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Association Meeting, Spring 2021 (Invitation Only)

Tuesday, April 20, 2021 @ 8:00 amThursday, April 29, 2021 @ 12:00 pm

Association of Research Libraries (ARL) member representatives, guests, and staff gathered virtually April 20–April 29, 2021, for the 178th Association Meeting, convened by ARL President John Culshaw, the Jack B. King University Librarian at the University of Iowa.

The Big Pivot: Disruption, Discovery, Transformation

What many people anticipated would be a short-term interruption to the normal operations of universities and libraries soon became a long-term crisis of uncertain duration.  Campuses were secured, students sent home, teaching moved online. Buildings were closed to the public, services were curtailed or suspended, faculty, librarians and staff resorted to working remotely.

It soon became clear that the pandemic would not allow a return to “business as usual” very soon, if ever. We would need to pivot to a very different reality, and quickly.  Academic leaders responded, making plans for continuity in teaching, labs, student services, and libraries. Research library leaders moved quickly to ensure accessible services, safe workspaces and study areas, accessible collections.

The past year, with its remote learning and working, has challenged research libraries and their institutions to regroup, reassess, and acknowledge that many of the changes we have made will—and should—stay in place. While the pandemic certainly has not been positive, it has sparked intense discussion and ongoing assessment of the ways our libraries will serve our universities, our researchers, students and faculty in the future. It has been a year of remote work and isolation, but also of useful discoveries about the resilience and adaptability of our communities, and the importance of partnerships. This institutional soul-searching is taking place against the backdrop of political polarization, the urgency of anti-racism, and a society that has come to question the value of higher education.

The Spring 2021 Association Meeting addressed this “big pivot” and its context in four sessions, each targeting a timely, critical issue: the transformation of teaching; the rise of anti-intellectualism; the dissemination of misinformation/disinformation; and the social justice mission of our institutions. The meeting also provided the opportunity for participants to break into small groups to discuss these topics and others.

Research libraries and their institutions have experienced a great deal of change on multiple fronts over the past year. This presents both challenges and opportunities. We need to bring our best thinking to ensure that what comes next, to crafting successful strategies for the future of our organizations.

COVID-19 Update

This meeting took place via videoconference.

Meeting Details

Association Meeting Program Planning Task Force

  • Clem Guthro (Hawai‘i at Mānoa)
  • Deborah Jakubs (Duke)
  • Joy Kirchner (York)
  • Jim O’Donnell (Arizona State)
  • Claire Stewart (Nebraska–Lincoln)
  • Shali Zhang (Auburn)
  • Deborah Grayson (ARL)
  • Sue Baughman (liaison to task force)

On Social Media

Hashtag: #ARL21spring

See also ARL Board Meeting, Spring 2021, 1 of 2; and ARL Board Meeting, Spring 2021, 2 of 2


Tuesday, April 20, 2021 @ 8:00 am
Thursday, April 29, 2021 @ 12:00 pm


ARL staff


online (EDT)