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ACRL-OR Statement for Racial Justice

The Oregon Chapter of the Association of College and Research Libraries/Academic Division of the Oregon Library Association (ACRL-OR) stands in solidarity with the Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA) and REFORMA Oregon in condemning the systematic social injustices and violence endured by Black people and all people of color. We support the principles of the Black Lives Matter movement and pledge our support to library workers and the communities we serve by advocating for the eradication of racial injustice and White supremacy in our profession. We recognize the pervasive role of both implicit and explicit racism in denying equal rights and equitable access, and commit to working toward becoming an anti-racist chapter that confronts, deconstructs, and dismantles the systems, policies, and procedures that reify racism and anti-blackness.

In order to effect change within our organization, the ACRL-OR Board commits to:

  • Exploring ways to support academic library staff in Oregon in doing anti-racist work, including providing professional development and staff training opportunities that counteract anti-blackness, racism, and White supremacy in librarianship; 
  • Assessing our internal processes and procedures and implementing systems that operationalize racial equity; 
  • Deconstructing the Whiteness of our professional organization by actively recruiting BIPOC library staff for leadership positions, and by working towards identifying and dismantling the barriers that prevent BIPOC library staff from engaging in organizational leadership;
  • Ensuring that an ACRL-OR Board member is represented on (and ACRL-OR is accountable to) the OLA’s Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) Taskforce.

We recommend that academic library staff commit to: 

  • Engaging in an equity audit of current policies, processes, and procedures that have been built upon and support a legacy of White supremacy, and then work to rectify or dismantle these policies and procedures;
  • Advocating for anti-racist actions within our institutions;
  • Ensuring that patrons from historically marginalized groups feel welcomed and included in the spaces we manage (both in our libraries and our classrooms); 
  • Providing public programming and displays that further anti-racist causes; 
  • Pursuing professional development and staff training opportunities that counteract racism;
  • Making resource purchasing decisions using an equity lens;
  • Incorporating inclusive design and anti-racist pedagogical principles in teaching.

ACRL-Oregon Board

Call for OLA 2021 Proposals

Attention Academic Librarians —

There’s still time to submit a proposal to the 2021 OLA virtual Annual Conference! ACRL-OR is looking for sessions of interest to academic librarians. Your ideas, innovations, and inspiration are encouraged. Please consider submitting a proposal to share your work with colleagues at the Oregon conference.

The deadline for submitting a proposal is 12 a.m., November 1. The committee welcomes new proposals and also encourages resubmissions from the canceled 2020 conference. The conference theme is Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. You will be notified by November 16 about the status of your proposal.

Submit your proposal at this link: https://t.ly/2TzN

For tips on creating a successful proposal, visit the OLA website: https://t.ly/eLhJ

For questions, please contact the Conference Committee Program Coordinators at olaprograms@olaweb.org.

For questions specific to ACRL sessions proposals, your contacts are:
General Session Proposals – David Isaak, isaakd@reed.edu
Pre Conference Session Proposals – Michele Burke, michele.burke@chemeketa.edu

Statement from OLA EDI Anti-Racism Special Committee

The following is a statement from the OLA EDI Anti-Racism Special Committee. ACRL-Oregon endorses this statement.

Dear colleagues,

The social events we have witnessed in the past months triggered a series of new statements, training, and resources offered by professionals of different fields and institutions to reaffirm their commitment with Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI).

At this point, there is no doubt we have all heard of EDI, some of us have noticed these three letters have been misused in articles, statements, documents, policies, guidelines, terms and conditions. Unfortunately this acronym has become the new institutional jargon. The adversities BIPOC and members of minority segments in our society face on a daily basis are not a brand new event, not a trend, and not a tendency.  As such, the OLA EDI Antiracism Committee believes we, as library professionals, need to refrain from using the letters EDI without understanding what each one of these letters represent in its social context.

Let’s not allow the common sense of equality destroy the fight for EQUITY. EQUITY means that we uplift and empower those who have been historically and are currently oppressed by dominant culture. Treating everyone “the same” is a weak and false statement, especially when there are still human beings from different races, classes, gender and individuals with disabilities who are not seen, heard, served, protected, and respected as they deserve. Creating library programs for “all” does not affirm or reiterate your library’s commitment to EDI. Creating programs that uplift and empower folks who have not been seen, heard, protected, and respected as they deserve, does.

Hiring different races, ethnicities, and gender-identity variances, does not show commitment to DIVERSITY, especially, if we still refuse or are hesitant to empower these individuals, if we do not invest in them, if we do not give them opportunities to thrive and advance in their careers. “Diversifying” means applying variation. We need to go above and beyond that definition in order to affirm our commitment with DIVERSITY. When we say we support diversity, we need to reject racist and xenophobic ideas on immigration policies, we need to be comfortable being part of uncomfortable conversations, we need to hear without being defensive, we need to advocate for causes that might even work against your own personal secure position (in the racist structure) to benefit those who are oppressed.

Being “included” is a matter of consideration. INCLUSION is much more than that, it is the duty to evaluate and recognize when laws, processes, terms, conditions and daily reality as a whole need to be audited, adjusted, adapted and sometimes completely changed in order to benefit people who are disadvantaged, even if that means fighting for a benefit in which you will never partake or a right you will never need to exercise.

For those of us excited about this statement, let us not forget, if you are NOT racist, it does not mean you are anti-racist. An anti-racist person will disagree with statements such as “this is not my problem”. An anti-racism advocate, recognizes privilege without feeling victimized or attacked. A person who is anti-racist, will not speak ill or participate in conversations to dismiss, demoralize and demonize other human beings based on their status in this country or the color of their skin. Anti-racist people do not passionately defend themselves stating they are not racists, on the contrary, they take time to examine their own biases and they educate themselves in order to become true allies.

Please understand we are not criticizing anybody’s attempt to be better and do better when it comes to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. We are bringing to your attention that these words need to be used in the right context so they can be as effective as they are meant to be.

We are excited to continue our work on OLA’s behalf to develop resources and tools for the Association, its members, and the Oregon Library community at large that will support EDI and anti-racism work. The committee is actively developing an Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Anti-racism toolkit. This toolkit is an educational resource that will help guide libraries in reflecting on their institutional practices and policies, and assist in guiding them to move forward. We look forward to strengthening our partnership with the OLA Board and with the Association, and anticipate a long-lasting relationship that will help move Oregon libraries forward with EDI and Anti-racism work.


OLA EDI Antiracism Special Committee

2019-20 Annual Report to the Membership

by Candise Branum, ACRL-Oregon President

As a first-time Board member and first-time President, the past year has been quite a handful. Even with the tremendous challenges that 2020 has thrown our way, I have really and truly enjoyed my time as your ACRL-Oregon President. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to collaborate with a group of compassionate and engaged individuals, people who are dedicated to making libraries more equitable. So with my Presidential term coming to a close, I wanted to take a moment to highlight some of the bright spots from ACRL-Oregon leadership over the past year.

One of the primary goals of ACRL-Oregon is advocacy work. This past year, our first major challenge came in the face of academic libraries being asked to remain open during the first major wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, ACRL-OR created a public statement in support of academic libraries protecting our staff by closing our doors, including writing a letter to HECC. One thing that the Board has recently been pondering is how we can best support library staff who are experiencing COVID-19 related setbacks, and what that support system could look like. We started a Slack channel for academic librarians to share resources and ideas, and published the “How We Work During the Pandemic” series for the blog, but if people have other ideas about what this support could look like, please email me!

In addition to ad-hoc advocacy work, ACRL-Oregon also expanded our webinar offerings to one free webinar every other month. With the cancellation of the Joint Conference at Menucha, we decided to extend our online educational opportunities this summer and into fall, including reaching out to people who were slated to present at the cancelled OLA Conference. We’ve also updated our website to include a space dedicated to ACRL National webinars, with explicit instructions for local members on how to take advantage of viewing these webinars for free.

(Speaking of our website, we’ve also been working on some critical updates. We know: it is ugly as sin. It’s also not accessible, and that is a serious problem. We are putting the finishing touches on our updated template, and are hoping to debut our new website this fall.)

Finally, the Board developed a few new coordinator positions. We now have a membership coordinator (focused on recruiting new members as well as retaining and engaging current members), a blog content lead (who collaborates with the Communications Coordinator to ensure create an editorial process for blog content), and a representative to the newly created OLA Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Taskforce. We are hoping these positions will help us to build a framework in ACRL-OR that will ensure that our policies are equitable, and that our group is moving towards being actively anti-racist. 

So… yeah. Even though this year has been challenging, we are still getting it done. We are all figuring out how to work safely, and trying to support one another during COVID-19. While surviving a pandemic, we are also doing the uncomfortable and necessary work of investigating and dismantling White supremacy at our organizations. All of this work is exhausting, and we all have to think carefully how to best balance our mental and physical health with this necessary work. But I’m also excited about the possibilities, as we are starting to see real changes. Many schools are either disarming campus security or removing police presence completely, and there is a momentum for organizations to move beyond lip-service and to commit to creating systemic changes that benefit not just our White and cisgendered staff and community members. With remote learning, COVID safety, and budget cuts, it is easy for people (especially White people) to deprioritize racial and social justice work, but now is absolutely the time to keep your foot on the gas. 

As I enter my term as the Past President, I want to thank Meredith Farkas for both her leadership and friendship — she has served as both a mentor and a facilitator during my time on the Board, and I truly appreciate her passion for making the profession better. I am so excited to work with Rachel Bridgewater as the incoming President, Emily Ford as our Vice President, and the rest of our new and existing Board members in continuing to serve the academic library community and move forward in making our field more equitable.

In Solidarity,

Candise Branum
ACRL-OR President (2019-2020)

Award for Excellence Winners

Announcing the 2020 ACRL-Oregon Award for Excellence Winners

The ACRL-Oregon Board is proud to award this year’s ACRL-Oregon Award for Excellence to two excellent projects: Writing (Pacific Northwest) African American History into Wikipedia and the OLA Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion/Anti-Racism Task Force. The ACRL-Oregon Award for Excellence is given to recognize a project that demonstrates excellence in the field by significantly improving Oregon academic libraries or librarianship. The Award for Excellence Committee uses a rubric to judge the projects, and both winning projects received exactly the same excellent score.

We are thrilled to recognize two projects that represent efforts to center BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) history in our region and the needs of BIPOC workers in our profession:

The Writing (Pacific Northwest) African American History into Wikipedia team recognized an information gap within Wikipedia related to African American history, especially for the Pacific Northwest. Librarians at Oregon State University organized Wikipedia Editathons to make this history more visible. As a result, they have not only increased access to information about Pacific Northwest African American history, but they have also trained new editors who can continue this work. They have held two Editathons and have had participation from students enrolled in OSU courses as well as community members. Overall the Editathons demonstrate a commitment to social justice by addressing Wikipedia’s well-documented racial bias and offer a valuable model for librarians and archivists to enact change. OSU Librarian Laurie Bridges led this effort along with a team that included OSU librarians Diana Park and Tiah Edmunson-Morton. This project was also written about in an OLA Quarterly article as part of the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion issue in Fall 2019.

The OLA Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion/Anti-Racism Task Force was charged by the Oregon Library Association Board in Fall 2019 with developing an EDI plan for the organization. The Task Force, which focused on anti-racism as its primary focus, presented its recommendations in Spring 2020 which were adopted by the OLA Board and have influenced the planning of the Oregon Association of School Librarians as well as ACRL-Oregon. According to Task Force Co-Chair, Marci Ramiro-Jenkins of the McMinnville Public Library, “this project will help with the implementation of anti-racist best practices, will promote education and guidance for librarians and library staff in regards to EDI and anti-racism best practices, will advocate for support for librarians of color when it comes to emotional labor, microaggressions and racial battle fatigue, and will improve the retention of  library staff and patrons from underrepresented groups.” Ramiro-Jenkins shares this award with co-Chair Martín Blasco of Washington County Cooperative Library Services, Meredith Farkas of Portland Community College Library (who serves on the award committee and recused herself from the voting), Ayn Frazee of Portland Public Schools, Danielle Jones of Multnomah County Library, Max Macias of Portland Community College, Lisa Taylor of Happy Valley Library, and Alisa Williams of Multnomah County Library.

Both project leads will receive a plaque commemorating the award and will be recognized at the OLA Annual Conference’s awards ceremony.

ACRL-OR Award for Excellence Committee 
Arlene Weible
Candise Branum
Katherine Donaldson
Meredith Farkas 

E-Learning Scholarship Winners Announced

The ACRL-OR  is pleased to announce the winners of the latest round of E-Learning Professional Development Scholarships. The Scholarship was created in response to conference cancellations due to Covid-19 and designed to support remote learning opportunities for librarians. Thanks to a matching-fund grant from the State Library of Oregon, ACRL-OR awarded 2 scholarships of up to $175 each.

Garrett Trott from Corbin University will be enrolling in the Library Juice Academy course “Inclusive Instructional Design.” This course will allow Garrett to build on his existing knowledge of course design and continue to further the goals of his institution around diversity and inclusion.  

Chris Mansayon from Western Oregon University will be enrolling in the Library Juice Academy course “Embedded Librarianship in Online Courses.” This course will give Chris additional techniques for supporting students in the remote environment and “selling” the partnership of embedded librarianship to his teaching faculty.  

Congratulations to our winners! We look forward to learning more about your experiences.

Upcoming Free Webinars

With the cancellation of the ACRL-OR/WA Joint Conference this year, ACRL-Oregon is organizing a series of free programming for the academic library community. Our first session, Big Little Learning: Lightning Talks and Poster Presentations, will take place next Friday, August 7th from 10-12 PST. There is a whole slate of presentations scheduled, including:

  • Small Scale IR for Community Colleges
  • #researchspeeddate: Think/Pair/Share for Online & Hybrid Courses
  • I bought a laptop: Connecting real-life experiences to Library research in First-Year Seminar
  • Changing Policies for Changing Times Team Science: A Question of Support for Undergraduate Research
  • Co-CREATE Your Class: Fostering Student Agency and Inquiry in Academic Literacies
  • Libros for Oregon – Collections Connect Communities

See below for full descriptions of the scheduled presentations.

Registration is open to any library staff person, but we are limited to 100 live attendees, so register soon!

REGISTER HERE: https://forms.gle/WufyatG8VuHKjeBY9

The session will be recorded and made available on our YouTube channel. If you register, we will email you a link to the recording after the event.

Questions about our webinars can be sent to Candise Branum, ACRL-Oregon President, at acrlor@olaweb.org.


  • Small Scale IR for Community Colleges

Presenter: Rowena McKernan (Whatcom Commuity College)
Abstract: We’ve recently built and deployed an Omeka-S institutional repository and want to share some insights into how to make this possible even for small and rural community colleges.

  • #researchspeeddate: Think/Pair/Share for Online & Hybrid Courses

Presenter: Chelsea Nesvig (UW Bothell/Cascadia College)
Abstract: Think/pair/share is an activity librarians and instructors regularly use in their teaching while students are present in a classroom. It offers opportunities for students to contemplate their answer to a question or prompt and discuss it with a classmate before sharing it with the whole classroom. Students benefit from sharing their thoughts and ideas with just one person before they are asked to share with the whole class. But what about in an online or hybrid classroom? Students are likely to complete research activities alone — without any interaction with their fellow classmates. By pairing students up to interact with each other in person, over the phone, or with a chat app, they are automatically able to talk to and engage with a classmate. In the early stages of the research process, students are often unsure about their topics and they regularly report that discussion with another student offers them peace of mind. Offering these students a way to engage with fellow classmates around their research helps break them out of the silos that online courses so often produce. The core structure of this activity can be applied to student interaction during different stages of the research process or even for non-research assignments.

  • I bought a laptop: Connecting real-life experiences to Library research in First-Year Seminar

Presenter: Lynda Irons (Pacific University)
Abstract: Curriculum changes in two separate-but-connected courses sparked an overhaul of how First-Year Seminar freshmen received library instruction. The librarian changed from a traditional information transfer approach to an active learning and discovery approach by connecting the dots between what they already knew and library research. Fall 2019 FYS students (re)discovered their autonomy in their decision-making strategies through three activities — all without the instructional librarian showing a single PowerPoint slide or even turning on a computer. The activities reinforced that the students knew substantially more than they thought they knew, and they didn’t even know they knew it. Ultimately, they realized that their prior knowledge and existing skills easily transferred to the academic library setting.

  • Changing Policies for Changing Times

Presenter: Drew Jackson (Pacific University); Sarah Kirkley (Pacific University); Laura Baird (Pacific University); Lynda Irons (Pacific University); Angela Lee (Pacific University)
Abstract: Policy writing is rarely nimble or innovative, but using change management techniques, Pacific University Libraries drafted policies to address the circumstances during this past year. We will discuss how we identified a need to change, which policies we changed, how we identified goals for change, and our methodology for working through changes. We will also share how we adapted our approach to accommodate remote work. We learned the importance of positioning policy within the University and legal framework; reframing the policies as part of an iterative, sustainable process; and involving a variety of perspectives. This process can be used not only for policies but also to build a responsive organization.

  • Team Science: A Question of Support for Undergraduate Research

Presenter: abby koehler (Western Washington University); Jenny Oleen (Western Washington University); Wyatt Heimbichner Goebel (Western Washington University)
Abstract: After recent strategic and structural changes within our organization, Western Libraries is experimenting with new team-based and collaborative approaches to improve the undergraduate research support we offer. Our newly formed subject support team — Team Science — along with the Western Libraries’ Tutoring Center and Hacherl Research & Writing Studio is now positioned to consider important questions regarding STEM students’ unique research needs. We are excited to share the groundwork we have laid in supporting undergraduate research contributions at Western Washington University.

  • Co-CREATE Your Class: Fostering Student Agency and Inquiry in Academic Literacies

Presenter: Caitlan Maxwell (Western Washington University Libraries); abby koehler (Western Washington University Libraries)
Abstract: Using an inquiry-based approach to a quarter-long linked credit course demands careful coordination among everyone involved. However, with innovative strategies like co-creating rubrics and assignments, using critical pedagogy focused on academic literacies, and implementing the CREATE (Consider, Read, Elucidate the hypotheses, Analyze and interpret the data, and Think of the next Experiment) method, it can be done. Join us for an overview of our team-teaching experience and a discussion of strengths-based, peer-to-peer learning approaches to information literacy that address student agency in writing, reading, research and more.

  • Libros for Oregon – Collections Connect Communities

Presenter: Hannah Bostrom (Salem Public Library); Deborah Gitlitz (Wilsonville Public Library); Valeria Davila (Oregon State University Libraries and Press); Alice Perez (Multnomah Law Library); Mark Peterson (Mt Hood Community College)
Abstract: Our poster session is about the Libros for Oregon (LfO) organization, which is a subset of Reforma Oregon. The project centers around bringing quality Spanish materials from the Guadalajara International Book Fair, the largest Spanish language book fair in the world, to Oregon libraries and their communities. To accomplish this task, LfO selects a cohort of libraries each year that selected representatives will buy items for. Travelers apply for the ALA Free Pass Program, which covers most of the traveling costs. All participating libraries chip in $200 to cover the rest of the travel costs, and allocate $500-$2,000 of their budget to this project. Books are selected by library professionals, with the help of Mexican vendors. Materials are shipped to the libraries and they promote the collection through programming and outreach events.

E-Learning Professional Development Scholarship Announcement July 2020

ACRL-Oregon is delighted to announce a unique round of Professional Development Scholarship awards aimed to support E-Learning opportunities.   Thanks to a matching-fund grant from the State Library of Oregon, ACRL-Oregon is able to offer multiple awards of up to $175.  The E-Learning Professional Development Scholarship applications are open and we are currently soliciting applications for the July 31st  deadline. Applications will be reviewed within two weeks after the application deadline.

How can the scholarship be used?  

The ACRL-Oregon Professional Development Scholarship may be used toward remote conferences, remote workshops, E-Learning courses, E-Learning seminars, or other learning opportunities appropriate to the applicant. The funding priority is registration costs incurred by the applicant. 

For examples of how past recipients have used their awards, see these posts on the ACRL-Oregon blog:

  • Serenity Ibsen, Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS/NA) annual conference as a director representing the Association of Independent Colleges of Art
  • Kim Olson-Charles, Personal Librarian and First-Year Experience conference
  • Maureen Flanagan Battistella, American Association for State and Local History conference, presentation on digital collections of local history
  • Kate Rubick, ACRL national conference, panel presentation on library-faculty teaching collaboration using BEAM
  • Darci Adolf, e-course on copyright

Professional Development Scholarships will not be awarded for ACRL-OR/WA Fall Conference attendance as this annual event has its own scholarships.

Who is eligible?

  • All ACRL-Oregon members in good standing.
  • In awarding scholarships, preference will be given to:
    • Applicants from diverse cultural/ethnic backgrounds and/or historically marginalized groups
    • Applicants employed at institutions or in positions serving under-represented groups
    • Applicants who have not previously been awarded an ACRL-OR scholarship
    • Applicants employed at community or technical colleges or applicants employed at smaller or rural institutions with limited funding

Who is not eligible?

  • Non ACRL-Oregon members.
  • Individuals who have already been awarded an ACRL-OR scholarship in the current fiscal year

How will applications be evaluated?

Please visit our FAQ page, which contains our evaluation rubrics and answers to frequently asked questions.

How do I apply?

Apply for the scholarship using this online form.

Deadline:  Friday, July 31 2020

For more information, contact the ACRL-OR Board President:

Candise Branum
ACRL-OR President, 2019-2020

How We Work During the Pandemic: Claire Dannenbaum

Hello ACRL-Oregon members! During this pandemic, the way we all work and serve our patrons has radically changed. Inspired by the bloggers at ACRLog, we thought we’d provide a window into how some of your Oregon colleagues are managing during this time.

We’d also love to hear from you! If you’d like to share your experiences on the blog, please feel free to email Meredith Farkas and respond to any or all of the following prompts:

  • What’s the situation at your institution, at the time of writing?
  • What is your day-to-day look like on the job right now?
  • What has surprised you most about library work during this crisis?
  • What has surprised you most about library work during this crisis?

This post is from Claire Dannenbaum, Reference and Instruction Librarian at Lane Community College.

What’s the situation at your institution, at the time of writing?

The Lane Community College Library faced considerable challenges with the loss of several staff members early in the course of the pandemic. We were understaffed before the crisis started, so the emergency orders forced us to really look at what was possible given new staffing constraints. Our small staff was able to focus on as much direct support as possible to Library users through a Zoom Lobby and reference chat. Community college students tend to need a lot of support to navigate the bureaucratic environment of campus. When we weren’t hearing much from students a few weeks in, we weren’t sure why. Then I heard from several faculty that–even with regular forums and online assignments–many of their own courses felt like empty shells. I now understand how remote online learning and working can feel. As the state mandate shifts, we are shifting too. By mid-June, we will offer returns drop-off, and hope to pilot a holds/pick-up service in preparation for access to physical materials in fall term. Library instruction took a serious blow overall, but support for embedded instruction is improving through more centralized materials and messaging.

What is your day-to-day look like on the job right now?

The day-to-day shift from moving through space and engaging with students and colleagues to the narrow confines of a “home office” setting has been disorienting.  It wasn’t until my son said this to me that I realized how disjointed I really felt: “Mom, you are not just working from home. You have taken your job responsibilities home during a global public health crisis!”  Even so, my biggest personal worry has been to maintain some semblance of library teaching for our dedicated instructors. Fortuitously, I enrolled in a Library Juice class called Embedded Librarianship in Online Courses which started the first week of spring term. I recommend the class!  It really helped me get my bearings and figure out ways to start piloting online instruction scenarios with instructors (many of whom were just as gobsmacked as I was).

What has surprised you most about library work during this crisis?

Most surprising to me is how adaptable the LCC Library has been as an organization. Many libraries have a lot of job hierarchy and stratification. We were able to leverage skills across all our staff to offer a variety of ways to be in contact with our users, and offer broad access to Library services. I still look forward to providing services–especially access to physical collections and library teaching in the classroom. But, honestly, the term was not the disaster that I thought it would be. Whew!

How We Work During the Pandemic: Steve Silver

Hello ACRL-Oregon members! During this pandemic, the way we all work and serve our patrons has radically changed. Inspired by the bloggers at ACRLog, we thought we’d provide a window into how some of your Oregon colleagues are managing during this time.

We’d also love to hear from you! If you’d like to share your experiences on the blog, please feel free to email Meredith Farkas and respond to any or all of the following prompts:

  • What’s the situation at your institution, at the time of writing?
  • What is your day-to-day look like on the job right now?
  • What has surprised you most about library work during this crisis?
  • What has surprised you most about library work during this crisis?

This post is from Steve Silver, Library Director at Northwest Christian University who also was ACRL-Oregon President in 2017-18.

What’s the situation at your institution, at the time of writing?

Things are typically quiet around NCU in the summer, and even more so this year. We have very few if any on-campus summer classes, so this is giving us as an institution an opportunity to catch our breath and plan for the fall. NCU was better prepared than some for the rapid move to online teaching, plus we are on semesters so only had a few weeks (and no new term) to prepare for. So while that transition was certainly frantic, it was not quite the overwhelming amount of extra work that others have experienced. We have been in summer session since the 2nd week of May. For those last few weeks, and currently over the summer, the library is open by appointment so we can limit to one user in the library at a time. As a very small university (~800 FTE) with an even smaller on campus undergrad population (~350 I think), most of whom left campus, this worked very well for us. The library has the only computer workstations and only printer available to students, and our biblical studies collection, which supports many of our classes, does not have adequate online alternatives, so it was important to be able to provide some level of access while also practicing appropriate distancing, hygiene, and cleaning. It also gave us the chance to continue to offer employment to the few student workers who remained in the area. By only scheduling one in the building at a time and regular staff working from home we have been able to retain our usual summer student employment as well, which is a help to the library but even more so to these students who depend on that income for living expenses as well as school expenses. As of this writing (June 5) Lane County is entering phase 2 of the governor’s re-opening plan. We are still waiting to hear from our administration what that will mean for staff working in the building.

The really sad thing for us was commencement. We are changing our name to Bushnell University as of July 1, so this was literally the last graduating class of Northwest Christian University, and they did not get to have the usual commencement ceremony, which would have been an even bigger celebration this year. We are doing a virtual commencement (which will have already happened by the time you read this), plus graduating seniors are invited back to our winter commencement if they choose, where they will be especially honored. To prepare for the virtual commencement I had to retrieve my academic regalia from the library, and record a 3 second video congratulating our graduates. That was a lot of work and effort for three seconds! (but probably beats sitting in a warm gymnasium in robes for an hour and a half). Warm robes aside, I know I greatly missed being at commencement, the highlight of the year and the validation of the hard work we put in all year long.

What is your day-to-day look like on the job right now?

My wife and I are both primarily working from home. I have been in the library for a couple hours at a time less than once a week since work from home orders were put in place. We have strict guidelines about how many can be working in the library and where, so we track all on-site work schedules (including student workers) on a shared calendar. The library had already been in the process of transitioning to cloud-based file storage, and our IT was able to set me up with a VPN connection, so we have largely been able to continue work with adequate access to needed documents. I am set up in our den (with a nice view of the neighbor’s apple tree out the window) while my wife sets up with our laptop on the dinning table. If I need something from the kitchen I do need to check she’s not on a confidential call or video meeting first. One really lovely silver lining of this situation has been having lunch on our patio with my wife every day. That and sleeping in a bit each day I will miss when I return to a more regular schedule in the office.

How have you kept communication going with students, faculty, or other users?

Microsoft Teams and Zoom for communication with library staff and with our faculty and other NCU staff. We have a form on our website for students requesting appointment times, which feeds into the library’s Teams channel so we all get notified. Lots of individual texts and emails with our student workers. Our library staff meet bi-monthly for staff meeting, and I meet with each one individually bi-monthly as well. Those have continued virtually, plus we added a no-agenda check-in staff meeting on the weeks where no regular staff meeting was scheduled, just to chat and keep up with one another’s lives. Replaces the usual “hallway chats” we would have when physically in the building together.

The institutional Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT) has locked down all campus-wide communications to flow through them, which has greatly restricted the library’s ability to communicate en masse to students or to faculty. I understand the need for a unified “voice” in communications in times of crisis, but it does impede the library’s ability to effectively serve in some ways.

What has surprised you most about library work during this crisis?

Two somewhat contradictory things. One, I have discovered that in many ways I actually enjoy working from home. Uninterrupted time has allowed me to be more productive to a certain extent (although the tedium of ALWAYS being home works against that to some extent). On the other hand, I find I greatly miss the personal interactions with staff and students – those very distractions that keep me from being more productive. I expect a full return to working in the office will include some regular time working from home moving forward, for me and potentially other library staff. NCU and the library have really been thinking about what we learn through this experience that will continue to help us serve better moving forward even after the pandemic is no longer an issue, and the demonstrated ability to work effectively remotely is high on that list.