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New Voices RGU Student Series – Claire Jermyn

Category: New Voices, New Voices, RGU Student Series

In the Robert Gordon University Student Series blog, we share the views of RGU students from the MSc in Information and Library Studies course.

Today, we hear from Claire Jermyn on life as Librarian 2.0 and how her library service has been helping its communities to cope with the pandemic. Claire is the branch manager of Cobh Library, a small town in the east of County Cork, Ireland (famous as being the last port of call of the Titanic!) She has worked for Cork County Council Library & Arts Service since 2008 in various roles including cataloguer, library assistant on the mobile library, as well as in their Book Store, and is currently a MSc student of Information and Library Studies at RGU.

Claire shares her thoughts on life as Librarian 2.0 – with a little help from Yoda!

“Information literacy is the ability to think critically and make judgements about any information we find and use. It empowers us as citizens to reach and express informed views and to engage fully with society” (CILIP 2018).

“Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future” – Yoda

On 12th March 2020, Ireland’s Prime Minister, An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, walked down the steps of Blair House, Washington DC, to announce the closure of schools, childcare facilities and most public amenities in an attempt to curb the spread of Covid-19. In doing so, he completely changed and challenged the operation of public libraries across the country. The following day, my colleagues and I gathered behind closed doors in Cobh Library, Co. Cork, sitting within 2 metres of each other without face coverings – remember those days?! But it was all going to be ok. These restrictions were only going to be in place for two weeks, right? Wrong! Leo dealt another hammer-blow on 27th March. There would be another two weeks of “lockdown” and, as it turned out, many more. It’s safe to say, from a professional standpoint, we were having full-blown identity crises. Who is a librarian without a public to serve and what is a public library without the physical engagement of its users? These are questions that would be answered over the coming weeks and months as information professionals around the world rallied to support the community in the midst of a global pandemic.

“Ready are you? What know you of ready?” – Yoda

In many ways, librarians and other information professionals have been unconsciously preparing for an event like this throughout our careers. Our knowledge and skill set should be in a continuous state of development. Ashcroft comments on “the ability for professionals to adapt and remain flexible as working practices and access to information itself remains in a constant state of flux” and cites Sharp’s recognition of “core librarianship skills” such as “information handling, training and facilitating, evaluation and customer service” (Ashcroft 2004 p. 82). Covid-19 provided an extreme refresher course on these information literacy skills evidenced by the redeployment of many librarians to contact tracing centres and Community Support Programmes across the country. The remaining staff were encouraged by management to up-skill. Marian Higgins, County Librarian in Kildare describes how those employed in the library service were given the “opportunity to engage in significant training and development for working in the online environment”, a practice echoed in Cork County Library and elsewhere (Insights 2020).

“In a dark place we find ourselves, and a little more knowledge lights our way” – Yoda

Many of these up-skilling opportunities allowed staff who did not feel confident in an online environment to explore digital literacy and information literacy to improve their navigation of contactless delivery of services. Training and self-directed learning enabled us to cope with the explosion in demand for our online services. Indeed, it afforded many of us the opportunity to fully explore these services so that we could properly inform our patrons, many of whom were using these services for the first time.

Week commencing March 29th compared to the week commencing March 1st
·       313% increase in new users of eBooks and eAudiobooks services
·       467% increase in e-learning courses being taken
·       227% increase in language course being taken
·       246% increase in usage of the online newspapers/magazines

Statistics from The Avondhu Press, April 20th 2020

Video tutorials on how to use these services on the Libraries Ireland website were crucial for staff and library members during the initial phase. The website also provided links to an online platform – Coping with the Crisis – gathering stories of best practice from around Europe, and it directed users to reliable health information sources, invaluable in the online environment fraught with conspiracy theories and “fake news”.

For those who are digitally deficient, we offered engagement over the phone and through our Housebound Service, which delivered 1,931 boxes in County Cork between 27th March and 29th June. This service allowed staff to develop analytical skills and communication skills, not only in matching the patron with appropriate reading material to be delivered to their door, but also in assessing the wider needs of the person, particularly in the case of the elderly, vulnerable and marginalised. Thus, librarians were obliged to educate themselves regarding the ethical implications of such communications, a critical information literacy competency that developed almost as a by-product of the pandemic. 

Thomas Cronin & Rachel B.urke of Cork County Library’s Housebound Service

“On many long journeys have I gone” – Yoda

Lockdown, like Web 2.0 and Library 2.0, has manifested to Lockdown 2.0. Our doors are closed again. However, this time, we are a little further along the path than before. We must strive to become Librarian 2.0, who embodies the “attitude or ethos that a successful librarian…must possess, for example, ‘I will be willing to go where users are’” (Partridge et al. 2010 p. 266). For the moment, our users are online and/or in their homes. “[O]ur mission [is] to reach out to people beyond the four walls of the library buildings” (Vittles 2020). Abram stipulates that “Librarian 2.0 understands users at a deep level…in terms of their goals and aspirations, workflows, social and content needs, and more” (2007 p. 22). As a consequence of Covid-19, librarians are transitioning to Librarian 2.0: becoming Covid-19 detectives in contact tracing centres, working on community helplines via the Community Support Programme, up-skilling, tutoring borrowers on the merits of our online services, directing our users to safe and reliable information on coronavirus through our website, keeping a strong connection to our most vulnerable service users through the housebound service and assessing the wider needs of those individuals in case support from other service providers is needed. All of which has honed our capacity “to be information literate…to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate and use effectively the needed information” (American Library Association 2019). The pandemic has taught us many lessons as information providers and empowered library staff to critically engage in a deeper understanding of the library service and of the individual user. We still have a public to serve. We just need to figure out new and innovative ways of doing it.

Don’t worry Yoda, lockdown can’t last forever!



ABRAM, S., 2008. Social libraries: the librarian 2.0 phenomenon. Library Resources & Technical Services, 52(2), pp. 19 – 22.

AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, 2019. Evaluating information: information literacy. [online]. Chicago, Illinois: American Library Association. Available from: [Accessed 23 January 2021].

ASHCROFT, L., 2004. Developing competencies, critical analysis and personal transferable skills in future information professionals. Library Review, 53(2), pp. 82 – 88.

CARBERY, A. et al., 2020. Irish Libraries and COVID-19: first reflections. Insights. [online]. Available from: [Accessed 21 November 2020].

CILIP, 2018. What is information literacy? [online]. London: CILIP. Available from: [Accessed 4 November 2020].

PARTRIDGE, H. et al., 2010. The contemporary librarian: skills, knowledge and attributes required in a world of emerging technologies. Library & Information Science Research, 32, pp. 265 – 271.

THE AVONDHU PRESS. 2020. Use of online public library service soars during Covid-19 crisis. The Avondhu Press. [online]. 20 April. Available from: [Accessed 13 November 2020].

VITTLES, K., 2020. Why lockdown was the plot twist that libraries needed. The Guardian. [online]. 26 October. Available from: [Accessed 27 October 2020].




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