In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ithaka S+R surveyed library directors nationally to examine the strategic changes libraries have made to continue operating. A total of 638 library directors responded to questions about library leadership and decision making, COVID-19 management, budget allocations and cuts, collections acquisitions, and personnel changes. The questionnaire also focused on racial justice in light of recent protests including the Black Lives Matter movement and the related increased focus on equity, diversity, and inclusion in higher education.

This report focuses on findings related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and an upcoming report will look at the equity, diversity, and inclusion results.

Key findings:

  • The COVID-19 pandemic reinforced and accelerated trends in library investments toward digital resources and services.
  • Library leaders feel they have been recognised for being well-positioned and prepared for the emergency pivot to support remote research, teaching and learning.
  • Library directors prioritised staff well-being and organisational finances in their decision-making.
  • Most libraries have experienced budget cuts in the current academic year and there is great uncertainty about longer-term financial recovery.
  • Personnel cuts have most affected those who work in physical library spaces, though library directors view these spaces as crucial to their long-term mission.
  • Not all types of libraries were affected equally by budget cuts—doctoral universities and public institutions tended to be most impacted.
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