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By Allison Campbell-Jensen

During our buildings closure, the Libraries’ patrons cannot come in. Yet, the Libraries “are a very social place; they are the heart of the campus,” says Kate McCready, Interim Associate University Librarian for Content & Collections. “So to not have our users here? The next best thing is getting us out to them.”

Circulating physical materials, digital delivery and interlibrary loan services re-started June 15, and numbers are down only about 10 percent compared with last year, says McCready. “We’re trying to do everything we can to minimize that distance and get our users the materials they need.”

Access to the collections with Minitex

In the ILL and Digital Delivery team, those who can work from home do as part of the central service point that processes requests. A small team that includes Minitex staff comes on campus to facilitate the delivery services by pulling materials, then scanning or shipping them.

Some materials can be accessed digitally via an international network of libraries. “Things that we don’t own, another library, if they have a digital copy, they would send it to us,” McCready says. “And we were doing the same.”

For his part, Tim McCluske, Minitex Minnesota Library Access Center Library Program Specialist, is glad to be back on campus once a week. He works in the high-density storage facility located under Andersen Library. While away, he missed his co-workers, he says, and “I missed having my hands physically on the material that we manage.” Minitex facilitates sharing of U of M Libraries materials within the state, the region, and even that international network of libraries. The main change from previously, he says, is the priority on safety, so that staff stay distant and materials are handled with care.

Concerning the threat of COVID-19, McCluske says, “A stable new normal is not going to come for six months to a year. We’re going to see a lot of periods where we think we’ve reached a new normal but nothing is going to remain terribly constant until time has passed.”

Minitex Director Maggie Snow, who started at Minitex Feb. 24, says she is proud of the Minitex’s team commitment to customer service. The Phase 1 focus was on restoring delivery of physical materials to libraries around the state, including services to University faculty, students, and staff.

The statewide courier service restarted on June 22 and for now is limited to returning materials to their home libraries. Minitex staff are keeping a close eye on the volume of materials and will open the service to interlibrary loan requests for physical materials once the backlog is processed.

Says McCready of Minitex: “That really is part of their mission, to get our collection out and used by all the residents of Minnesota and our surrounding states.”

Looking ahead

And, McCready says, “we are thinking really creatively about how we get the information needs met on campus. So, whether we are purchasing new materials based on requests for courses or research or whether we are sharing more with other libraries, to make that international network work more effectively, or whether we are scanning more materials to deliver them electronically, or we are doing more campus deliveries to offices or dorms — we’re thinking about all sorts of possibilities to make sure that those information needs are met.”


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