ESTONIAN LIBRARIES AND LIBRARIANS DURING THE COVID-19 OUTBREAK
Krista Lepik & Ilmar Vaaro
Libraries and librarians are holding the reputation of reliable institutions and professionals – however, the issues related to the social acceleration of time (involving immediacy, instantaneity, multitasking, intensifying work pace, etc.) are not leaving them untouched. The recent COVID19 outbreak has posed even additional challenges, so that after (temporarily) closing doors in many countries, libraries have sought alternatives to quickly meet their visitors’ needs in ‘contact-free’ ways. Considering the vulnerable position of libraries as non-profit organizations depending on the financial status of their funding agencies, there is high time to map the ‘survival tactics’ of libraries and the changing work-paces of librarians, as both the intensity and duration of the COVID19 outbreak may cause unprecedented changes in libraries.
In the beginning of the emergency situation declared in Estonia on March 12, 2020, we decided to seize the shocking, but turbulent moment in the history of Estonian libraries. By mapping the situation of libraries open to the public during the COVID19 outbreak through March 13 – May 14, we gained an overview from the public online resources of all 545 libraries (hence monitoring to what extent the information about starting rules of emergency situation for libraries was available from internet resources). In our presentation, we will give the audience some summary of both inner and outer activities that libraries conducted during the emergency situation (focusing on contact-free services). We also discuss what the changes in the library work might actually mean to the libraries and librarians from the perspective of the work pace. As some tasks were during the emergency situation more work-intensive than before, the funding institutions’ impression about the decreased workload of librarians while the libraries are closed to the publics can be misleading; hence the need to raise awareness of so-called ‘invisible’ tasks among the publics and funding agencies.