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Poetry, Pizza, and Pandemics: How an Academic Library Successfully Moved a Popular In-Person Student Engagement Program Online

Stephanie Evers Ard
Social Sciences Librarian
Marx Library
University of South Alabama

Abstract

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced most libraries to move their services online, the University of South Alabama’s Marx Library was quick to respond. The library already provided robust online services, and library workers understood their crucial role in providing remote academic support to faculty and students. However, the Marx Library also recognized that providing social support was just as essential. This article describes how the Marx Library Student Engagement Committee rallied to provide students with a much-needed sense of community by developing online programming–specifically, by moving the library’s very popular semesterly “Poetry & Pizza” open mic events online. The author details how the library successfully planned two fully virtual poetry events by identifying and collaborating with relevant campus departments and community organizations, adapting available technology to create a safe and comfortable place for student expression, and drawing upon a strong social media presence. The author also evaluates the Student Engagement Committee’s successes, reflects on the problems they encountered, and offers suggestions for other libraries hoping to plan similar online events.

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