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SIS Alumni Share How Their Organizations Are Responding to the Covid-19 Pandemic

We know that everyone’s lives have been impacted by this pandemic, and just as we have adjusted our work and support for students here at the School of Information Sciences, many of our alumni have had to drastically change everyday operations. We reached out to some of our alums to see how they and their organizations were handling the changes, and providing stability and continued access to resources in this time of uncertainty. Here is what they told us:

Hilary Jasmin
Research and Learning Services Librarian
The University of Tennessee Health Science Center
Memphis, Tenn.

The Health Sciences Library at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) in Memphis has been making concerted efforts to both maintain and enhance our resources and services as we adjust as a campus to remote teaching and learning. Each of our Research and Learning Services Librarians liaises to a respective college (Dentistry, Health Professions, Nursing, Medicine, Pharmacy), and our Scholarly Communication and Assessment Librarian liaises to our college of Graduate Health Sciences. Liaison duties include conducting literature searches for faculty, instructing students in conducting their own literature searches, and generally being a point of contact to the college. These roles have been our core priority in this remote learning transition, and UTHSC Library has been working to ensure that faculty and students are able to access resources and services to support teaching and learning. The UTHSC Library has also developed a coronavirus research guide: https://libguides.uthsc.edu/coronavirus. We have also been fortunate to be able to offer a wealth of free trial resources thanks to the generosity of vendors during this season; this will help us gauge what new resources we should acquire. Additionally, the Library has begun promoting our institutional repository (IR) to faculty as a means to disseminate scholarship and research to be presented at conferences that have been cancelled. As an institution, UTHSC has been a leading partner in combatting the pandemic in Shelby County. Various groups across campus have been at work including 3D printing face masks, mass producing hand sanitizer, establishing a drive-thru testing facility, and opening an on-campus lab that is capable of testing 1,500 samples per day, just to name a few.


David Ownby, Technical Services Manager
Johnson City Public Library
Johnson City, Tenn.

Johnson City Public Library made the difficult decision to close following the guidance from the White House’s coronavirus task force on March 18.  This decision coincided with many public institutions closing or limiting operations across the city under the ‘safer at home’ recommendations outlined by public health authorities.  While we initially considered possible service alternatives including curbside service, the management team determined this would not allow the library to keep either its staff or users safe during the virus outbreak.  Most librarians and staff were released to work from home in whatever capacity practical within their job roles.  A few managers are sustaining core operations like material acquisitions, financial operations, and necessary facility services (including checking the book returns).  Our initial plan called for a two-week closure, but this was extended to comply with our state and local government.  The extension emphasized the need to expand and improve the library’s plan to ensure our users and community could continue to use the library.  We are taking the following steps to keep the library accessible:

  • Reallocating collections budget to offer expanded access through OverDrive and RB Digital;
  • Promoting digital resources being made freely available by publishers and vendors (especially for our younger users!);
  • Developing new online programming including streaming video book reviews, online story times, and digitally continue our Librarians in Training (LIT) program for elementary school students;
  • Expanding our Little Free Library to include blessing box materials for personal sanitation and hygiene supplies to those in need in our area;
  • Spreading the word about updates from our state and local officials through our website and social media.

In addition to our public users, we are also keeping our staff connected. Julia Turpin, our director, is sending out updates by YouTube.  We’ve also had other staff updates in the form of pet introductions, the on-going journeys of baby goats, and more.  It’s a great way to stay in touch, but we are all looking forward to when we can return to the library and welcome our users back safely.


Susan Jennings
Dean of Library Services
Chattanooga State Community College
Chattanooga, Tenn.

I am so proud of the librarians and staff of Kolwyck Library & Information Commons for how they have transitioned to all online services. I’ve always been proud of them but no prouder than I have been this month.  We are in week three of total shutdown and are getting in the groove. We are offering chat reference and student technology support, instruction via WebEx, ordering more eBooks to support our professors in the classroom, and trialing databases that will make our services really seamlessly transfer to the digital world. As our campus scrambled to move to the online environment in one week, we offered LibChat to campus departments. In three days, I set up a LibGuide to operate as virtual office spaces with chat queues for 17 campus departments (from advising, enrollment, human resources, etc.). This has been a wonderful partnership and testament to the impact that libraries have on the campus community anytime but especially in a time of crisis.


Sarah Searles
Knox County Schools
Specialist, Library Media Services
Knoxville, Tenn.

In response to the Covid-19 closures, school librarians in the Knox County Schools have been participating in the district’s KCS@Home initiative.  With a district our size (we have about 60,000 students), it’s very important to make sure services are streamlined and coherent, so our families are able to get what they need without having to look in too many different directions.  We’ve therefore been exercising our best collaboration skills to make sure our efforts are well aligned with the big picture. We always work to teach our learners how to use high-quality online resources like databases whenever they have questions, as well as promoting our districtwide eBook platform so our families can have 24/7 access to fresh reading material, so those efforts throughout the school year are really having a chance to shine right now!  When the district started to curate resources for families to use with their children at home, ours were among the first to be added and promoted. As the district has moved into providing structured curricular activities for families, we’ve been tightly involved as copyright consultants, as well as assisting the Educational Technology department with providing training opportunities for our 8,000 staff members as they navigate a greater need for digital platforms and communications than ever before.  School librarians have also been working with their building-level partners to provide a variety of resources specific to their schools’ needs, from digital citizenship activities to online voting for book awards.


Vandy Owen

Employees at TSU.

Electronic Resources Librarian
Brown-Daniel Library
Tennessee State University
Nashville, Tenn.

During the current Covid-19 Pandemic Tennessee State University (TSU) Libraries and Media Centers have been hard at work!

The Tennessee Higher Education Commission asked TSU to use its 3-D printers to make a key part of the protective face gear for healthcare workers. Media Center Coordinator, Jarvis Sheffield, has produced 19 headbands for the three-piece visors. Check out the Imagineering Lab’s Facebook page.

Jennifer Castle, Government Documents and Reference Librarian has created three LibGuides that focus on Covid-19, social distancing and how to identify fake news.  Her social distancing guide has received almost 10,000 hits.

Our Interim Executive Director of Libraries and Media Centers, Glenda Alvin, has been hard at work keeping services and material accessible to the students, faculty and staff. In addition to holding three full-time administrator jobs at the library she has been making face masks for the staff.

The rest of us are working from home with a few going into the library a couple of days a week. Most of the staff are processing archival donations while the librarians are doing remote reference, tech support, and electronic resources contracts and payments.