How Johns Hopkins University is supporting their community during COVID-19

Inside image of George Peabody library

The prestigious Johns Hopkins University located in Baltimore, Maryland has always been respected on a national and global scale for their work in for academics, research, medicine, business, the arts – well, just about everything. So when the COVID-19 outbreak became a reality, it’s no surprise that Johns Hopkins was a part of the conversation from the beginning. Their experts in global public health, infectious disease, and emergency preparedness launched the Coronavirus Resource Center to help advance the understanding of the virus and keep the public informed. But that’s not the only way they’re keeping students, staff, alumni, and the general public connected during times of physical disconnection.

The librarians at Johns Hopkins have been busy working behind the scenes to do just that. With schools across the country closed to avoid virus spread, librarians like Mack Zalin have been essential in keeping students on track with their education, and providing them with the electronic resources they need during this time — one of which is PressReader.


The power of great content

PressReader has worked in the library space for over a decade supporting librarians, their patrons, and their students with access to trusted global publications through our digital platform. We live for the moment people discover a story that matters to them, and for the moment they find something they didn't even know they were looking for. It’s been our mission from the beginning. That’s why we were thrilled to read Zalin’s article about discovering PressReader and reconnecting with publications like El País that were a nostalgic part of his past, and integral to his education.

 “Every time I open PressReader, I feel like I’m back in Srta. Whitaker’s Spanish class, mesmerized at another new window into a veritable world of information I had no idea existed before. Through it I’ve discovered not only an eminently readable digital version of El País, formatted like a broadsheet newspaper, with clickable articles and even a “listen” feature that converts texts into surprisingly accurate voice-overs in robo-Castillian accents, but a myriad of other resources as well.”

Great content has the power to transport us everywhere — to the past, the future, or to anywhere in the world. Like Zalin said, “I see PressReader as being a window into the world at large. And these are different worlds.”

We sat down with Zalin (virtually, of course) to chat more about how Johns Hopkins is navigating these uncertain times, the role of librarians as a bridge to information and technology, and how libraries and their resources will be forever changed when the world re-opens to the new normal.


How Johns Hopkins is supporting students during COVID-19

Even with campus empty, librarians have taken their knowledge online to help connect students to information. They spend a big part of their day touching base with students to ensure that they have the right resources, right when they need them.

“It’s been amazing to see how librarians still have to be that bridge between people and information. We would not be able to run a library nearly as well as we do without technology, but ultimately it still comes down to that person-to-person contact for it to work. It’s all about the people.”


Librarians bridge people and information

Online resources like PressReader’s platform have gone a long way in connecting patrons and students to the content, research, trusted sources, and entertainment they need. But it’s librarians who bridge people and technology.

“Just because you cannot find a resource, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. It comes down to not only knowing the technology, but knowing the field, and being aware of the resources that we as librarians have at our disposal. It also comes down to just trying to figure out what exactly it is that patrons need. They may think they know, but ultimately as librarians we have to determine what is required.”

Dedicated and knowledgeable librarians like Zalin make students and patrons aware of the breadth of content that’s available to them through platforms like PressReader. Not only do librarians guide their communities to the right content, but they're advocates for media literacy. That means students, patrons, and their communities are becoming better at separating fact from fiction.

“It's been really encouraging. I am so proud of all my colleagues, the faculty and students. Everyone has stepped up in a way that is nothing short of remarkable. To see people going above and beyond every day at every level at the university to continue the educational and research mission.”

Their mission is to educate students and cultivate their capacity for lifelong learning, to foster independence, original research, and bring the benefits of discovery into the world. Put in one simple sentence: “Knowledge for the world”. With access to the right digital resources, their community is able to do just that. We’re proud to be partners with a library making real difference in the lives of those at Johns Hopkins, and the rest of the world.


The future of publishing

In light of COVID-19, many publishers and content creators have dropped paywalls and opened their online content. These resources have been especially beneficial for librarians and their communities who have been able to access the information they need for research and entertainment. But many have been asking themselves, what’s going to happen when the dust settles?

“No one’s really sure where any of this is going, and we’ve already crossed so many lines in the sand in terms of digital access, it’s really fascinating to think of where we could go next if some of these mega publishers might open up even more digital content down the road. You have to ask yourself, are we really going to go back?”

At PressReader, we’ve seen first-hand how content discovery has shifted. Consumers have largely moved from print to digital. They want quality content on demand, and on their own personal devices. They want to explore platforms freely, frictionless – without running into disruptive paywalls between various articles and various publications. That’s how they watch, listen. And we’re seeing a might higher number of those who want to read the same way.

So with readers getting a taste of more content from many publishers available to them for the first time, Zalin’s question is fundamental: are we really going back? It’s something many publishers are struggling with now more than ever, coupled with the larger question, how to make money at the end of it all – how to make quality journalism sustainable.

To get insight, we had an open discussion with Nikolay Malyarov, CEO, International & Chief Content Officer at PressReader, to get his thoughts on the future of the industry.

“One thing is for sure: there is no going back. It’s becoming clearer that the COVID-19 crisis will lead to an accelerated pace of consolidation in the publishing industry, but the pandemic can’t be blamed for everything. It’s simply brought to light inefficiencies that have been building in the industry for years.

Readers have so many options; they’re always keeping an eye on how they spend their money (short- and medium-term this will become an even bigger issues with the economic fallout of COVID-19), and how many subscriptions they’re willing to commit to. When weighing options, are they willing to choose an individual subscription to one or two publications at expense of something else? How many local publications will be chosen at expense of something else (“Hey, my friends will tell me everything I need to know about my community” mentality). Unless publishers are willing to diversify the way people discover their content, we’re going to be left without an industry sooner than expected.

Perhaps this sounds a bit too doom-and-gloomy, but not dissimilar to some other industries, COVID-19 is an existential crisis for many in the publishing world. The irony, is that quality, trusted content that informs and entertains is needed now arguably more than ever.”

Stay tuned for a new article by Nikolay on the future of mainstream media post-COVID-19 and how publishers can capitalize on technology and partnerships to create a more sustainable and profitable future.  


About Mackenzie (Mack) Zalin

Mack Zalin Headshot


Mackenzie (Mack) Zalin is the Librarian for Modern Languages and Literatures & Comparative Thought and Literature in the Sheridan Libraries at Johns Hopkins University. He holds the PhD in Classical Studies from Duke University and the Master of Science in Library Science from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. In addition to his work at Johns Hopkins, Dr. Zalin is a regular contributor to Comedias Sueltas (, a database of Spanish comedies from before 1834.



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