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The socially distanced library: staying connected in a pandemic

OUPBlog: “The concept of a socially distanced library would be considered the ultimate antithesis of the modern-day library. The past two decades have witnessed the evolution of the library from a mostly traditional space of quiet study and research into a bustling collaborative, social space and technology center. The library has been described as a third place, the home constituting the first place, work as the second place, and then the library—where in addition to research and study, the user can do virtually most things including relax, eat in a library cafe, and even exercise. Public libraries have provided many community benefits, including health and government services, as well as loans of non-traditional items such as tools and equipment.

In 2020, the entire world was thrown into a state of confoundment, as the novel coronavirus ground routine day-to-day activities to a screeching halt. Many organizations, including academic institutions in the United States, made a hasty retreat into an exclusively virtual online environment. Libraries followed suit and most were firmly shut, as was the corresponding access to library stacks, study, and collaborative spaces. This was also the case with public libraries; even the Library of Congress shuttered its physical facilities to the public. How did libraries initially respond to this massive disruption and how would connections to library users be maintained in this new and unprecedented context?…”

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