COVID-19: The role of a library during a pandemic

COVID-19: The role of a library during a pandemic

In epidemics and during the COVID-19 pandemic situation, when information outbreak is enormous, it is the time to remind the society of the importance of libraries and the role of librarians in organising and disseminating the information. Accurate information is the key to handle the chaotic situation. Exchange of false information seems to be on the rise. It has created a situation of ‘infodemic’ as stated by the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO). This has not only affected research work severely but has also created chaos among the laypeople.

In the case of research, authentic information from multidisciplinary information sources is crucial for the development of vaccines, handling social issues, and to make rules and regulations. Researchers are highly dependent on libraries for reliable information. Latest data about the ongoing research is made available to researchers through peer-reviewed academic journals, books and reports subscribed by the libraries. These resources should be shared for disseminating research results which help researchers to make more knowledgeable decisions about the outbreak. Lack of unavailability and non-accessibility of authentic information, the research could not be progressed well. Realising this need of information, especially in this pandemic value-added information services are designed by librarians for researchers, especially for those working off-campus.  

Special bibliographies on COVID-19 are made available. Running virtual information services, curating the information sources for healthcare professionals, providing comprehensive searching for evidence-based information, maintaining electronic interlibrary loan services as well as maintaining referral services are some of the notable efforts by librarians. 

Libraries and publishers have collaborated with leading publishers. They have spontaneously opened up their material to the general public to bridge the digital divide. Several thousand high-quality journals are being made accessible directly from the publisher’s websites and not through the intranet of universities. Various non-profit organisations have aggregated all these publishers’ resources from their websites (a list of these organisations is provided at the end).

Laypeople are the victim of this ‘information overload’. Globally, there is fear and confusion primarily caused by the over-consumption of inaccurate information. There are many reasons for information outbreak like creation and dissemination of false information by television and social media. 

In this chaotic situation, most people rely on Google and several other channels like social media to access and share information. However, relying too much on social media does have its fair share of pros and cons. While it is a quick and easy way to share information with the masses, the authenticity of most information is often unchecked and is blindly ‘forwarded’ to others. These ‘forwards’ snowball and lead to an enormous surge in the number of ‘fake’ or ‘unchecked’ messages and rumours about coronavirus mislead people causing a violation of Government orders. This can be disastrous in this crises wherein there is a state of constant uncertainty and anxiety and may even put a person’s health at risk.

A library is the best resource to save people from rumours and misinformation in a pandemic. With physical libraries being shut, librarians are active in providing online information services to the general public. Many libraries are conducting information literacy programmes alerting people about COVID-19. It is suggested that during the locked down period, people can do leisure reading and writing. Moreover, through directed reading, bibliotherapy can be provided as therapeutic adjuvants in medicine and psychiatry in the solution of personal problems. Reader advisory services can be availed from the librarians via electronic media which may help in relieving the agony due to the pandemic and the lockdown situation. List of web sites and organisations offering free access to millions of online books on a variety of topics is given below.

The purpose of the library is to preserve and transmit the recorded knowledge. Libraries and librarians are inseparable from the society in which they serve and the society in which they live. Thus, a library in a pandemic is indispensable.

Few reliable information resources are listed below. I sincerely hope they will satisfy your information needs and prevent the circulation of misinformation. 

For more information and help is searching information please contact us at


Government of India

  • #IndiaFightsCorona COVID-19
  • Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, India
  • COVID-19 Information & Resources – Google

Publishers resources (open for limited days)

  • Project Muse
  • e-Shodh Sindhu

Open sources resource

  • HathiTrust
  • LibriVox (audiobooks)
  • National Digital Library of India 
  • Open Library
  • Project Gutenberg
  • The Internet Archive
  • World Digital Library

(Shubhada Nagarkar is a co-ordinator at Centre for Publication Ethics. She is the Assistant Professor at the Department of Library and Information Science, Savitribai Phule Pune University, Pune)

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