Oxford's oldest student newspaper

Independent since 1920

Oxford libraries support students remotely

Libraries throughout Oxford have been working to provide students with resources necessary for tutorials, although there is variation among colleges. The Bodleian Libraries are providing the primary support for members of the university to access resources, and colleges are also endeavouring to assist students.

The Bodleian Libraries suspended physical services, but are continuing to provide and extend their digital services. A spokesperson for the Bodleian Libraries said: “Students can take advantage of a wide range of online resources that can be accessed offsite. Readers can also get specialist support and advice through our Live Chat and enquiries service including requesting more resources ([email protected]).”

In the last month, the Bodleian Libraries spent over £50,000 in emergency funding to buy new e-resources to support remote learning – which is significantly more than their regular new acquisition expenditure. The Bodleian has added nearly 70,000 new digital resources, including e-books and e-journals. The Bodleian Library now has close to 1.5 million e-books and more than 118,000 e-journals – which are available to students via SOLO.

The Bodleian Libraries have determined what new online resources to buy through a ‘Demand-driven-acquisitions’ project – where the Libraries loaded records into SOLO for e-books that matched the books most frequently borrowed in the last year. Readers clicking the links for e-books on SOLO triggered permanent acquisitions. In this way, students were directly involved in selecting over 400 permanent acquisitions. The Bodleian Libraries continue to work with publishers and other libraries to get temporary off-site access to resources.

The Oxford Reading Lists Online project provides reading lists for a selection of courses across all divisions. The reading lists allow students enrolled in the courses to view and access scanned book chapters, where available. There is a team of library staff working to create more reading lists for Trinity Term. 

The Bodleian Libraries also launched Browzine – a new tool intended to make searching e-journals easier and which provides personalisation by end-users. Use and feedback of Browzine are being monitored. Students will be delivered information skills training during Trinity Term, which will be publicised soon. 

Challenger described the feedback the Libraries have received: “We have had lots of very positive and constructive feedback from students which has been incredibly helpful to us in deciding where to prioritise services and, mostly, extremely appreciative! We are keen to continue the dialogue with them, both individually through library staff, through social media, Oxford SU, and at library committees during Trinity Term.”

College libraries are attempting to provide additional support to their students. However, different colleges are providing different forms and degrees of support. College libraries have established websites to address their responses to the pandemic and current operating procedures. Individual college library information can be found at those sites or in disseminated emails.

Christ Church College librarian Steven Archer explained the benefits of college libraries at this time: “We are able to provide resources during this time that University-level libraries cannot due to their complete closure and we hope are playing an important role in helping our finalists through their exams, and all other students with at least the basic resources they need.”

Students who cannot access a required resource are encouraged to reach out to their college librarians – who are endeavouring to assist students and respond to enquiries. 

During the vacation, colleges prepared their libraries to work throughout Trinity Term. Some preparations by various colleges included liaising with tutors, academic support, and welfare teams, identifying and acquiring new online resources, updating college communities about the functioning of the libraries, and furloughing student shelvers to ensure they will continue to be paid. College libraries have extended online support and guidance regarding online resources and have attempted to work with tutors to prepare for the term. 

Many colleges include library information in their regular COVID-19 related updates. Some colleges, including Hertford and Christ Church, have been in direct contact with tutors to acquire reading lists for Trinity Term. Lady Margaret Hall updated their LibGuide and have launched one-on-one library advisor hours via Skype or email.

Students may request needed resources from either the Bodleian Libraries or from college libraries. Colleges may post students physical copies of books, but must go through the Bodleian Libraries to acquire new e-resources. 

The Bodleian Libraries are not currently offering services to post resources to students, but some colleges are providing such resources. Christ Church, Hertford, Mansfield,  St. Hilda’s, New, and St. Catherine’s Colleges, among others, are offering to post necessary resources to students. Each college has its own policy for requesting books and requests must be approved before action is taken. 

Archer described how such a college posting system works: “Now fully closed, all [library] members are able to gain access to resources via a postal service of books collected when the College Librarian makes essential checks of the Library building, (which is approved by the DCMS as key work). A scanning service is also available from materials held within the Library within the permitted copyright regulations.  Students and Tutors have also been informed that it is possible to order new books for [delivery] to home addresses, or to the Porters’ Lodge for those still resident in College.”

Books posted to students will be returned once libraries return to normal functioning and new resources will be included in college collections.

Other colleges – including Lady Margaret Hall, University College, and Regent’s Park College – are not currently publicising any intentions to post resources to students at this time. Many of the extended services, including scan-and-deliver services and posting of resources, were halted or limited after the national shutdown went into effect.

Some colleges are offering limited scanning services in accordance with copyright laws. Tutors may provide physical copies of resources to be scanned and processed. 

Colleges report generally positive feedback to efforts and reinforce their dedication to continuing to provide resources to students. Hertford College reported responding to 115 resource access inquiries from 23-26 April alone.

Though the college libraries have varied responses and support, many are working together to provide students support. Lady Margaret Hall librarian James Fishwick commented on the collaboration between librarians: “The way the College Librarians have all been helping each other out: sharing news of e-resources we’ve discovered, teaming up to split the costs of some particularly expensive books, and providing support and good cheer, has been wonderful.”

Check out our other content

Most Popular Articles