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The coronavirus pandemic, libraries and information: a thematic analysis of initial international responses to COVID-19

Marc Kosciejew (Department of Library Information and Archive Sciences, University of Malta, Msida, Malta)

Global Knowledge, Memory and Communication

ISSN: 2514-9342

Article publication date: 12 August 2020

Issue publication date: 28 May 2021

3699

Abstract

Purpose

This study aims to present and discuss the international library and information community’s initial responses to the coronavirus pandemic. It chronicles official statements from various library and information associations as they were released in real-time, thereby providing a contemporary and historical snapshot of the early stages of this global health crisis. The aim is to both historically and thematically contextualize these initial responses to help establish a foundation upon which to anchor, build, extend and analyze approaches to the pandemic as it unfolded (and indeed as it continues to unfold at the time of this writing in June 2020).

Design/methodology/approach

Drawing upon a qualitative documentary analysis of statements on COVID-19 released by various international library and information associations, this study provides a thematic analysis of these contemporary policies. Specifically, this thematic analysis was carried out to identify and illuminate major themes appearing within the statements. Further, a comparative thematic analysis was then undertaken to compare the themes across all statements to discover and determine convergences or divergences in content and coverage.

Findings

The formal statements released by these organizations feature and share many similar themes in their initial responses to COVID-19, including support for/solidarity with libraries; information provision; maintaining services; digital migration of services; workplace arrangements/concerns; contextual contingencies of libraries (diversity of kinds, circumstances and challenges); health concerns and proper/good hygiene; countering dis/misinformation; external collaborations with public health agencies; and partnerships with industry including publishers.

Research limitations/implications

Although this study’s purview is admittedly limited in size and scope – involving six, albeit major, library and information associations from mainly English speaking countries – it can be used as a foundation for further studies into how libraries and information centres in other English and non-English speaking countries responded to the coronavirus pandemic.

Practical implications

This study can help inform current, alternative, contingency or other future library responses geared towards or tailored for the coronavirus or other health-related crises. It can also be used as a baseline to track the trajectory of library responses and actions as they unfolded throughout the COVID-19 crisis.

Social implications

By providing the start of an account and analysis of the international library and information science (LIS) community’s initial responses, this study also contributes to the broader (ongoing) conversation about the coronavirus pandemic and intervenes in emerging historical examinations of this crisis. This study could be of interest to LIS scholars and practitioners, in addition to public health researchers, public policymakers, cultural studies academics and historians, interested in how different and intersectional efforts – in this case, the international LIS community – contributed and can contribute to this pandemic and other similar or parallel crises.

Originality/value

The international library and information community’s initial responses to this global health crisis are contextualized, thereby serving as a foundation upon which to anchor, build and extend other research on responses to the pandemic as it unfolded. Drawing upon a qualitative documentary analysis of these statements, this study presents and discusses the international library community’s initial responses to the coronavirus pandemic. It chronicles these statements as they were released in real-time, thereby providing a contemporary and historical snapshot of the early stages of this crisis. The aim is to both historically and thematically contextualize the international library and information community’s initial responses to help establish a foundation upon which to anchor, build, extend and update the international library community’s responses to the pandemic as it unfolded (and indeed as it continues to unfold at the time of this writing in June 2020). This foundation, it is hoped, will help illuminate their respective positions, circumstances, convergences, divergences and areas of possible (future) cooperation, coordination and collaboration.

Keywords

Citation

Kosciejew, M. (2021), "The coronavirus pandemic, libraries and information: a thematic analysis of initial international responses to COVID-19", Global Knowledge, Memory and Communication, Vol. 70 No. 4/5, pp. 304-324. https://doi.org/10.1108/GKMC-04-2020-0041

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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