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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!

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