hidden away in vaults, only available for in-person access. For libraries during COVID closure such access was limited. This again means further archives digitization efforts should be made in the coming years. Digitized content will become a primary source of access rather than just a means of preservation.
Copyright/fair use challenges.
Copyright has always been unreasonably restrictive despite protecting the creators of the material. Due to the increase in online access and classes libraries must provide more copyright education to encourage authors to use creative licenses and lobby for more flexible copyright laws.
Libraries pride themselves on their customer service. Layouts may now need to be redesigned to ensure they don’t become hot zones of traffic. More self-service and touchless interactions will be needed. These include services such as self-checkout, curbside pickup and scan and deliver.
Support for online teaching.
Libraries are perfectly positioned to help educational institutions with the development of online courses. They already provide students with instruction, technologies and digital learning facilities. Further relationships should be made to ensure students and schools have all they require to navigate the online environment.