Planning a practicum in a pandemic

I confess I wasn’t planning to write about COVID-19. But ruminating on how my month has transpired since my last post, I realized everything I was planning to write about was affected by this pandemic. For example the extensions my faculty gave to our class to finish papers, because people were either still working, or transitioning to working from home and caring for family members or they were laid off. Or the research project I am planning to do this summer, that at one time involved face to face conversations with librarians in Vermont and New Hampshire about the importance of diversity in their collections-stay tuned for that one. Or in my own case waiting to hear if I too will be furloughed, laid off just as my latest tuition bill has arrived.

Let’s face it. If you are working in a library or were, prior to sheltering in place, you have much to think about and cause you anxiety. Will I return to work? Will it be full time? What and how will we keep ourselves and our patrons safe? If you are in an academic library you also need to consider how you will handle course reserves, or how much furniture you may have to move so students can study safely. One only need a few posts on LibCircPlus to get a sense of how much this is on everyone’s minds and how few answers there really are.

In the midst of all of the above, I submitted my application to do my practicum this fall. I had only one meeting with the librarian I plan to work with before everything shut down. Because I am following a path in youth librarianship, my practicum will be with a small public library in a town just north of my own. I was excited to offer my assistance to this library, which is run by just one librarian and dedicated volunteers. The idea was to work with her on building up the youth collection this summer, and then tailor some programs this fall that would highlight them. In addition, because the local high school has been without a librarian, I planned to reach out to teachers and see if there were materials or programs I could purchase or host that would support the curriculum. But right now there is an order in place that prevents people from congregating. And the library is still closed. And it is uncertain if materials should be purchased, because of this. And the school? They won’t be returning until fall. Yet, I still need to do a practicum.

Knowing all of this, I am still pursuing my practicum. I will work with the librarian remotely for now. I will do a deep dive into their library catalog and make suggestions for purchases for the young adult collection. And, if it turns out that programming cannot be hosted in person, I will try and do something online. Whether it be book talks, a hosted program with a local figure,or partnering with the owner of the game shop down the road, I can still do programs. If nothing else, this pandemic has proven that librarians are resilient, creative and accessible, even from their home computers. And as daunting as all this seems we can succeed with our curriculum. We have the potential to make a difference, now, and in the future, if we are willing to think outside of the box. After all, the more nimble an organization is, the more successful it becomes.

Photo taken by Lisa Ladd

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