COVID-19

iSchool Response to COVID-19

This is an unprecedented time in the history of our University and School, as we respond to the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. For the past several weeks, the iSchool has been working diligently to transition to alternative course delivery and social distancing to ensure safety for all, meet the needs of our students, and maintain ongoing operations. Now more than ever, we remain committed to fostering a supportive, inclusive learning and working environment.

Our success in converting all of our classes to online offerings and continuing key research activities has been made possible through the ingenuity and determination of our iSchool community, both on campus and throughout the world. This determination is reflected in the information highlighted below, which includes the work of our exceptional faculty, staff, students, and alumni.

Support for alumni and students

student looking for job on computer

In light of the global pandemic and its effects on education and the economy, the iSchool is offering expanded, online services for alumni and students to ease stress and offer a high-touch experience for important conversations and resources.

Career support for the iSchool community
This career support mailing list is designed to support the iSchool community by providing a forum for sharing resources, tips, and articles related to career development and job search topics. Subscribers are encouraged to ask questions of the group and seek out information related to career development and the job search.

Campus Careers Bulletin
Alumni are welcome to subscribe to this twice-monthly bulletin by sending an email to lists@ischool.illinois.edu with the subject line (no quotes): “subscribe careersbulletin.”

iSchool Professional Mentor Program: Special COVID-19 Summer Edition
The iSchool Professional Mentor Program, which typically runs during fall and spring semesters, will be available this summer to iSchool alumni and students. This program matches iSchool students with professional mentors in the information science professions, particularly public, academic, corporate, government, and school libraries. Alumni and students are encouraged to participate in the program this summer, which will offer mentorship matches during the months of May, June, and July.

Career Services Check-Ins
These industry-specific discussions focus on assisting students with the job search and career planning:

Social media support
These online support groups provide resources and tips for the job search. 

Virtual events

The iSchool Virtual Undergraduate Open House for prospective and admitted students featured faculty lightning talks, a discussion with industry recruiters hosted by iSchool Career Services, and a question-and-answer session with Academic Affairs. The event attracted 65 student participants.

Every spring, the iSchool Master's Student Showcase gives students the opportunity to present their projects, research, or other works of interest. This year, the event was offered online. More than 70 attendees joined the event, which included 10 student presentations on a wide range of topics.

iSchool-affiliated partners on a project by the University and Carle Health to design and produce face shields for health care workers include Lisa Bievenue, director of informatics programs; Jeff Ginger (PhD '15), iSchool adjunct lecturer; Amanda Elzbieciak (MS '17), CU Community Fab Lab information manager; and Kristin Walters, MS/LIS student and CU Community Fab Lab communications team member.

Alumni and student impact

Every day, iSchool alumni and students are implementing creative solutions to combat COVID-19 and make a difference in their local, national, and global communities. We are interested in telling these stories! Please send your news to communications@support.ischool.illinois.edu. By promoting the good news of your efforts, we can build connections and share ideas that can be implemented in communities nationwide.

  • Jeanie Austin (MS '09, PhD '17) worked with PEN America to draft an open letter regarding the need for people who are incarcerated to have free access to information during the coronavirus pandemic. This is an especially pressing issue as almost all services—including library services—have been suspended in prisons across the U.S.
  • Ben Chiewphasa (MS 19) released a COVID-19 Government Information LibGuide to highlight current, reliable, and vetted government information related to the pandemic.
  • Chris Hagar (PhD '05) first used the term "crisis informatics" in her PhD dissertation about the 2001 UK foot and mouth disease outbreak. Today, there many similar information challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic that can be informed by her research.
  • Rochelle Hartman (MS '98), director of Lincoln Library in Springfield, Illinois, wrote an article for the Illinois Times to discuss what a closed library can do during the pandemic.
  • Elaine Hicks (MS '10), research, education, and public health librarian at Tulane University, created the Librarian Reserve Corps (LRS), a global librarian crowdsourcing approach that is currently being used to gather COVID-19 scientific information for the World Health Organization.
  • PhD student Clair Irwin (MS ’16, CAS ’17), founder of the Illinois chapter of #insulin4all, is leading efforts to roll out increased public service communication throughout the state for those severely affected by the intersection of the insulin crisis and COVID-19. iSchool-affiliated chapter members include Brad Irwin (MS ’16), Gibson Wirth (MS ’16), and master’s students Cynthia Medrano, Kiri Palm, and Eileen Lopez.
  • Luisa Leija, who will begin her MS/LIS this fall, is co-creator of "Cuentos y Cantos," a bilingual story time offered regularly to families in the Long Beach area during the pandemic.
  • When Sarah Okner (MS ’09) and her colleagues at Vernon Area Public Library in Lincolnshire, Illinois, learned that the library would be closing to the public because of COVID-19, they started making plans to connect virtually with community members. The library’s Facebook Streaming Storytime is offered Monday through Saturday from 10:00-10:30 a.m.
  • During this period of increased remote work due to COVID-19, Juliana Perry (MS '09) is using skills from her experience as an MS/LIS Leep graduate assistant in her current job as an enterprise project manager for the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia.
  • Colin Rhinesmith (PhD '14) and Chris Ritzo (MS '09) are partners on the project, “Measuring Library Broadband Networks for the National Digital Platform,” which examines how advanced broadband measurement capabilities can support the infrastructure and services needed to respond to the digital demands of public library users across the U.S., which has specific relevance to COVID-19.
  • Lydia Tang (MS '15) assisted in creating the Archival Workers Emergency Fund and spearheaded the creation of the Archivists at Home document in collaboration with the SAA Accessibility & Disability Section Steering Committee.
  • Kayleigh Van Poolen (CAS '18) is working with The Atlantic on The COVID Tracking Project, which collects and publishes the data required to understand the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States. As a volunteer on the data entry team, she scours posts from states and territories for information for the project's website, which also collects the most complete racial data provided anywhere via the COVID Racial Data Tracker.
  • When COVID-19 shut down the planned pop-up book exhibit at Clarke Historical Library at Central Michigan University, Bryan Whitledge (MS '11) produced a series of mini-videos for people to enjoy the pop-ups online. Whitledge is the archivist/manager for University Digital Records.

The Illinois Center for Health Informatics, a partnership between the Grainger College of Engineering and the iSchool, is involved in more than a dozen COVID-19 projects, working in collaboration with the WHO, PAHO, Mayo Clinic, and other state and local organizations. Key projects include infodemic response, digital health fact sheets, spread of clinical innovations, and informatics support. The center is directed by iSchool Research Scientist Ian Brooks, whose interests include public and global health informatics, epidemiology, and cyberinfrastructure.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, internet access has become more critical than ever before. Sharon Irish, research affiliate, Julian Chin (MS ’12), research manager, and Lisa Bievenue, director of informatics programs for Illinois Informatics Institute, are working with C-U Connect to map locations in Champaign-Urbana providing free WiFi to people with limited internet access in their households.