Hardly any libraries in the whole of Britain’s higher education system maintained their usual services through the fraught 2020 autumn term. One which did was the library of the University College of Osteopathy.
Public Health England specifically approved the UCO’s detailed and well-supported safety procedures – the systematic provision of the recommended measures of hand-sanitising, mask-wearing, and social distancing. These succeeded in keeping students and staff safe, while the library continued to provide face-to-face services as well as its regular online and email services. It was also open as usual for the five weekday late shifts and for all the UCO’s teaching weekends.
This was despite the overly cautious advice of the librarians’ professional body, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, of the education and public service trade unions, the NEU, UCU and Unison, of local authorities, and of the government.
Even in the NHS, across the country, many health libraries closed their doors, did not provide direct access to stock, and reduced their usual services. But some saw clearly that their services had a part to play in the fight against Covid-19, and maintained physical services as well as online ones, with all the necessary safety measures in place.
According to research published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine (bit.ly/3oMXvkl), workers in education are more likely to get severe disease than non-essential workers. But the risk to health workers is much higher – 7.5 times the risk to non-essential workers as opposed to less than double for education workers.