Leveraging a strong foundation

Dear Alumni and Friends,

There is no doubt that we are living through extraordinary times. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Chicago has shifted entirely to remote teaching and learning for Spring Quarter, Library buildings have closed until further notice, and our staff members have immersed themselves in providing the online services and resources that will best serve our students and faculty in evolving circumstances. This has greatly impacted how we engage and communicate with the whole UChicago community, including you, our donors and friends. Our spring newsletter, for example, is being sent to you digitally rather than in print so that it can reflect our most current understanding of the situation at hand.

Brenda Johnson in Mansueto Library in 2015
Brenda Johnson, Library Director and University Librarian (Photo by John Zich in 2015)

In these challenging times, I am proud to be able to assure our faculty, students, and staff that wherever they are, the Library is with them. The Library’s Center for Digital Scholarship, launched in 2017 with generous support from donors, enables the acquisition, management and analysis of data, opens access to electronic resources, and facilitates online collaboration. Over the past few months, this Center has given librarians a strong foundation to quickly leverage resources in new formats, new methods, and new media. We have been rapidly purchasing ebooks, building online course reserves, expanding the hours of our “Ask a Librarian” service responsively, and creating new instructional support for digital scholarship.

We have also been increasing access to digital collections through a wide variety of collaborations.  As a member of the HathiTrust collaborative, we have been able to participate in the Emergency Temporary Access program, which allows faculty and students access to digitized books that are still in copyright if our Library holds a copy in print. Access to approximately 40% of our print monographs is being provided electronically in this way.

Librarians have also monitored publishers and databases and developed a resource guide listing the expanded and upgraded access that was made available in response to this crisis. And we offer a rich array of digitized collections from our Special Collections, the University Archives, the Map Library, and general collections to the world. As we move further into this online space, our librarians are providing remote library instruction to student groups and classes, including programs on our digital collections and developing effective online research skills.

We cannot know exactly how this pandemic will unfold, but we do know that we are building on our strengths as we face this moment and the ones to come. We are committed to rising to the challenges that COVID-19 and a period of remote learning present. I remain optimistic for our future and am grateful to know that I work alongside world-class professionals, with the skills, resilience and ingenuity to rise to the occasion and tackle the most difficult of challenges.

If you are wondering how you can make a difference, I encourage you to consider a contribution to the Library’s Annual Fund. Our ability to facilitate access to ebooks, online publications and scholarly materials is, in no small part, made possible by the generosity of our donors. As faculty and students reach out to the Library for support from homes around the world, your philanthropy is more meaningful and takes on added significance in these challenging times. Thank you so much, in advance.


With heartfelt gratitude,

Brenda L. Johnson

Library Director and University Librarian