Comments on the Current State of European Research Libraries during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Posted: 07-09-2020 Topics: Copyright & Legal Matters Coronavirus

With the overwhelming impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused, research librarians are faced with several issues which affect their work and services. This also includes budget challenges which result from the need to offer access to research materials outside the premises, their use in teaching, and additional access to digital materials. 

LIBER continues contesting current copyright legislation, arguing that it is insufficient to address the challenges being faced now as a result of the coronavirus. We have sent out statements urging publishers to lower their fees. In support of research libraries, we have petitioned to the European Commission to support us, as well as co-signed statements contesting the European Parliament’s budget cuts. We have also appealed to governments, publishers and authors alike to help in making teaching and learning more accessible during COVID-19. As a major point of discussion, the Open Access (OA) movement finds itself being paramount in this ongoing crisis. LIBER has been actively involved in accelerating OA discussions, believing it a key aspect of navigating the crisis. Now more than ever, we are continuing our engagement.  

We understand the situation in Europe to be extremely diverse, each country having its own approach to the reopening of research library services. In certain countries, such as in the UK, budget cuts for research libraries are being felt and are undermining the progress of making materials accessible, digitally or otherwise. We were informed that in the Vaud District, Switzerland, BCU Lausanne has shown to be almost back to a normal status, except for hygiene measures and less people present in the library at the same time. During the crisis, they were able to work from home reasonably well, as much of their services and materials had been made accessible digitally, about a year prior. On their website, the Maastricht University shows they have been able to work out an arrangement with their publishers in which certain classes and materials are freely available online. LIBER has conducted informal interviews with librarians on the state of their particular library, however, we are still not clear on how the overall situation is developing across Europe. 

In the coming weeks, LIBER will be sending out a survey to its member libraries. This will result in a clearer and most recent status of libraries, how they are impacted by the pandemic, how their services are affected and whether they are undergoing budget cuts. The survey also aims at gaining insights into how we can best support our libraries.

While this is taking place, LIBER firmly believes that the success of a European Copyright reform and the world-wide implementation of Open Access are urgent matters, if research libraries are to continue supporting students, university staff and researchers with the high quality level that is expected, and necessary. Collaboration and leadership are crucial in creating a lasting and constructive relationship between researchers, publishers and research libraries.