Living with a global pandemic for over a year has been a challenging period for all of us. The library services of Tampere higher education community have also been affected by a number of Covid-19 restrictions. More precisely, library premises have been closed for months and only the most vital local services have been offered to our customers. Fortunately, our online services are of great quality and in many ways have been able to compensate for the lack of services normally offered by the unit libraries.
The use of library premises and services was extremely active before the pandemic. The library at TAMK Main Campus had hundreds of daily visitors. It was difficult to find a free spot for studies, group work and meetings. The number of loans for printed books was high and a wide variety of e-materials was used via workstations and laptops in the library. The library’s service desk offered help and guidance for both students and staff. Moreover, a more thorough understanding of information searching was passed on to the students in the library’s classroom.
Redesigning our services
The pandemic changed library services in many ways. In Mid-March 2020 the national lockdown closed campuses and academic libraries. As a result, we had to come up with new solutions for service provision. We arranged at least availability for some printed materials; the necessary course books and other materials crucial to studies. We also adjusted and further improved our online services to match the growing demand in the absence of face-to-face services. Information searching classes were organised in new, innovative ways as all the teaching was held remotely via Zoom. You can read more here.
When the library premises were closed, our priority was to arrange a system for ordering and picking up the printed books. We offered an order form on our webpage and later it became possible to make the request on our search portal, Andor. Pick-up points were arranged near the entrances of the library premises where customers can borrow the ordered material by using self-check machines. The incoming orders are handled by library staff members who are present at campuses. However, the majority of library staff is working remotely like most of the staff of the Tampere higher education community.
Luckily, the pandemic has not restricted the library’s online services. Most of the library services have been available by chat, e-mail and phone. We have allocated more human resources into these services to keep the response time as short as possible. In addition, we created some new online services too e.g. activation of library cards. Our vast electronic information resources have been accessible for the members of the Tampere Universities community remotely. New e-materials have also been acquired based on our customers’ requests.
The feedback shows that most of our customers are pleased with the possibility of getting essential materials and services from the library. Still many are quite eagerly waiting to return to the library premises to read, study or just hang around with friends. For many students, the library has been an important place for social contacts and they also value the face-to-face library services. The library staff is also waiting to get back to the so called “normal library life” after the pandemic. Among other things that include long opening hours, crowded reading rooms and queues at the service desk.
Nevertheless, we are also pleased with the growing numbers of online services usage. The Covid-19 situation has led many customers to discover the full potential of our library’s online services and has activated them to become daily users. It is highly possible that the use of online library services will be very active in the future, too.
Text: Tero Kansanaho, Senior Specialist in Tampere University Library
Images: Jonne Renvall, Essi Kannelkoski