Qatar National Library recently hosted an international panel discussion examining how library services across the world have changed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The event, “Libraries and the Pandemic: Preparing, Planning and Providing Services,” brought together leading librarians from Qatar and across the world to share knowledge and highlight how library services are evolving in 2020. Eiman Al Shamari, Information Services Librarian at Qatar National Library, moderated the event.
Randa Chidiac, Executive Director of the Projects and Grants Unit at the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik in Lebanon, and the Vice President of the Lebanese Library Association, gave an emotional address to delegates after the explosion in Beirut and spoke about the crucial role of the Lebanese Library Association and the importance of information governance during the country’s current situation.
Chidiac also spoke about advocating for copyright reform in Lebanon to allow digital sharing during the pandemic, and the changing role of the librarian during this year—particularly in promoting public health awareness and increasing remote working.
Carol Ann Daul Elhindi, Manager of Reference Services at Qatar National Library, spoke about libraries in the US as “second responders,” institutions that step up during times of disaster to provide a range of services that serve the needs of their communities. These include professional training programs, mental health programming and support, and supplemental support for the census, tax forms and elections.
Alicia Yeo, Deputy Director of the National Library Board at Singapore National Library, spoke about the importance of creating a strong workplace culture in libraries after the pandemic, including encouraging good personal hygiene and infection control practices across organizations.
She also elaborated on her library’s safety measures, including dividing staff into split teams with staggered reporting and lunch hours, temperature reporting, “clean desk” policies, and avoiding physical meetings. Staff members are also encouraged to telecommute and stay home if they are unwell.
Yeo also shared that Singapore National Library has been documenting the impact of COVID-19 through archiving websites and television broadcasts, as well as librarians taking photographs and collecting pandemic-related ephemera. Together with the National Museum of Singapore, the library launched a public call to contribute materials that document experiences of the pandemic, aiming to capture a fuller picture of life during these times for the future. Members of the public can contribute videos, audio recordings, memes, photographs, flyers, posters, journals and diaries.
Dr. Milena Dobreva, Associate Professor of Library and Information Studies at UCL-Qatar, gave an analysis of the reopening plans of 40 libraries across the world and spoke about the key themes for reopening: “Safety, Spaces, Staff, Sanitization and Services.” She also suggested that the pandemic has allowed libraries to rethink their strategies on digital transformation.
Amani S. Alyafei, Head Librarian in the science section of Qatar National Library, said of the event:
“This event was a fantastic opportunity for Qatar National Library to bring together an expert panel to share knowledge and experience from across the world and see how libraries have taken different approaches to the unprecedented situation of the global pandemic.
“Knowledge sharing is critical for libraries to continue to play their vital role in their communities and on the world stage. One important unifying theme that the p revealed was how integral libraries have been during the global pandemic, and how the role of the library has adapted to provide more digital support.
“The current pandemic has been a catalyst for change in library services across the world, and the key role that libraries play in facilitating learning, curating programs and engaging with the public has evolved significantly. Librarians are still at the very heart of this process, and we as curators of knowledge must continue to evolve also.