(August 2020) From IFLA’s Library Services to People with Special Needs Newsletter:
With the experiences accumulated from Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003, Hong Kong academic libraries, public libraries and school libraries were more wellprepared to face the challenge of suspension due to COVID-19 pandemic. However, the announcements from the government about extending the school suspension on Jan 31 for two more weeks, and then to March, then
April, and now indefinitely, has left schools continually developing or improving their eLearning capability.
“To stop classes but not stop learning” during the school suspension period requires the enhancement of teachers’ skill and familiarity over eLearning in a short period of time. The synergy of all school stakeholders, especially the time and effort of those from special schools, are drawn to keep the school library programs running during this hard time. One special education school, which serves students with physical disabilities and mild intellectual and developmental disabilities, creates videos and uploads them onto a learning management system (LMS). In addition, the school sends out instructions to parents by post every two weeks to keep students reading at age level. E-Books are available for all students. Students have no difficulty learning with parental support. The asynchronous learning is well received by both parents and students. Checklists for online learning are provided to parents to record students’ reading and learning performance at home.
As public libraries elsewhere, the Hong Kong public libraries rely on their eResources to support reading needs of the public in these uncertain times. Further restrictions from Jul 29 have caused academic libraries to accelerate their precautionary measures. The academic libraries have reduced the level of services, including opening hours, and restrict access to current students and staff. No face-to-face services are available. All patrons must wear masks. Numerous library support services for remote learning are provided for the patrons. Around the clock library services are arranged through different channels, including ConnectA-Librarian via Zoom, WhatsApp-ALibrarian, and making appointment online for research consultation. Though the provisions of library services seem non-stop at a limited level, many patrons are still waiting the chance to find their books on the bookshelf, flip the pages at a quiet corner, and smell the ink and paper in libraries.
Most libraries are looking for various channels to deliver their messages to the users. It may help if we better understand the changes in online teaching in different educational sectors under COVID-19 in Hong Kong.