Musings on the Pandemic

Last month, I posted about how working from home and being in school made for a terrible experience as worlds collide. I wish I could say there’s been some improvement, but that isn’t the case. Is this post about LIS, school, working in libraries, anxiety, fatigue, or something else? I’m honestly not sure.

This week, staff at my library returned to work to figure out how to open next week and then train on how to operate with reduced services and job responsibilities that no one had ever planned for. I’ll take this time to acknowledge the strong opinions about opening libraries too early. I get it, and I’m among you. As a cancer survivor with a weakened immune system, I know I’m at a higher risk than the average person. Fighting the vocational awe that comes with these grey areas of the LIS field is also overwhelming. Do I subject myself to increased exposure as my community reports more confirmed cases after going weeks without a single case? Do I request a less exposed position as we reopen? Or do I request annual leave to wait this out a little longer?

Ultimately, I didn’t request a different position or time off. In fact, I didn’t even remind my supervisors that I’m in a high-risk population. But the choice was mine to make. I’ll take this time to thank my leadership team for listening to and answering staff concerns, providing PPE, actively roleplaying with staff, and taking on the task of being the first contact for patrons when we reopen. A strong leadership team really makes a difference, and while I don’t know which classes are required or even offered in LIS programs other than my own, I highly suggest seeking out those that focus on leadership and management skills.

Back to school. The University of Washington is on the quarter system, which means we still have a few weeks before the end of the regular academic year. This shift to working in the building on a set schedule and trying to finish the quarter has again upended everything. My former schedule allowed me to check discussion boards and work on assignments while also working from home. Over the course of a week, everything was finished on time and work hours were all accounted for. Now, after just three days of being in the building, a full day at work takes all I have to give. New procedures and overwhelming amounts of information have made it difficult to save any mental bandwidth for school. Discussion boards have fallen to the wayside and assignments are submitted right at the deadline or turned in days later when I finally feel up to the task of finishing something that meets the bare minimum.

How can we overcome these constant changes to our new normal? I don’t have the answers, but as Kelli said in her farewell post, “support one another, be easier on yourself, advocate for those disproportionately affected by this pandemic, focus on what you can control, and remember that things will eventually be okay.” We’re all doing what we can, and that’s enough.

Before ending, I do want to draw attention to Alyssa’s recent post, and particularly to its comments. Library budgets are in danger as the economy works to recover from the pandemic, and while I look towards my final year with a secure job already in the LIS field, new graduates looking for jobs are at a severe disadvantage. Libternship consolidates “mostly PAID opportunities for internships, fellowships, and residencies and occasional temporary employment for currently enrolled students and/or recent graduates for those who plan on entering  fields related to Information /Library Science within a  variety of  Institutions with Libraries and affiliated  Archives and Museums.” Hopefully, with this extra exposure, recent graduates are able to find something that pays for all the knowledge they gained in library school.

Conrrado is an online MLIS student at the University of Washington iSchool and an Adult Services Specialist at the Natrona County Library.

Photo by Katie Moum on Unsplash

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