No Library is an Island

how a consortium of academic libraries of a public university concluded that services had to transition to remote-only in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Todd Simpson York College, City University of New York (CUNY)


This paper constructs a narrative timeline of the events that occurred during spring semester 2020 as the disruption and uncertainty unleashed by the COVID-19 pandemic made it imperative for an academic library at a public college in Jamaica, Queens transition their in-person service model to remote learning while simultaneously navigate being designated as 'essential' personnel.  Fortunately, this college is a member of a municipal university system and as such did not face these challenges alone.  During this semester, New York City went from zero confirmed cases to being the epicenter of the country with the largest outbreak on the planet.  The virus placed this public university in a dilemma; how to continue providing the services and physical spaces their students relied upon while at the same time ensuring a safe environment for the academic community as a whole.  The efforts of these librarians, and the requisite leadership from state, municipal, university, and college administration, have to be placed within the prevailing context of insufficient coordination and communication provided by the Federal government and the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC).  The dialogue that took place within the university was necessary, and ultimately, successful in determining a remote-learning model would be consistently applied to classrooms and libraries across CUNY.  With this case study we contend membership in a consortium unique to such institutions as the City University of New York (CUNY) was essential for maintaining both relevant services and safety at the level of the individual campus.  We present this case study as an opportunity for reflective assessment of what resources were in place, as well as those that were needed, in service of a highly impacted population.

How to Cite
SIMPSON, Todd. No Library is an Island. Qualitative and Quantitative Methods in Libraries, [S.l.], v. 9, n. 3, p. 511-520, oct. 2020. ISSN 2241-1925. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 25 nov. 2020.