2020 Annual Report New Challenges, New Directions

A Message from the Chief

2020 has been a very unusual year, with tremendous changes in the way we all interact, work and learn. Worldwide, libraries closed their doors, yet continue to serve their communities in new and innovative ways. Based on prior surveys, PCOM users strongly agreed that the Library has exceeded expectations for their needs in the areas of service and collection resources. We are now leveraging our electronic collections and services and successfully pivoting to meet users’ needs in this new environment.

With COVID-19 public health restrictions imposed on many aspects of libraries today, we find ourselves challenged to deliver more of our services remotely, with online collaboration replacing on-site instruction and research. We are looking closely at everything we learned during these months. The concept of the library as a physical space is transforming, and we are committed to evolving as an institution. The Library team is extremely effective, pivoting in response to circumstances, looking to new trends in information, knowledge and technology to enhance the PCOM mission.

Our commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives at PCOM is ongoing. Our librarians actively participate in campus committees as we strive to promote a positive and transparent work environment based on clear communication. Often, students from diverse backgrounds have challenges relating to peers, unspoken cultural norms, and the demands of university life. We responded to this need by creating a health and wellness guide of e-books, links and recommendations -- a useful toolkit to address issues of resilience, coping, and self-care during these difficult times. Our Race and Social Justice collection of e-texts provides a broad framework for study of timely topics in racial issues in medicine and beyond.

We look forward to 2021 as we continue to celebrate our Library team and the PCOM community.

Service to the PCOM Community

Over the past year, the pandemic tested Library staff in novel ways as they worked to provide excellent service to the PCOM community. The team continued to thrive at home as they developed innovative methods of support and outreach. Some ideas worked and some did not, but the Library was able to continue to fulfill its role as the resource hub for PCOM.

Virtual Service Encounters

The last year presented us with new challenges in providing services to the PCOM community; one of the largest challenges was in assisting users virtually with Library services. From finding e-textbooks to literature searches, from interlibrary loan to UpToDate, the Library team stepped up and was available to answer user questions in many different formats. As the charts below illustrate, users were able to reach us in a variety of different ways, including through email and our Live Chat service (available on every PCOM Library page). We are proud to say that we have been and continue to be present and available to users at a rate on par with many other universities.

A breakdown of community users and how they contact the Library.

In-Person Library Services during the COVID-19 Pandemic

When the very act of being around people is dangerous to one's health, how does an institution that thrives on collaboration and togetherness continue to operate? A desire for study spaces was one thing that did not change during 2020, and the Library did its best to deliver in a way that allowed for the safety of its users and staff. We worked with Plant Operations to retrofit Library spaces on all three campuses to adhere to CDC guidelines for physical distancing, and implemented a reservation system so that students interested in using the study space could do so. We also made our collections available to the community, implementing contactless pickup and quarantine periods for any items users borrowed. With vaccine administration on the horizon, we look forward to continuing to safely increasing Library space availability in 2021.

Internet Assistance Program

In September, the Library received NIH funding to implement a free mobile hotspot lending program to offer relief to students who were suffering financial hardship during the Covid-19 pandemic. We initially purchased eleven hotspots and made them available for check-out in November and December. Student response was positive, with all the hotspots being checked out by mid-December. Because of the positive response, the Library purchased seventeen additional hotspots, which we will make available to students in 2021.

Electronic Resources

The PCOM Library is known for its wealth of e-books and databases. In this time of online education, remote access to information is even more critical to the success of students and faculty. We continue to invest in the tools that the community needs to be successful in their educational endeavors.

New Resources for 2020

In 2020, the PCOM Library acquired access to a variety of new resources to help students in their studies. Board study resources continue to be a popular request, and we delivered with a subscription to Kaplan COMLEX test banks. Other new resources we purchased include NEJM Catalyst Innovation, Access Emergency Medicine, and Aquifer Virtual Cases in Geriatrics and Internal Medicine. Physician Assistant Studies students gained access to Aquifer, with all of the cases currently available to Osteopathic Medicine students. One of our most important resources is one that most of the community is not aware of: OpenAthens, our single sign-on platform. Library staff worked hard to make the switch from our previous authentication system to OpenAthens -- while there were some rough spots, its full implementation means that the PCOM community can easily log in to almost any of our resources from anywhere by using their institutional credentials. With over 378,000 logins, we are proud to say that our goal of making electronic resources easier to access was successful. The Library also implemented LibKey Nomad, a tool designed to expand awareness of our extensive e-journal collections in popular free resources such as Google Scholar, PubMed and Wikipedia.

E-Book Usage in a Distance Education World

The e-textbook format continues to grow in popularity among students, many of whom are digital natives. Because computers, tablets, and cell phones play an integral part in online pedagogy, e-textbooks provide an accessible and portable option. In a survey conducted in late 2020, 76.4% of students said they used electronic textbooks this semester. Surprisingly over 50% of PCOM students prefer a combination of physical and electronic textbooks. The pandemic may have proven the tipping point in student preferences -- students want to have choices available to them that fit their needs. Will e-books replace print books? Right now, they co-exist. Statistics indicate that the community is looking for electronic texts: our E-Book subject guide had 24,702 views in 2020, a 50% increase from 2019.

According to the above chart, 76.4% of surveyed students are using PCOM Library-provided e-textbooks.

Curated Subject Guides

During the past year, one of the Library's key initiatives was to make its online presence more robust. Our subject guides increased in content and granularity, providing community users with a portal to some of the Library's highest used e-books and electronic resources. Some of our most popular guides are program portals: the Pharmacy guide saw the highest traffic this year, with over 36,000 hits. The E-Books, Osteopathic Medicine, and Anatomy/Histology/Embryology guides are also extremely popular, with a combined total of over 50,000 hits this year. Some of our guides saw anywhere from a 50%-90% increase in usage.

View tallies of the most popular subject guides.


The Library's institutional repository, DigitalCommons@PCOM, saw a great deal of traffic during 2020. Users from the PCOM community and beyond are searching the repository for open access works and scholarly communications. The highest used collection within the Commons was Student Dissertations, Theses, and Papers, with over 131,000 downloads over the past year. We added over 500 works to the repository, and these are available to interested users from all over the world. We also added two new collections: the Capstone collection and PCOM Class Photos. Take a look -- you might see someone you recognize!

Library Education and Research

This was a banner year for the Library's educational initiatives. Liaison librarians put on a variety of classes in topics such as health literacy, scientific communications, and wellness. Library staff also hosted sessions on various resources provided to the community.

Embedded Librarianship

For the first time, the PCOM Library was included in all educational programs. Program liaisons spent 2020 delivering sessions in curricular courses; in addition to Research Tips for Biomedical Sciences students and participation in Pharmacy classes, librarians created a Health Literacy clerkship course from the ground up. At the beginning of the year, the Library began a new writing program, led by our Research and Writing Support Librarian. This position is tasked with individualized support and workshops for the PCOM community’s writing needs, such as assistance with personal statements, CVs, and research papers. The writing program was embedded in the Biomedical Sciences curriculum this year, providing several workshops and hands-on practice in writing skills.

Lunch 'n' Learn Sessions

In addition to the increase in the curricular classes program liaisons participated in, program liaisons began holding twice-monthly lunch 'n' learn sessions covering various resources the Library provides. One of the opportunities we were able to capitalize on during the pandemic is the ability to reach users on all three campuses with our extracurricular sessions. Librarians held classes on effective thesis writing, usage of Refworks, and how to perform Pubmed searches. These outreach sessions provide an introduction to some of the Library's useful resources, and are a key piece of our plan to educate the community on the best the Library has to offer.

Research Services Web Presence

The PCOM Library plays a key role in promoting medical research and scholarly communications. This year, the Library developed and debuted a research services portal for the community's researchers to find information of interest. In partnership with the Department of Research, the Library's role in promoting research and scholarly communications expanded with several new focus areas. Library services include literature searches, study design and research methodology assistance, document delivery, and assistance in preparation of posters and presentations for conferences or publication of papers. Librarians are also available to collaborate with researchers on conducting data analysis, writing for publication, and preparing grant applications during the hiatus of nonessential laboratory work.

Research services web portal