From hero to superhero: Agile, innovative, responsive libraries

The world was already in the midst of a technological revolution (the 4th Industrial revolution) prior to COVID-19. Parallel to this revolution was a gradual shift by universities towards online teaching, learning and research, with libraries playing a central support role. To effectively deliver on their mandate, many libraries deployed advanced innovative technologies such as robotics, Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning and the use of data analytics to inform some of their decisions.

Although COVID-19 has had negative effects on academic libraries, it has also brought further opportunities for innovation. Academic libraries shifted their services online at an accelerated pace in line with universities. The jury is still out as to whether this crisis will lead to another technological revolution in academic libraries where the application of advanced technologies becomes the norm rather than the exception.

The 2021 symposium seeks to map the journey of libraries as they navigated uncharted waters as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects. Having previously embraced new and advanced technologies, libraries rose to the challenge by providing online library services to support universities to deliver on their mandate thus contributing to saving the 2020 academic year. In doing so, libraries rose from mere heroes to superheroes. While it is important for libraries to share how they utilised various technologies to survive the COVID-19 enforced lockdowns, a peek into the future is also critical.

The following will be the sub-themes of the symposium:

  • Changing landscape of higher education in research, teaching and learning
  • The agility of academic libraries and the future of work
  • Robotics, open science and artificial intelligence
  • Data services and innovation in libraries
  • The impact of Covid-19 on library services