Now that we have passed the grim first anniversary of global national lockdowns (mine was spent in Italy) I wanted to think back to the impact of Covid-19 on our libraries, students and the generosity that was shown during that time.
If I have to read a student’s essay I prefer to have it as a hard copy. It’s not that I am a traditionalist, I just prefer not to read from a computer screen unless I have to. I have found that despite the many hours that young people spend on social media, ultimately they often prefer to borrow books from the library rather than use a digital copy or online resource. I find a reluctance from my students to have a dabble unless they are doing a class assignment specifically calling for the use of our subscriptions.
During the first lockdown in March 2020 I was inundated with offers of digital resources that were being supplied for free as goodwill gestures to help support teaching staff and students. Not to be cynical, some of these resembled free trials in the hope that subscriptions would be purchased when the free offers ended. With these digital resources came new passwords, an increase in emails and a sense of pressure to spread the word to my colleagues and students to make sure they didn’t miss out. There was also the need for us librarians to keep our roles alive. With the threat of furlough hovering over us some had to keep showing that we were still providing a service, albeit online and digital.
Librarian networks came together and we exchanged links and ideas that we could pass on to our students and help one another. The local network I belong to met weekly, something we never did in pre-Covid times. We became expert users of Zoom, Google Meet, Padlet, Parley and so on. We passed on much information, maybe too much to our students and colleagues. In the end I filtered out what was age appropriate for my students but could not spare the time to learn how to use everything. I asked myself if I should be increasing our digital resource budget and be less reliant on physical books but I know that we won’t be living this situation forever. In order to comfortably use digital online resources some sort of computer, tablet or smartphone is needed but of course these are not available to everyone. Just using the UK as an example, as of August 2020 9% of families did not have access to a computer (Vibert, 2020) making it difficult to access online school lessons let alone other digital resources. Children from such families were deemed vulnerable by the Department of
Education and allowed to attend school in person during the early 2021 lockdown in England (Quinn et al, 2021). The divide between those who have access to technology and those who do not, not just in the UK but throughout the world was made painfully evident this past year. Poor internet connections or lack of hardware saw many young people unable to avail of online teaching.
A year on from the first lockdowns schools are starting to reopen and with them our libraries. I think the old adage “you don’t miss something until it’s gone” is quite apt. The sporadic moments where we have been in school this past year have seen my students eager to be back in their library, studying, perusing or just coming to see me for a chat is something that a digital resource can never replace and nor would we want it to.
Quinn, B, et al (2021), Pupils without laptops can still go to school in England lockdown [online], Available at:
into-schools-covid Accessed 15/03/21
Vibert, S (2020), Children without internet access during lockdown [online], Available at: