Providing Library Services From Home

Many people have spent the last three months working from home. While most librarians had experience providing services to clients who were working remotely, it was a different situation when it came to being the ones who were working remotely. When you’re used to working in a physical library, moving to providing services entirely online presents a challenge, since a number of resources are still not available online.

I am sure that there are many people who can make helpful additions to this list, but this is what worked for us during the shift to providing all library services digitally:

  1. Prepare. When it started to look likely that we would be moving to working from home, my department did a run through to confirm what we could access from home. For example, some of our resources require IP authentication, so we made sure that our home IP addresses were added to the list of approved IP addresses. 
  2. Talk to your IT department. IT deals with remote users every day and they can provide solutions that you would not have thought of (or can do it faster and more effectively than you would have). For example, my IT department forwarded my work phone to my cell phone so I didn’t need to worry about updating people about how to reach me. (One downside to this: getting a phone call at 6:45 in the morning from a vendor who had forgotten that BC is in a different time zone.)
  3. Talk to your vendors about what they can do to help. For example, some of our vendors have temporarily provided electronic copies of materials that we own in print but not electronically. (This was very much appreciated.)
  4. Look at what can be digitized or is already available online. We were in the middle of a digitization project at the point where we moved to work from home. While there were a number of things that we could not digitize for legal or practical reasons, it was helpful having those items that we had already digitized easily available.
  5. Take print items home. We took home some of the key books that weren’t available electronically so we could consult them as needed. (Others had already been liberated.) 
  6. Make sure your catalogue reflects what is available online. We’ve also added links in our catalogue to materials housed elsewhere (for example in the Government of Canada Publications database).
  7. Have multiple entry points for materials to make it as easy as possible for users to find them (e.g. we have links on our intranet and in our catalogue and, in some cases, in quick start guides.)
  8. Talk to your colleagues at other institutions. Librarians and information professionals in the legal industry are always willing to suggest solutions and resources that you might not have thought of.

Susannah Tredwell


  1. Another useful step might be to arrange controlled access to the building, for picking up particular material for use from your home.

    My company allowed me to “reserve” our whole building for a 30-minute “meeting” to pick up files and some of my reference books.

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