Access to sealed treasure chambers – how the University Library supplies its users with resources despite the closure

On the corona pandemic – contributions from the University of Potsdam
The big reading room in the Information, Communication and Media Center (IKMZ) in Golm is currently deserted. However, university members can still access many books and other media from home. | Photo: Tobias Hopfgarten
Source: Tobias Hopfgarten
The big reading room in the Information, Communication and Media Center (IKMZ) in Golm is currently deserted. However, university members can still access many books and other media from home.

Potsdam’s University Library (UB) houses more than 1.5 million printed books in its three locations and has about 1,000 reading stations with more than 20,000 books being borrowed – per month. Since the middle of March, silence has fallen over the reading rooms and hallways and in between the rows of shelves. But things have not come to a complete standstill. Just as the university's preparations for a digital summer semester are in full swing, the staff of the University Library are also working flat out to provide researchers, teaching staff and students with literature and other media in a digital format. A mammoth undertaking, because even though the library can already offer over two million e-books, many of the printed books are not yet available in digital formats. As far as journals are concerned, the vast majority of them – almost 30,000 titles – are already available from home at any time. The deputy director of the library, Katrin Schneider, offers us a glimpse at what has already happened in the past few weeks – behind closed doors – and what still needs to be accomplished before the semester begins.

Since March 24, the University of Potsdam has been under emergency on-site operations. What does this mean for the library?

The libraries have been closed as well, since March 15 already. Users cannot borrow anything or work on site. Employees of the library are also working from home as far as possible and will only be on site for urgent tasks. But of course, the subject librarians, as the first point of contact, can still be reached without restrictions by telephone and e-mail.

What happens with media that have been borrowed?

Users are to keep these resources as long as the library remains closed. No fines will be charged for the closure period.

Which resources can still be accessed?

Currently, only electronic media can be accessed. On the UB website we have provided extensive information on how to search for the available electronic offers of the UB, the current additional offers of the publishing houses and also on the services of other libraries which can be used by everyone: www.ub.uni-potsdam.de/de/recherche/elektronische-ressourcen.

What are you doing to ensure that everyone who needs literature – for term papers and final theses, but also for research projects – gets access to it?

The University Library makes every effort to purchase the media urgently needed for teaching in electronic formats – as far as this is possible. However, it is currently not possible to say exactly when they will be available, as some of the publishers are also working at reduced capacity.

Preparations for the summer semester 2020, which will for a large part take place without any on-site attendance, are currently in full swing at the university. How is the library preparing for that?

At the moment, one important aspect for us is to support teaching staff in the preparation of their online teaching: we provide scans of essays or an emergency loan with media being delivered to the respective institute via in-house mail. There are also document deliveries from other libraries or via other delivery services, as far as this is currently possible.

Are there any more suggestions about what can be done additionally in the coming days and weeks?

We hope to be able to extend the scanning and emergency lending services to other user groups. However, this depends on the one hand on demand and on the other hand on the number of employees who are allowed to work on site in the library without compromising infection protection. In any case: If the overall situation will permit this, we would of course like to reopen the libraries, if necessary with a limited offer, e.g. to comply with the distance regulations.

Further information is available here: https://www.ub.uni-potsdam.de/en/


Overview page of all contributions from the University of Potsdam on the corona pandemic