Zooming Into a New Normal

Less than three months into the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans are already adjusting to some big changes in their day-to-day lives. Perhaps the biggest? Finding a way to work, play, and gather when the traditional methods are forbidden by social distancing rules. 

Happy hours, family gatherings, classes, and meetings are all still happening in quarantined America — it’s just that thanks to a growing number of teleconferencing and virtual meeting applications, they are now taking place in a virtual setting. The popular Zoom teleconferencing software has skyrocketed to prominence in recent weeks, with its daily active user count climbing 340 percent since December 2019 (Bary, 2020). Competitor Microsoft Teams’ daily user count, meanwhile, climbed nearly 40 percent in just one week during March 2020 (Paul, 2020). The University Libraries are in on the trend, too: Since the middle of March, the University Libraries has held two of its monthly All-Staff Meetings via Zoom, providing a way for staff to reconnect and stay productive. We are also using Google Meet and Zoom to bring regular reference and instruction services to our patrons. 

The University Libraries hold an All-Staff Meeting via Zoom.
The University Libraries hold an All-Staff Meeting via Zoom.

Are virtual-only gatherings the future? Right now, there are a number of potential drawbacks, including privacy and security concerns and the risk of lowered productivity. But virtual meetings may also provide a way for organizations — particularly libraries — to continue to better serve their patrons even after the lockdowns are lifted. 

“Zoom-Bombing” and Data Protection

Some of the main concerns about the rapid adoption of virtual meetings are privacy and security. Several high-profile anecdotes about “Zoom-bombings” — cases where hackers broke into a virtual meeting to share inappropriate language or images with attendees — have highlighted the need for caution. According to experts, any organization contemplating adopting videoconference applications should have two top priorities:

  • End to end encryption. In end-to-end encryption, communications are encrypted on the sender’s device and can only be decrypted by the recipient. This prevents third parties (in this case, the virtual meeting application) from accessing the data while it is sent (“End to end encryption,” n.d.). (Note that Zoom, in particular, has run into questions about its encryption or lack thereof.)
  • Data protection. When choosing a virtual meeting or teleconferencing application, organizations should look for transparency about what kind of user data is collected, whether any third parties have access to that data, and whether the application adheres to privacy laws and standards (Paul, 2020). 

Choose the Features You Need

Not all virtual meeting applications work for every team, so it is worth researching to find out which features are right for yours. A first consideration might be price; several of the most popular virtual meeting applications offer limited services for free. For example, Zoom’s free option allows unlimited one on one meetings, but caps groups at 40 minutes and 100 participants; Microsoft Teams’ free tier offers even more functionality (Bott, 2020). Others, like Blue Jeans Meetings and GoToMeeting, offer no free services but do have tiered pricing that can accommodate everything from a single person to a large enterprise (Bott, 2020).

virtual library services
During the COVID-19 pandemic, libraries around the world are using virtual platforms to continue serving their patrons.

Interoperability is also a concern — which software works best with your (or your organization’s) email, calendar, and collaboration platforms? For example, Google Hangouts Meet might be a good choice for organizations that use Google’s other business applications such as Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Drive (Bott, 2020). The better the match, the more seamless the transition from physical to virtual meetings will be. 

Keep the Connection Going

A virtual meeting can never replace in-person camaraderie and exchange of ideas. But there are some best practices for making a virtual meeting close enough to the real thing. Among them: ask all participants to use video — seeing our colleagues up close is heartening in a lonely time. On the other hand, make sure everyone mutes their microphone unless they are speaking, to minimize feedback and distracting background noise. And rather than force meeting-goers to watch long PowerPoint presentations or listen to a single presenter, encourage a dialogue that lets everyone contribute and be heard (Frisch & Greene, 2020).

Pete Ramsey, a Mullen Library liaison librarian and Outreach and Engagement Coordinator, has been offering virtual library instruction since the stay-at-home orders began. He recommends that instructors or meeting facilitators regularly “check for understanding” during sessions. “It’s helped to make sure the students are actually following what I’m trying to demonstrate,” he says. “For one-on-one sessions, I may have them share their screen so I can troubleshoot searching issues.”

Online Instruction
When teaching library instruction classes online, be sure to check in with students regularly to make sure they understand the material.

The Virtual Library

Libraries are vital partners in their communities, whether those communities are public, academic, or organization-based. Even in a time when physical services are minimal or nonexistent, virtual meeting software can help libraries continue to serve their patronsan, d may even help them find ways to expand their services once physical library visits are possible again.

Here are some ways libraries — including the University Libraries — using virtual meetings for their services.

  • Reference: While many patrons are using email to reach out to librarians with reference questions, virtual meetings can add a more personal dimension. Lea Wade, Mullen Library’s STEMM liaison librarian, recently used Zoom to share her screen and demonstrate to a student how to locate subject guides and databases. “I ran through a few searches for her topic in different databases, showing how to use the database’s limiters in advanced search mode. I also showed how to send the articles to a citation manager, then emailed them to her. It took about an hour, and she was pleased with the results,” she said. “I think being able to share my screen was especially helpful because she could see what I was doing and follow along.”
  • Instruction: Just as other schools, from K-12 to higher education, have moved classes online, so have libraries. Mullen Library’s liaison librarians have continued to offer library instruction to their departments. In addition, Kevin Gunn, the University Libraries’ Coordinator of Digital Scholarship and a liaison librarian, has taught or co-taught several webinars on such topics as open access, scholarly publishing, and digital scholarship. “Showing students how to do something on a website while you are showing your screen and the students are following along on the same computer can be challenging,” he says. Gunn suggests using short, pre-recorded tutorials for asynchronous learning, and devoting virtual meeting time to discuss specific research issues and questions.

Even though Catholic University plans to reopen in the fall for on-campus instruction and residence life, it remains to be seen how the COVID-19 pandemic may change higher education — and libraries — forever. Virtual tools such as these, however, help ensure that all patrons, no matter where they are, can continue to get the benefit of librarians’ expertise. 


Bary, E. (n.d.). Zoom, Microsoft Teams usage are rocketing during coronavirus pandemic, new data show. MarketWatch. Retrieved May 5, 2020, from https://www.marketwatch.com/story/zoom-microsoft-cloud-usage-are-rocketing-during-coronavirus-pandemic-new-data-show-2020-03-30

Bott, E. (n.d.). Best video conferencing software for business: Microsoft Teams plus eight more Zoom alternatives. ZDNet. Retrieved May 21, 2020, from https://www.zdnet.com/article/best-video-conferencing-software-and-services-for-business/

Frisch, B., & Greene, C. (2020, March 5). What It Takes to Run a Great Virtual Meeting. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2020/03/what-it-takes-to-run-a-great-virtual-meeting

Paul, K. (2020, April 9). Worried about Zoom’s privacy problems? A guide to your video-conferencing options. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/apr/08/zoom-privacy-video-chat-alternatives

What is end-to-end encryption (E2EE)? – Definition from WhatIs.com. (n.d.). Retrieved May 6, 2020, from 


Open Educational Resources: Teaching and Learning, Accessible to All

This semester, students may have noticed that they spent less money on required textbooks. That’s because Mullen Library, along with its partners in the Washington Research Library Consortium (WRLC) recently joined the Open Textbook Network. This group of colleges and universities has joined together to produce openly-licensed textbooks — written by academics and peer-reviewed, but made available online for free use by all. Nearly 700 textbooks are currently available, with more added all the time  (“Introducing the Textbooks on Reserve Pilot Program,” 2020).

The Open Textbook Network is just one example of a trend that is reshaping higher education: Open Educational Resources, or OER. It’s a movement that aims to democratize education by allowing for the unlimited use, reuse, and modification of educational materials, at no cost to students or instructors.

What is OER?

Open Educational Resources refers to freely accessible content, digital or otherwise, that can be used for teaching and learning — lesson plans, textbooks, lecture notes and videos, and even full courses. In order to be considered OER, content must be openly licensed, allowing for a wide variety of uses. While licensing agreements vary, most OER allows for the following, known as the “Five Rs”:

  • Retain – users can download, duplicate, and control copies of the content
  • Reuse – the material can be used in a wide variety of ways, including in-person classes, via video, or online
  • Revise – users can adapt or modify the content to suit their specific teaching and learning needs
  • Remix – users can combine the content with other information, either original or from other open sources, to create a completely new resource
  • Redistribute – users can disseminate the content, along with any modifications or remixes, as widely as they need to (for example, share it with other instructors)

A Brief HIstory of OER

While the term “open educational resources” was first coined at a 2002 conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the idea had been circulating among educators for several years already. The open-source software movement of the late 1990s and the rise of distance-learning options around the same time led academics to consider how combining those ideas could help create a new paradigm of education. One early example of OER is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s 2001 decision to put all of its course materials online as part of the OpenCourseware Project. MIT courses can now be accessed by anyone, anywhere, for free (although MIT does not award degrees or credits based on the use of this content) (Guttenplan 2010). 

In 2012, UNESCO and other global partners met in Paris, France, for the First World OER Congress, where they adopted the Paris OER Declaration. The Declaration “reaffirmed the shared commitment of international organizations, governments, and institutions to promoting the open licensing and free sharing of publicly funded content, the development of national policies and strategies on OER, capacity-building, and open research” (Miao et al 2016). In 2017, at the Second World OER Congress in Ljubljana, Slovenia, the partners adopted the Ljubljana OER Action Plan. This list of 41 actions offers ways to help bring open-licensed resources into the mainstream, including enhanced training for librarians and educators on finding and using OER; making resources available in a wide variety of languages, and ensuring equitable and inclusive access (Ljubljana OER Action Plan 2017). 

Benefits of OER

OER has its challenges–for example, ensuring that content that anyone can edit is accurate (Wikipedia is a great example). However, it also has many benefits for students, instructors, librarians, and researchers:

  • Learning anywhere, anytime. Consider the situation in which the Catholic University community–along with many other institutions around the world–finds itself during the COVID-19 pandemic. The use of OER ensures that instructors and students can still access lectures, textbooks, and other essential materials, all without having to set foot in a classroom.
  • Easily modified course materials. Not all OER is one-size-fits-all, but open licensing allows instructors to add, subtract, and/or combine components to fit their needs, and those of their students.
  • Support for all styles of learning. OER includes a huge variety of material that can be used to create traditional lessons, active learning activities, and more.
  • Speed. The publishing cycle for most traditional textbooks can take time, but online, openly-licensed textbooks can be disseminated much more quickly–which also ensures that information is as up to date as possible.
  • Cost savings. A study by the College Board found that undergraduate students pay, on average, $1,240 a year for textbooks (“Average estimated undergraduate budgets by sector,” 2020). At Catholic University, the most expensive traditional textbook, an accounting text, costs students $446 (“Introducing the Textbooks on Reserve Pilot Program,” 2020). Open-access textbooks and other readings are a significant savings for students, opening up the world of higher education to a larger percentage of the population. 

Start Learning (or Teaching)

There are many ways the Catholic University community can make the most of available OER resources. 

To help promote OER and other open access initiatives, liaison librarian Kevin Gunn coordinates CUA’s participation in International Open Access Week each October. First held in 2007, Open Access Week is a worldwide event that helps OER advocates share information and learn from one another about developments in the field. You can read about previous Open Access Week initiatives at CUA in the Mullen Library blog, “What’s Up.”

— Tricia C. Bailey


Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (2007). Giving knowledge for free: The emergence of open educational resources. Paris, France: OECD Publishing. Retrieved from http://www.oecd.org/education/ceri/38654317.pdf

College Board (2020). Average estimated undergraduate budgets by sector, 2019-20. Retrieved from https://research.collegeboard.org/trends/college-pricing/figures-tables/average-estimated-undergraduate-budgets-sector-2019-20

Guttenplan, D. D. (2010). “For Exposure, Universities Put Courses on the Web”. New York Times. New York. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/01/world/europe/01iht-educLede01.html?pagewanted=all.

Miao, Fengchun, Mishra, Sanjaya, &McGreal, Rory (2016). Open educational resources: policy, costs, transformation. Paris, UNESCO. pp. 8, 17, 20–21. ISBN 978-92-3-100158-1.

UNESCO (2017). Ljubljana OER action plan. Retrieved from https://en.unesco.org/sites/default/files/ljubljana_oer_action_plan_2017.pdf

Wade, Lea.  (2020, January 21). Introducing the textbooks on reserve pilot program [Blog post]. Retrieved from  https://www.lib.cua.edu/wordpress/newsevents/12311/.

The Archivist’s Nook: Help for Harvesters

This week’s post is guest-authored by Tricia Campbell Bailey,  a graduate student of the Library and Information Science program at The Catholic University of America.

The year was 1968, and Robert Roddy had a problem.

NMWC members, Feburary 1971.

Roddy, a hospital administration consultant for the Department of Health’s Migrant Health Program, was tasked with ensuring that the United States’ population of migrant farm workers had adequate access to medical care. Six years earlier, President Kennedy had signed the Migrant Health Act, which provided funds for public and private non-profit health clinics in counties with large populations of migrant farmworkers. However, studies showed that these initiatives were reaching only a small percentage of the migrant population, which had few resources and fewer legal protections. How to make up the shortfall?

Roddy reached out to a Midwestern nurse, hospital administrator, and religious sister named Mary Maurita Sengelaub. After becoming a nurse in 1940 and joining the Sisters of Mercy in 1945, Sr. Maurita taught nursing at Detroit’s Mercy College (now the University of Detroit Mercy) and earned a master’s degree in hospital administration in 1953. She served as an administrator at Mercy Hospital in Bay City, Michigan, and as president of St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Roddy hoped that Sr. Maurita could marshall other Catholic organizations to help the Migrant Health Program reach more workers. She wasted no time in doing so: as a member of the Conference of Major Superiors of Women (later the Leadership Council of Women Religious), Sr. Maurita recruited other members to create the National Council of the Migrant Worker Apostolate. At the same time, she was rising through the ranks of Catholic healthcare administration; in 1970, she became the first woman and first non-cleric to head the Catholic Hospital Association (“Celebrating a Life of Faith and Service at the Century Mark,” 2018).

Sister Thelma Marie Mitchell (second from left) and other NMWC sisters outside a community health clinic in the early 1970s.

Although the group Sr. Maurita founded would change names several times, it eventually was incorporated in Farmington Hills, Michigan, as the National Migrant Worker Council (NMWC). After the NMWC dissolved in 1994, the organization’s records sat in storage at the Archdiocese of Detroit. When diocesan archivist Heidi Christein discovered them in 2015, she determined that because the organization was more national than local, it was out of the diocese’s collection scope. Christein contacted the Catholic University Special Collections and offered to transfer the collection, which was readily accepted; and the 24-linear-foot collection was shipped to CUA in the summer of 2015 and an online finding aid is now available.

The collection — mainly business correspondence, invoices, meeting minutes, and grant applications — paints a fascinating picture of a group of dedicated people determined to help, yet eventually succumbing to mismanagement and personnel issues. But for more than 20 years, the NMWC did serve the U.S. migrant worker population in tangible ways, and its legacy has continued via some of the projects it spun off from the parent organization.

Members of the NMWC leadership in 1979.

Healthcare Delivery Through Outreach

The NMWC had two major sub-organizations. The first, the East Coast Migrant Health Project (ECMHP) was launched in 1970 and served migrant workers from Florida to New York by providing professional, bicultural staff to supplement health care delivery through outreach (Dohner 1990). Each year staffers traveled the same northward route the migrants took, providing services in community health centers along the way. The organization also created the East Coast Migrant Head Start Project, the first Head Start program for the children of migrant farmworkers. The Head Start project is the only part of the ECMHP that survives today; it directly provides services in 26 Head Start centers across the Southeast (“Welcome to East Coast Migrant Head Start Project”).

The second branch of the NMWC, the Midwest Migrant Health Information Office (MMHIO), was established in 1983 as the Midwest Migrant Health Center. MMHIO was separately incorporated after the dissolution of the parent organization; today known as MHP Salud, it “develops culturally relevant, cost effective programs which contribute to the success of existing migrant health resources” (“History, MHP Salud”). MHP Salud’s Camp Health Aide project began in 1985 and helps local Migrant and Community Health Centers establish and maintain health promotion programs, including programs for teens, substance abuse prevention and treatment, and a doula program.

Sister Mary Maurita Sengelaub (left) and another NMWC sister in the 1980s.

End of an Era

In the early 1990s, concerns began to arise about the direction of NMWC and its future. Records from this period mention the lack of a clear mission statement, a “tarnished image,” and “racial dynamics.” In 1994, the NMWC leadership voted to dissolve the organization due to inadequate funding; its two major projects were spun off as described above.

Sr. Maurita stayed active in Catholic health care until her death at age 101 in 2019; her legacy survived even though the NMWC did not. The collection reveals the dedication of the people, both religious and lay, who poured their talents into helping one of the country’s most vulnerable populations. Handwritten notes from migrant camp residents thank the sisters who embedded themselves in these communities. Photographs and slides show daily life in the camps and the bonds formed between residents and caregivers. And the correspondence and meeting minutes illustrate the NMWC leadership’s commitment to maintaining the organization and its work, even when faced with seemingly insurmountable problems. As Sr. Maurita told an interviewer on her 100th birthday: “What’s important is to be able to live our lives enabling others to live healthy, happy lives—especially the poor” (“Celebrating a Life of Faith and Service at the Century Mark,” 2018).

Special Collections at Catholic University houses records related to several other Catholic entities that have worked and continue to work with migrants. These include the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic  Charities USA, Society of St. Vincent de Paul, and the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart. Additionally, the papers of Msgr. George G. Higgins, Msgr. John O’Grady, and Bruce M. Mohler are also relevant.

Meet the Humans of Mullen

Chris Suehr
Ph.D. candidate Chris Suehr says that in addition to being a great place to study, Mullen Library has “the second-best water on campus.”

From uniting a community to sparking imagination to supporting scholarship and lifelong learning, libraries change lives.

“Without libraries we have no past and no future.” – Ray Bradbury

With a library you are free, not confined by temporary political climates. It is the most democratic of institutions because no one – but no one at all – can tell you what to read and when and how.” – Doris Lessing

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” – Jorge Luis Borges

“The very existence of libraries affords the best evidence that we may yet have hope for the future of man.” – T.S. Eliot

It’s not just the books that make libraries special–it’s the people. Librarians, scholars, teachers, and patrons of all ages make their mark on a library as much as it makes a mark on them. Here are a few examples from our own Mullen Library:

Karen Berry
Karen Berry received her master’s degree at Catholic University; she also launched her career here in Mullen Library.

Professor Laura Daugherty loves libraries so much that she once accidentally almost spent the night in one; now she hopes to instill that same love in her National Catholic School of Social Service students. Ph.D. candidate Chris Suehr says that in addition to being a great place to study, Mullen Library has “the second-best water on campus.” And former liaison librarian Karen Berry not only studied for her master’s degree here–she also launched her career here. 

What’s your library story?

This fall, Mullen Library is launching the “Humans of Mullen” campaign, an ongoing series of video vignettes. We’re highlighting the students, faculty, and staff who come to Mullen–to study, to browse, to help others do research, to view artwork or attend lectures, to receive tutoring or writing assistance, and more.

Ph.D candidate Carly Jones talks about how she uses Mullen Library in her studies.

We were inspired by Humans of New York, a photoblog launched in 2010 by the photographer Brandon Stanton. Stanton’s intimate street portraits and brief interviews with ordinary citizens put a personal face on a huge and thriving city. We want to do the same for Mullen Library–a place where academic journeys are launched, where friends and classmates gather, and where a lifelong love of learning is instilled. 

What brings you to Mullen Library? Perhaps:

  • you met your best friend here
  • you took a class in the Instruction Room or searched the Stacks to select research materials
  • you found inspiration for your first undergraduate research paper–or for your last university opus, your dissertation
  • you explored your career path or took the first steps toward a career in librarianship as a student worker

Whatever your Mullen Library story is, we want to hear it–and to share it with the rest of the Catholic University community. 

Watch for our weekly videos on the CUA Libraries’ social media accounts:

Laura Daugherty
Professor Laura Daugherty loves libraries so much that she once accidentally almost spent the night in one; now she hopes to instill that same love in her National Catholic School of Social Service students.

Help us share our stories–and if you have a Mullen story of your own you’d like to tell, let us know.

To volunteer or to learn more about the Humans of Mullen series, contact a member of the Mullen Library social media team:

  • Julie Loy: (loy@cua.edu)
  • Emily Brown: (brownec@cua.edu)
  • Tricia Bailey: (baileytc@cua.edu)

Enhance Your Skills with LinkedIn Learning

LinkedIn Learning, an upgrade to Lynda.com, is an on-demand library of high-quality instructional videos covering a wide range of skills, from specific software applications to leadership and management skills. There are more than 7,500 courses made up of more than 200,000 video modules, with more added every week. All of the courses are taught by expert instructors and come with fully searchable transcripts. Curated playlists are also available. 

Learn at your own pace.LinkedIn Learning uses the insights from its nearly 650 million members to stay up to date on the most relevant, useful skills needed by today’s workforce. That allows them to not only add the best courses to help you get ahead, it also allows customized recommendations for your particular job title and interests.

Currently available courses include:

  • Engineering courses on development topics such as PHP, C++, Java, and cloud computing
  • Business classes on project leadership and management
  • Classes on graphic design applications, including Photoshop, Illustrator, Sketch, Rhino, and CSS
  • Audio and music courses, such as audio recording, producing podcasts, sound engineering, and mixing techniques
  • Management support through classes on becoming a manager, improving your coaching skills, managing change and stress, time management, and communicating with confidence

You can also follow custom learning paths, which combine courses toward a specific role such as customer service representative, digital illustrator, or front-end web developer (to name just a few of the more than 150 available). 

Benefits of LinkedIn Learning

There are many good reasons to use LinkedIn Learning to help you achieve your academic, career, or personal goals:

  • Learn a quick skill–or follow the path to a new career.
    Both “micro-learning” and “macro-learning” are available, so whether you need to watch a short video to learn a new software application or follow a custom learning path with multiple courses, you can find the learning experience you need. 
  • Use LinkedIn Learning on any device.Learn at your own pace. LinkedIn Learning courses are available round the clock, and each course is on demand and self-paced. There are courses for every level of learner, from beginner to advanced. If you want to challenge yourself or have a deadline for learning a particular skill, you can a weekly goal–anywhere from half an hour to two hours–and LinkedIn Learning will track your progress. 
  • Use any device you want. You can watch training videos on your desktop, laptop, smart phone, or iPad. If you can’t get to a screen, each course is available in audio-only mode (imagine how productive your daily commute could be!).
  • Learn in your native language. In addition to English, LinkedIn Learning courses are available in Spanish, German, French, Japanese, Mandarin, and Brazilian Portuguese.
  • Learn from — and connect with — the experts. All LinkedIn Learning courses are taught by experts–including the CEO of Warby Parker, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, and distinguished fellows at Harvard Law School. And you won’t just learn from these luminaries–you can also connect via LinkedIn to get the benefit of their own vast networks. 
  • Apply your learning hands on. Learning by doing is the best way to retain your new skills. Most courses offer templates, exercise files, and other documents to help you apply what you’ve learned. 
  • Highlight your status as a lifelong learner. When you take courses via LinkedIn Learning, you can add them to your LinkedIn profile to show that you’re self-motivated, curious, and eager to continue learning to make the most of your career. 

Get Started TodayApply your learning hands on

It’s easy. Click here. You will be prompted to sign in with your Cardinal Login (username/password). Watching an introductory video can be helpful and informative. You can browse for courses or videos in LinkedIn Learning.  All courses are also listed in SearchBox, the University Libraries’ online catalog.

Note: You do not need to create a LinkedIn account to use LinkedIn Learning.   

If you have any questions about LinkedIn Learning or need help with your account, please contact lib-research@cua.edu.