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Library Quarterly Report FY21 Q3: January-March 2021

Spotlight: Working From Home Brings 'Virtual' Records In Library Use

The library has seen dramatic changes in how patrons are accessing collections and services. Use of the library is still exclusively from patrons who are working remotely. It is worth noting that ALL of the library's collections and services are available remotely and they are getting use. In the past 12 months we have counted at least 494 "unique" users (our databases, which are our most popular sources, do not track with specificity). During this time, 37% of our interactions were spent providing "services" like: shipping, scanning, Interlibrary loans and conducting literature searches, while 67% of library use was patron self-service access to subscriptions. About 16% of users utilized services and collections.

Print Materials: Circulation of print materials has been higher than expected, in part because patrons studying for the P.E. Exam were subjected to reduced capacity (and at least one cancellation), based on  public health restrictions. Patrons have increasingly discovered all print materials can be checked out through our Library Catalog and received with one click of the "ship to me free of charge" option.  Barb Neyman, who has worked in person one day a week since last quarter) has been busy shipping, receiving and reshipping items. In addition to offices in Virginia, VDOT employees are asking us to ship items to them at workplaces in North Carolina, New Jersey and Delaware as well.

Access to Databases: Despite little promotion during the pandemic the last two quarters saw record levels of access to subscriptions (4,151 downloads in Q1 and 4,309 downloads in Q2). Unfortunately, we've seen VPN rationing, system latency, and down time. These were somewhat eased with Zscaler, a VPN alternative launched last March. Zscaler helped, but behaved in unpredictable ways. It was suddenly replaced with Prisma GlobalProtect at the end of this quarter.
For years the library has used OCLC EZProxy as form of authentication to library databases that is integrated with our Virtual Library Card. EZProxy provided a "safety net" for library patrons when VPN had issues, and statistics show the most dramatic increase we've seen since we implemented it in 2015.


Chats Are Up: We have had high levels of engagement with patrons through e-mail and our LibAnswers ticketing system, however, the fastest rising form of communication we've see is through Library Chats patrons have initiated with us. This graphic shows how Chat rose in importance as a form of communication for the library since the pandemic started. It is also worth noting that chat is another "patron-initiated" service. 

While we have seen a surge in chat requests, we have also seen an increase in "missed chats" which we will try to remedy. And while we have seen a surge in patron-initiated chat requests, our customers still almost never send us an SMS text message. They like to chat with us, but don't like to text us...

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