By Allison Campbell-Jensen
After our buildings closed in mid-March, faculty and students benefited from the Libraries’ wealth of electronic resources, including those opened up by emergency access to Hathi Trust. Yet, as time went on, it became clear that many people needed print materials, says Melissa Eighmy Brown, Manager of Interlibrary Loan & Digital Delivery. On June 15, digital and mail access to print re-opened.
“I feel a lot of relief that we are able to get a few people into the library,” says Eighmy Brown, “that the users will not have to wait anymore for these things. We can finally provide access.”
Her team stewards the digital delivery of materials to patrons. The scanning is done by Minitex staff, led by Gerri Moeller. And Kirsten Clark, Director of Access & Information Services, is overseeing the revamped campus and mail delivery.
Formerly, Clark’s team delivered Libraries’ materials only on campus. Adding the choice to deliver via U.S. mail — allowing patrons to choose their own shipping address — launched quickly, Clark says.
“We were coming up with this in May and here it’s June,” Clark says. “It speaks to a lot of these are pieces we cobbled together from work we are already doing but we were able to pull this together in a pretty short period of time and we got stuff out the door, already being shipped to people.”
Innovations also are part of the discovery process, Eighmy Brown says. Now users can make their digital delivery or ILL requests directly in the search results, by choosing “Get it.” An ISBN look-up function has been added to the request form; using it, a user may find there is an e-book available to which they could have immediate access. The staff may decide on the digital option, if the person wants just a portion of a book.
Eighmy Brown, Clark, and Moeller agree the first steps were to catch up with a backlog of requests. (They were interviewed before the resumption of services was promoted campus-wide.)
Clark’s team has been in contact with people who had requested items weeks or months ago to ask about their delivery choices. The Libraries’ patrons responded with gratitude:
- “I hope you are staying safe and healthy. Thank you for all of your hard work and everything you’re doing to help us continue our research!”
- “Your email is a timely one as I am preparing to teach Art + Change and Art + Health Justice in the Fall 2020 semester.”
- “Wow, that’s a wonderful service!”
- “Thank you! I was disappointed when the library closed the very day I was going to pick it up :)”
The right staff
This re-opening relies on staff coming together in new ways.
“It’s such a really cool collaboration across departments,” Clark says. “We have facilities and (Interlibrary Loan) and the operations staff. One of the people coming in doesn’t work in Wilson normally; they’re coming over from St. Paul.”
Adding steps to expand the service means, she adds, that they did not need to “completely re-invent it but to tie the pieces together that we already had so we could have a new workflow.”
Eight people are doing the scanning for digital delivery, says Moeller, Minitex Associate Director for Resource Sharing and Delivery, working in Printing Services, Walter, Wilson, Biomedical Library, and Magrath. “As the person who’s in charge of the department, I also want to be really thoughtful and make sure we are taking their needs and concerns seriously, so that people feel as safe as they can be in returning to the office.”
Her team has daily meetings to discuss processes that are effective and also cope with COVID safety concerns. “I expect those will continue for a bit,” Moeller says. Minitex staffers need to coordinate with facilities people when they venture to satellite libraries: For security, there must be at least two people in a building at a time.
“The re-opening is harder than the closing,” says Eighmy Brown. “We found it has to be iterative because we don’t know what is going to change tomorrow.”
“We’re all trying to focus on being flexible,” Moeller says, “willing to roll with the changes, and trying to roll with the new processes.” More changes may be coming, she adds. “But we are happy to start providing access to those materials again.”
Please note: Requests may take longer than usual to process due to limited on-site staffing and potential delays with vendors and partners.