Completed by over 330 delegates, the survey revealed that 61% of respondents felt that the Covid-19 crisis has been a ‘catalyst for change’ within their organisations and had encouraged or embedded pre-existing ways of working and at a faster space. In addition to these, 15% of respondents suggested Covid-19 had represented a ‘revolution’ within their organisations and had completely changed how they worked and thought about their services and processes. RLUK will shortly publish a report exploring the impact of the Covid-19 crisis and how this has represented the ‘digital shift in action’ for its members through which these issues will be explored in greater detail.
Whereas Covid-19 has significantly altered the current priorities and ways of working for research libraries, it has also exposed several areas where future change is needed. The crisis has ‘held a mirror’ to research and scholarly processes, infrastructures, and established norms. Some of these have held firm and have been validated as robust and appropriate, whereas others have been challenged and questioned. The survey highlighted that colleagues saw a need for greater agility in structures and ways of working, that the discoverability of digitised and born-digital content was often a challenge, and the copyright and licensing frameworks under which research libraries operate have been found wanting. Sourcing freely-available e-resources and the support of digital skills and capabilities in libraries were also seen as priorities. These are all areas around which RLUK will continue to work in support of its members during the Covid-19 crisis and beyond.
The manifesto was the product of the pre-Covid-19 world and although the medium- and long-term ramifications of the pandemic are still emerging, these experiences were seen to confirm and validate the contents of the manifesto. Delegates completing the survey confirmed that RLUK should continue to support knowledge exchange between its members and the wider research and information communities, whilst also actively supporting members around the licensing and procurement of digital content. The crisis continues to reveal the importance of digital skills, literacy, and leadership amongst research libraries. The high level of interest shown by members of the community around the manifesto, and the validation of its contents during the webinar, both underline the importance of its ambitions and the necessity of collaborative action around its contents.
A call for collaboration
In the final stages of the webinar, William Nixon (University of Glasgow) issued a call to action and an invitation to delegates to join RLUK as it works to realise the vision of the manifesto. RLUK’s manifesto for the digital shift places a premium on partnership. We want to work with likeminded stakeholders, across sectors, and from around the world, to explore and enable the digital shift within research libraries.
To start these discussions, we have released a short Google form for potential partners and collaborators to express their interest in working with us, and our members, to deliver on the ambitions of the manifesto.