University Libraries offers support for remote teaching and learning

April 06, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State University Libraries faculty and staff are collaborating with colleagues across the University to help Penn State students and faculty access the Libraries resources they need during the coronavirus pandemic.

Now that the Libraries has closed all physical locations, students may be grappling with concerns about accessing needed research materials. Faculty, as well, are in need of assistance as they make the transition to temporary remote instruction.

To help students and faculty, the Libraries is currently providing the following support services:

Course reserves and e-resources. “We have been ordering hundreds of e-books and obtaining numerous free resources from publishers for course reserves,” said Mihoko Hosoi, associate dean for Collections, Research and Scholarly Communications. Budget Analyst and Acquisitions Supervisor Heather Benner and her monographic acquisitions team have ordered approximately 1,000 e-books and expanded streaming multimedia services, at a cost of about $150,000. As they become available, the Libraries’ web-based catalog has been updated for their online remote access, and the records have been sent to the Course Reserves unit so that the Libraries’ e-reserves system is also updated.

“Before Gov. [Tom] Wolf's decision to close all non-essential businesses, we were hard at work to provide course reserves through temporarily uploading physical resources in digital format,”  said Victoria Raish, online learning librarian with Library Learning Services. Raish, a member of the University’s COVID-19 Task Force team focusing on student support services, has been working with Chris Holobar, manager of lending and reserve services, to help faculty and students access the resources they need.

Also up until the governor’s announcement, “we were scanning portions of textbooks from local print collections, something we haven't done for 20 years,” Holobar said. “We had to stop doing that when the University and the Libraries closed to the public. However, we will check against current and available e-book licenses and request purchases if licenses are available. Instructors may also forward their own scans of materials to us for posting to e-reserves.

“We’re trying to keep current with rapidly changing developments and inform our teaching faculty about potential impacts to them as soon as possible,” he added.

Faculty may submit a request for e-reserve material at

Copyright support. A new web page provides instructors with guidance on negotiating copyright as they shift rapidly from in-person to remote teaching.

Copyright Officer Brandy Karl and Scholarly Communications Outreach Librarian Ana Enriquez, the faculty who comprise the Libraries’ Scholarly Communications and Copyright unit, have been helping Penn State faculty with their copyright questions, many of which are related to course reserves. Enriquez has tripled the frequency of virtual workshops related to Penn State’s open access policy and introductory copyright topics. Collections Services and Strategies Librarian Julia Proctor has been coordinating publishers’ special offers. Electronic resources specialist Jamie Jamison in the Acquisitions unit has been communicating with those vendors and activating selected resources on the Libraries’ website so those are remotely accessible by Penn State faculty and students. These activities have kept Libraries faculty and staff extremely busy since the University announced its transition to remote learning.

Support for remote teaching and learning. “Our role in the Libraries is twofold: (1) helping faculty and students access course material, and (2) integrating information literacy, which is more important than ever, into courses,” said Rebecca Waltz, head of Library Learning Services. Some of the ways the Libraries is working to support these goals include:

— A Remote Resources web page with links to sources for streaming video, databases for research, electronic journals, digital collections e-textbooks, including VitalSource, which is providing free access to seven e-textbooks per student through May 25.

— Support for library instructors as they move into remote teaching, such as weekly Instruction Cafes where they can discuss challenges and victories in the new teaching environment.

— An instructional guide for students and faculty to help them get started with e-books and other course materials, and offer guidance on searching for, accessing and using these resources.

Guides, tutorials and digital badges on information literacy and research that instructors can integrate directly into their courses.

“Classes for resident instruction take place synchronously and need to remain so for remote teaching,” Raish added. “We are working to build a strong community around that.”

Additional University Libraries efforts

— The Strategic Technologies department provided nearly 100 all-in-one public workstations and 40 Chromebooks to Penn State Information Technology to loan to students who do not have their own computer equipment. This was done while also providing internal technology equipment and support to University Libraries employees who had to transition to remote work. “These machines will go a long way toward helping us to be able to provide students, faculty and staff with technology during this transition period,” said Dace Freivalds, the Libraries’ interim associate dean for strategic technologies.

— A new University Libraries COVID-19 web page provides information related to the Libraries’ operations and response to COVID-19, changes in hours and online resources for remote users. The page is updated as needed to provide the most current information available.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated April 07, 2020