October 22nd, 2020
By Karen Diaz, Dean of Libraries
The Libraries closed to the public on March 19 as part of the campus shut down due to COVID-19. It remained shuttered to the public until August 20 when it reopened to the campus community only through swipe access. This was 143 days of being closed.
During the closure most of our staff retreated to working from home as did the rest of campus with a skeleton crew on sight to retrieve and deliver print materials to our faculty, staff and students as needed. During that time, we continued to maintain access to our digital materials and purchase new academic content, completed teaching our already online credit courses, continued to answer reference questions through email, chat and phone. As mentioned, we also scanned articles from print materials as needed to email to our campus community and even mailed print books as needed. Interlibrary loan continued for everything digital, but stopped for print materials due to so many library buildings being closed. The WVRHC was also closed, but provided reference assistance as possible.
Selected data for the end of Spring semester through June while closed:
- Items checked out: 1,337
- Books purchased that could not be borrowed through ILL: 719
- Reference questions answered (Morgantown): 1,242
- Reference questions answered (WVRHC): 164
- Scheduled consultation sessions: 120
- eReserves added (books, articles, streaming media): 389
- ILL filled (articles): 5,208
- Visits to our website: 526,727
- Visits to our research guides: 2,232
During the summer many of our staff experienced being furloughed during the campus furloughs. We were very happy and relieved to welcome everyone back in July. Many were important to the work of preparing our buildings for reopening. Those staff who were not furloughed continued to work from home, with a couple more brought to campus to manage our mail pick-up and delivery while that service was diminished.
We also had to cancel many events. Both a Speculative Futures Conference (with the Humanities Center, and a Sherlock Holmes Conference (with the President’s Office) had to be cancelled.
Meanwhile, our Art in the Libraries Program did an amazing pivot and managed to host a number of Friday at noon events during Zoom. We have been having 20-40 participants in these online activities. We also switched our large interdisciplinary exhibit Undefeated to open as a virtual exhibit with on ground installation coming in Spring Semester.
Upon our reopening of all campus libraries on August 10, we instituted many changes:
- Swipe access to both Evansdale and Downtown libraries was instituted to restrict access to WVU students, staff and faculty. The location of Health Sciences Library makes non-WVU community members access problematic already, so no changes were made.
- All facilities were adjusted to reduce seating by about 1/3 – ½ and to ensure proper distancing.
- Masks are required and are available at our front desks for any user who comes in without one.
- Hand sanitizing stations and disinfecting wipes are available in many locations
- WVRHC is physically available only to WVRHC faculty, staff and students with an appointment
- Hours are slightly reduced (all close at midnight during the week).
- Used physical materials are quarantined for 3 days before returning to the shelves.
- Brought up a major exhibit virtually with print installation to take place in spring.
How things are going in fall semester:
- Our door counts are about 1/5 – ¼ of our usual numbers in a typical semester. While these numbers feel disappointing they are in line with the de-densification of campus and actually help keep the libraries safer.
- Our virtual reference interactions seem to be higher this semester than in the past.
- We have had no reports of spread in the libraries. We have had a few of our student employees test positive and have to isolate -and in some cases this has caused our staff to also have to quarantine. You may have seen a disruption in hours at the Downtown Campus Library for this reason. One staff member had to quarantine because of COVID in his family. We have been so fortunate to not suffer any illness!
- We will continue to have evening hours even after the Thanksgiving break so that any local students who need a place to study for or complete their final exam will have a place to do so. After the semester ends we will go to an 8-5 M-F schedule for the intersession.
- We will finalize hours for spring semester when the academic schedule is more complete.