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Australian public libraries during the COVID-19 crisis: operations, management and service provision

Simon Wakeling (School of Information and Communication Studies, Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, Australia)
Jane Garner (School of Information and Communication Studies, Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, Australia)
Mary Anne Kennan (School of Information and Communication Studies, Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, Australia)
Philip Hider (School of Information and Communication Studies, Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, Australia)
Hamid R. Jamali (School of Information and Communication Studies, Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, Australia)
Holly Eva Katherine Randell-Moon (School of Indigenous Australian Studies, Charles Sturt University, Port Macquarie, Australia)
Yazdan Mansourian (School of Information and Communication Studies, Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, Australia)

Library Management

ISSN: 0143-5124

Article publication date: 4 August 2023

Issue publication date: 8 November 2023

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this research was to investigate how Australian public libraries responded to the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of management, planning and communication. The study also investigated operational approaches to the development and implementation of new and adapted models of service and resource delivery.

Design/methodology/approach

Utilising a multiple qualitative case study approach, interviews were conducted with 15 Australian public library staff members at three library services – one inner-city, one regional and one remote. Inductive thematic analysis was employed to generate insights into the operations and management strategies employed during the COVID-19 crisis.

Findings

Findings suggest that public library managers performed admirably in the face of significant logistical, budgetary and regulatory challenges. Five key themes emerged to represent the ways in which public library leaders responded effectively to the crisis: resourcefulness, flexibility, presence, sensitivity and communication. Results also demonstrate the importance placed on library users’ welfare.

Originality/value

This research represents the first study to focus on the response of Australian public library managers to the significant challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and to identify the strategies employed by library leaders to respond effectively. In doing so this research provides valuable insights into how public library managers can prepare for future crises.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Funding: This research was funded by a Charles Sturt University COVID-19 Grant.

Citation

Wakeling, S., Garner, J., Kennan, M.A., Hider, P., Jamali, H.R., Randell-Moon, H.E.K. and Mansourian, Y. (2023), "Australian public libraries during the COVID-19 crisis: operations, management and service provision", Library Management, Vol. 44 No. 6/7, pp. 448-465. https://doi.org/10.1108/LM-04-2023-0031

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2023, Emerald Publishing Limited

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