I have been reflecting a lot this summer on the word resilience. Much of this has to do with the ongoing pandemic, the demands for racial justice, and all the many other headlines that grab my attention. But, mirrored in all of this social upheaval, is what pretty awesome things I am learning as a graduate student and as a staff member of an academic library like librarians, along with educators, medical professionals, and front line workers, are pretty adaptable. Their ability to pivot through this crisis and continue to provide services is nothing short of awesome.
Consider all the many cool ideas coming out of the Programming Librarian Interest Group. Many public libraries are still not open, yet they are still helping their patrons with programs, curbside pickup, and many digital offerings to help continuously alleviate the boredom associated with sheltering in place. Library listservs are filled with those who are trying to figure out how to open, along with helpful tips from those who already have.
Moving on to the school library world, many librarians are trying to figure out how they can support their teachers and students with changed schedules, hybrid learning, or a continuation of the same at-home learning that has happened for many months. In some cases due to distancing requirements, librarians are giving up their library space in order to accommodate the required guidelines for reopening.
As for academic libraries, they, too, are making major adjustments. Are there going to be physical reserves? If not, how can the library budget absorb digital copies of physical items it already owns, even if they are available? How can incoming first-year students feel welcome when they are sheltering in place for two weeks upon arrival? Lastly, how can the library create an FAQ that will impart the same information in the same friendly way as the former in-person orientation? This last one is near and dear to my heart.
For three years, I have chaired the library orientation committee for first-year students at my institution. It is a fun, colorful event that represents all of the different components of the library in addition to important partners who are key to our students’ academic success. Normally, planning begin in May, culminating in a 2-hour event that takes weeks of planning and involves a few very long days for the committee. This year is different, though: our students will arrive and they will shelter in place. Campus will be half-populated, and most library staff will still be working from home. Enter the creative resilient orientation group. Instead of an in-person event, we plan to create a Canvas page students can refer to throughout their first term. It will include videos from key librarians and units in the library; and also have some fun components, like an escape room where patrons will have to solve a digital puzzle before moving on to the next room.
Back to school, or back to “normal” operations will just not be the same this year. Furniture will be moved, and our ability to browse may be limited or non-existent across public, school, and academic library settings. Materials will be quarantined. Masks and sanitizing will hopefully be enforced. But, in spite of these changes, our dedication as professionals will show up in everything we do; whether it be setting aside that new mystery title for a patron, or making sure our cart of books for students includes a mix of the resources they need for their class assignment and some light reading. As for the academic librarians, we will double our efforts to reach out to our patrons through social media, embedded class content, and yes, a few silly videos, because we could all use a little more laughter right now.
No matter which library environment you find yourself in, be sure to look around as you will discover a dedicated group of people who are trying their best to continue to support their patrons in creative, safe and thoughtful ways. Perhaps it is time to let the world know we are #LibraryStrong.
Featured image by the author.