Supporting Students and Researchers During Coronavirus

Emily Mijangos, a student who works at Shields Library, checks out a loaner laptop from Anita Nichols, on March 19, 2020. (Bonnie Hain-Anderson/UC Davis Library)

Emily Mijangos, a student who works at Shields Library, checks out a loaner laptop from Anita Nichols, on March 19, 2020. (Bonnie Hain-Anderson/UC Davis Library)

As classes have transitioned from the classroom to Canvas and Zoom this quarter, the library has been quick to follow — highlighting existing online services and digital materials, moving quickly to virtualize others, and creating a special resource page to make it easy for students, faculty and staff to find the information and support they need.

Library Instruction Online

“We were already talking about creating this flipped classroom environment,” said Erik Fausak, student services librarian at Carlson Health Sciences Library. Then suddenly, with the entire campus operating remotely, the need for online instruction was clear — to everyone.

Each quarter, many faculty tap into librarians’ expertise to teach their students the library research skills they will need to succeed in their courses. This spring, providing that instruction in a remote learning format has meant taking a new approach.

For example, student services librarian Ruth Gustafson led a team including Fausak and librarians Melinda Livas and Leyla Cabugos that collaborated with Professor Elizabeth Maga from the Department of Animal Science to digitize a library module for ANS 2: Introduction to Animal Science, a required course for Animal Science, which is one of the largest majors in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. This quarter, the course enrolled 450 students. 

In place of the in-person sessions that would have typically been offered, the team worked quickly to produce three videos on how to search library databases relevant to ANS 2, which students could watch on their own time, and provided 12 hours of virtual office hours. To ensure that students learned the material, the videos were loaded into PlayPosit, an online assessment tool licensed by UC Davis Academic Technology Services, and synced with the campus learning system Canvas for grading.

Despite a short timeline — the material had to be created in a week — and working with new technology, the team created effective library instructional content to support the ANS 2 online course that incorporated evaluative tools and adapted to students’ needs. A response to the pandemic, but also a model to elevate the library’s growing online instructional offerings.

Resources for Remote Learning

With the shift to remote learning, students need access to computers and online course materials more than ever. In order to meet these needs, the library partnered with campus Information and Educational Technology (IET) to launch a laptop loaner program and worked to expand its digital inventory of e-books, videos, journals, articles and other resources. 

Laptop Loaner Program

Just before the end of winter quarter, as the need to conduct spring courses online became clear, the library partnered with IET to loan laptops to students in need. With the help of the UC Davis Stores and Development and Alumni Relations, IET was able to obtain and cover the cost of 600 laptop computers. 

Shields Library provided a central location for eligible students to pick them up. Fifty students checked out laptops during the last two days of winter quarter, and will be able to use them free of charge through all of spring quarter to serve their remote learning needs.

Anita Nichols, director of Client Success of IET, said she was brought to tears when a student told her, “You have no idea how grateful I am for this… I don’t know what I would do if it weren’t for UC Davis.”

Online Course Materials

Course reserves is a long-time library service that sets aside instructor-selected materials for courses. A few years ago, the UC Davis Library invested in digital technology to link to listings in the library catalog, and directly to available electronic materials, from the “Reading List” section of Canvas — offering students free, easy access to many of the materials needed for their courses. 

Reading lists in Canvas link directly to online resources when available.

With the transition to remote learning, the demand for online materials soared: course reserves staff report a 15% increase in the number of citations compared with last spring quarter. A vast majority of the requested materials were physical items and videos where access or copyright were concerns, posing new challenges for library staff. The library responded promptly by obtaining digital versions of some of the most popular print books, doubling the inventory of e-books in course reserves and expanding access to new collections and platforms.

One of these additions includes a UC partnership with the HathiTrust Digital Library, which is leveraging Fair Use to allow UC students, faculty and staff to access ebooks in its collection that the UC libraries hold copies of in print. Furthermore, many publishers have generously made their resources freely available online during the pandemic. (To access as much content as possible from off-campus, members of the UC Davis community should use the library VPN.)

Supporting Patient Care & Medical Research About COVID-19

While instruction on the Davis campus moved online, the UC Davis Health campus in Sacramento has been working full-force during the pandemic — and the librarians at Blaisdell Medical Library have been deeply engaged in supporting their work. The Blaisdell team has been able to help several health-science researchers and groups access needed literature and data on topics related to COVID-19, such as patient safety. 

One of their most difficult assignments was to track down an article about the diagnosis of COVID-19 in newborns for a UC Davis pediatrician. Despite the fact that the article was extremely new, and therefore not yet widely indexed — and the original publication was in a foreign language — the librarians were able to locate both an English translation and the original copy with useful ultrasound images. The doctor said, “Getting this paper gave us additional information for patient management, and for a statewide webinar we ran.”

It was one small contribution to the effort to treat, understand, and ultimately cure COVID-19 — but it was one the library was proud to make. 

In all of these ways and more, all of us at the UC Davis Library are dedicated to continuing to think creatively about how we can support our students, faculty, clinicians and staff during this extraordinary time.

— By Megan Tsang and Jessica Nusbaum