Libraries Respond: COVID-19 Survey Results (May 2020)
As a follow up to PLA’s March 2020 Public Libraries Respond to COVID-19 Survey, a new American Library Association (ALA) survey of U.S. libraries documents a shift in services to support students, faculty, and communities at large during the crisis and phased preparations for the months ahead. More than 3,800 K-12 school, college and university, public, and other libraries from all 50 states responded to the survey between May 12–18, 2020.
Detailed findings from the survey:
- Building status, re-opening timelines, patron needs, in-person access, and crisis response (PDF) | Text only version (PDF) and (DOCX)
- Re-opening plans and financial impacts (PDF)
- Survey questions (PDF)
Webinar: Moving Forward: Key Findings from New Libraries' COVID-19 Response Survey
Survey administrators and librarians discuss results, trends, and reopening practices, as well as new data on current and projected library budget and staffing impacts related to the crisis. Presented on Friday, June 12, 2020, by the Association for College and Research Libraries, Public Library Association, and ALA Chapter Relations and Public Policy & Advocacy offices with support from United for Libraries.
While virtually all libraries (99%) report limited access to the physical building, survey respondents shared leaps in the use of digital content, online learning, and virtual programs. Several themes emerged from the survey results, including that libraries are: involved in community crisis response, cautiously planning for re-opening facilities, committed to meeting the educational needs of students and researchers, and experiencing ongoing or increased demand for library programs and services.
COVID-19 crisis response: of respondents involved in community crisis response, the majority reported new partnerships, distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE), addressing food insecurity, and sharing accurate community information and resources.
Caution with facility re-opening: Virtually all libraries have expanded virtual and phone services during the crisis, continuing a trend of library activities beyond physical walls. The survey finds that most libraries have limited access to their buildings while they work to establish health and safety protocols for staff, social distancing requirements for patrons, and processes for sanitizing materials. Curbside pickup, delivery, and by-appointment services are the most common next steps as national and state/local guidance evolve. Over one-third (37%) of respondents expect phased re-opening in June and July, and almost half (47%) are unsure when buildings will begin to re-open to the public.
Public demand for library services: libraries overall report increased use of virtual library cards, digital content, and virtual programming. As libraries re-open, they anticipate demand for access to physical and special collections, access to computers and the internet, helping students make up for lost ground, supporting faculty and teacher needs, and application support for government services and employment. More than half of public library respondents reported they were transitioning summer learning programs from in-person to online.
For more information on the results, please view detailed findings (PDF) and read the announcement press release. Additional data on K-12 school library services during the pandemic are available from the American Association of School Librarians, an ALA division.
- Additional analysis and resources, including:
- Re-opening plans: with more than 1,500 responses shared about re-opening plans and processes, ALA now has a vast set of materials to review, catalog, and curate.
- Aggregate financial and staffing data
- Results by library type and peer groups
- Webinar sharing complete findings and key takeaways, TBD in June
About the May 2020 Survey
The American Library Association fielded the online survey May 12–18, 2020. The online survey link was shared widely by ALA and other library organizations. Research staff from PLA, other ALA divisions and offices, the Colorado State Library’s Library Research Service, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services verified responses and removed duplicates. Survey responses represented ~30% of public library systems, ~20% of academic libraries, and less than 20% of other library types in the U.S.
Questions? Contact Emily Plagman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 312-380-1344.