Ideas for the COVID-19 Pandemic Related Research in Librarianship

Earlier this week I had an opportunity to talk to librarians at the University Library at the University of California at San Diego about the trends and methods of research in academic librarianship. They asked wonderful questions, and one of them was about the kinds of research that librarians may consider doing during the pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly disrupted our lives in significant ways, but there may also be new research opportunities arising from it. Conducting research related to the pandemic can help library professionals better understand our user needs and provide more meaningful and effective responses to this public health crisis.

A few months ago when the pandemic just broke out, the Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology published a commentary titled “Global health crises are also information crises: A call to action” (Xie et al ,2020)“. In this article, a group of information researchers discussed specific things that information scientists can do to “help individuals and society as a whole survive global health crises like COVID‐19, deal with the aftermath, and be better prepared for the next crisis”. They recommended the following research directions:

  • Misinformation/disinformation particularly during global health crises
  • Health literacy—including eHealth literacy
  • Information behavior during lock downs
  • Vulnerable populations—a case for accessible and usable solutions
  • Information dissemination, sharing, and integration among multiple forms of digital data
  • eHealth tools
  • Predictive methods
  • Digital archiving
  • Ethical considerations

I think it would be helpful for library researchers to put out a similar “call to action”, encouraging librarians to investigate research topics related to the pandemic as well. Some of the potential topics may include:

  • Usage of library services during the pandemic, how it changes from before – especially the use of online library resources and services
  • Library needs of users during the pandemic – e.g. for academic libraries, how do their students and faculty would like the library to provide support to assist them as they study from home? for special user populations, especially those suffering from the digital divide, what can libraries to ensure equity when providing services during the closure of physical library locations?
  • Librarians’ well-being – what are librarians’ health and safety concerns with regards to working during the pandemic if they have to return to work?
  • How librarians can help address misinformation related to the pandemic – what can the library do to better help library users become more critical consumers of information and avoid being victimized by misinformation?
  • Libraries’ response to the pandemic – did the library have a crisis management/communication plan, how did the library make decisions on their responses to this crisis?

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