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As a Library Director in higher education, I found myself pondering some tough challenges during the week of 9th March.  Universities were starting to announce at that point that they were moving their teaching online and stopping physical lectures.  Things were all starting to get a bit real, after a few weeks of wondering whether Covid19 was going to have any effect on our day-to-day lives and business at all.  Professional bodies and networks were starting to cancel events and meetings, and I was starting to see increasing disquiet on social media about libraries being asked to remain open in the developing situation. 

I spent some time talking to my manager, the academic registrar, about where this seemed to be heading for the University, and I asked that any decisions regarding teaching on campus also considered at the same time whether the libraries should remain open, given the challenges we would almost certainly face trying to implement social distancing.  I also started contacting my counter-points at other University Libraries, to check in with them how they felt about the developing situation, and their plans.  Many of us shared similar concerns.

I spent some time on the Sunday 15th March writing a short paper proposing that we start to close some of our library sites in a phased way throughout the following week, and that we implement social distancing in the remaining sites and move staff away from service points as much as possible.  This was discussed and agreed at a meeting of our business continuity 'Silver' Team on the Monday morning, and I then started the process of implementation.   Throughout this process I involved and consulted with my senior management team, and we set up daily 'business continuity' conference calls and started wider communications with the entire library team. 

By Tuesday, it had become obvious that we couldn't safely implement social distancing in our sites, and that we would have to accelerate our planning quite considerably.  I virtually attended our Silver Team meeting on that Tuesday morning, and was able to quickly get a decision to close all the library physical spaces and move our services fully online.  By 5pm that day we had implemented this.

Since then, myself and my teams have been working from home, and focusing on how best to deliver our services in this new reality.  This has involved a huge amount of work to shift our services online; respond to the challenges which emerged, and plan and prioritise for the next few months, and for an eventual return to whatever the new normal may look like. 

For me, leadership throughout this period has been about the following things:
being prepared to take difficult decisions quickly and being absolutely firm with my teams about what was going to happen and why.staying calm and focused in the face of a rapidly changing situation with few clear outcomes; communicating a sense of calm has helped my teams to feel reassured.working with senior stakeholders to ensure that the library is effectively represented and considered in the high level conversations.communicating clearly and transparently to all staff so that people understand what is happening and why and have an opportunity to raise concerns.putting virtual solutions in place to enable teams to keep on working, sharing and having social contacts.sharing with my peers, learning from each other and providing moral support and back up where we can!

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