As the pandemic emerged as our reality in March, we negotiated the numbness along with the rest of humankind. We sensed a directive to close the library’s doors was imminent, but receiving the news on March 18 to close JFK Library was still surreal. JFK Library the facility fell into an unfamiliar repose beginning March 19. By March 25, Spokane Academic Library, too, was altogether closed. Library and Learning Commons employees, however, flexed their ability to adapt, amaze, and deliver. We went to work from our homes, leaving our worksites in the excellent care of custodial, facilities, and IT staff.
How does anybody pivot to immediately and effectively convert face-to-face services to online platforms? Necessity was certainly a compelling driver, but our ability to remain flexible has always been rooted in maintaining effective relationships, delivering timely and consistent communications, and providing exceptional service to our clients.
Technology has been our friend during this time, enabling us to stay in contact with each other, meet regularly online, and deliver electronic services. We relied on our virtual senses to detect the most immediate needs of our student and faculty clients. Librarians began providing research assistance and instruction sessions electronically. The PLUS program instituted online tutoring and virtual academic coaching. The Writers’ Center offered online writing assistance and video chat. Our interlibrary loan operation emphasized electronic delivery requests. We continued ongoing work to enhance the digital content and infrastructure of Archives and Special Collections. We exercised flexibility with checkout periods, due dates and overdue fines. Using our back-door vestibule, we created a safe way to resume checking out computers and equipment to students by appointment. We made thoughtful and informed decisions to minimize attention on our physical collections and shift the focus to databases and resources our clients could access online.
Spring and summer gave us an opportunity to polish our approach, reignite the internal processes we could, and anticipate fall quarter possibilities and needs. All the while, we maintained strong communications internally, with regular meetings and email updates, and externally, with timely website updates and press releases.
It was exciting to reopen a portion of the JFK Library main level on September 21 for fall quarter in-and-out lobby services. Our clients can now check out books, computers, and equipment and make appointments to retrieve the items from our Circulation Desk. People can visit Thomas Hammer to buy a coffee. Students can stop in to scan and print. On November 9, we opened up space for individual students to study at socially-distanced tables. For all services and operational activities, we have protocols in place for personal safety, including wearing masks, keeping social distance, and disinfecting surfaces and spaces we share.
Although we are still a far cry from the bustling, lively, and energetic hub we are proud to be in normal times, the Library and Learning Commons continue to provide a full and robust suite of services. For as long as this pandemic persists, we will anticipate and meet our clients’ needs. As Eagles working together toward these common goals, we remain Eagle Strong.
We are ever grateful for your comradery and support that help make our work not only possible, but also rewarding. Wherever today finds you, our friends, may you be happy and healthy.