The day Information Today’s office closed because of a new virus called COVID-19—March 16, 2020—was the same day we sent the April 2020 issue to the printer. I don’t have to remind you of the fear and uncertainty of those mid-March days. We were saying things like, “We’ll be back in a couple of weeks,” and “Make sure you wash your hands a lot, and don’t touch your face.” We had no idea—about any of it. That the CDC would recommend masking while in public. That we’d be wiping down our groceries. That we’d be quarantined all spring. That COVID would surge again that winter. That our office would remain closed until June 2022. That this awful situation would become a pandemic that would last for the next few years. That, as I write this, we’re in the middle of another COVID surge.
The first issue we worked on at home, May 2020 (which became May/June 2020 because of the upheaval of that time), was the first one to address what we were living through. Now that the pandemic has waned (i.e., the public health emergency has been declared over) and COVID has become yet another virus we live with (albeit one that should continue to be taken seriously), I wanted to compile a record of Information Today’s COVID coverage as a resource for future researchers. I’ve included short excerpts from each article to showcase the tone and content of the piece.
Click on the next page of this article to go to the next year’s issues. You can right-click on the images of the covers to bring up the menu to open them larger in a new tab.
An excerpt of this article is running in the November/December 2023 issue of Information Today.
A FEW THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND
Since May/June 2020, many Information Today articles have made a passing reference to the pandemic as something that has changed the way our world works. I did not include articles here that made this passing reference unless the article featured useful information about how and why the change happened and/or how the change will impact life going forward. And, obviously, all content from this time period, even if it’s not explicitly about the pandemic, has been influenced by how it has affected our world.
When conferences started going virtual, I renamed the Report From the Field section Report From the (Home)Field. Now that we’re in the new normal of hybrid conferences, the section is back to its original name. Every conference section since the pandemic began serves as a good time capsule for what gatherings were like during that period (and COVID-19 was often a topic of conversation at the events), so I didn’t include the Reports From the Field in this list. I did include my Editor’s Notes that mentioned the pandemic to serve as an introduction to that issue’s coverage of it. All of Information Today’s other articles and regular columns have covered the pandemic as the writers saw fit.
NewsBreaks, Information Today’s online component, has been covering COVID-19 since Jan. 30, 2020, when I posted a weekly news digest item about Elsevier’s Novel Coronavirus Information Center. NewsBreaks’ pandemic coverage is easy to find: Just go to newsbreaks.infotoday.com and type “COVID” in the search bar.
Editor’s Note by Brandi Scardilli, “Looking for the Helpers,” page 1
What an awful time we’re living through. As I write this (mid-April 2020), I know I don’t have to remind you about the stress the global pandemic has been causing on a daily basis. The pace of print publishing means that we’re using NewsBreaks (newsbreaks.infotoday.com) for our primary, ongoing COVID-19 coverage. But you’ll still find some mentions of it in this issue.
A Day in the Life by Justin Hoenke, “Keep Building, Keep Growing, Keep Working,” page 4
As I write this article, COVID-19 has sent the world into a tailspin. By the time you read it, I hope things are getting sorted out into a new normal. No matter what, remember that the best thing for us all to do is to talk to each other. Keeping each other updated every step of the way with clear communication will get us through anything that comes at us.
We the People, “Legal and Library Responses to a Global Pandemic,” page 6
NewsBreak excerpt, “Coronavirus Reshapes Law While Reshaping Society” by George H. Pike:
While various economic stimulus packages were issued as new laws in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, they are mainly additions and/or a restructuring of new financial resources on existing platforms. Long-term legal changes may come over time and after more thorough legal and political deliberation.
NewsBreak excerpt, “How Libraries Are Responding to a Global Pandemic” by Jessica Hilburn:
It is difficult to plan for the future when the present is so stressful. But it is just as important to remind ourselves that we have to be able to serve the people who need us. [This article has] some suggestions for what we can learn from this pandemic and how we can be better information professionals because of it. …
The Help Desk by Sophia Guevara, “Making the Most of Library Closures,” page 12
As of this writing, the public is looking to keep themselves busy while staying at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and libraries are delivering services and content to their customers exactly where they are. [This article offers] a few examples of libraries using technology to engage their public even when their physical doors are closed.
LiteByte by David King, “Baseball Season Disruptions Through the Years,” page 13
The delay to the start of the 2020 Major League Baseball season isn’t the first time a chunk has been carved out of a season in the sport’s history.
International Report by John Charlton, “Keeping Israeli Kids Entertained,” page 31
As of this writing, libraries and schools in many lands have closed their doors, leaving children homebound. The National Library of Israel (NLI), which is closed, is offering free audiobooks to children as part of its Pocket Library, a joint initiative with the country’s Ministry of Education and National Center for Humanities Education.
Editor’s Note by Brandi Scardilli, “A Tough Time,” page 1
As I write this, we’re entering our fourth month of observing COVID-19 precautions, and protesters in every state and around the world are heroically turning out in droves to demand an end to police violence against Black people and the racist system that enables it.
A Day in the Life by Justin Hoenke, “The Future Librarian Juggling Act,” page 4
From interviewee Carson Williams:
Our library has been doing a lot on social media during the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, we aren’t sure when our library will be up and running again, so we’ve had to shift our programming to a more online approach. As strange as that was at first, we’ve found a lot of exciting new ways to reach our community and interact with our library patrons.
We the People, “NewsBreaks’ COVID-19 Coverage,” page 6
From Brandi Scardilli:
In our last issue, we shared a couple of articles published by our online component, NewsBreaks, not long after many states’ stay-at-home orders were put into effect. Since then, NewsBreaks’ coverage has been ongoing, with twice-weekly updates. The following are condensed and edited excerpts from four NewsBreaks articles sharing what info pros have been experiencing during the COVID-19 crisis:
LiteByte by Thomas Pack, “TakeLessons Connects You With Private Instructors,” page 12
For families facing school closures and stay-at-home orders because of COVID-19, [TakeLessons] launched TakeLessons TV, a weekly series of free online classes for both children and adults. TakeLessons TV offers new subjects daily, including academic tutoring, foreign languages, and music for K–6 students. Job skills, fitness, cooking, and self-improvement courses are available for adults.
“Serving From Afar: Digital Library Resources Are More Important Than Ever” by Jessica Hilburn, page 14
When I originally pitched this article about digital library resources, I had no idea that by the time I wrote it, the only available library resources would be digital. Despite COVID-19 forcing a majority of libraries in the U.S. to close, the adage holds true that when a door closes, a window opens. Instead of visiting the physical library, patrons have been welcomed into the library as an idea. The library exists wherever and whenever you need it—via the internet.
“Games That Inspire Learning, Part 2: Sci-Ops: Global Defense” by Chi Nwogu, page 18
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies have stepped up to provide resources for those who are dealing with distance learning. One such company is Plasma Games …, a North Carolina-based education technology business with the mission to “inspire the next generation of science leaders.”
Book Review by Gwen M. Gregory, “This Is Not a Drill,” page 22
We have all put our emergency plans to the test recently in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. When considering whether to plan, remember that “it was not raining when Noah began building the ark,” according to Library as Safe Haven: Disaster Planning, Response, and Recovery, by Deborah D. Halsted, Shari Clifton, and Daniel T. Wilson. This ALA Neal-Schuman publication was made available for free as a PDF in April 2020, and although it was published in 2014, it is still a helpful resource.
Product News, page 25
Digital Science published a report, “How COVID-19 Is Changing Research Culture,” which highlights “the global research landscape trends and cultural changes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
International Report by John Charlton, “Ah, That Old-Book Smell,” page 26
[T]he British Library is building a digital archive of material related to life during the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.K. From personal experience, I can tell you it largely consists of a walk, a read, phone calls, TV, online quizzes, and AV and IT equipment breaking down. Oh, and lots of tea and cake.
Legal Issues by George H. Pike, “Contact Tracing and Privacy Rights,” page 28
As the nation and the world emerge slowly and cautiously from the COVID-19 lockdown, of critical importance may be the ability to identify random encounters, such as those with my golf partner and the checkout clerk, should any of us come down with the virus.
“The Coronavirus Infodemic” by Amy Affelt, page 32
[I]n the case of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, fake news can lead to ancillary ramifications that we had not previously anticipated. Fake news can be damaging to public health—as in the case of products such as ibuprofen (as of this writing, the jury is still out on whether or not it worsens active coronavirus in patients)—but it can also have a serious impact on the economy (as in the case of Corona beer) and our way of life.
Let’s Get Strategic by Linda Pophal, “Communication Lessons From COVID-19 That Will Last Long Beyond the Pandemic,” page 36
As millions of employees suddenly found themselves working remotely from their homes and millions of customers found themselves suddenly shut off from the companies and brands they typically engaged with, communication professionals began grappling with important questions. …
Editor’s Note by Brandi Scardilli, “Virtually Engaged,” page 1
Virtual conferences are the star this issue. Going to them isn’t as exciting as traveling somewhere new, and they lose something without the (formal and informal) in-person conversations. But as you’ll see, we think they have a lot of value.
A Day in the Life by Justin Hoenke, “The New Old Job,” page 4
From interviewee Jamie Boorman:
My main goal is to train the staff to be as confident as me on all of our equipment. This is quite a big challenge, but since the COVID-19 lockdown, everyone has been so keen to get involved, and I feel we have the makings of a special team.
“Underline Science Brings Conferences Into the Streaming Era” by Dave Shumaker, page 16
Underline Science is a new venture that aims to change the way scholarly conferences are presented and experienced. Although it wasn’t planned this way, the platform could not have debuted at a more auspicious time, having rolled out to the public just before the pandemic-driven bans on travel earlier this year.
LiteByte by Thomas Pack (and this issue, Larissa Pack), “An Easy Way to Find a New Online Friend,” page 20
The desire to communicate and spend time with others who have similar interests is natural, but socializing can be difficult and dangerous during a pandemic. Quarantine Buddy provides a free, unique solution to this problem.
The Help Desk by Sophia Guevara, “Tools for Learning at Home,” page 21
At the time of this writing, stay-at-home orders are being extended in some states, and people are continuing to spend extra time at home. If you’re looking for something new to do as the world continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, try learning a new language, sharpening your technology skills, or attending webinars.
Insider’s Perspective, “Why We Must Increase Cooperative IP Response in Light of COVID-19” by Dave Davis, page 24
Scientists, inventors, and government officials around the world are in a global race to find solutions to address the effects of COVID-19. The response by the scientific community has been immense, with life sciences and medical device companies both building on prior research and conducting new research.
In Other Words by Lauree Padgett, “Technology Crunched—Or Crushed?” page 27
InfoLit Land columnist William Badke starts off his latest article, “COVID-19 and the Information Literacy Crisis,” by reiterating a statement he believes sums up the most critical challenge that academia is facing: “The information literacy gap is the biggest blind spot in higher education today.” The pandemic has only made this more evident. …
International Report by John Charlton, “Out With the Old, In With the New,” page 28
A call by European cultural organizations for assistance from the European Union (EU) seems to have fallen on deaf ears. Some 94 of them recently signed a joint letter to EU leaders asking for a budget increase for their sector, which has been hard hit by COVID-19 lockdowns.
“Location, Location, Location: Where’s the COVID-19 Data?” by Amy Affelt, page 36
As librarians and information professionals, we tend to meet most statements and proclamations with a healthy sense of skepticism and a question: “Where’s the data?” We know not to take information at face value and to make sure that sources and methodologies are sound. However, just as it has with pretty much every other aspect of life, COVID-19 turned information verification and evaluation on its ear.
Editor’s Note by Brandi Scardilli, “Global Perspectives,” page 1
As 2020 enters its last few months, we’re focusing on topics that we may have covered a little differently had it been any other year. The pandemic is still a dark cloud, over the U.S. especially—but, globally, organizations are finding a way to create a new normal.
A Day in the Life by Justin Hoenke, “Library Lockdown in New Zealand,” page 4
As the world continues to grapple with COVID-19 and how library services are now and what they will look like after the pandemic, here in New Zealand, we’re seeing what public library life is like in a country where COVID is still very much around, but not exactly part of our daily lives.
We the People, “A Double Helping of Challenges During the Pandemic” by Terry Ballard, page 6
When libraries started closing their doors due to the pandemic, most jumped into the fray of continuing to offer their services as best as they could. … Libraries strived to serve their patrons as well as they ever did, with one hand tied behind their back—even if it was a library that had both hands tied.
“People-Centered: An Interview With Wanda Kay Brown” by Dave Shumaker, page 10
The past year is bound to be remembered as one of the most tumultuous in the 144-year history of ALA. In both internal and external matters, the organization found itself at the center of dramatic change. … The person who led ALA through this difficult time was Wanda Kay Brown. …
“GDPR 2020: Where Compliance Lands Now” by Kelly LeBlanc, page 16
The European Union’s stance is clear: Its data protection legislation does not negatively impact measures taken in fighting COVID-19, nor are the provisions of the GDPR to be overlooked due to the pandemic.
“The Zendy Digital Library Seeks to Build a More Knowledgeable World” by Brandi Scardilli, page 18
According to a Zendy press release, “coronavirus” was the platform’s most-searched term in the UAE during April, May, and June. The term made up 15% of overall searches.
LiteByte by David King, “Get Your College Football Fix,” page 21
If you’re pining away for the full schedule of college football this fall, first, we’re not sorry, because you really ought to be out cleaning the gutters or mowing the yard or fixing that loose board on your stairs or repairing the brakes on your car. Second, we are sorry, since your Field Correspondent feels your pain.
NewsBytes, page 25
To help providers of higher education in prisons, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded 15 emergency grants totaling $1.5 million. “The grants will allow incarcerated students across the nation to continue learning while in person instruction is paused as part of ongoing efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19.”
International Report by John Charlton, “Amassing a Collection of Spanish Site Data,” page 28
It’s no surprise that the [National Library of Spain] is currently focusing on collecting data from Spanish sites that feature COVID-19 information. So far it has identified 4,000 sites that cover the disease.
Editor’s Note by Brandi Scardilli, “An Attitude of Gratitude,” page 1
Goodbye, 2020. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. I hope you found things that brought you joy, a sense of comfort, and faith in the goodness of humanity this year despite the chaos around us.
A Day in the Life by Justin Hoenke, “From Patron to Staff Member,” page 4
From interviewee Emily Clough:
COVID-19 was/is certainly unnerving, but we’ve learnt some valuable new tools for how we communicate with our patrons and how we run our programs that have been extremely beneficial and have changed the way we do things going forward.
“Games That Inspire Learning, Part 3: Building the Future With Roblox” by Chi Nwogu, page 12
Organizations such as iD Tech, StreetCode Academy, and Code Ninjas have found ways to incorporate Roblox Studio into their curricula, which has been a huge boon to engagement during the COVID-19 pandemic. Roblox saw usage surge 40% in March 2020, when kids were forced to find productive activities while at home.
“What Info Pros Are Grateful For” by Brandi Scardilli, page 14
Because 2020 has been all kinds of awful, I want to celebrate whatever silver linings we can find. Here are some thoughts from 15 info pros, who share what they’re grateful for in their professional lives and new technologies they’ve adopted.
In Other Words by Lauree Padgett, “Divides to Conquer,” page 27
To wrap up my columns in what has been the most surreal months of my almost 59 years, I am looking at two articles from the October issue of Streaming Media. Their writers discuss streaming connection issues that COVID-19 has made even more pronounced.
“Content Leadership in Digital Globalization” by Bruno Herrmann, page 33
Global business leaders cannot ignore that in the coming months and years, it will be challenging to lead globally, deliver locally, and delight personally. In other words, there will be as many challenges as opportunities for those who demonstrate content leadership by adapting their teams, processes, and technology to meet post-COVID customer requirements.
Outside the Box by Michelle Fitzhugh-Craig, “How to Make Visual Marketing Work for You,” page 35
Over the past several years, there has been an increase in individuals wanting to start their own business, according to the Small Business Trends Alliance (SBTA). … And, recently, the COVID-19 pandemic and its uncertainty have played a big part in people wanting to create a new or side hustle.