Australian public libraries during the COVID-19 crisis: Implications for future policy and practice
Charles Sturt University funded
This research project will explore the role that public libraries have played in the COVID-19 crisis, as experienced by staff and users, and identify lessons that can be learnt for more effective responses on the part of public libraries to similar public health crises in the future.
While their physical sites have been closed during the COVID-19 crisis, Australian public libraries have continued to serve their communities through online services and collections, as well as through their call centres and home delivery services. The response of public libraries to this crisis, however, has taken them into uncharted territory given that ordinarily most of their service provision and use is based on physical visits.
Current research shows public libraries are widely regarded as key services during and after disasters such as hurricanes.
Importantly, public libraries can support their communities not only during the crisis itself, but also in the period of recovery that follows.
However, a crisis such as COVID-19 involving a prolonged period of ‘social distancing’ and ‘lock down’ poses particular challenges for public libraries. The CSU Libraries Research Group could find no study that discusses these challenges in the current context of ongoing crisis and online service provision.
The research project comprises two phases:
- A national survey of public libraries about their responses to COVID-19, and
- Case studies involving library staff interviews, user surveys and usage data from identified libraries in urban, regional and remote locations of Australia.
The project will constitute a flagship project for the Faculty of Arts and Education’s Libraries Research Group and is supported by the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA), the peak body for the Australian library sector, along with the Australian Public Library Alliance (APLA), which comprises senior public library leaders from across the states and territories.
The new research from the Libraries Research Group aims to identify possible trends in future service and resource provision resulting from measures put in place during the COVID-19 crisis.