Posted in Lessons Learned

Adventures in Working Remotely: Day 1

Long time, no post. In truth, I’ve been dying to get back to this, but have negative amounts of time these days; however, as I move into working remotely, along with the rest of the country, I thought this would a great time to jump back in and document that transition.

On March 6th, Indiana had its first confirmed case of COVID-19. Today – 20 days later – we are at 465 cases. In response, like most, if not all, other schools, the University moved to online instruction for all classes for the remainder of the semester. The libraries stayed open for a period of time after that, but closed this week; the Law Library closed just yesterday. The governor issued a stay-at-home order this week as well, in effect through April 6th. In the past three weeks, we have all worked furiously on contingency plans, and as the virus spreads, those plans get rewritten at the same rapid rate. First lesson learned: It’s hard to write a solid contingency plan, because you cannot anticipate every contingency! Rather, we have to learn to be flexible and adaptable, and go into situations like this knowing that, for a while at least, things will change on a daily basis.

Libraries, I believe, were made for this. The library is not just the books it collects (physical or electronic); it is a space and it is a service, and those spaces and services do not have to be physical either. Creating a plan for the services the library could offer if/when we closed was not particularly hard. We cannot offer our physical collection, but our virtual collections are still accessible to IU patrons. We cannot take walk-up reference appointments, but we can take virtual appointments via Zoom or chat. We can continue to offer guest lectures and other library programming through a virtual environment. We can reach out to vendors and ask for temporary access to virtual materials. Yes, whether it’s stuff, space, or service, the library is nothing if not adaptable. The modern library strives to reflect and support the changing needs of its community. Well, the community’s needs have definitely changed now!

Today was my first full day of working remotely. I set up my home office last night, and wrote out an organized, hourly schedule… which didn’t go at all according to plan. Ah, well. It’s just day one. Despite my plans, my work day was sponsored by Outlook, Zoom, and Slack. I emailed back and forth with students about reference requests, and what they could use in the absence of a physical volume in the collection. I emailed back and forth with vendors, many of whom are being very accommodating in offering access to their e-products for students who went home for Spring Break, only to learn that they would not be returning to campus. To those vendors, I say, thank you. The whole world is having to adjust and adapt to this new, suddenly remote environment, and I appreciate your efforts to help ease the adjustment. I sat in on several Zoom meetings, helping faculty prepare to give online exams and adjust to remote teaching, and working with other department heads in the law school to continue modifying and clarifying our remoting policies. I chatted with my librarians and staff about student support, new resources, and the challenges of adjusting to remote working. The day went quickly, and I got through a fraction of what I thought I would. Second lesson learned: Keep your plans simple, because other things will come up. For tomorrow, I’ll focus on a couple of projects only, to allow for needed flexibility.

Third lesson learned: My new coworker handles Zoom meetings fairly well, but will bark at any and all noises heard out the window, whether I’m muted or not. I guess this will be an adjustment for both of us.

covid-coworker
Gus, my COVID-19 Co-Worker

That’s all for today. Stay healthy!

Author:

I am the Assistant Director for Public Services at Indiana University's Maurer School of Law. My research interests include exploring how emerging and existing technologies can be used to enhance library services and legal education as well as how to address knowledge gaps and meet the educational expectations of today's law students.

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