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Q/A with Drexel Libraries Staff on COVID-19 and Working from Home

April 7, 2020

On March 16, 2020, Drexel University—in accordance with statewide preventative measures against COVID-19—announced it would close its physical campuses effective March 20. Now, professional staff (including all the Drexel Libraries staff) are working remotely. Both non-critical on-campus research activities and clinical experiences have been suspended, and all classes are being taught remotely.

Many of the Drexel Libraries’ resources and services have been available online for years, and staff are working hard to transition services traditionally offered in-person to an online format to support the Drexel community during this time.

Using Zoom and email, Communications Manager Stacy Stanislaw checked in with a few Libraries staff members to find out what it’s like to provide remote library services and how they’re adjusting to working from home.

Q: Your first day working for the Drexel Libraries was March 16, and then most staff members started working from home due to COVID-19 the very next day. What was it like to start a new job during this extraordinary and challenging time?

It was definitely a strange week, but I'm grateful that everyone I've met has been so kind and understanding. Folks have been thoughtful about setting me up with introductions, referring me to colleagues, and double-checking to make sure I haven't missed any key documentation. One thing that put me at ease immediately was seeing a number of people keep a sense of humor. The moment my supervisor signed onto Zoom with the code from The Matrix as his background, I cracked up and thought, "OK. We're going to get through this."

Sam Kirk, Manager, Curricula Support. Kirk’s first day working at the Drexel University Libraries was March 16, 2020, the day the University announced the campus would close the physical campus due to COVID-19.

Q: As one of our Library Services Specialists and one of the leaders of the Information Explorers Program, you normally spend most of your workday interacting with students, faculty and staff. How have you found the transition to working remotely and what does your “new normal” look like?

Much of my job (normally) involves face-to-face interactions. I’m behind the Libraries’ service desks, and I answer questions all day—from faculty and staff or our student workers and Information Explorers. I don’t want to lose that interactive aspect of my job, so I attended a few webinars the University is offering that provide training on using Zoom for remote learning. I want to take advantage of the technology available through Drexel to help me move the Information Explorers program online now that we’re spread across the country and the world.

Right now, I’m looking for any way to connect with my colleagues and the Drexel community remotely, like Zoom or Blackboard Learn. It’s been an interesting challenge for me. I’m also monitoring the Libraries’ live chat system and responding to questions and concerns. I haven’t done that in the past, but it’s similar to what I do when I’m on campus in that I'm answering questions and providing support for our clients and other Libraries staff. 

Before we all left campus, I had come up with an idea to create a scrapbook or a yearbook for our student workers, particularly our graduating seniors. Now, we may not be together in-person again before they graduate, so I think it’s even more important to find a way to create a virtual yearbook to keep us all connected.

Oreste Jimenez is Library Services Specialist II for Library Assistance & Client Access Experiences at the Drexel Libraries. He is the Program Manager for the Libraries’ Information Explorers, a group of Drexel students who advise the Libraries by brainstorming, designing and testing ways to engage Drexel students to build effective learning habits.

Q: How has the transition to working remotely been for you? Are you using any new technology or systems or equipment to help you work remotely?  

Over the last few weeks, I've thought often about how my work life hasn't really changed all that much, with the exception of not coming to campus. I decided the evening before my first full day of working from home that I would stick to my regular schedule (except I am “reclaiming my commute” by sleeping in a little longer).

The transition to working from home has been smooth. Although I admit I practiced logging in and connecting to my remote desktop several times the weekend before my first day working from home to be sure I knew what to do. (Shout out to the Libraries Information Technology Systems staff, Javier and Tom Pugh, for hooking me up—the remote desktop works fabulously!) The only downside is that occasionally the [Internet] connection is lost, but I'm sure that is to be expected. Working remotely is definitely new for me, as is using Zoom, but thanks to daily Zoom meetings and Pilates and yoga classes, Zoom is becoming a new friend.

Sharon Brubaker is the Technician III for Acquisitions at the Drexel University Libraries. During a normal day, Sharon handles acquisitions of print and electronic materials, receives print materials (including books and journals), participates in several Libraries and University committees and teaches part time for both Drexel University and Peirce College.

Q: What is the biggest challenge you’ve found in working from home? Are there any advantages?

Oreste Jimenez: I’m a people person so, honestly, this has been difficult. I especially miss the students. I miss their observations about what’s going on in the Libraries, and I miss their thoughtfulness and their willingness to help their peers. And I miss being more active. I don’t have to stand up and walk across the library to help someone right now! That’s another thing I’m trying to be conscious of—intentionally stepping away from the screen. I’ve been doing simple exercises like jumping jacks or I’ll go for a walk if I can.

On top of adjusting to this “WFH (work from home) life,” we’re all trying to manage so much news and information about the current crisis. It’s a lot to deal with. But I’ve been getting a lot of fun, supportive messages from people who want to catch up. I try to stay happy no matter what – there’s always something that’s going to try to bring you down, and staying connected to my friends, my family and my Drexel “family” is making it a little bit easier.

Sam Kirk: I haven't been able to replace those serendipitous moments. Since we're working remotely, I don't have the chance to run into colleagues in the hallway and strike up conversations or attend campus-wide events and stick around at the end to meet potential collaborators. There are some advantages to working from home. Constantly wearing sweatpants, for example. I also get to spend a lot more time with my family. Normally, my commute via PATCO and then SEPTA is about an hour each way, and that's time I get back now. 

Sharon Brubaker: One of the biggest challenges in working from home is the physical space—I’m currently sitting on a kitchen chair rather than my ergonomic desk chair [at the W. W. Hagerty Library]. I am working with my acupuncturist on ways to deal with this: stretching, a chair cushion, timed breaks to get up and move.

Advantages to working from home: the coffee is always hot; I don't have to pack lunch, and I have space to meditate.

The most surprising thing about working from home is that my day-to-day routine has pretty much remained the same.

The most challenging aspect of working from home: feeling pressure to work beyond my regular work hours and when something simple doesn't work (especially when using an unfamiliar laptop). 

Given what is going on in the world with COVID-19, I'm lucky and exceptionally grateful. Two people I know (one a family  member living in another part of the state who works at a grocery store and the other an EMT also in another part of the state) were both tested, and thankfully both tests came back negative. I am living a far more mindful, grateful life now than I did before.

For more information about the Libraries’ remote services and access to information, visit our website.