Documenting our resolute response to 2020

The promises of digital preservation and access become reality.

On March 10, the announcements began.  A two-week suspension of face-to-face teaching following spring break was the first of many modifications at Indiana University to respond to the public health effects of the coronavirus.   As Provost Lauren Robel said in her March 11 message to campus, "We do not take any of these actions lightly, and we take them on the advice of our medical and public health professionals, with deep regard and respect for the public health authorities’ assessments of local, national, and international conditions."

Of course, as the days turned into weeks, nearly all places of learning, everywhere, transitioned into virtual landscapes. At Indiana University, classes were completed online, and then for Fall 2020 a hybrid model was introduced to allow some return of in-person education.

By March, the IU Libraries Moving Image Archive had already hosted 38 in-person screenings for 916 attendees: and then the projectors were silenced. With the exception of the most essential personnel, all library buildings were closed to staff and students alike in March and did not begin to reopen until July. 

In this new landscape, IU Libraries quickly found a spotlight on its longtime commitment to digital and virtual access to knowledge. Decades of work to create systems for scanning and delivery, text and chat modules for reference, digitization of archival materials, and, especially, the roles and expertise of our librarians in digital environments were swiftly called upon.  New ways of using technology immediately became real with one-on-one Zoom consultations replacing in-person reference appointments and  Facebook Live becoming a tool used for work as well as social.

Over the course of the pandemic,  modifications to services and access have been necessary. In the relevant discussions two themes were constant: What do our students and faculty want and need? What is the most we can do while also mitigating risk?

No-contact Paged Pickup, waived fines, HathiTrust Emergency Temporary Access Service (ETAS), Virtual Reference expansion, reserved seating, and the Healthy Operations Support Team (HOST) were just a few of the answers to those questions.  Learn more about them below.

Man in protective mask and blue shirt waving from a library checkout desk. There are hand sanitizer warnings and "Stand Here" stickers on the floor.

The William and Gayle Cook Music Library physically reopened August 17 and before the winter break recorded over 2,000 appointment-based, in-person service interactions. Staff scanned over 100 scores for course reserves, while also presenting 10 Zoom-hosted instruction sessions for MUS-T151: Freshman Music Theory.  MUS-M401: Music History students also benefited from new instruction videos and Libguide content specifically created to meet the needs of students learning remotely. 


A wide angle image of large IU Red vinyl welcome panels on the exterior glass of the BUSSPEA Library.

The Business/SPEA Library (previously Business/SPEA Information Commons) reopened its physical space in fall 2020 with new, welcoming signage, modified hours, and reservable seating. This popular library location recorded 332 reference inquiries, 70 online, personalized research consultations, and 937 student reservations for physically-distanced, in-person studying.

A colorful mobile hanging from the ceiling, with a graph demonstrating over 1,000 children's books were circulated from the Education Library.

In Fall 2020, the Education Library offered reservation-only study seats and circulated over 1,000 children’s books to School of Education pre-service teachers. These books were then introduced to school children through in-person and virtual story times led by IU students.

An empty university building, with COVID-19 warning signs taped to the library alarm gates flanking the entry.

The Scholars' Commons is traditionally home to a busy IU Libraries reference desk.  In March all reference services become virtual through phone, chat, zoom, and email. In August, a reservation system allowed the use of distanced workstations throughout the Herman B Wells Library.  

520 hours the Neal Marshall Black Culture Center Library stayed open during the fall 2020 semester.

Throughout pandemic challenges, the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center Library maintained its vigorous commitment to providing multicultural resources and stayed open 40 hours every week of the fall 2020 semester. The IU community made use of the NMBCCL's commitment to in-person access—14,355 minutes were booked using the newly-implemented seat reservation system, a total equaling 9 days, 23 hours, and 15 minutes. 

Always available

IU Libraries is ready to help by phone, text, chat, click, and recently, (carefully) in-person. After a summer of planning and communication with university leadership, some IU Libraries branches resumed modified in-person services. Stringent cleaning regimens, mask requirements, materials quarantine, and reservation or appointment-only systems were used to provide health protections to the IU community.


IU Libraries fall 2020 seat reservations

Data collected across all IU Libraries locations offering reservations, from August 24–November 20, 2020.

151 minutes Average booking duration

4,619 Unique users

6.7 million public domain items are freely available in the HathiTrust. 1.72 million additional IU text collection items are available to the IU community through HathiTrust Emergency Temporary Access Service, activated due to the pandemic restricting access to physical collections. Of those 1.72 million items, the IU community made 30,929 digital checkouts.
April 3–December 8: HathiTrust Access and Usage Rates for the IU Community
A graphic showing 743 print articles were scanned and shared electronically from June to October of 2020.
June–October 2020: IU Libraries committed to providing the IU community digital access to collection items that previously could only be accessed in-person.
3,148 paged pickup items were circulated from the Wells and Music Library branches over summer.
June 15-August 14, 2020: 3,148 collection items circulated from the Wells and Music Library branches through the summer's Paged Pickup program.
A graphs showing 2 million 982 thousand 300 minutes booked in the IU Libraries seat reservation system, from August 24 to November 20, 2020.
August 24–November 20, 2020: Total minutes booked in IU Libraries' seat reservation system
A graphic showing 19,775 seat reservations were booked in the IU Libraries seat reserve system, from August 24 through November 20, 2020.
August 24-November 20, 2020: Seats reserved in IU Libraries' seat reservation system

1,000+ Children's books circulated by the Education Library, Fall 2020

1,635 increased number digitally linked recordings by Archives of Traditional Music, Fall 2020

743 print articles scanned and shared electronically, june-october 2020

100+ Music scores scanned for course reserves, Fall 2020

1,200+ number IU Performances added to or enhanced in Media Collections Online

3,148 Items circulated from the Wells and Music library via Paged Pickup, June 15- August 14, 2020

Responding to COVID-19

Step by step photographic process of how to book a seat at the Wells library.
Dean Carolyn Walters (left) and Associate Dean for Planning and Administration Diane Dallis-Comentale stand in front of the Healthy Operations Support Team station on its first day open. They are masked up but smiling.

When considering the optimal environment for indoor studying in library spaces, having trained staff dedicated to maintaining public health measures was a priority.  By establishing the Healthy Operations Support Team, or HOST, IU Libraries was able to implement a seat reservation system requiring individual check-in and ongoing safety monitoring.

The primary purpose of the Team is to promote physical distancing, use of face coverings, and other healthy behaviors that must be followed to allow IU students, staff, and faculty the opportunity to work on campus. HOST staff also provide support for finding and connecting with needed library and academic services, and generally welcome and assist the individuals using library spaces in whatever way might be needed. 

IU affiliates were able to reserve both study spaces at tables as well as enclosed rooms for single person occupancy, at first for up to three hours at a time. As the semester continued, longer reservations were implemented along with more flexibility for multiple reservations. Nearly 20,000 seat reservations were made across all library locations in the Fall of 2020, and the system will be sustained into the Spring 2021 semester.  

Friendly woman Zoom chatting

In the fiscal year ending June 30, 2020, more than 8,000 virtualized reference experiences were recorded for questions answered through email, chat and text message. The closing of library buildings in no way closed access to its librarians.  In fact, because virtual reference had long been identified as a benefit to busy students and faculty, offering online service is a continual priority for IU Libraries.  Appointments have never been required for drop-in chat windows and emails are answered within 24-hours - sooner for less complex research needs. 

Taking the online availability a step further, several members of the IU LIbraries reference team presented a well-attended live Q&A on the Indiana University Facebook page. Scheduled Zoom consultations have also become a popular way to consult with Archivists and Librarians at the Lilly Library, Archives of Traditional Music, Scholars' Commons and University Archives.  Many librarian profiles now feature a direct link for immediate Zoom appointment scheduling.


Paged pickup at the Cook Music Library. A large warning sign with rules is outside the front entrance and masked employees are waiting out at the check-out desk.
Wells Library Paged Pickup Collage

A strong demand for physical library materials was evident from the first weeks of the pandemic.  After researching necessary quarantine periods and processes, IU Libraries was able to offer a no-contact pickup service beginning June 15. For the next two months, members of the Bloomington campus community submitted requests online for library materials; and then scheduled a pickup appointment at either the Herman B Wells Library or the William and Gayle Cook Music Library. Requests were limited to 25 items per patron, per day for the popular service. 

A digitized book being shown in the HathiTrust proprietary reading system.

HathiTrust is the largest set of digitized books managed by academic and research libraries. Founded in 2008 by a collaborative of the universities of the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (now the Big Ten Academic Alliance) and the University of California system, HathiTrust preserves 17+ million digitized print items. Of these, 6.7 million titles are available with no reading charges to everyone.

Additionally, through a temporary arrangement, Indiana University students, faculty, and staff are able to log into HathiTrust to read copyrighted titles in the collection that IU Libraries owns in print format. This makes 1.73 million additional items available when the collection is closed for print circulation. The books accessed through Emergency Temporary Access Service are made available under the fair use sections of the United States Copyright Act. 

From April 2020 when ETAS became available, through early December, more than 30,000 IU-full text items have been accessed by Indiana University users. Check out periods are in one-hour increments, which can be extended as long as another user has not requested access. Books are viewed online in the web browser but are not able to be downloaded in full.  

University Archives Director Dina Kellams gives a Zoom lecture.

What began as experiments in connection, communication, and teaching quickly became a space of shared learning and community. Online events are a safe, inclusive way for librarians and archivists to create meaningful experiences that ignite interest in archival collections. Now, attendees from all over Indiana, the US, and even other countries can easily connect directly with presenters and each other through Zoom and Twitch platforms.  Examples of recent online events highlighting specific archive items include:

Back Home Again in Indiana

Welcome to our workspaces. Below a few IU Libraries staff and faculty share what working at home has looked like over the past several months, new co-workers included.

Man in hat working from home in the midst of a daffodil garden.
Gary Dunham, IU Press

Inspired by Wordsworth, IU Press and Digital Publishing Director Gary Dunham works amongst a host of golden daffodils. 

A comedic picture of a woman sitting at a home office desk, with a highly spirited grey Persian cat sitting on the top of the desk chair she's also using.
Special Assistant to Moira Marsh, Anthropology, Folklore, and Sociology

Anthropology, Folklore, and Sociology Librarian Moira Marsh's cat claims space in her home office.

Smiling red-headed woman with adorable baby, who is holding a book upside down.
Leanne Nay, Digital Engagement

Digital Engagement Librarian Leanne Nay and her unofficial colleague.


Smiling woman with glasses holding placard that reads happy national library workers day!
Ilana Stonebraker, Business/SPEA Library

Business/SPEA Library Head Ilana Stonebraker virtually wishes colleagues a safe and socially distanced National Library Workers Day.

Shorthaired orange and white tabby cat looking at the viewer. To his left is a computer with IU Libraries homepage pulled up.
Special Assistant to Anne Haines, Discovery and User Experience

Lotus takes a paws to assist Web Content Specialist Anne Haines.

Submitted photo of a redheaded woman with thick-rimmed black glasses working in a colorful home office, with an attentive black hound dog directly in the foreground.
Theresa Quill, Government Information, Maps, and Microform Services

Government Information, Maps, and Microform Services Head Theresa Quill takes a break with a very good (some say the goodest ever) work buddy.

Middle aged woman with short hair and glasses wearing IU spirit face covering.
Debbi Arwood, Libraries Administration

Administrative Secretary Debbi Arwood shows her IU spirit for colleagues while working from home.

A middle aged man with glasses and a highly contented sleeping striped cat on his lap.
Keith Welch, Library Technologies

Network and Software Analyst Keith Welch works from home with a little company. 

Middle-aged Black woman wearing an IU Libraries lanyard and flashing the peace sign. A vintage promotional poster for the Peter Fonda film "Easy Rider" is behind her to her left. To her right is a curio cabinet with knick-knacks.
Monique Threatt, Media Services

Media Services Head and Easy Rider fan Monique Threatt in good spirits.


A smiling woman at a neatly organized desk, with a notebook and Vitamin water beside her computer
Jackie Fleming, Visual Literacy and Resources

Visual Literacy and Resources Librarian Jackie Fleming prepares for a marathon work week with a neatly organized desk and Vitamin Water.

A sleepy bloodhound comfortably resting his chin on the corner of a laptop.
Special Assistant to Dina Kellams, IU Archives

Murphy Kellams takes advantage of University Archives Director Dina Kellams' brief absence to read through her emails.

A smiling man standing in front of a large row of colorful post-it notes.
Malachai Darling, Research Assistant

IU Libraries Research Assistant Malachai Darling prepares for a week of Learning Commons virtual reference consultations (and Latin language practice) with a cheerful analog to-do list. Malachai, now graduated, has also worked for the  Business/SPEA Library and University Archives.