Another blog Matt? Well I am following my own advice that you are at work when you are thinking about work even if you are in the garden. Also the possibly contradictory advice, presentism in front of the laptop is pretty pointless if you are working from home. When the job is done do something else. So in the garden, punctuated by quixotic charges across the lawn with my hoe to chase off the rabbits I have been thinking about how to respond to COVID19 in particular about guides to resources. The first thing I realise is that there is no real answer to the question what to do. So if you are looking for certainty you may as well leave now. Here are a few things I believe to be true and are largely borne out by experience:

  1. the work of the library continues and I know from reading the eMails on the various library lists that the resources to deliver a “normal” service have been severely disrupted;
  2. guides are fantastically time consuming and hard to maintain in the face of other demands on the service;
  3. it’s very hard to determine where a guide lands in terms of impact and value to users. Those for whom it does deliver value will tell you those for whom it doesn’t remain silent.

My initial response was why not get together and crowd source a guide. LKS ASE together with colleagues in the North West did this for Zika and Ebola. I can’t claim they were well used. Actually I was beaten to it by a better guide from Public Health England, and it’s still available here. That was OK for me for a bit then I did in the end write my own guide which you can see here. So why did I do that?

Well it was a realisation – in my head, in the garden, with the rabbits – that there was a sort of tug of war going on with competing arguments that was magnified by the scale of COVID19 and its consequent effects on the volume of information available and the speed with which it was being delivered. It went a bit like this. Not to short change the opposing argument, but it can be summed up in a sentence. Its better to do once and share many times, that is one guide we all link to with many contributors. The counter arguments aren’t as strong but they are more numerous and they go a bit like this:

  1. there is more than one way to look at guide to the literature and the structures that are chosen tend to reflect the audience and their librarian. I like a strong functional structure that enables the user to see form and function in the hope that they will apply the right resource to answer the right question.
  2. I can’t say that writing a guide is cathartic but it does help you to process the things that are coming at you and form them into some sort of cognitive map. That should in turn inform the way you approach for example, enquiries and literature searches. It certainly helped me to make good use of the blizzard of information coming though from LIS-Medical and other sources.
  3. COVID19 is exceptional in its global scale etc. but for about a week or so it was possible to summarise everything in a guide that might address multiple audiences but I think this breaks down as the volume of information accelerates and you naturally want to sort and filter things for the audience you know. That’s what I felt for the ambulance service.
  4. There is also our old friends branding and marketing. In a situation where you need to produce something that comes with your library branding on it. A guide is a good place holder while you get your bearings in this new and fast moving environment. It’s also the sort of thing that can reach deeper and further the more it is shared.
  5. You can share it anyway on the web for colleagues to use, copy and repurpose if they want or need to.

So that’s how I rationalised it. Now to ponder the value of current awareness and how to deliver it, possibly while mowing the lawn.

Matt Holland, LKS ASE Librarian