Library memo re: students’ concerns regarding Library Access during COVID 19

The following is a copy of the information contained in the memo distributed by Amber Lannon, University Librarian, to the Carleton University Graduate Students Association in response to their concerns regarding access to library collections.

Many thanks for the meeting we had on August 26, 2020 to discuss Graduate student concerns regarding access to library collections, as documented in your letter dated August 21, 2020. As agreed upon at that meeting, I am following up our discussion with a written response to be shared with graduate students.

Since the start of the pandemic, the library has been pursuing a number of strategies to provide equitable access to the collection. Access for both local and distance students is impacted by copyright legislation, licensing agreements, and the availability of materials in electronic format; however, we have quickly expanded the online collection and services to meet student needs in these unprecedented times.

In June, we became members of the HathiTrust Digital Library - a collaboration of the major research libraries in North America. Through Hathi’s Emergency Temporary Access Service (ETAS) we have made 500,000 of our in-copyright print items available online. ETAS books are not available for borrowing through curbside (due to copyright restrictions). As such, the access to these items is the same for students in Ottawa and students studying remotely. ETAS books for the most part are not available in PDF format; however, in most cases HTAS is the only method for accessing these materials online and there are no alternatives. HTAS also allows Carleton students to access six million public domain works. It should be noted that University of Toronto, McGill, UBC and many other research libraries across North America have also activated HathiTrust’s ETAS since the start of the pandemic.

In addition to Hathi, the library has licenced the following ebook packages and resources in an effort to provide continued service during the COVID pandemic:

We have also purchased a number of single title eBooks to meet needs, in total spending over $140,000 on new materials since March. These new acquisitions compliment the 1.5 million ebooks and 200,000 electronic journals we had in our collection before COVID-19. The library’s eBooks and eJournals are available 24x7 through Omni.

For print materials that are not accessible through ETAS or for purchase as a licensed eBook, we are providing both a curbside pickup and mailing service. When we send materials by mail, the library provides a return label so that there is no cost for students who choose this option. Both students in Ottawa and studying remotely can choose delivery by mail.

In addition to these strategies, we are working on a new service to make the print collection more accessible. Scan-on-demand will allow students to request parts of books and journal articles, which will then be scanned at the library and sent by email. The amount of a work we can scan and email will be limited by fair dealing guidelines. This service will start soon (September) and will be announced on our website when it’s available.

While your letter references academic journals, these are mostly available in PDF format and should not present an issue for graduate students during this time, access to these resources is the same as before.

There are a few access issues that weren’t specifically mentioned your letter where we have done considerable work that I would also like to address:

  • One challenge of moving to online teaching for films studies and music pedagogy was access to streaming videos and media. As such the library licensed a number of new resources:
    • Audio Cine
    • Criterion on Demand
    • Naxos Video Library - Streaming video library of classical music performances, opera, ballet, live concerts and documentaries from performing arts labels such as Arthaus Musik, Dacapo, Dynamic, EuroArts, Hänssler Classic, Medici Arts, Naxos, Opus Arte and TDK.
  • While we were closed by provincial order, we were not able to provide access to Archival and Special Collections which are almost entirely in print. Currently ASC is scanning items where possible. Another service that is in development currently is a contactless ASC consultation service by appointment. For assistance with ASC resources contact: arc@library.carleton.ca.

I would also like to take this opportunity to highlight the following areas where the library has had a limited ability to provide access as they did before:

  • A category of resources that are mostly not available are commercial textbooks. Approximately 85% of existing course textbooks are unavailable to libraries in any other format than print because publishers will not license them to libraries. Open Educational Resources are an alternative to commercial textbooks.
  • While most libraries have been closed, we have only been able to Inter Library Loan (ILL) items in electronic format. We expect that as libraries reopen this fall, ILL will resume during the semester; however, the timing of this is not something we can influence other than to be a willing participant. For more information see the Ontario University Council’s statement on resource sharing.

Finally, I would encourage any Graduate student who is having difficulty with accessing a needed resource to contact the Librarian or Subject Specialist for their discipline for advice. Graduate students can also make purchase request suggestions for resources that are not in our collection. Library staff have continued to work from home throughout the pandemic and are available to advise graduate students on how to access needed resources.

Thank you for bringing this to our attention and for giving us an opportunity to respond; we look forward to continuing to work with GSA Executive on these and any other library issues. Our facility is now open for access to study space, wifi, technology, and our adaptive technology centre. We will continue to expand access as public health regulations allow so please check our website for the latest information.

Yours Sincerely,

Amber Lannon

University Librarian

MacOdrum Library