BC Libraries, COVID-19 Edition, Part III

BC Libraries staff have been working tirelessly to prepare the libraries for your safe return. Read about the changes at O’Neill Library.

Since the BC libraries had to close in March, staff have been working tirelessly both onsite and remotely to continue to provide access to our resources and services to the BC community. With campus back open and classes beginning, we wanted to let you know the changes and updates throughout O’Neill that are keeping the library safe for both students and staff.

Entering & Exiting

By now you’ve received a number of emails about how COVID-19 has changed the way BC and the libraries operate. The biggest change we’ve made is in access. Current BC students, faculty, and staff have full access to the library during its hours of operation, but they cannot bring any food into the building with them. We are also one of the areas on campus where you will need to show your BC Daily COVID-19 Green Check to enter. Finally, to assist with contact tracing in case of an outbreak, there is a BC ID swipe station at the first and third floor entrances, and to let you know how hard or easy it may be to find a seat, screens in the entryways display current occupancy and capacity.

O'Neill Library level 1 service desk with "Exit Only" routing signage
O’Neill Library level one service desk.

Distanced Seating

graduate reading room on O'Neill level 4, with round red and yellow social distancing poster
Graduate Reading Room on O’Neill Library level 4.

If you’ve gone out during the past few months, you’ve definitely seen the kind of signage we’ve posted throughout O’Neill. Scattered throughout, these are gentle reminders to maintain appropriate distance, wear your mask, and be sure to wash your hands. We’ve also removed some furniture in accordance with state and federal guidelines on indoor occupancy limits. Many tables have one or two chairs, and every other desktop computer has been unplugged and made unusable to abide by social distancing guidelines.

Traffic Directions and Printing

Sign on O’Neill level 3 staff entrance, reading, “Entrance Closed: staff access to ONL 304 via the circulation desk, side entrance
Closed doorway to staff area on O’Neill level three.

Some doors are now closed, some are only one way, but we made sure to put up plenty of signs and directional markers so there’s no confusion on where to go. The biggest change for patrons will likely be to our printing area. This area gets a lot of traffic, so we’ve marked out line spacing and directional signs for the Walk-In Help Desk and printing, both to maintain social distance but also to ensure everyone knows where to go to find what they need.

Directional sign for printing and Walk-in Help Desk, O’Neill level 3 atrium, with an arrow pointing right for the Walk-in Help Desk and another arrow pointing left for public printing.
Directional sign for printing and Walk-in Help Desk, O’Neill level 3 atrium.

Checkouts & Returns

At the circulation desk, we’ve installed plexiglass barriers at each computer station. While our employees will be wearing masks and gloves, there’s also that extra level of protection that you’ve seen everywhere from grocery stores to CVS. We have also moved the ID card swipers around to the front, so patrons will be responsible for swiping their own BC IDs. Don’t worry, we swipe it wrong all the time too!

O’Neill Library level 3 circulation desk with plexiglass barriers.
O’Neill library Level 3 circulation desk with new clear barriers.

There are also two red carts between the counters. While normally you’d be handing your items directly to the person working, now you’ll be putting your items on one of these red carts for circulation desk staff. This extra step makes sure we’re not directly touching things you’ve touched, and vice versa.

Online & Print Materials

One of the biggest changes is in our collection and what can and cannot circulate. When the BC libraries were originally closed as the campus shut down, many publishers stepped up to ensure BC patrons would still have access to resources they needed. HathiTrust dramatically increased the number of e-books and digital materials available for checkout. When you search for an item on the library website, you’ll see a link for the “Full Text Available at HathiTrust,” which will bring you to the item and let you check it out. Watch this brief how-to video to clarify the process.

Library search results displaying “Full Text Available at Hathitrust links.

Library search results. Note “Full Text Available at HathiTrust” links.

(NOTE: Because of this expansion–and because of copyright restrictions–items that are now accessible in their e-book format from HathiTrust cannot be checked out from the library in print format.)

As you browse in the stacks, please check availability, so you don’t have the disappointment of attempting to check out a book that’s non-circulating. We’ve posted signs throughout the library with QR codes that will take you directly to library search.

Getting Help

The reference desk has also undergone some changes. Instead of staff seated at the desk, they’re now not restricted by location. You can reach them from anywhere on our 24/7 Chat service: library.bc.edu/chat. Soon, they also plan to be available for those in O’Neill via ASK! Live on a computer in the Lobby.  Watch for announcements.

It might seem like a lot, but don’t worry. O’Neill and the other BC libraries are here and ready to help you with all your studying and research needs!

Managing Uncertainty

With Boston College committed to giving the residential college experience the proverbial “college try,” the BC Libraries have redoubled our resolve to provide a full suite of services, access to content and de-densified spaces to meet the needs of our community, albeit in somewhat nuanced circumstances. During the early dark days of the pandemic the … Continue reading “Managing Uncertainty”

With Boston College committed to giving the residential college experience the proverbial “college try,” the BC Libraries have redoubled our resolve to provide a full suite of services, access to content and de-densified spaces to meet the needs of our community, albeit in somewhat nuanced circumstances.

Photo of O'Neill Library Graduate Reading Room with round red and yellow sign, saying "Please practice social distancing, 6 ft."
Graduate Reading Room, O’Neill Library Level 4

During the early dark days of the pandemic the BC Libraries were compelled to close our doors, but we were also prepared to deliver services remotely. Our subject liaisons continued to provide reference, research and educational services to faculty and students; our access services staff delivered digital and analog content through interlibrary loan, document delivery and digital reserves. Library staff was in the library, shifting shelves and supporting digital content delivery. Our systems department and continuing digital resources staff maintained our website and provided quality control for access to our hundreds of databases.

I was in the O’Neill Library every day from the beginning. Many days I’d be in before anyone else and would walk around, lamenting the pandemic, missing the students and staff, and wondering if I was actually in a simulation from The Shining.

March and April were dark months for everyone. Library staff continued to perform admirably, mostly remote, but still provided over 150K scans, hundreds of consultations and sharpened our digital presence. Most importantly, we continued to learn and adapt. Still, the Burns Library was one of the first libraries to open anywhere, in late June, by appointment. This extended to O’Neill in July, and now in mid-August our doors are all open again. We had our bumps, but I am very proud of our resilience, perseverance and service commitment.

As we enter the fall term we will have a hybrid environment. Our libraries will be open, but the seating availability will be closer to 50% occupancy, in accordance with CDC and MA guidelines. Similarly, many of the services will continue as remote, i.e., most subject liaisons will work off campus remotely. The O’Neill reference desk will have monitors and interactions will be remote. Many staff will be onsite, working behind the scenes, and in the libraries you will be able to browse and check out books as you were in March, print and scan, and have access to desktop computers with specialized software, both throughout the libraries and in O’Neill Library’s Digital Studio, where you’ll also find two new digital scholarship librarians. Even during these times, we’ve continued implementing long-range plans.

The fall term will be challenging, full of uncertainty, and we will all have to be flexible, patient and kind. It’s only by collaborating and supporting each other as a community that we will  be able to maintain our residential campus and control this pandemic. In the Libraries I have repeatedly stated that we are not resorting to expediency or chasing the puck. Rather we are working together to manage the crisis, and anticipate where the puck is going. Together, we will get through this, stronger and better.

Welcome back, and please don’t hesitate to reach out with constructive feedback.

All the best, T

Remote Anti-racism

You might want to adopt anti-racism practices, but concerns about COVID-19 may make you unsure what you can contribute or what role(s) you can take on. Librarians can help.

You might want to adopt anti-racism practices, but concerns about COVID-19 may make you unsure what you can contribute or what role(s) you can take on right now. 

Mother showing her young daughter the mural and shrine for George Floyd in Minneapolis, June 2020. Photo credit: Kate Kipling

Mother showing her young daughter the mural and shrine for George Floyd in Minneapolis, June 2020. Photo credit: Kate Kipling

This is where libraries and librarians can be a big help: we’re dedicated to finding answers to questions like  “What can I do?” Before we get to that question, take a quick look at linked resources for other questions you might have right now:

What can I read? 

See the BC Libraries Statement on Racism and Current Events, which includes a reading list, and the currently featured virtual book display, The Criminalization of Black Bodies.

What else are libraries doing to challenge racism?

Check out the online archives Documenting the Now, Project Stand, Blackavists, and Witness.org.

How do I find reliable news? 

Read the BC Libraries Blog entry Finding Reliable News, and learn a straightforward process for fact-checking news items you find in your social media feed during a time of crisis when many breaking stories are developing quickly.

What can I do?

These resources provide recommendations and suggestions for how to get involved, but at a safe social distance:

  • 12 Ways You Can Be an Activist Without Going to a Protest: This article, published after the events in Charlottesville, provides a list of recommendations for how to get started as a remote activist. (by Felicia Fitzpatrick in August 2017)
  • Find Your Representative | house.gov: One of the most impactful ways of making your voice heard is by reaching out to your representatives in Congress directly. Don’t know who they are? This website will tell you, and give you all their contact information.
  • How Can I Be An Activist Without Going To A Protest? This article provides additional ideas and resources for online and remote activism. (by Vanessa Pelz-Sharpe in November 2016)
  • WhiteAccomplices.org: Drawing from ideas and resources developed by POC, this website provides support to White people who want to find ways to act for racial justice. (Compiled by Jonathan Osler)
  • Activists pick up their phones and move online as coronavirus curbs protests: How have activists and other organizations, such as political campaigns, been impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak and limited in-person contact? How can those who want to volunteer for those campaigns and organizations help if there’s no door-to-door campaigning? This article details the new steps being taken and how everyone can get involved. (by Justine Calma in March 2020)
  • Scaffolded Anti-Racism resources: If you want to share materials with friends, recognize that people are at different places on a continuum of knowledge about and comfort with anti-racism. This Google Docs list provides readings and exercises appropriate to where people are on the anti-racism continuum. (Created by Anna Stamborski, Nikki Zimmermann, and Bailie Gregory in the Divinity School at Princeton)
  • Antiracism Resources The resources in this Google Docs list were compiled specifically for white parents to help raise children with anti-racist values. (by Sarah Sophie Flicker & Alyssa Klein in May 2020)
  • Protesting Safely If you decide after all that you just can’t stay in your house while history is unfolding, this Vice News article will help you protect your digital safety when you join a protest.

Finding Reliable News

The confusing deluge of news might make you uncertain that you’re basing knowledge of events on dependable sources. Here are some simple, quick tips to do your own fact-checking.

When emotions run high in ambiguous, fraught situations, people retreat to what they’re sure of: their own beliefs and values, often accompanied by righteous anger. Righteous anger feels good partly because it seems to simplify complexity and clarify ambiguity.

But when the online “reality” we’re seeing is generated by algorithms based on anger-driven shares and likes and reactions, reality can quickly become a hall-of-mirrors of outrage-driven and polarized information, or even misinformation. As a first step toward building a world based on justice, let’s build it on a firm foundation of facts. Which leads us to the first strategy for finding and sharing dependable information:

Stop sign

It’s that simple: just stop. Don’t retweet, don’t share, don’t like, don’t Google. Hit pause. Information-seeking takes slow, mindful attention. Anger wants to move fast and break things. Give your reaction a few minutes to settle down.

1. Step away

Social media is designed to be addictive, and moral outrage is the fastest-selling drug. If you find yourself scrolling endlessly and/or looking for chances to display your righteousness (or your high-minded neutrality) take a social media break.

2. Pop the bubble

Does your social media network mostly affirm what you believe? Pop that bubble and go in search of more diverse views. Not sure where to start for other perspectives? Try allsides.com, a news aggregator that sorts into right, left, and center.

Re-engage mindfully

Sign: "Take care of head" translated from Chinese characters

Here’s a fact-checking process you can use to check the truth of a story, based on the one in Mike Caulfield’s book Web Literacy for Student Fact-checkers:

1. Look for existing fact-checks

Check fact-checking sites on the internet: Snopes, factcheck.org, and Politifact are all dependable. Give each of those a quick look. If they haven’t covered it yet, take the next step.

2. Look upstream

A lot of news shared on social media is recycled: tweets re-packaged in online stories, details from news articles quoted in blog entries, or even news stories themselves recycled by other news outlets. Find the original source, where the story first entered the news cycle. The purpose: to evaluate whether you can trust the actual source, never mind your friend who shared it or the online article that summarized it.

3. Look sideways

If you’re unfamiliar with a source or news organization, go sideways: Google details about the news outlet and/or the journalist. Do other news outlets regularly quote them? Have they won awards? Has the journalist worked at news outlets you’ve heard of? A shortcut: NewsGuard is a browser plugin that checks news outlets’ ethical standards.

4. Look close

Now examine the original item itself, specifically looking for answers to these questions: What happened? Who did the journalist interview to find out? Are the sources named? (Is it just “a police spokesperson” or is it “Captain so-and-so”?) Did they talk to more than just officials (who are likely to spin a situation to their advantage)? Are there multiple perspectives, or does the whole story depend on one source? Are there photos or videos that confirm the claims? How much of the story is designed to influence rather than inform?

5. Side-eye photos and videos

Things people do with photos: mis-attribute (that was Paris in ‘07, not DC in ‘20), crop, and edit. (You know how easy it is to alter an image using a cheap or free app on your phone.) Things people do with videos: mis-attribute, edit, film from limited perspective, crop, and edit audio. IOW, always get verification that the image or video you’re looking at is complete, unaltered, and sourced and attributed diligently. First Draft News’ Verification Toolbox is what many journalists use.

When a story passes muster, do your part to nudge social media algorithms towards credible sources: share, like, and retweet the story passionately, and share how you confirmed it, to help your friends learn how to help build a fact-based reality.

Interested in more tools? Check out BC Libraries’ News Literacy guide.

Still angry? That’s understandable. Channel that energy into action.

BC Libraries, COVID-19 Edition, Part II

This is the second of two profiles of how BC Libraries staff have continued to bring you resources and services during the COVID-19 closing.

Since the closing of BC Libraries in mid-March, BC Libraries staff are working from home and at O’Neill and Bapst Libraries to provide you with the resources and services you need. The profiles and photos in this second part of a two part series show how–like the rest of the BC community–library staff have been adapting to new and unfamiliar circumstances.


My home “workstation” is my reading chair with a pillow on my lap and a laptop on the pillow in a 700 sq. foot apartment with a husband and a very barky dog. One day a week I venture into my actual work station in O’Neill as part of the access services skeleton crew. This has been challenging but in course reserves we love making a difference to students and I love being able to help them every day.

Cindy Frueh, Course Reserves Manager, Access Services
Cindy Frueh, Course Reserves/Media Manager, Access Services, processing reserve requests at her desk in O’Neill Library
Cindy Frueh, Course Reserves/Media Manager, Access Services, processing reserve requests at her desk in O’Neill Library

I truly miss browsing the stacks. I also miss random education conversations with patrons about something funny that happened with a teacher in the classroom or dissecting children’s literature. I miss people dropping by my office just to talk.

Tiffeni Fontno, Head, Educational Resource Center

Ravioli the rescue cat has proven to be a pro at adapting to changing circumstances while I work from home: instead of chewing through my laptop charging cable as I answer chat questions from library patrons, she now tries to eat fabric scraps and maim herself on the seam ripper while I sew fabric masks for the staff still working at the library. I still haven’t been able to train her to answer any references questions, and I’m fairly certain she can’t even read. Still, she’s figured out exactly where her treat jar is, so I’m confident that with a little tutoring, she’ll be able to locate the database list on the library website soon.

Jessica Hinson-Williams, Instruction Services Librarian
Ravioli, Apprentice Safety Services Specialist, learns how to sew masks, under the capable tutelage of Jessica Hinson-Williams, Instruction Services Librarian (not pictured).
Ravioli, Apprentice Safety Services Specialist, learns how to sew masks, under the capable tutelage of Jessica Hinson-Williams, Instruction Services Librarian (not pictured).

My COVID-19 workspace has definitely felt more confining. I’ve tried out several locations at home but have yet to settle definitely on one. The workday now seems more exhausting. Being bound to the computer has taught me just how much I appreciate “interruptions,” (i.e., daily encounters with colleagues and users), which is what I miss most. As I see it, the opportunity presented by the current crisis is twofold: 1.) developing a greater facility with various technologies; and, 2.) accomplishing some important behind the scenes projects. My message for colleagues and patrons is identical: Stay safe, and I miss you!

Steve Dalton, Head Librarian, Theology & Ministry Library
Steve Dalton, Head, Theology & Ministry Library (not pictured) has experimented with three workspaces at home. One was too hard, one was too soft, and one was just right.
Steve Dalton, Head, Theology & Ministry Library (not pictured) has experimented with three work-spaces at home. One was too hard, one was too soft, and one was just right.

Needless to say, working from home during a pandemic has been stressful at times. I can get overwhelmed conducting all of my daily activities out of the same space and trying to manage the intensified modes of communication patiently, and effectively. What helps me, though, is the thoughtful messages I get from faculty, students, and other colleagues who take the time to write a caring message in an email or in an instant message. They help me to remember that how I communicate during these times is just as important as what I communicate.

Jen Butler, Senior Research Librarian/Bibliographer , Theology & Ministry Library
Jen Butler, Senior Research Librarian/Bibliographer, Theology & Ministry Library, taking a cat-break with Samson while working from home in her nice weather work space.
Jen Butler, Senior Research Librarian/Bibliographer, Theology & Ministry Library, taking a cat-break with Samson while working from home in her nice weather work space.

Working in Library Systems, I can perform most work remotely with relative ease. I don’t have a dedicated office, so I move around a lot: working on servers while sitting on the couch next to my son, doing design work at the dining table, or sitting at the kitchen counter for virtual meetings. With daycare closed, the biggest challenge has been balancing work and family time. I no longer have the benefit of clear separation. I never expected work to look like this, but having the family around also helps maintain good humor.

Luke Gaudreau, Discovery Systems Librarian, Systems
Luke Gaudreau, Discovery Systems Librarian, multitasking at home.
Luke Gaudreau, Discovery Systems Librarian, multitasking at home.

Were it not for the horrible, dire situation fueling the move to remote work, I’d be 100% happy with it.  The online meetings and consultations are going very well, the library is working so hard to meet user needs and support students and faculty in this transition, and the coffee in the staff lounge is so much better…

BC Libraries staff member

Kevin Saffo, Interlibrary Loan Lending Specialist, keeping the books coming and going in the ILL office in O'Neill Library.
Kevin Saffo, Interlibrary Loan Lending Specialist, keeping the books coming and going in the ILL office in O’Neill Library.
Luc Benjamin, Morrissey ‘21, scanning microfilm in O'Neill Library.
Luc Benjamin, Morrissey ‘21, scanning microfilm in O’Neill Library.
Lynda Musilwa, Morrissey ‘20, pulling books for scanning and ILL in O’Neill Library.
Lynda Musilwa, Morrissey ‘20, pulling books for scanning and ILL in O’Neill Library.
Sr. Maria Okeke, Lynch ‘20, pulling and shelving books for scanning and ILL in O’Neill Library.
Sr. Maria Okeke, Lynch ‘20, pulling and shelving books for scanning and ILL in O’Neill Library.
Mary Lafferty, Administrative Assistant, keeping the administrative office in O’Neill Library running on time.
Mary Lafferty, Administrative Assistant, keeping the administrative office in O’Neill Library running on time.
Nicole Kubishta, Evening Access Services Assistant, O’Neill Library, scanning for ILL and course reserves in O’Neill Library's ILL office.
Nicole Kubishta, Evening Access Services Assistant, O’Neill Library, scanning for ILL and course reserves in O’Neill Library’s ILL office.
Sally Wyman, Head, Collection Development & Research Services, overseeing a major temporary shift to connecting patrons with online materials from her home office.
Sally Wyman, Head, Collection Development & Research Services, overseeing a major temporary shift to connecting patrons with online materials from her home office.
Valdon Sewell, Morrissey ‘22, pulling and reshelving books for ILL and scanning in O’Neill Library.
Valdon Sewell, Morrissey ‘22, pulling and reshelving books for ILL and scanning in O’Neill Library.
Sarah Melton, Head, Digital Scholarship, keeping digital library initiatives running under the watchful supervision of her cat, Chimera.
Sarah Melton, Head, Digital Scholarship, keeping digital library initiatives running under the watchful supervision of her cat, Chimera.
Young Moon, Head Librarian, Resource Acquisition & Management, in his home office, a.k.a. dining room.
Young Moon, Head Librarian, Resource Acquisition & Management, in his home office, a.k.a. dining room.