Managing Uncertainty

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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

Tom B. Wall

University Librarian