The last three months have seen the onset and spread of Covid-19, which has caused major disruption to all institutions, including RLUK member libraries. March 2020 saw the physical closure of all of RLUK’s 37 member libraries and the movement of their operations online. RLUK also readjusted its operations and moved quickly to support members navigate a fast-changing landscape. It did this by:

RLUK networks: member networks, particularly the main Directors, New Directors Network, and Collections Strategy Network mailing lists witnessed a significant increase in communication during this period. The value of these lists in enabling the sharing of experiences, in a friendly and supportive environment, was highlighted by members.

Call to providers: RLUK and partners issued a call to the providers to take a number of steps to support distance learning and teaching during the Covid-19 crisis. Read the statement.

Short-term implications of Covid-19: The RLUK Executive produced a summary report of member experiences (see below) and their initial reaction to the spread of Covid-19. This report was informed by correspondence shared on RLUK mailing lists, information contained on member websites, and social media postings. The report provided an overview of recent member experiences particularly in relation to the role of the library on campus and the importance of internal advocacy within its parent institution.

Open letter to ministers: RLUK sent a letter to the education and culture ministers requesting the relaxation of copyright frameworks during the Covid-19 crisis in order to better support flexible and distance learning. RLUK ensured that this letter received community support and it was ultimately signed by seven organisations, with RLUK as the lead signatory.

Open letter to WIPO: RLUK endorsed an open letter sent on behalf of the education and research community to the Director General of the World Intellectual Property Office, Francis Gurry.

CLA license: RLUK attended a number of meetings with members of UUK CNAC and CLA to champion the relaxation of the provision of the CLA license during the Covid-19 crisis. The ultimate results of these discussions were announced in early April with the modest relaxation of the CLA terms.

National Emergency Library: RLUK endorsed the National Emergency Library created by the Internet Archive.  This allows users worldwide to borrow electronic versions of digitised texts.

Medium-term implications of Covid-19: The Executive have begun gathering intelligence and member experiences around the medium-term implications of the Covid-19 crisis, particularly in relation to the use of furlough and budgetary considerations. These will inform a second summary report to be released in late April.