Published on June 8, 2021 by Daniel Dodson  

On March 16, 2020, in response to the escalating global pandemic, Samford University moved to online instruction, a measure deemed necessary to protect its community. Employees of the University Library had to quickly adjust and determine how to makes sure the library’s resources were made available virtually to meet the needs of thousands of students, faculty and staff.  

The greatest challenge, according to Dean of University Library Kim Herndon, was making sure all library staff had the necessary resources to work from home and ensure content was available digitally for faculty and students at the beginning of the move to online instruction. 

“Ingesting thousands of new resources into our discovery services requires a great deal of technical work and management,” Herndon said. “It may seem like magic to just click and open an article or eBook, but it requires a great deal of work by library employees.”

Fortunately, the team already had a blueprint in place through the use of digital services.

“Libraries have been providing virtual access to resources and services for decades,” Herndon explained. “The good news was that students and faculty were accustomed to engaging with the library and its many services in this manner.”

According to Eric Allen, administrative assistant for University Library, the four most significant areas they worked on for a virtual transition were instruction, databases, circulation and power hours. 

“The library facilitated the addition of 54 database trials and a large number of additional resources to our online offerings,” Allen said. “The library also began developing services such as curbside delivery over the summer. These services allowed patrons to request library materials be pulled from shelves and allowed them the option of coming in the building for pickup or scheduling a time to come pick up the materials in a designated area.”

The library also expanded its tools to include Zoom and Microsoft Teams to meet faculty members preferred method of teaching for information literacy instruction sessions. Along with the virtual switch, the Reference and Research Services (RRS) librarians began offering Power Hours, an engagement activity between librarians, faculty and students, as an online event.

“The library employees are an outstanding team that are always asking how we can make this resource or experience better,” Herndon said. “That is at the core of so many discussions and results in the ease of use of all of the content we manage to support the educational mission of Samford University.”

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.