Report Open Access

SPARC COVID IMPACT SURVEY: Better Understanding Libraries' Approach to Navigating the Pandemic & Its Impact on Support for Open Initiatives

Maron, Nancy; Alperin, Juan; Shockey, Nick

In 2020, as the COVID pandemic continued to spread, colleges and universities took action to protect staff, faculty, and students, while continuing to teach and conduct research to assess the impact on academic libraries as all learning rapidly moved online.

The SPARC study 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 study included a survey, sent to all 242 current SPARC member institutions in January 2021. Responses were received from institutions in the United States, Canada, and Australia. The responses included multiple submissions from the same library, partial responses, and a small number of responses from non-member institutions. Once blank entries and duplicates were removed, the final dataset included 117 complete responses and 20 partial responses. Several responses were followed up with phone interviews to gain further insight into the choices made and strategies implemented.

While this survey was conducted during the last academic year and is being released as the new year begins to unfold, this report can serve to reflect the realities of libraries over the past year in a way that can be helpful in informing the decisions and actions taken moving forward.

The study underscored the extremely difficult circumstances faced by most academic libraries as a result of the pandemic—and libraries’ continuing support for open initiatives despite these challenges. This moment has encouraged rapid change, permitting librar- ies to attempt changes they had considered in the past and accelerating changes already underway. Among these trends were questioning Big Deal agreements, renegotiating prices with major publishers, and continuing support for open initiatives.

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