COVID (Re)Collections is a series from CLIR exploring responses to the COVID-19 pandemic by the library, cultural heritage, and information community. By collecting these stories, we hope to further the conversation on how our field is responding to this historic challenge and offer a platform to process, share, and remember these experiences—to help us support each other as we collectively adapt, grieve, and regrow.
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“I’ve interacted with our student employees who staff the virtual study room. It has been interesting in finding ways to connect with them, and getting to know how their college experience is going. Students may feel anxiety with going back to or starting school for the first time with what’s happening outside their front door with racial injustice and with COVID. I think our job is to make things easier for them and lighten that load. There’s just so much pressure on students right now to be great and that’s not fair. Who can be great right now?...” Read more.
“When institutional closures began this past spring, many of my colleagues fretted that their research would come to a halt, fully impeded by the closure of libraries and archives across the globe. For a time, I shared these concerns as I contemplated how many additional semesters I might need to “make up lost time” on my dissertation research. It was only recently that a colleague reminded me that our network of scholarly connections is vast, and that it transcends institutional, geographic, and indeed, physical boundaries. As we strive to keep archivists and researchers safe, it is possible to continue research in creative and surprising ways...” Read more.
Adapting a Transnational Symposium to a Virtual Environment. An Interview with Hadassah St. Hubert, Jennifer Isasi, Nicté Fuller Medina, and Margie Montañez, July 14, 2020.
“… When we moved to a virtual symposium, some things were lost but I also think that there were unintentional positives. Because of the physical space, originally there was a cap on how many people could attend, so going virtual opened up the symposium to national and transnational folks. I think there’s also a theoretical underpinning. Having this symposium virtually highlighted the importance of having these materials digitized and open access, especially right now.…” Read more.
Repatriating Sociolinguistic Data to Belize: Can a Decolonial Model Still Work in Times of COVID 19?, by Nicté Fuller Medina, June 22, 2020.
“… March 2020 was to be a critical month for the project, as travel to Belize had been scheduled in order to locate interviewees, recruit local interns, lay groundwork for community consultations, and meet with the local institutional collaborator, the Institute for Social and Cultural Research. Thanks to previous relationship-building, this last goal could be accomplished virtually for the most part; however, the other work requires on-the-ground presence… Even when borders reopen, safety protocols will determine if and when group meetings and interactions with elderly interviewees may take place. This all forces a re-examination of project implementation…” Read more.
Technology Lessons From COVID-19 on a Small “High-Touch” Campus, by Peter Skoner, May 26, 2020.
“… Sensing that our small, high-touch campus environment was going to change quickly, we held our meeting using Google Hangouts while sitting in our offices on campus. It was the first virtual conference meeting for most of us, and the first I was leading. After learning together in that hour meeting to mute microphones when not speaking, adjust our devices and cameras to provide a professional background, and use the chat to hold parallel discussions that complement the verbal conversations, we quickly saw the power of technology tools...” Read more.
“Stay Home, Stay Healthy” at Central Washington University Libraries, by Lauren Wittek, May 19, 2020.
“… Despite other academic and public library systems in Washington State closing their facilities in early- to mid-March due to COVID-19, Central Washington University (CWU) Libraries initially tried to remain open with regular business hours. That changed the morning of March 18, 2020, when we received word of potential exposure at our Brooks Library location. In a matter of hours, we shut down all of our locations and packed up our work to transition to fully virtual services…” Read more.
“’… Archivists at Home’ is a crowdsourced document created by the Society of American Archivists (SAA) Accessibility and Disability Section (ADS) to help develop a more flexible concept of archival labor, whether it is archivists working from home due to COVID-19 or archivists with disabilities. I started this document in mid-March, as institutions in the United States were beginning to close because of the pandemic. All over social media, archivists were asking for ideas on what they could do to work from home to avoid being furloughed or laid off. We wanted this document to be an advocacy tool for archivists to show to administrators how they can still do impactful work, even without physical access to their collections…” Read more.
“… AWEF is a support fund for any archival worker experiencing financial hardship because of the COVID-19 crisis. In early March, as repositories began to close and shift to remote work, we saw a lot of colleagues, many already in precarious, contingent jobs, getting laid off, furloughed, or told that their hours would be cut. The fund was created to help meet an urgent need in a difficult time…” Read more.
Reconfiguring a Library Service Model to Reduce Exposure, by Clare McKenzie and Georgina Konstanta, May 1, 2020. (This is the second of two pieces from staff at the University of Wollongong Library in New South Wales, Australia.)
“In response to COVID-19 in Australia, The University of Wollongong decided that students would now learn off-site, but at the time of writing, our domestic campus locations would remain open, including the University Library on the Wollongong campus site, albeit with significant restrictions to face-to-face services. At the library, we are committed to reducing the exposure of our frontline staff and avoiding unnecessary contact with others. Transitioning 90% of our staff to working remotely required a rethink of our critical client-facing services. Direct, face-to-face enquiries within the library building had to be addressed…” Read more.
Readiness and Rapid Transitions to Remote Delivery, by Clare McKenzie and Keith Brophy, April 30, 2020. (This is the first of two pieces from staff at the University of Wollongong Library in New South Wales, Australia.)
“… Within a few weeks of the decision to start delivering services remotely, the library had transitioned about 90% of the workforce to a work-from-home model. Because we had been moving deliberately and steadily in this direction for a number of years, we transitioned quickly with no significant drop in the level of service to students or academics. In 2018, the library launched a multi-year Future Ready Library strategy designed to shift towards a digital-first focus. To this end, the library was well advanced in applying this digital-first mindset to services and resources…” Read more.
Building an Online Community of Transcribers During Self-Isolation. An Interview with Carol Smith at Christ Church Preservation Trust, April 27, 2020.
“… Once it was clear that we would be working remotely for some time we began to reach out to genealogists, members of the various congregations, and others we thought might be interested in helping with this phase of the project. Some of our project partners, notably the Athenaeum and ATLA, spread the word through their newsletters. Fifteen volunteers of all ages and interests came forward and we began to create an online community for them to keep them engaged. We began a Facebook group and planned virtual transcription work parties…” Read more.
“In my social and physical isolation my mind has been wandering to a time when I was 13 years old, in Egypt. Then, we had to shelter in place for a totally different reason: a war. It wasn’t only a military battle but also a psychological war of the first order, bestowed on us by a false official narrative told by a single source of information: the state-owned TV and radio…” Read more.
An Open Knowledge Rapid Response to COVID-19. An interview with Micah Vandegrift at the NC State University Libraries, April 13, 2020.
“… Most of my work is strategic: reading, writing, and trying to develop ideas while thinking at 10,000 feet. But at this moment, like many librarians across the nation, I needed something practical that I could do to feel like I was contributing. What came out of it was the NC State COVID Experts Open Research Project. The goal of the project is to gather as much research as possible from our faculty and from researchers on campus that could in any way help respond to the crisis that we’re in…” Read more.
Unknown Pigments and Digitization in the Age of COVID-19, by Marlena Cravens, April 8, 2020.
“… Throughout the course of my work measuring early modern book wear and use, I’ve learned that digitization doesn’t just support conservation practices, increase access, or shield us from exposure to contagious diseases by keeping us at home: it could also protect us from the collections themselves. COVID-19 and the pigments I will discuss are not related and are not being equated, but the protocols that we use to protect ourselves are useful for nuancing how we interact with archival materials…” Read more.
From Live Programming to the Digital Environment, by Thera Webb and Marissa Friedman, April 6, 2020.
“… Instead of simply postponing the events, the public programs coordinator and I are working to create an immersive digital experience incorporating these artists and their works. The repository houses records by a number of artists who worked with experimental materials and methods including performances, bio-art, experimental film and recording methods, and very early computer-based art. By moving the programming content to a virtual exhibition, we will not only allow audiences beyond Greater Boston to interact with the pieces, we will also be able to present these works in a more accessible and dynamic viewing experience than simply having reproductions of documents and artworks on display for a short amount of time…” Read more.
“COVID (Re)Collections is a new series from CLIR exploring responses to the COVID-19 pandemic by the library, cultural heritage, and information community… We are interested in the challenges COVID-19 has posed to you and/or your workplace, and how you are responding to them. How has the situation affected your colleagues, students, researchers, and the other communities you support? How has the pandemic caused you to view and approach your work differently? What do you think is the lasting impact of COVID-19 on the field and on you as an individual? What are the responsibilities of cultural heritage and information workers now and moving forward?”… Read more.