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Notes from the Executive Director – May 2020

MCLS is one of the most nimble, responsive library organizations around. This month, I’ll focus on some ways we’re adapting during these uncertain times.

Like many who work in libraries, our staff have been working safely at home as much as possible for over a month. Some of us go into our Lansing office occasionally, to handle mail and deliveries, and keep accounting and IT functions running. This includes fixing some invoice bugs in our updated subscription management system that some member libraries have reported. If you have any issues with MCLS invoices, email us at, and we’ll correct them.

As I mentioned last month, our Group Purchasing staff have continued working with our members and vendors to seek additional grace, flexibility, and stable pricing. As you may recall from April’s eResources meeting, they are pursuing a new group offer with Unpaywall. They are also in talks with a telecommunications company about offering mobile WiFi hot spots and data plans with multiple carriers, at this time when Internet connectivity is so important. Contact them at for more information.

Over 100 library consortia including MCLS have signed the ICOLC community’s Statement on the COVID-19 Pandemic and Its Impact on Library Services and Resources, which asks publishers to:

  1. Make content about coronaviruses and COVID-19, vaccines, and treatments available in open access
  2. Remove and waive simultaneous user limits
  3. Lift existing contractual ILL restrictions or photocopying limits for users working remotely
  4. Allow the maximum extent of copyright limitations, exception, and fair use for online users
  5. Allow flexible renewal periods and lengthened payment due dates
  6. Delay or minimize any planned price increases
  7. Plan to temporarily lift paywalls or allow alternative methods of authentication
  8. Lift campus-only restrictions on access to content

We have been pleased to see a number of publishers and vendors respond favorably to elements of ICOLC’s statement.

Our Shared Library Systems (SLS) staff have rescheduled the MeL server migrations, originally planned for this summer, to take advantage of the current service suspension. The servers will be ready for libraries without additional downtime. Our IT staff have done much-needed server operating system software updates, and moved servers to a new hosting platform at our hosting provider, Liquid Web. The new platform will make future upgrades more efficient, with less potential for MeLCat disruptions. SLS is also undertaking projects to clean up old MeLCat transactions and improve the quality of MeLCat’s records. These projects will help make MeLCat easier for library users and staff to use. The MeL Engagement Specialists have also shifted to presenting on MeL databases via webinars, and creating online training content for teachers and public libraries.

Our Engagement, Consulting, and Training (ECT) staff have pivoted from a large slate of planned face-to-face consulting projects to library community engagement. They began offering open virtual community dialogues in March, which have attracted hundreds of library staff throughout Indiana and Michigan (including State Librarians Jake Speer and Randy Riley), on topics ranging from adjusting to working from home, to what libraries need to consider when planning to reopen, to what libraries’ near-term future may look like. The virtual dialogues are every Friday at 11am Eastern (10am Central) – watch the email lists for topics, how to join, and more details. A few themes participants have discussed so far include:

  • Library staff and directors are adjusting with communication and technology, but it can be hard to think beyond the day-to-day and be productive and serve communities, as things are so uncertain
  • Library staff appreciate opportunities like these dialogues to stay connected to one another, as well as tools that keep them connected to their communities
  • Our current situation may invigorate libraries to continue to learn and be creative, apply ingenuity, serve the underserved in new ways, pay greater attention to taking care of ourselves, and more
  • Users may gain a new appreciation for the library as a place to connect with others, and physical books (perhaps in a phased-in approach that libraries are increasingly accepting and even embracing)
  • Library staff are thinking a lot about how to remove barriers to serving communities, including Internet connectivity, issuing online library cards, communicating even more, and rethinking spaces and services

We also hosted a virtual dialogue on leading libraries during times like these on April 23, featuring MCLS Board of Directors members Annie Bélanger and Polly Boruff-Jones. Finally, stay tuned for information on new online training opportunities coming soon.

I’ll close for now by mentioning that Rich Harwood from The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation is doing a series of live Facebook events on Wednesdays, suggesting ways to navigate the current moment and reimagine our organizations’ roles in our communities, so we can move into the future. At a time when many are thinking about the practicalities of how libraries can reopen physically, it may be helpful to also think more broadly.

I’m always looking for feedback about how MCLS is doing to help libraries now, and what roles we might play for libraries in the future. If you have ideas or questions for me, please contact me at