Academic Library Services highlights staff during National Library Week

Joanna Johnson works on her computer in Joyner Library. (Photo by Rhett Butler)

Most people think of a library as a physical place. The pandemic made clear that libraries are so much more than their buildings — libraries are the people that keep them running and the communities they serve.

The American Library Association has observed National Library Week each April for more than 60 years, highlighting the important work of libraries and their staffs in their communities.

Academic Library Services at East Carolina University celebrates National Library Week as an opportunity to recognize and appreciate the creativity, adaptability and dedication of its staff as they’ve worked to support students and faculty over the past year, when visiting the library building was not always an option.

When the university shifted to virtual learning last spring, the library provided 100 laptop computers for long-term loan to students who otherwise would not have been able to continue their studies. Other equipment loans, including Wi-Fi hotspots and webcams, helped keep students connected.

The circulation team shipped books, scanned and emailed documents and articles and continued interlibrary loan services to ensure that students continued to have access to the resources they needed. Virtual assistance services expanded, so students could speak or chat with a librarian for research help. Librarians helped faculty transition their course materials to be accessible online and made virtual visits to classes.

In a typical year, the library hosts exhibits and events that bring the community together. With building access limited, staff hosted online workshops and lectures and created digital versions of physical exhibits.

Aaron Williams works in Joyner during the first week of school. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

The library’s annual Paraprofessional Conference, which provides professional development opportunities for staff in public, academic and school libraries, found a silver lining in its virtual event with expanded attendance in both number of attendees —over 300 — and geography: participants hailed from across North Carolina, nearby states like Tennessee and Florida, and other countries including Nigeria and Georgia.

When students returned to campus, the library building looked a little different, with plexiglass at service desks and hand sanitizing stations among the changes. With masks, library staff may look a little different as well, but they remain committed to serving the campus community in person and virtually.

Jan Lewis, director of Academic Library Services, said, “We celebrate the perseverance of ECU students and employees as, together, we have made it through a year like no other and have learned valuable lessons along the way. Chief among these are the importance of people, relationships and values. I want to take this opportunity to thank the employees of Academic Library Services who have gone the extra mile to ensure that students had the resources and expert guidance they needed to continue with their studies, that faculty had seamless access to research materials, that our physical environment was safe, and so much more.”

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Floyd Conner hangs wire to suspend a sheet of plexiglass in Joyner Library. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)