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Reference, Instruction, and Outreach (RIO)

Guide to provide a forum to learn and share ideas about the various aspects of library reference, instruction, and outreach.

Meeting Notes

Libraries started using new tools and had an increase in use of existing tools during the pandemic. Many libraries are now discussing which approaches will continue as they continue to reopen and return to offering in-person services. 

LibAnswers via Zoom, which has a screen sharing option that does not require the patron to download anything, has worked well. LibraryH3lp has a screen sharing function, but it is not intuitive, so difficult for patrons to use. Making student cohost of Zoom sessions so the student is doing the actual searching was a good learning experience for staff. They realized that they were often taking over searching during in-person sessions, so now will make more of a conscious effort to make sure students are doing the searches so they can better learn. The same was true with public libraries and ebook devices. In the past, library staff would often just load material on device when patron was having problem. Since staff couldn't do that over the phone, staff had to walk patrons through the process. This may lead to more patron success with ebooks in the future. 

SpringShare products were a great help during the pandemic, especially for scheduling pickups and in-person visits. Students easily learned how to use the products, so will probably continue to use them as COVID restrictions are lifted. 

Reference requests increased at many libraries when patrons could not physically visit the library. Collecting reference stats and reporting them to the staff helped staff morale, who sometimes felt they were not serving patrons adequately. Can cc the library's LibAnswers system for statistical purposes when answering reference emails. 

Libraries that had in-person services for much of the pandemic had a difficult time monitoring both the in-person and increased remote reference. All libraries will likely have more demand for virtual services and programs as libraries reopen to the public, but libraries have the same number or fewer staff members than prior to the pandemic. Need to figure out how to prioritize and juggle in-person and remote services. Remote book groups have been successful and will likely continue in some way. Adding recorded programs to YouTube channel has increased visibility of the channel and will likely continue. 

Academic libraries preparing for more instruction and help in the fall as both first and second year students will be new to campus. Academic libraries are hoping that the increased used of reference services and the chat function will continue, but will likely decrease the use of online instruction. It is hard to monitor student reaction or success with hands-on activities in an online class. Students less likely to ask questions or participate in online sessions. When cameras off, students are not very engaged. However, recorded sessions are good for students to refer back to, so may continue to offer those. 

Collaborating difficult in online instruction. Breakout rooms are awkward unless they have a very specific task. Some libraries use a shared Google Doc for groups to fill out together as they find things. Instructor can monitor this and check in if group seems to be having trouble. Using LibWizard to create quizzes and surveys for students to use in breakout rooms also worked well. 

Post-pandemic goals include increasing stats to pre-pandemic levels; staying connected with new people who started using the library during the pandemic; better marketing and promotion of library services, especially to people new to campus; providing instruction in ways that are sustainable; determining which services developed during the pandemic will continue to be successful and improving those while pruning those no longer needed; focusing on academic integrity, which came to the forefront during the pandemic. 

Questions about how/if online services and staff meetings will continue. People are tired of it, but when we return to more in-person, will they be more open to using it because they are not in online programs and meetings all day? Good for better connecting people who work in different locations or on different shifts. 

Some academic libraries have set up rooms for hybrid/hyflex programming so people can participate in programs both virtually and in-person. The rooms have a large monitor and camera so groups can see each other, microphones in ceiling. Expensive and difficult to facilitate these sorts of programs, but there will likely continue to be a demand.  


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