Navigating COVID-19 and a Possible Campus Closure as a Reference Librarian

New COVID-19 cases are popping up across the U.S. bringing inevitable changes to the usual work environment. In particular, several school campuses have already cancelled in-person classes or at least instituted international travel restriction. In the face of potential disruption to our workplaces, I have given some thought to navigating COVID-19 and a work-from-home situation.

  1. Students may feel anxious – be a source of support and information. The COVID-19 outbreak is a rapidly changing situation and for some, change—especially abrupt change—can cause anxiety. Worse, students’ universities may not have their back. Some professors may not be open to recording lectures or sharing written notes; students may be anxious about whether they’ll have connection issues to virtual class meetings; long-anticipated Spring Break plans may be at risk of cancellation and possibly without refund. All of these factors, and many more, make navigating this environment a possible stressor on top of law school’s existing stresses. As pillars of information and research support, might we as librarians also be sources of emotional, technological, and mental support for our students?
  2. Technology will be all the more necessary – be a source for technology training. In the event that in-person classes are cancelled, virtual classes and meetings will be all the more important, if not necessary. This means that IT staff may be especially overwhelmed. Step up and help professors and students install Zoom or other virtual meeting software; offer to do a test-run or hands-on training with the software; and compile tips and best-practices information for teaching law classes remotely. If you do not yet know how to use these platforms yourself, now is a good time to learn.
  3. Changes will develop quickly – be flexible. In the face of a possible pandemic, be ready to serve patrons creatively and flexibly. Without a reference desk or door to knock on, email or phone call requests may increase sharply. If this sounds overwhelming, schedule the times you open your email; allow colleagues to communicate by cell phone; allow students to text you if you’re comfortable with it and if a project deadline warrants this; turn office hours into “phone hours” and let students know you’ll take calls at specific times. Remember, if you need to achieve a task, there’s probably an app for that, so take this time to explore teaching and instruction creatively and learn new skills.
  4. In the event your campus closes, don’t expect perfection – but do prepare. Think about the projects you are working on and the materials you’ll need to complete those tasks; ask yourself if you know how to access your desktop, voicemail, and library information remotely; determine whether you have the appropriate equipment to work from home; and take note of any saved passwords that you don’t have memorized! Simply, survey your usual work day and be sure you can do the same as smoothly as possible at home.
  5. Please, just wash your hands and stop hoarding the toilet paper. Thank you J

If you’re at a campus currently operating under restricted access conditions or closures, please share your first-hand tips!

This entry was posted in Issues in Law Librarianship, Legal Research Instruction, Planning, Productivity, Technology, Training and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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