TUE (FEB 23, 2021)

Keynote (presentation + Q&A)

Resisting Achievement Culture with Slow Librarianship

(Meredith Farkas)

Slides, Recording

Responses to participant questions from Keynote session

Meredith Farkas had achieved more by age thirty than she'd expected in her whole career, yet she never felt like she was doing enough. She didn't realize at the time that she was chasing something that could never come from career achievement: a feeling of enoughness. Meredith will share the ways achievement culture turns organizations toxic, encourages overwork, and keeps people chasing external validation. Slow librarianship presents an approach that rejects achievement culture and focuses on values-driven work, process over product, and gratitude-focused reflective practice. This presentation will explore strategies to support well-being, inspire workplace empowerment, and spark career clarity.


Session: 10:20-11:00a

How to Leverage an Existing Reference Service in a Time of Crisis

(Hennepin County Library)


Learn how an existing online reference service was used to provide continuity of service despite COVID-19 building closures. Join Tami Richardson and Tony Hirt from Hennepin County Library, a 41 branch library in Minnesota, to discover how this system utilized their robust Ask Us Online service to answer questions, communicate changes, and help patrons access library resources amid a rapidly changing service environment. The Ask Us Online service utilizes over 100 library services division staff members to work 69 service hours per week. Staff agree to work this service in addition to their regular duties with the agreement of their supervisor. The Ask Us Online service receives email, text message and chat questions. The chat service is staffed by librarians, associate librarians and specialists during hours the buildings would (normally) be open. Transaction totals averaged 3,000 per month in 2020 with a high of 4,756 in June 2020! The high in June 2020 was a 59% increase from the previous June. The Ask Us Online service also transitioned to using new software to manage patron interactions during this period of time – a transition planned over six months in advance and unchanged by the upheaval of 2020. See how an established staffing infrastructure, flexible policies and procedures, data collection for stakeholders and a focus upon positive patron experience supported a staff team to provide responsive online service to our community. Take away ideas that could be applied to your organization.


Lightning Talks:10:20-11:00a

Expanding Chat Reference Services during COVID-19 (Cornell University)


Cornell University Library’s response to COVID-19 included deploying the Ask a Librarian chat widget on new pages and offering greater hours of local (as opposed to cooperative) chat coverage. Chat traffic increased significantly during this time.

Expanding the hours CUL-staffed hours led to 82.6% of all incoming chats from March 18th through November 29th, being answered by Cornell staff, compared to just over 52.4% of all questions from the same time period in 2019.

While our chat co-op partners provide excellent support in off-hours, library services around the world are changing rapidly as campuses respond and adjust to COVID-19, and providing real-time accurate local information became more difficult, especially when fielding questions from many different institutions during a single chat shift. CUL staff's increased availability allows Cornell patrons to connect with those who know the ever-evolving public services landscape best.


Connecting the Dots From Afar: Interdepartmental Communication of Patron Services When Reference Isn't the Only Thing That's Virtual (Harvard University)


Connecting the Dots From Afar: Interdepartmental Communication of Patron Services When Reference Isn't the Only Thing That's Virtual

In this lightning talk we’ll discuss some ways the pandemic has impacted our virtual reference services. Necessity helped us to create new partnerships and foster communication both interdepartmentally within the library and among virtual reference staff. These partnerships have allowed Ask a Librarian and chat reference to help compensate for inequalities in the system and serve as the library’s early warning system for various issues, from mixed messaging to technical problems.

In Spring 2020, Harvard’s Ask a Librarian staff- like most virtual reference services- found themselves fielding email and chat questions about the library’s pandemic services and policies as they were being created. Unfortunately, we did not always have effective ways of communicating changes and updates to all staff. Harvard Library’s unique history (nearly four hundred years of decentralized operations during which we became one of the world’s largest library systems) has meant that unifying our services and programs is an ongoing process. Without physical proximity, we lost the physical community and interdepartmental personal conenctions we had long relied on to smooth over any gaps in those services.

Our challenge was to find new ways to foster the information sharing connections we had lost. We expanded chat hours and staff; established regular consultation between Research & Reference and Access Services; established a virtual community for chat staff to share information; encouraged other departments to contribute and use our FAQs for their standard messaging. These channels allowed us to more effectively alert colleagues to issues immediately affecting patrons, from HathiTrust accessibility to troubleshooting Digital Reserves. We anticipate that many of these improvements will continue to serve us beyond the current emergency.


Telling Our Story with Data: From Numbers to a Narrative

(Minnesota State University, Mankato)


In this session we will share our story about moving from quantitative reference statistics to qualitative data. Our journey involved both in-person and online reference transactions prior to the pandemic and moved to 100% virtual reference service during the pandemic. We will describe how our approaches evolved due to changes in software options and how we have continued to tell our story during the pandemic. We will identify opportunities to use qualitative reference statistics to demonstrate library value and we will articulate how qualitative and quantitative reference statistics can be used for internal library planning. We will offer library professionals the opportunity to consider how they can use qualitative and quantitative data collection practices to increase internal and external communication, demonstrate how librarians impact student success, allow for better follow through when problems arise, and increase opportunities to analyze reference transactions and improve resource management.


Lightning Talks:

At Home Learners and Homeschoolers, Altering Services

(Arlington Heights Memorial Library)

As the at home learner population is on the rise, the need for specialized library services, instruction and support also have grown. Learn how two librarians worked cross departmentally to serve their community of at home learners and shared the abundant resources of their library. Bill Pardue, Digital Services Librarian and Christina Caputo, Kids’ World Librarian (both) at Arlington Heights Memorial Library, repurposed an in-person library workshop to a virtual program. COVID has altered the way patrons live and learn, there is a great need from the community to foster relationships with schools, families and at home learners during this crisis.


COVID-19 and the Changing Law: Pivoting the Information Landscape for Public Access

(Maryland Thurgood Marshall State Law Library)


The constantly changing legal information landscape triggered by the COVID-19 health emergency calls on librarians to be critically dynamic in responding to patron needs. The rapid introduction and amendment of laws, as well as restrictions on the accessibility of court facilities for common legal proceedings, amplify the usual anxiety, helplessness, and misunderstanding public citizens feel in legal situations. Issues such as domestic violence, evictions, unemployment, stimulus payments, masking orders, etc., are just a few of the areas of law affected by COVID-19. Government law libraries are at the forefront in providing understanding as legal guidelines pivot almost daily. How does a law librarian respond with confidence to public patrons when legal language may be modified from one day to the next? When face-to-face interactions are significantly restricted, law librarians provide on-the-ground responses to distressed patrons through remote platforms. The Maryland Thurgood Marshall State Law Library demonstrates a team effort in responding remotely to public citizens coping with the changing language during the current COVID-19 health emergency. This presentation will demonstrate a responsive approach through the aggregation of topics on our People’s Law Library website and provision of direct remote connections to information staff and legal referrals. Through this dual structure, we successfully connect patron questions with current and relevant legal information.

WED (FEB 24, 2021)

Session: 9:05-9:55a (PST)

Of, By, For All: Co-Creating Services with BIPOC Communities During COVID-19

(Dakota County Library)

Slides and excercices

Responses to participant questions from “Of, By, For All: Co-Creating Services with BIPOC Communities During COVID-19”

In this program, attendees will learn how Dakota County Library provided targeted support and created meaningful engagement with BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and Persons of Color) parents, caregivers, and guardians of K-12 learners in Dakota County. Utilizing Nina Simon’s Of/By/For/All framework of authentic and effective community-centric partnerships, the library collaborated with several prominent local partners to develop programs and communication to connect with and support Spanish and Somali speaking families. What resulted was a series of community-informed initiatives promoting library resources and services that address access and learning inequities experienced by BIPOC families due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These initiatives included live Zoom adult programs featuring bilingual presentations in Spanish and Somali co-facilitated by native speakers; K-12 learning promotional videos presented by native Spanish and Somali speakers in their home language; and, most importantly, stronger and more trusting relationships with BIPOC residents in the Dakota County Library community. In this forty-five minute session, Dakota County Library's Youth Services Manager Renee Grassi and Branch Manager Julia Carlis will discuss these initiatives in detail, highlighting the library’s process, strategies, and lessons learned. Attendees will also receive an introduction to the Of/By/For/All framework and learn how they can apply this framework at their libraries to more effectively and inclusively serve at-risk communities during and after the pandemic.



Virtually One: Bringing Academic Support Services Together in the Remote Learning Environment (Capilano University)


For at least a decade, support services at Capilano University struggled to find a cohesive, intuitive way to connect with students. In an environment where each service is housed in a different support unit or academic department, silos persisted. The work of identifying which service they needed, and tracking that service down, fell to the students.

This disjointed and confusing situation was compounded during early efforts to transition to online learning and service delivery at the outbreak of the pandemic. Each academic support service came up with a different solution for serving students online - drop-in Webex appointments, MS Teams rooms, email, Zoom meetings, chat. The university website began to fill with pages of information designed to help students find services during COVID times but more often sending them in circles, and continuing to place the burden of understanding for their specific problem on them. Messages were repeated on multiple pages, often with contradictory and out-of-date information, resulting in a convoluted online environment for students to have to navigate.

Ironically, the physical distance of lock-down allowed us to overcome years of silo-ing and bring our services together. Using the enforced all-virtual environment as an advantage, we saw the opportunity to remove the guess-work from the students, match them to the service they needed and get them there swiftly. Our new Academic Support Services chat referral service launched in Sept 2020. Staffed by library technicians, and augmented by a single, comprehensive, easy- to-find landing page that links out to each academic support service, our new one-stop online, real-person chat connects students with the service best suited to their immediate need.

In this session, we will describe the goals, challenges, successes and surprises of our project, and the ways in which our new chat service is helping students navigate both the academic support landscape at our university and the remote higher learning environment.


Asked and Answered: Adapting Western University’s Reference Model in the Wake of the COVID-19 Pandemic

(Western University)


In the late summer of 2020, it became clear that, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the upcoming fall semester would not be a normal one. Access to physical collections were restricted, study spaces were closed, and, while planning was underway to safely reopen library study spaces at reduced capacity, information public service desks would remain shuttered indefinitely. Like every other library across the continent, Western Libraries at Western University was required to find creative solutions for adapting pre-pandemic information and public services to meet our users’ evolving needs and to address service gaps left by un-staffed desks. With on-site library staff focused on facilitating safe access to library seating and contact tracing protocols, finding innovative ways to provide seamless information public service to our users was essential. To carry out this important work, a small team of advanced reference staff formed to develop, and successfully launch an enhanced virtual reference services model. In this presentation, we will elaborate on our user-focused approach to developing the enhanced virtual service, as well as early successes and current opportunities for further improvement.

More specifically, we will discuss how we developed a conceptual reference model to expand our existing chat and SMS reference service (Ask a Librarian, a consortially-offered service by the Ontario Council of University Libraries), finalized a working model, on-boarded and trained circulation assistants new to the platform, and launched our enhanced virtual reference model. The re-imagined model doubled our capacity to respond to our users in a virtual environment. With our enhanced model, we were able to replace in-person circulation and reference services with a two-streamed process. Circulation assistants handled routine questions that they would normally answer at a service desk while reference assistants were now able to devote more time to answering in-depth reference questions. Together, the new and experienced chat operators developed a positive working partnership that was evidenced by frequent use of intra-team communication tools.

Finally, we will demonstrate our successes by sharing some early usage statistics, content analyses of chat questions, and the experiences of the chat coordinator and operators. We will also relate some of our remaining challenges such as communicating our school’s unique model in our consortial environment, helping users with different levels of technological experience adapt to the new service, and maintaining an ongoing reference training and confidence-building program for new operators. Through managing this change effectively, our new virtual reference model allowed reference at Western to thrive in these uncertain times. We hope that by sharing challenges and success, other institutions can benefit from our experiences.


Lightning Talks:

Front & Center: Student Employees for Virtual Reference

(Oregon State University)


Front & Center: Student Employees for Virtual Reference

When the pandemic hit and we had to quickly close our academic library building, we were just ending winter term with our spring quarter on the horizon. We all had to adapt quickly to continue supporting our patrons, which meant expanding access to our now virtual-only reference services. With over 35 student employees in our public services unit, many counting on this job to help pay tuition, we also wanted to make sure they would be able to keep working. By expanding our virtual hours and training our Information Desk students on chat reference during spring break and into the first week of term, we could hit the ground running. We had the students on the front line for answering chat questions, from basic information inquiries to tier one and two research questions. As the diversity of our student employees more closely represent our communities than our mostly white, female, full-time librarians, we hoped that the peer-to-peer interactions helped to keep equity and access central to our services. We developed a Quick Reference Google Doc to support our student employees answering questions about electronic course reserves, where one could print or scan on campus, etc. Librarians acted as back-up to our students on Slack and chat, helped answer more difficult research questions, as well as answered email and problem form tickets. The experience shows us an example of how we can take advantage of change, examine our services, and engage in critical institutional and self-reflection in our on-going EDI efforts to create and maintain safe and accessible spaces both virtually and in-person.This lightning talk hopes to show how our library’s experience and unexpected adaptation in a time of change benefited both our student employees and our users.


Virtually There: Keeping Campus Connections in the Time of COVID (University of Florida, George A. Smathers Libraries)


In early March of 2020, it became apparent that the University of Florida Libraries would be closing buildings to work remotely due to the growing threat of COVID-19. As the Coordinator of our Ask A Librarian virtual reference service, I was keenly aware that this already important service was about to become the direct lifeline between the Libraries and our 55,000 students and 31,000 UF employees. Having just implemented a proactive slideout widget on our library webpages to provide immediate access to our service to patrons a few months prior, we had already experienced a significant increase in usage of the service and were in the process of modifying the shift schedule to accommodate the traffic. But the uncertainty and haste of the situation demanded immediate action to better meet the needs of an entirely remote learning and working environment.

In this presentation, I will discuss the swift and necessary changes I made to the Ask A Librarian reference service in order to accommodate our significant increase in patrons and expanded hours, which ultimately resulted in a 288% increase in staffing and 620.5% usage among the UF community. I will share the challenges faced in developing a completely virtual training program, the logistics of scheduling nearly all our Libraries’ staff and faculty, and how I developed efficient modes of communication in the interest of team building during this very unusual time. You will learn that this challenge faced by our entire faculty and staff helped us grow as a team of service providers and librarians. Now, nine months after the transition to remote work and the dramatic expansion of the Ask A Librarian service, our faculty and staff have learned to embrace new virtual tools to work together as a team to meet the needs of remote students, faculty, and the general public.


"I'm so grateful for this Zoom space": Adapting Reference Training and Mentoring for LIS Graduate Assistants for Our COVID World

(University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign)


The Information Desk in the Main Library at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) is staffed by about fifty people, a mix of librarians, library staff, and very importantly, graduate assistants (GAs) who are students at UIUC’s School of Information Sciences. In fact, the GAs comprise about half of the people on the desk in any given semester, where they gain valuable pre-professional experience helping to answer over 20,000 research questions a year via chat, email, phone, and in-person. Many years of training GAs on the desk informed the way that we structured the schedule: first-year GAs would be paired with experienced staff members and second-year GAs for mentorship, to model appropriate behavior, and to scaffold their learning process. This schedule had the added benefit of giving all GAs a chance to work with a variety of librarians from across the library system, and thus they learned about different areas of the profession as well as building a nascent professional network.

When the Main Library and the Information Desk closed last March, we had a well-seasoned group that shifted to offering our services solely via chat and email. However, when it became clear in early summer that we would almost certainly remain closed for the fall semester and perhaps beyond, we started planning for how to adequately mentor and train new GAs as robustly as possible in an all-remote environment. Our challenges included keeping the strong mentoring environment, actively modeling the reference interview and patron interactions for new GAs to observe, creating and maintaining strong relationships between staff and new GAs and all the GAs among each other, fostering a safe and supportive learning space, and ensuring appropriate levels of staffing so that new GAs would never feel abandoned. After some trial and error, some of our solutions to these challenges include adding specific mentor shifts, participating in an audio Zoom space where everyone has screen-sharing capabilities in order to talk GAs through chats and email, bringing new GAs into active chats to observe, and using our department’s Slack instance for extra support and help.

In this presentation, you will hear perspectives from a librarian/GA supervisor, a first-year GA who was trained entirely virtually, and a second-year GA who was trained in person on how we pivoted this summer and fall. We will engage participants by including polling questions and a think-pair-share activity.


Lightning Talks:

Chat Reference as a means towards Work Life Flexibility (Michigan State University)


Work Life Flexibility refers to employees finding compatibility between their work lives and their personal lives with the expectation that both the employee and the corporation will benefit in this balance, a boon for hiring and retention. Work Life Flexibility (also Work Life Balance) encompasses disciplines ranging from Business and Labor Relations to Psychology and Sociology to Religion and Health but all focus on what it means for employees to balance these two aspects of their lives. Michigan State University’s (MSU) WorkLife Office speaks of “honoring your work and personal lives” while recognizing that honoring both may not mean a 50-50 split between the two lives, especially during a global pandemic. I posit that chat reference allows public service librarians and staff the option to honor both their work and personal lives. Chat reference allows library reference staff an option to cover service points even while out of the building – it is a form of telecommuting. If we choose to look at chat reference in this manner, we can then visualize it as a means to a more compassionate work life balance; the flexibility to work AND be present for loved ones and appointments, balancing the need of staff with the needs of the library.

"Rachel M. Minkin (she/ her/ hers)

Currently Head of Reference Services at Michigan State University (East Lansing, MI), Rachel has also served as an information literacy librarian at MSU, a reference and instruction librarian at Lansing Community College (Lansing, MI) and a reference librarian at the Graduate Theological Union's Flora Lamson Hewlett Library (Berkeley, CA). Rachel's earned her MLIS at University of Pittsburgh and also holds a Master of Theological Studies (MTS) from Vanderbilt Divinity School (Nashville, TN)."


Finding Human Connection in a Pandemic: One-on-one, Face-to-face, Virtual Reference Service Using Zoom

(University of Toronto Mississauga Library)


In spring 2020, universities across North America closed their libraries to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The Covid-19 pandemic forced academic libraries to modify their services to the remote learning environment quickly. Recognizing the value of face-to-face interactions and the importance of sharing our screens when teaching information literacy, the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) Library turned a challenge into an opportunity. UTM Library piloted an online, synchronous, one-on-one, face-to-face reference service. Many libraries use Zoom or other videoconferencing tools to provide virtual reference; UTM Library took it a step further. In addition to using Zoom to provide both general reference service, UTM Library worked with faculty and liaison librarians to promote course-specific Zoom reference sessions. These sessions focused large undergraduate classes, some with over 1000 students enrolled, with their assignments. This session will describe the Zoom reference pilot program, including how the service was administered, how the service was staffed, and how the service was promoted. The session will also cover how lessons learned in fall 2020 helped the program evolve into Zoom Reference 2.0 for winter term 2021.

THU (FEB 25, 2021)

Session: 9:05-9:55a (PST)

Trust me: Collaborative Chat Training for Uncertain Times

(Lansing Community College Library and Michigan State University Libraries)


Libraries have long engaged in collaborative services to save time and money through shared resources (both human and material!) Virtual (chat) reference is no different - a common component of several statewide library ecosystems, chat allows libraries to shoulder more or less reference as their staffing allows. This service has taken on even more importance now that many libraries are relying solely on chat reference to offer research help.

With shared resources, libraries can contractually come together - legal agreements that cover finances (who pays what). In chat collaboratives, this is the same - we are in contract with Springshare for hours we cover to Academic Global and how much we pay into the service. What remains undefined, however, is how much trust each library puts into the system. We can assume some base level of trust or libraries won’t join but at the front line, for the library personnel staffing the service, how much do THEY trust the system? How can we engender trust that the collaborative works and that patrons are receiving help regardless of whom answers?

Participants in the session will engage in hands-on training designed to help librarians who staff collaborative chat reference services both provide high quality service to patrons from other libraries and trust other librarians to do the same. Librarians staffing chat will be encouraged not to take on more chat questions at once than they are comfortable with, but instead to let questions from their patrons roll on up to the collaborative.



Reimagining face-to-face reference service with Zoom – A case study in two academic libraries

(Wayne State University Library System and Eastern Michigan University Library)


Responses to participant questions from “Reimagining face-to-face reference service with Zoom – A case study in two academic libraries”

Face-to-face reference is an integral part of library services, so what happens when face-to-face is no longer safe? The Covid-19 pandemic spurred two academic libraries to experiment with providing face-to-face, drop-in reference service over Zoom. This service has had unexpected successes and will likely impact the way we approach offering reference services in the future, beyond the pandemic. Presenters from two libraries that discontinued in-person reference services will discuss why and how we have offered drop-in reference over Zoom as part of our array of remote reference services. Motivations for piloting Zoom drop-in reference included a desire to connect with users in the library building while librarians worked remotely, providing an opportunity for spontaneous reference that was more personal than chat, and the functionality of Zoom. We will explore technical considerations and the different choices made at each library, as well as how the service was branded and marketed to users. Data on the types of reference transactions, insight into librarians’ experiences, and feedback from users will be explored in describing our services. Adding drop-in Zoom reference has been an adaptive process that we continue to explore and adjust.


Screen Time: Adding Screen Sharing to your Virtual Reference Service

(McGill University)


Although virtual reference services have become ubiquitous in academic libraries in the past decade, the use of screen sharing in virtual reference interactions remains unexplored. Few studies have discussed the technology available to librarians in virtual reference platforms to provide assistance via screen sharing. Previous research has primarily focused on the use of recorded screen casts in virtual reference.

This year, with the closure of many physical reference desks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual reference librarians have had to adapt in order to optimize their chat and texting services. At a large Canadian University, a screen sharing technology was piloted in the virtual reference platform. Using Zoom via the LibAnswers platform, librarians engaged in screen sharing to demonstrate various steps in the research process.

The presentation will report on the pilot project, as well as an accompanying study on the uses of screen sharing, the advantages and disadvantages, and possible barriers, while also exploring the habits of librarians related to screen sharing during virtual reference versus consultations. Best practices for the uses of screen sharing in virtual reference will also be shared.

Attendees at this session will learn:

  • How to implement screen sharing during virtual reference interactions

  • Why librarians choose to use or not use screen sharing during a virtual reference interaction

  • How to assess whether screen sharing in a virtual reference setting is appropriate


Lightning Talks:

Agility and Trust: Adapting DEI Values to the Rapidly Changing Times

(University of Colorado Denver / Eastern Illinois University)


“In these uncertain times…” How often have we heard these words in the past year? Librarians, and our colleagues across higher education, have to be able to adapt strategies for supporting and teaching students and faculty on a moment’s notice. We want to enable our librarians to respond as quickly as needed, in ways aligned with our libraries’ values. We suggest creating a flexible action plan that highlights these values and guides our colleagues to thoughtfully convert them into action. Implementing such a plan can ensure that, in times of rapid change, all employees act with shared values in mind. For example, it may highlight the importance of designing plans based on principles of DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) and universal accessibility. By taking these steps, we can foster greater trust between administrators and librarians who act on their own judgment -- in terms of action and support for each other.

The presenters, both administrators and experienced reference and instruction librarians, share a three-tiered strategy for creating strategy at point of need. The tiers are:

  • Foundational: Understanding the new situation and taking time to learn background on the issues at hand

  • Intermediate: Creating a short-term action plan to support patrons

  • Critical: Creating a longer-term plan, reflecting on success of steps up to this point, and adapting policies and practices

The presenters will discuss these tiers in the context of work they have conducted over the past three years, as well as the present pandemic situation.

"Zach Newell is the dean of Library Services at Booth Library, Eastern Illinois University. In addition to his regular duties as administrator of an academic library, Newell has coordinated fundraising and management for the creation of the Center for Student Innovation within Booth Library, a transformative hub for teaching learning and collaboration. The CSI includes a design lab and active learning classroom. He also has led efforts to establish a Committee on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the library to discuss ways to meet the needs of the library’s underserved population.

Dr. Karen Sobel is an Associate Professor and Teaching & Learning Librarian at the University of Colorado Denver. She also directs the University’s Center for Faculty Development & Advancement. She holds a Doctor of Education from the University of Colorado Denver, and Master’s degrees in Library and Information Science and English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her research focuses on student motivations for use of information literacy skills, and applications of critical pedagogy in the academic library."


Providing Virtual Reference Services in a Community College Library: Convenient Before, Crucial Now

(Delaware County Community College)


Most discussions or studies related to virtual reference services in academic libraries focus on four-year colleges and universities rather than community colleges. This lightning talk will briefly review the evolution and current state of virtual reference services (especially since the pandemic) at a community college library located in suburban Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Delaware County Community College (DCCC) Library Services has participated in virtual chat reference for almost 15 years. The presenter has served as DCCC’s chat reference coordinator since the inception of this service. By joining a statewide virtual reference cooperative and subsequently adding an in-house service, DCCC Library Services has provided an effective, two-tiered 24/7 chat reference service even before the pandemic. However, DCCC Library Services has faced challenges related to its virtual reference service. During this talk the presenter will discuss these issues including staffing, fluctuating statistics, and maintaining administrative support especially during challenging institutional changes. She will also discuss marketing and the transformation of this service in response to Covid-19. Despite varying usage and declining numbers in reference statistics before the pandemic, virtual reference at DCCC has endured as an essential service that supports academic achievement and student success. This talk will demonstrate why it remains important that community college libraries offer and promote virtual reference services especially as they continue to address the challenges of Covid-19.

Dr. Erica Swenson Danowitz (she/her/hers) is a Professor & Reference Librarian at Delaware County Community College (DCCC) located in Media, PA. She has a B.A. from Cornell University, a Master’s degree in French from the Pennsylvania State University, an M.L.S. from the University of Maryland, and a Doctorate in Higher Education Administration from Northeastern University.


Building Something out of Nothing: Creating a Virtual Reference Point during a Pandemic

(University of Tennessee Chattanooga)


The Studio at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga Library is a digital media lab that supports students and faculty in creating digital media. Since its inception in 2015 the Studio has been a primarily in-person service point, and has been considered a destination on campus and in the Library. The Studio provides equipment, software, and assistance for creating digital media projects including videos, music, podcasts, digital art, and 3D models. Like so many other academic library units, the Studio spent the summer of 2020 preparing for a mostly-online fall semester. Unlike many other service points, the Studio had to create a virtual reference model from almost nothing.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and the campus closures that it caused, the Studio provided minor virtual reference support, mainly by answering directional questions over chat. In preparation for the fall 2020 semester, we needed to find ways to offer reference virtually. We were lucky enough to have a blank canvas on which to draw our plan, but also faced the challenge of creating a virtual reference model from scratch. Not only did the Studio team need to figure out how to provide remote support for software including Adobe Creative Cloud, other editing software like Camtasia, Logic, and Audacity, and 3D modeling software including SketchUp, AutoDesk, and SolidWorks, we also needed to create a service model on how to provide that support.

This presentation will explore the methods through which Studio team members created a virtual reference point where none existed before. We will discuss our expectations, our experiences, and the reality of the University of Tennessee Chattanooga’s virtual reference needs. We will examine what worked about our virtual reference model, what did not work, and what other digital media labs and makerspaces in academic libraries can learn about building a virtual reference service point.


Lightning Talks:

Creating Instructional videos: a lesson in resilience and adaptability

(Carleton University Library)


This is a story of how Carleton University Library adapted quickly with new policies, procedures and templates to create instructional videos. The library has a long history of making instructional videos to supplement information literacy instructions and to provide support to our users. In the last 10 years staff created numerous videos and posted them into the library’s YouTube channel in order to support a combination of synchronous and asynchronous library instructions. Unfortunately, throughout the years we found it challenging to promote and organize the content. In addition, there were no clear policies and procedures in place on how to create and manage the videos. Moreover, resources were not well organized and clearly tagged for our users to discover them easily. At the beginning of fall 2019 term we were considering removing all the videos and changing the way information has been stored and promoted. In addition, only a few individuals from the department were still creating new content and using it in their library instructional sessions or posting within online library guides. Quick review of scholarly literature revealed that many academic institutions were following in the similar path as ours.

The new reality of the global pandemic forced us to review our policies and change pedagogical approach to using videos while delivering information literacy instructions to our users via online mediums. Staff from the Research Support Services (RSS) department came up with a new approach to making and distributing videos to our users. Library staff reviewed current and emerging technologies and evaluated best practices used to develop instructional videos. We used Kaltura software to make videos and embed them into the CuLearn (class management system). Online repository was created where we shared our work as a group and collaborated on the content. We increased the amount of videos, content quality and promotion to ensure our users received the needed support while researching during a rapidly changing research environment. We are looking into developing a better video management system that would streamline production and maintenance of videos. We are looking into continuing our journey by setting up some customizations such as; special templating, file naming, description and controlled taxonomy in order for content to be more discoverable, easier to linked into library guides, presentations and any point of need.

"Aleksandra Blake is a subject specialist in Research Support Services at the Carleton University Library, providing research support in areas of Political Science, International Affairs, Political Economy and European and Russian Studies. Her research interests include information literacy, accessibility of government information and qualitative research.

Sherri Sunstrum is a subject specialist in Research Support Services at the Carleton University Library, providing research support in areas of Earth Sciences and Geomatics. She is a Carleton graduate with interest in maps and cartography and their use in information literacy and library instruction."


Trivia, Alliances, & Polls: Reimagining Virtual Outreach and Student Engagement

(University of North Texas)


Graduate Services Assistants working at the University of North Texas Libraries, under the supervision of the Student Engagement Librarian, quickly transitioned all in-person reference services to virtual in March 2020, including launching a new live chat service. The goal of the outreach team was to promote these virtual reference services as well as outreach to students alienated from the library due to the sudden distance. Without the ability to rely on tried-and-true in-person methods such as tabling, the team needed to be adaptable and creative.

Utilizing virtual tools such as LibWizard’s quiz feature and Zoom’s video conferencing technology, several outreach events were planned. Zoom was used primarily for virtual workshops, while LibWizard was used to create a Banned Books Week trivia quiz, a fun way to promote the virtual reference service and the work libraries do to ensure equitable access to information. Additionally, with the team being made up of Library and Information Science graduate students working for the library, emphasis was placed on partnering with Subject Librarians to utilize their expertise during Zoom workshops while allowing them a new platform to promote their services.

Lastly, a series of interactive social media posts aimed to engage students and increase awareness of an upcoming virtual workshop, which focused on teaching research/information literacy skills and promoting virtual reference services. With each Twitter post or Instagram story, viewers interacted through polls and were then encouraged to register for the upcoming event. Items from the library’s digital collections were used in these polls, simultaneously promoting library materials and the virtual workshop. These workshops and social media stories allowed students to interact with the libraries in a less formal manner and to meet subject librarians outside their field of study. Future plans include further collaboration on Zoom workshops, continued social media promotion, and creation of instructional videos.