Date of this Version
EDUCAUSEREVIEW 2020, Issue #4, pp 74-75.
Last October, the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), the Coalition for Networked Information (CNI), and EDUCAUSE partnered to explore how research libraries can leverage emerging tech-nologies to meaningfully and productively support research and learning, given ongoing evolutions of digital tools and data collections. Even while we were working on the slippery task of identifying and predicting technologies and processes that could have big impacts on research library objectives, we did not anticipate that a pandemic with world-stopping power might be a scenario we should consider.
Pandemic Advice Not long after the novel coronavirus reached US shores in late Janu-ary 2020, my library, like most others in North America, closed, and staff dispersed to work remotely. We focused on doing as much of our work from home as possible and on providing support for students and faculty who had to suddenly shift the context for learning to an online model. With most labs closed, we grounded ourselves in whatever support for research continu-ity we could engineer. We now know enough about the virus to say that the next few years are uncharted and uncertain, and this uncertainty compounds financial and other strains on research libraries. In the early days of the pandemic, I read some expert advice that stuck with me: people should prepare for pandemics by, among other things, ensuring that the essential functions of society are maintained. In a worst-case scenario, research libraries’ functions that are not maintained could be difficult to restore when we’ve returned to some form of normalcy in the future. So the question is: Given what we’ve learned about promising emerging technologies, what approaches should research libraries take to maintain the most essential and valuable aspects of their work?