Library’s Spanish-language COVID-19 guide serves as model for statewide engagement

When COVID-19 changed the academic landscape in March of 2020, UVA Library staff immediately reacted to new ways of supporting teaching and learning. Policies were rethought, new procedures were established, and staff set out to implement the unprecedented shift to a model of fully online instruction.

In addition to the ongoing work to support the modified needs of research and learning, librarians also worked quickly to make information about COVID-19 available to the University community and beyond. An online guide for updates, information, and scholarly content about the coronavirus was quickly put together, in concert with staff from the Claude Moore Health Sciences Library. The guide includes resources for researchers as well as the public; data and media resources; sections on misinformation; and guides to masks, social distancing, self-quarantining, and more.

photo of smiling woman with dark hair and glasses looking directly into camera

UVA Librarian Hanni Nabahe

Hanni Nabahe is part of that effort. Nabahe came to the Library in the summer of 2018 as an ACRL Diversity Alliance Librarian, arriving from the University of Arizona after completing a master’s degree in information science and library science, as well as an MBA. She is now UVA’s research librarian for Commerce and Economics and Open Educational Resources specialist, part of the Library’s department of Scholarly Resources and Content Strategy. A US citizen originally from Veracruz, Mexico, Nabahe is also a member of the local Spanish-speaking community, and immediately recognized the need to create a second COVID-19 guide with new resources for that community.

The idea: a Spanish-language guide

Nabahe knew that many in the Spanish-speaking community, what she calls the “sometimes invisible population,” would be hit hard by the pandemic. “I could see and hear from my contacts nationwide that the Hispanic population was being disproportionately affected,” Nabahe noted. She was right — more than 25% of residents with reported COVID cases in Charlottesville and the surrounding areas are Latino, although Latinos make up less than 5% of the area’s population. And the gulf is even wider when looking at the state of Virginia as a whole.

Spanish-language resources on COVID-19 existed, but Nabahe knew that they were not all in one place and not always easy to find. She set out to not only create a guide linking to Spanish-language information, but to make the guide easily scalable and reproducible so new guides could be created from the template, allowing pertinent information to be plugged in to serve communities in different locales.

Nabahe reached out to Ana Corral at Virginia Tech Libraries, also an ACRL Resident Librarian, who she had met through shared research interests. Like Nabahe, Corral was interested in making connections between her library and the local community, and was the first to jump at the chance to clone the guide and collaborate in the dissemination of a wealth of Spanish-language resources.

The result was “COVID-19 Apoyo e Información” (“COVID-19 Support and Information”), an extensive guide containing information on prevention, symptoms and identification of COVID-19, and what to do in case of contact or illness. The guide also includes links to information on food, housing, and medical care, as well a section for UVA students. Information specifically for families with children is included, as well as for indigenous communities, immigrant communities, and other vulnerable groups. Finally, the guide features links to unemployment and economic resources, as the recession caused by the pandemic has had an especially adverse effect on many in the Spanish-speaking community.

Since going live in the spring, the guide at UVA has nearly 2,000 views. Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, says Nabahe. “Through most of June, the guide remained one of the top 3 most viewed at UVA, out of the 750 published by the Library. Student activity slowed significantly over this past summer, so we can infer this heavy use came from our local community — not something we commonly see with university guides. Looking at individual pages, we continue to see highest traffic on listings for basic needs, including unemployment, food, housing, and free testing resources.” The guide, which is updated on Fridays, is most visited early in the week.

Branching out: benefits beyond the Charlottesville community

The effort that began at UVA Library has now spread across the state, as Nabahe has since reached out to counterparts in other Virginia research libraries who are active in the Spanish-speaking community. In addition to UVA and Virginia Tech, guides have now been created from Northern Virginia to Tidewater. Leading these efforts are Denise Klasen-Lopez at George Mason University, Alex Flores at William & Mary, Karen Centeno-Casillas at Old Dominion University, and assisting with Spanish translation, Sergio Chaparro from Virginia Commonwealth University. As the template includes links to information at local, state, and national levels, it is easy to localize to the city, county, and university in each area.

With the fall semester now in swing and the pandemic showing few signs of abating, Nabahe continues to reach out to students, faculty, and the local community to promote the resource. She hopes to create an even larger network of Spanish language resources beyond the project to retain the focus of building relationships between university libraries and the local community. “President Ryan’s promise to take us from great to good has stayed with me since his inauguration, and Dean Unsworth’s support of this effort has been both touching and vital. In the end, the group’s motivation comes from those who are at the front lines, whose faces and life experiences are not so different from ours. This is our way of saying we see you and to continue doing what we can so that others do too.”

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