Campus News

Librarians deliver crucial assistance during pandemic

Conceptual illustration of how libraries impact a large variety of people and events.

UB librarians have repeatedly answered the call to rapidly and accurately inform the public, both on campus and on the frontlines.


Published November 20, 2020

“Service is a big thing with me and has been all my career. I was happy to help, given the limitations we were in. ”
Pamela Rose, web services and library promotion coordinator
Health Sciences Library

In times of crisis, information is a vital and sometimes lifesaving resource. And librarians — who are often the guides and curators of educational materials — are crucial to rapidly and accurately informing the public and key decision-makers.

UB librarians have repeatedly answered this call, ensuring crucial resources reach people in need.

In the aftermath of the horrific explosion in Beirut in August that generated seismic waves the equivalent of a 3.3 magnitude earthquake, the University Libraries were the only library available to quickly provide an engineering professor at the American University of Beirut with a copy of a field manual for evaluating building safety after earthquakes.

When UB transitioned to remote learning at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, UB librarians rushed to help faculty shift classes online and provide researchers across the globe with critical data.

“After assessing the situation caused by the pandemic, our staff searched for creative solutions ensuring that individuals, whether on campus or across the globe, could have timely access to our collections and expertise,” says Evviva Weinraub Lajoie, vice provost for university libraries.

Supporting the frontlines

Pamela Rose, a web services and library promotion coordinator in the Health Sciences Library, has volunteered since the start of the pandemic to help the World Health Organization (WHO) index more than a thousand scientific reports on COVID-19.

Through the Librarian Reserve Corps, a group of health science librarians who respond to information needs in public health emergencies, Rose reviewed and organized research publications for the WHO’s Global Outreach Alert and Response Network, ensuring the data was rapidly available and easily accessible for frontline public health workers in need of the latest medical research and protocols.

Rose joined the Librarian Reserve Corps in March, and was among the first volunteers. The effort, which was created by Tulane University librarian Elaine Hicks, recruited more than 100 librarians around the world. The team indexed up to 1,200 research articles each day. Rose worked through lunch hours and during evenings, and to date has indexed more than 1,000 articles.

“The nature of COVID was unknown. The health community has never seen this number of publications in such a short time,” says Rose. “I have always been interested in international health initiatives. When Elaine posted the message that she needed help, I was on board immediately.”

The Librarian Reserve Corps was recently donated a software program that reviews and organizes the bulk of research articles. The volunteers now manually sort less than 200 articles each day.

Prepared for the digital future

UB librarians worked diligently to help the university transition to remote learning.

Anticipating that many students would need to learn online this semester, the Law Library subscribed to the LexisNexis Digital Library, providing law students with free digital access to textbooks, study aids and legal materials that would otherwise only be available by visiting the library in person.

“This service has saved our students time and money and the risk of further exposure during what has been a very difficult and uncertain year. It also helps us reduce population density in O’Brian Hall as we continue our efforts as a campus community to mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19,” says Elizabeth Adelman, director of the Law Library and vice dean for legal information services in the School of Law.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, UB librarians Erin Rowley and Robin Sullivan developed a workshop on preparing for remote instruction for the UB Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program. Realizing the topic is more critical than ever for the campus community, the librarians repeated the workshop throughout the year for UB schools and programs.

Rowley, head of science and engineering library services, and Sullivan, teaching and learning strategist for the Educational Services Team, also included the Alternative Access to Articles Guide in the workshop. The guide informs faculty and students of how to access research articles when off campus.

Service above and beyond

Several UB librarians gathered data on the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences class that was pressed into service during the 1918 flu pandemic.

Among them was Rose, who combed through yearbooks for hours to track down and record the names of each member of the class, along with their graduation dates and hospital appointments. While researching the class online, Rose discovered that one of the students, Carl S. Benson, recorded an oral history where he detailed receiving a position as a doctor at the Erie County Penitentiary after just three weeks of medical school.

“I find almost anything I research to be a fascinating topic, so I really dove into it,” Rose says. “Service is a big thing with me and has been all my career. I was happy to help, given the limitations we were in.”

Nell Aronoff, a librarian and liaison to the Jacobs School, also helped faculty gather vast amounts of information on the 1918 flu pandemic.

“I want to recognize Nell for her expertise as a librarian extraordinaire,” says Howard Faden, professor of pediatrics in the Jacobs School. “As a professor for 44 years, I have always had need of the library and the help of librarians. Her response goes well over and above what you might expect of your typical librarian; however, it represents what Nell does on a daily basis.”

A trusted resource

Each year, social sciences librarian Carolyn Klotzbach-Russell serves as a resource for students in School of Management clinical assistant professor Dorothy Siaw-Asamoah’s global perspectives program. The course typically allows students to travel around the world to perform case studies that help companies solve real issues; however, the pandemic forced the program to adopt a virtual setting.

Given the new restraints, Klotzbach-Russell took on a larger role, helping Siaw-Asamoah design new case studies on crisis management. The pair worked with Chicago-based School of Management alumni in the health care and airline industries to develop the cases, and Klotzbach-Russell also used her marketing background to serve as a judge during student presentations.

The program experienced an increase in students, says Klotzbach-Russell, noting that the virtual component may remain after the pandemic.

“It was incredibly important that our team provide students with an experiential component to their virtual trips,” says Klotzbach-Russell. “Without these case studies, you lose experiences that make the global perspectives program so valuable.”

Klotzbach-Russell and Rowley also serve as a resource to Blackstone LaunchPad, guiding students on how to perform market research for their companies and for pitch competitions. Because many students are learning remotely, they regularly engage with students in the program through digital technologies, including on the messaging platform Slack.