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From the covid impact survey report

Introduction & Background


2 mins read

The impact of the COVID pandemic in 2020 had a rapid and severe impact on institu-tions of higher learning. In March 2020, many campuses acted quickly to send students home as the extent of the health risk became clear and schools rapidly developed plans for remote and hybrid learning which were to last throughout the academic year. With no clear solutions on the horizon and much uncertainty about Fall 2020, many students were required to stay away from campuses, or chose to do so. And for many of those who chose to continue during the academic year 2020-2021, course work was often done partly or entirely remotely, via online platforms.

How did academic libraries respond to the crisis?

The SPARC survey on the impact of COVID was intended to address academic libraries’ budgetary challenges and approaches, with a focus on understanding how they affected attitudes towards content, collections, and open initiatives. The survey and follow-up interviews aimed to answer a series of interconnected questions, including: How steep were the cuts libraries faced, and how did librarians determine how to manage them while delivering service to the campuses they serve? With most courses moving quickly online, what impact did this have on the materials required by students and faculty and how did this change the work of librarians in supporting them? With digital resources becoming more important, how did this affect librarians’ investments in various open resources? Finally, which of these changes do librarians anticipate are likely to be long-lasting? Did the COVID era require one-time fixes that will quickly fade, or was it simply an accelerant to permanent changes already underway?

These questions stemmed from a desire to understand how universities confronted an unprecedented combination of challenges that required a series of rapid responses. This survey permitted us to understand the depth of the challenges libraries have faced, how they addressed them, and what it might mean for openness initiatives, both in the short and long term.

The SPARC survey was administered to SPARC members, approximately 242 institutions in the United States, Canada, and Australia. The survey remained open from January 19 through February 26, 2021. After data was deduped and cleaned, 117 complete responses and 20 partial responses were retained. In addition, five survey respondents were interviewed to offer further detail concerning strategies they have pursued in the wake of budget cuts. A summary of survey results is included in Appendix A and the detailed description of the study methodology is included in Appendix B.

About the authors

Portrait of Claudio Aspesi

Claudio Aspesi

A respected market analyst with over a decade of experience covering the academic publishing market, and leadership roles at Sanford C. Bernstein, and McKinsey.

Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition

SPARC is a coalition of academic and research libraries that work to enable the open sharing of research outputs and educational materials in order to democratize access to knowledge, accelerate discovery, and increase the return on our investment in research and education.