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Library staff aim to maintain services and collections

The people behind the Leiden University Libraries aim to maintain the level of their services to clients as much as possible. They are making thankful use of internet, but not everything can be put online.

In this follow-up to part 1 of this impression of Leiden University Libraries  (UBL), we're talking to another two members of the Library staff. Kristina Hettne, a specialist in data management and open access, and Tijmen Baarda, subject specialist for the Middle East and the Islamic World. Both of them miss the Library and their colleagues. 

Kristina Hettne: 'Researchers and students need to know what they can expect and where they can find the right information.’

Kristina Hettne, Centre for Digital Scholarship

Advising researchers on data management and open access: this is what Kristina Hettne does. She also gives training courses and develops information material. She makes use of local, national and international networks to let Leiden's voice be heard on such issues as FAIR data management (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable) and open access. ‘My work just carries on, only I no longer meet up with researchers. We now offer our training courses online where we can. The first online course was given last week for Leiden PhD candidates and it was about how to write a data management plan. It was really satisfying to do!' 

The Centre for Digital Scholarship describes in a blog how the Centre's services can carry on as far as possible during this corona crisis. Hettne: ‘I tweet and re-tweet important notifications and monitor the support mailboxes. I'm also working on an online services catalogue with current information about our services related to data management. Researchers and students need to know what they can expect and where they can find the right information.' 

Virus Outbreak Data Network
Hettne has become a member of the international Virus Outbreak Data Network (VODAN). The network is working on setting up infrastructure and processes for producing and sharing FAIR data about covid-19 and possible future pandemic viruses. 'That obviously serves an important goal in itself,' Hettne explains, 'but it's also a way for me to help researchers who participate to make their data FAIR.' 

Crucial profession
Hettne lives with her partner and their two junior school children in a house with a small garden. Given the circumstances, things are going fine. 'I had to learn very quickly to adjust my standards, and accept that it's simply impossible to make the same efforts as when I'm in the office because I also have to supervise the schooling of my two children at the same time. My partner is a lecturer at the University and so he's in a crucial profession, which means in practice that I have to adapt to his schedule rather than him having to adapt to mine.'

No chats at the coffee machine
‘We're learning as we go along how best to handle the situation and we pay a lot of attention to how we communicate with one another. We've bought some new outdoor play equipment for in the garden and we let the children game more than usual, all of which helps to normalise things a bit. I have to say that I miss the personal contact with the researchers, and I also miss just being in the office: the chats at the coffee machine, for instance, and the dynamics of the library.' 

Tijmen Baarda, subject specialist Middle East and the Islamic World

Baarda's job as a subject specialist means he is the link between the library and students and staff in the area of the Middle East and Arabic, Persian, Turkish and Hebrew. 'I stay in contact with the researchers so that I know what they need,' he explains. 'And I help students search for literature. I keep the collection up to date using the needs of the researchers and students as my basis, buying new books and applying for subscriptions to journals and databases. The books come mainly from Europe, the US and the Middle East.' 

Digital doesn't work for everything
‘The fact that the library is largely closed causes problems that can't all be resolved,' Baards tells us. 'As an example, books from before 1900 can't be loaned, and so they're not accessible. It's true, you can continue to loan books, but that's difficult for students who live further away. We do try to offer as much as possible digitally, but you can't do that with everything. There are still a lot of publishers who only offer their books and journals in paper format. These kinds of publications tend to be very important in the Humanities.' 

Teaching has to carry on
‘Our first concern is that teaching has to carry on.' The efforts being made to facilitate lecturers who want to put books on the lecture shelves for tutorial students is something you can read about in the first article about the Leiden University Libraries in the corona period. Baarda: ‘In my field, it's not so much of a problem. Most lecturers have already looked for and found solutions, which means the lecture shelves aren't necessary. They were really happy that students could still loan books. The main thing now is to keep the collection up to date. There's a lot of material still coming in, but the deliveries from some countries, such as France, are at a standstill.' 

Sharing a house with friends
Baarda shares a house with a couple of friends. 'When it became clear that we would have to work at home, I was worried we'd drive one another mad, but actually it's fine. In fact, I really like it because now I see people the whole day.' For a change of scene, Baarda varies his workplace at home, shifting regularly from the bedroom to the dining table or the settee. 

Missing the informal contacts
‘My work is normally very varied: I often go to see other members of staff, I give instructions to students and I work on book collections from the depository. Sometimes I visit people at home who want to donate their collection to the library. None of that is happening at the moment, or it's being done online. Mostly I miss my colleagues. We talk to one another every day online, but it's not the same as our normal informal contact.' 

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