In 2020, the COVID-19 situation forced academic libraries to move exclusively to the Web. The closure led to key issues for the scientific community: the unavailability of physical collections, the lack of digitalization of paper assets, the inadequacy of catalogues, the absence of information on e-books and electronic resources availability, problems of delivering digital documents to users, and a general lack of competencies in searching and retrieving digital documents. To respond to the COVID emergency in the library field, in April 2020 a group of librarians under the aegis of IFLA created “Resource Sharing during COVID-19” (RSCVD): the first experiment in free digital resource sharing worldwide.
RSCVD is based on the voluntary contribution of a hundred librarians around the world, who worked with the tools available at that moment in order to share documents held in their libraries with the world academic community.
After the success of the RSCVD project in the face of the COVID emergency, the Erasmus Plus Programme, through the HERMES project, gives us the opportunity to put in place a multifaceted action which can create long-lasting impacts.
The HERMES project intends to tackle two different but linked problems that the scientific community increasingly faces nowadays:
- librarians have the difficult task of guaranteeing distance services to their users
- the scientific community’s practical need for access to digital documents is increasing enormously, but their searching and retrieving skills – information literacy competencies – are still to be developed.
Therefore, the main HERMES project activities are:
- a wide reflection on the meaning of resource sharing and practices involving the worldwide information community, fostering the emergence of a common perspective. This reflection will lead to a publication to be disseminated worldwide and used as training material
- the optimisation of the existing system for accessing digital documents through the design of a service model supplementary to the existing one, and the production of an open-source management software that improves the available offer and optimizes workflows
- the strengthening of librarians’ skills in using the renewed service in order to provide users with fast and free access to knowledge
- a set of distance training initiatives addressed to the educational community (teachers, researchers, students) aimed at strengthening competencies in searching and retrieving quality academic documents, and related preparation of specific training materials.
As for methodologies, open-source and distance learning are the two main concepts underpinning the entire project, in order to widen as much as possible participation in training activities and the use of produced outputs.