Pandemic preparedness: Library service @ CSIR-SERC

Good service is no accident. For library services to be successful it is essential that there should be a well thought of system (policies, methods and planning), proper direction (strategy), and well trained and motivated people with the right attitude. The sudden outbreak of the COVID-19 virus forced the library professionals to ascertain ways to provide remote services, to users, in a short span of time with no disruption. Here technology and quality network services played a big role. With the cooperation of the management and users, librarians have demonstrated their skills, empathy, and flexibility during the lockdown with utmost professionalism.

At the Knowledge Resource Division (KRD) of the CSIR-Structural Engineering Research Centre, Chennai library services are maintained in both, online and offline mode. During and after the partial lockdown period, to ensure the safety of staff and patrons alike, basic safety procedures were followed at the KRD which included wearing of mask, hand sanitization, maintaining social distance and avoiding group discussions / gathering, conducting online (virtual) meetings, keeping file movement to the minimum by scanning and sending the required files online, etc. Adequate awareness on the safety protocols to be maintained in general and at the KRD were brought out by display of signage and posters at KRD.

The KRD document circulation service and OPAC are maintained using KOHA – an open source software and every patron has been assigned with unique login credentials. During the partial lock down the KRD was kept open with 50% of staff working and circulatory services such as documents borrowing, return and renewal was done while at the same time encouraging patrons to renew documents online. Online renewal of the documents was allowed for six times.

Online access to journal articles which forms the core source of information of any research library has been provided via the campus IP network. During the lockdown the full text access to journal articles has been provided to patrons via VPN using unique login credentials provided to each user. Full text articles from journals not being subscribed were sourced on the internet and procured through network of CSIR libraries (through the CSIR consortium facilitated by CSIR-NKRC) and other research and educational institutes at the request of users via email. Major scientific journal publishers and database providers have been cooperative in supporting the library community in immeasurable ways. Some such services worth mentioning are providing links to resources available online (apart from subscribed content), conducting of webinars, links on how to set up remote access to access the online resources, conducting training sessions and online demos, etc.

Whatever the size of a library, librarians were able to responsibly meet the challenge presented by a worldwide pandemic. They all faced unique situations, yet they successfully provided services to their patrons. To continue the services uninterrupted that exceed the user’s expectations, be it during a pandemic or in normal times, librarians should continue to prepare, persevere and promote technology-based services.

Dr. M. Mymoon
CSIR-Structural Engineering Research Centre