Pandemic Response

Access Services (page 1) was a critical cornerstone in resuming Fondren services during the pandemic. The team was the first to return to the building nearly two months after the pandemic began, and Fondren was one of the first libraries in the area to return to supporting patrons in person. The team implemented a pick-up delivery service for local patrons and a mailing service for out-of-state patrons. More than 1,000 items were picked up and nearly 200 items were shipped.

The library’s acquisitions and cataloging departments kept pace with the continual receipt of materials despite sporadic supply chain issues. The flow of incoming materials orders slowed only slightly during the pandemic. Staff members were dedicated to receiving incoming items and processing material according to the highest need. Rush items continued to be cataloged and made available for researcher requests.

Remote Learning Across the Library: Multiple departments supported Rice University students, faculty, and students remotely across the library, including reference, user experience, and GIS. Digital Media Commons and Access Services spearheaded workshops and one-on-one instructional support for digital teaching tools, including Zoom, to Rice faculty and instructors throughout the pandemic.

Reference Chat Services: Fondren librarians pivoted from their first-floor reference desk to responding to patron questions via a virtual reference desk, LibChat. Expanded evening chat hours were added in fall 2020 and spring 2021 to assist patrons with locating materials and conducting research. During this time librarians answered more than 2,000 questions using both the live chat service and an email question/answer queue.

The Woodson Research Center retooled its approach to providing services for classes and remote research to patrons. The team reenvisioned their reading room, delivering rare books to remote and hybrid classes using a mounted camera. Beginning in May 2020, a skeleton crew began providing remote services to patrons, which included scanning items free of charge and conducting more in-depth research when required. 

Woodson's virtual reading room setup, zoom camera on the archival materials
Woodson Research Center materials being shared virtually
Woodson staff displaying archival material through a webcam and laptop computer
Woodson Research Center staff member, Rebecca Russell providing remote instruction

Fondren created a Covid research guide to help the community gain access to timely and accurate information and clinical research related to the development of treatments and vaccines.

Fondren adopted Waitz Software (page 1) to assist patrons with social distance measures. The software application utilizes wireless technology to indicate capacity levels on each of Fondren’s six floors. The information is easily accessible via the library’s two entrance digital monitors which broadcast real-time data.