Are USC Libraries open? Not yet, but here’s how to get the books you need
One of USC’s art history professors needed a few scanned pages from Opera & Opus architectonicum, a rare book in the USC Architecture and Fine Arts Library. His research depended on it.
Still, she worked from home and the doors to USC libraries were closed due to COVID-19.
Both works – containing engravings and drawings by the great Italian architect Francesco Borromini – were originally published in the early 18th century: Opera in 1720 and Opus in 1725. The USC copy was published in 1964.
Vincent put Leavey in charge of the job – and immediately discovered an obstacle. The volume measures 16 inches wide by 23 inches high.
“The item was way too big for our scanners and copiers,” Vincent said. So he improvised.
He took the book to a conference room, turned on the lights in an otherwise dark library, and pulled out his iPhone. From there, he photographed the relevant pages, converted the photos to PDF, and sent a link to the instructor.
Until USC Libraries Open, These Heroes Deliver Books
“We’re used to frantic calls, how they need our help,” Vincent said of the requests that typically flood USC libraries ahead of every finals week. “That’s what we do. That’s why we’re here, especially in these uncertain times.
Vincent and his team are among USC’s unsung heroes during the coronavirus era, like most USC works and studies remotely.
From March 16 to May 1, the interlibrary loan and document delivery team responded to more than 3,000 requests.
Thirty percent of those involved delivered physical books from USC collections to remote users. During this time, staff packed and shipped 191 books. That’s almost seven times more than they sent it last spring. Most of the books stay in California, Vincent said, but “we’ve sent books as far west as Hawaii, as far east as Washington, DC, as far north as Vancouver, Washington and as far south as Miami “.
Few universities are doing what we are doing now.
USC academics also often request texts from partner institutions such as UCLA, the University of Arizona, and the University of Oregon.
But the pandemic froze those book loans. If an e-book version of any of these necessary texts is available, USC will purchase it. The department bought 82 during this period, until May 1.
The number of electronic book and document deliveries has skyrocketed as USC moved its college community online.
Digital tools come to the rescue of academics
Most of the requests to the department involve the delivery of documents – scanning of documents or chapters of books. Before the pandemic, library staff carried out material delivery only for faculty and graduate students.
USC scholars working outside the university were eligible for both document delivery and physical book delivery. But now everyone is eligible for both, including undergraduates, as many students stay off campus. Graduate students continue to be among the heaviest users.
“For the first two weeks the phone was pretty quiet and then all of a sudden it kept ringing,” said Vincent. “I remember a graduate student being very happy to hear a human voice and asking if I was answering the phone from home.
“I told him, ‘No, I’m there. I am actually here. She was so relieved and kept thanking me.
Vincent said his team are far from alone. Nearly a dozen library staff on USC campuses support the department’s efforts. And they will do whatever they can until USC Libraries open up again.
Vincent said: “Few universities are doing what we are doing right now. “