Libraries serve their users and communities, even during COVID-19

18 MAY 2021

Libraries serve their users and communities, even during COVID-19

In Library and Information Week (17 to 23 May) researchers at Charles Sturt University remind us that public libraries in Australia kept operating to serve their users, even when libraries were closed due to the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020.

Lecturer and researcher in the Charles Sturt School of Information Studies Dr Jane Garner (pictured, inset) said Library and Information Week is a chance to celebrate all that is good about libraries and the role they play in the lives and communities of their users.

It is a reminder that there are no other places like a library, and that the people who work in them are highly skilled and educated professionals who understand their value and how to keep  these crucial public spaces doing what they do.

There are many types of libraries ─ public, school, academic, corporate, legal, medical, hospital, parliamentary, and more.

What they all have in common is a brief to understand the information and social needs of their users, and to provide collections, spaces and services to meet those needs.

As repositories of knowledge and information, libraries are inter-generational institutions that provide both the substance and the theme for Library and Information Week in 2021 – ‘adventures in space and time’.

The Charles Sturt School of Information Studies academic staff undertake research into:

  • library architecture;
  • library collections and services that support early childhood development;
  • the role of libraries in supporting social justice and disadvantaged communities;
  • the role of libraries in supporting serious leisure activities and hobbies; and
  • the work of libraries in specific contexts such as prisons, schools and in public life.

Charles Sturt researchers are currently involved in three State Library of NSW-funded projects about public libraries.

These projects aim to improve the services and resources of public libraries and focus on a range of issues such as:

  • the role of first-language reading in wellbeing of immigrant communities;
  • embracing cultural identities of ethnic groups in regional public libraries; and
  • the needs of users in a COVID-changed Australia, with a national study of public library responses to the COVID-19 closures of all public libraries (Listen to 2MCE's radio podcast about this research).

We have learned that under COVID lockdown public libraries around Australia kept operating to serve the needs of their users, even when their buildings were closed.

They did this by adapting their existing services to develop ways to deliver services remotely, and by developing new services and activities, such as online story times for children stuck at home and regular welfare phone calls to check on the wellbeing of known vulnerable or isolated library users.

Another initiative by researchers at the School of Information Studies is the periodic radio programs broadcast on community radio 2MCE (Bathurst and Orange) at 5.30pm every fourth Thursday of the month. These are also live streamed podcasts and archived on 2MCE.

It’s important to remember that the people who work in libraries are highly skilled and educated professionals who understand the value of libraries and how to keep them doing what they do.

The Charles Sturt School of Information Studies educates undergraduate and postgraduate coursework students, and doctoral students, who learn and research about the role of libraries in the lives of their users, along with practical skills and knowledge that enable them to manage and develop libraries of all types.

The School is proud to support the library sector by graduating highly skilled information professionals, and to play a role in preparing our students to take their places in the profession of their choice as the leaders and innovators of the future.

National Simultaneous Storytime is on Wednesday 19 May, with a reading of Give Me Some Space! from the International Space Station.

Media Note:

To arrange interviews with Dr Jane Garner contact Bruce Andrews at Charles Sturt Media on mobile 0418 669 362 or

For the COVID-19 research project see:

Garner J, Hider P, Jamali HR, Lymn J, Mansourian Y, Randell-Moon H, and Wakeling S (2021). ‘Steady Ships’ in the COVID-19 Crisis: Australian Public Library Responses to the Pandemic, Journal of the Australian Library and Information Association, 70(2), in press.

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