The COVID-19 crisis has had a major impact on the library technology industry. These vendors have experienced major disruptions to their operations similar to other businesses and governments throughout the world.
Library vendors, like the libraries they serve, have shifted their operations to a primarily work-from-home model. Almost all support services and software development continue in this way. Most were well prepared to make the change, because many of their employees are accustomed to working remotely.
No major service interruptions or lapses in support have taken place during the pandemic. Any major failures that do take place must be assessed, but overall, most vendors have responded appropriately to this crisis with contingency plans and business continuity strategies in place.
Most library technology vendors have also taken proactive measures to assist their customers in dealing with the crisis. Some have created content resources or other services for the general public, health care workers, or epidemiologists, or are offering additional access to general databases in order to compensate for shuttered print collections.
Many companies have publicized their responses, while others have limited communications to their customers without making a public announcement.
EBSCO Information Services
EBSCO is especially well positioned to provide COVID-19 resources through its Health Division. The company has assembled a COVID-19 Information Portal, aggregating a wide variety of content designed for the general public, health care professionals, and researchers. It includes resources from relevant agencies such as the CDC, WHO, and other governmental and nongovernmental organizations, as well as related EBSCO health databases. The portal was created in collaboration with its Stacks Division, which provides the technical infrastructure. EBSCO has also eased access for nonsubscribers to COVID-19 clinical information within its DynaMed clinical-decision support tool .
ProQuest has created a cross-disciplinary Coronavirus Research Database that aggregates relevant content from multiple STM publishers, including Springer Nature, BioMed Central, PLOS, BMJ, and Taylor & Francis. This database is available to all libraries currently using the ProQuest platform without additional cost. It includes journal articles, conference proceedings, dissertations, and preprints on relevant topics.
In collaboration with more than 50 publishers, ProQuest is offering unlimited access to Ebook Central holdings for library patrons at no additional cost. Items within a library’s collection from these publishers that are normally restricted to one or three simultaneous users will automatically be extended to unlimited use during the pandemic. Easing these restrictions helps libraries meet demand for ebooks when their print collections are unavailable. ProQuest anticipates that the number of publishers authorizing these license changes will expand beyond the initial list of 50.
Gale, the library-oriented business of Cengage, has developed its own hub to highlight access to relevant COVID-19 resources. The company has enabled temporary open access to its instructional and health-related resources, which can be accessed by individuals after completing a web form identifying their affiliated library or institution. Gale has also provided open access to selected digital resources for use in schools as they transition to online learning, including its family of Gale in Context collections, Kids InfoBits, and Miss Humblebee’s Academy—together representing content spanning preschool to university levels. Temporary open access is also enabled for selected ebooks from Gale’s social emotional learning (SEL) collections.
As part of its Research Services Division, Ex Libris is providing open access to COVID-19 coverage in both Research Professional and Pivot. Research Professional publishes news articles and opinion related to academic research, mostly from a European perspective. Pivot is a set of databases and tools for funding and collaboration opportunities.
Innovative Interfaces, now owned by ProQuest, has taken several measures to help its customers deal with the pandemic. It is offering guidance on how to suspend operations from physical facilities for each of its integrated library system products—Sierra and Millennium, Polaris, and Virtua. Innovative is offering free webinars on this topic and scripts for batch updates and extending the “not needed after” dates for requested items.
The company affirms its commitment to the health and safety of its employees and customers. It promises to fulfill its services with most employees working from home and has tested its ability to operate safely without compromising security.
SirsiDynix has focused on providing free access to relevant training that could be especially helpful as libraries make abrupt changes to their systems during closures. The company has made its entire Mentor catalog of self-paced online training available to all its customers, and it is offering free access to selected instructor-led training classes through its SirsiDynix Support Center. SirsiDynix has conducted multiple webinars in support of libraries using its products.
OCLC has created a website that provides resources to help libraries respond to COVID-19 , including information on optimizing access to its products and services. OCLC has created new COVID-19 profile groups identifying libraries that can fulfill requests for articles or entire ebooks, as well as a list of free online resources on coronavirus research from content providers. For users of WorldShare Management Services, OCLC has deployed a service for bulk renewal of items on loan. It has also created “service configuration cheat sheets” for each of its products, offering guidance in making configuration changes or other anticipated actions.
OCLC also offers training opportunities and discussion forums where libraries can communicate and collaborate in their responses. These are made available through the OCLC Community Center portal for its customers as well as the WebJunction portal for public libraries.
Follett School Solutions has created a resource portal highlighting its eLearning solutions that will be of interest to schools moving to online learning. This division is also making its Classroom Ready Collections of standards-aligned open educational resources (OER) available to Destiny customers at no additional cost.
The Follett Higher Education Group is offering free ebook access to students enrolled in campuses with physical or virtual bookstores managed by Follett. Each student can access up to seven ebooks through this program. The company is also waiving shipping charges for orders of course materials and merchandise placed through its ecommerce portal. Lumen Learning, one of Follett’s business partners, is offering free access to its OER courseware platform to assist educators as they transition to remote teaching.
Follett is also partnering with Baker & Taylor to provide its public library partners with free access through June 30 to Lightbox and AV2 World Languages, interactive resources that allow students to independently study and learn. Lightbox uses video, audio, and text to explore content aligned with national and state standards and is ideal for student at-home use. Ideal for visual learners and striving readers, AV2 World Languages is a collection of 1,000 audio ebooks made up of 100 high-interest titles in 10 languages.
The Koha development and support community has created a new feature to let libraries perform global updates of due dates for items borrowed or requested. ByWater Solutions is developing new API integrations for digital resources from Hoopla, which will complement existing connections already available for OverDrive, Recorded Books, and cloudLibrary.
The Galecia Group has assembled a suite of services for online communications. These tools help library staffers work efficiently with team members and provide selected services to patrons. Its suite of recommended utilities includes Zoom for teleconferencing, ZenDesk for tracking support requests, Slack for team communications, and Rescue for assisting patrons with their own devices by remote control. Galecia offers assistance to libraries in implementing virtual services using these tools as part of their consulting services.
Editor’s note: Updated April 17 to add new resources.