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Library Quarterly Report FY20 Q3: January-March 2020

Illustration of a SarsCOV-2 vireon with the words: "COVID-19: A State of Emergency"


n March 12th Virginia Governor Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency in Virginia in response to the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). In response to the threat to employee safety, VDOT Commissioner Stephen Brich immediately banned travel, canceled meetings of 25 or more participants and encouraged VDOT employees to seek alternatives to in-person meetings.

On March 17th Commissioner Brich told supervisors to have as many employees as possible work remotely, noting: "All employees who perform office work and can telework should do so." That edict took effect immediately, as staff of the VDOT Research Library gathered laptops and essential equipment, and went home to resume as full-time teleworkers. Despite a rapid and coordinated response, by the end of the month the first VDOT personnel tested positive for COVID-19.

The shock and uncertainty of such sudden changes affect everyone at VDOT. The library adapted quickly, posting a banner on all Web pages, noting: "The library is closed, but staff are available ONLINE during business hours and full-text databases are accessible 24/7 to VDOT employees with or without VPN." The next day we posted a COVID-19 Alerts Page and and sent an e-mail to patrons with these message points, which remained unchanged for the next 3 months:

  • The library is closed to in-person visits and to library staffers indefinitely.
  • Library staff are teleworking and all services will be provided remotely during normal business hours.
  • All Interlibrary Lending (VDOT as borrower and as lender) has been suspended indefinitely.
  • We are extending due dates indefinitely for items on loan to VDOT employees as long as needed.

While checkouts and online downloads were down slightly this quarter, some services were up. We saw document deliveries rise, along with reference (and other) transactions, in addition to increases in the numer of Library Card holders.

Additional Challenges Add To An Uncertain Time
As we prepared for unprecedented challenges we had just resolved a mysterious IT issue, which prevented our Web site from being visible to some users, as noted in this quarter's Spotlight. In addition, we were testing a new method for identifying departed VDOT employees, who must be removed from our systems so VDOT stays in compliance with database licensing agreements, as noted in the Virtual Library Card section. Finally, last quarter we reported the Blue Cloud Analytics software we use to track circulation may not be collecting accurate data. We are struggling to understand the issue. If the data is correct, print circulation has dropped to its lowest point since 2006.

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