We all know the end of the year comes at us like a freight train. Tracking down AWOL borrowers, those last-minute final projects, unruly seniors (or 8th graders), and end-of-year malaise often leaves very little time for reflection. This year more than ever as we stumbled toward some sense of normalcy after the Covid-centric year of 2020-21, looking at what’s working and what’s not feels important. I’m not talking about the big picture goals I discussed in my last post — I’m talking about the small, everyday changes that make a difference in our crazy library world. Sometimes those small things can mean the difference between sanity and losing it. Here are some smallish things we tried this year that had a large impact.
Furniture —Go With the Flow
I don’t know about you, but our students love to move the furniture around. We used to let it drive us up a wall — yelling at students to move things back, spending enormous amounts of time pushing things back to the “right place”, and really just allowing it to rule large parts of the day and evening. This year, we tried a different strategy. We let go of our preconceived floor layout and began the year with some furniture in the “wrong” locations. For example, they love to have two of our cozy chairs smushed together in the window even though they barely fit. We preemptively put them that way, and guess what? No one has moved those chairs all year.
In the conversation areas of the library, when they pushed tables together to make one long one we left it like that. When they pulled them apart, we left it like that. At the end of the day, we still straighten chairs, etc., but we do not waste time moving tables, and like the chairs, now they hardly get moved anymore. Having no “right” place and giving students the freedom to rearrange has lowered our aggravation factor enormously.
No More Electronics!
We stopped loaning most of our electronics during Covid — mainly laptops and computer chargers. Before the start of the school year, we had a long discussion with our IT department about bringing these items back. We are a bring-your-own-device school, and somehow students (and faculty) managed through the entire 2020-21 year without any electronic borrowing from us. Why would we need to change that? Prior to Covid when we had 20 laptops and 6-8 miscellaneous chargers, we spent hours every week tracking them down. The chargers weren’t supposed to leave the building, and the laptops were only for daily loans, but somehow that never happened. Things went days or even weeks without being returned, and getting them back was almost a full-time job.
So IT gave us a handful of emergency laptops for situations when students were actually having a problem that did not involve leaving their laptop in their room because they were too lazy to put it in their backpack, and we continued with our Covid-inspired policy of not loaning chargers. It’s been great. Once students realized that we did not have them, they brought theirs. Shocking! I know I will probably get some flack that we should provide items that students need, but I think when a task’s pain-in-the-neck factor for staff far outweighs its benefit, making a change is warranted.
“Virtually” Any Time
So many of us discovered a lot of resources and applications during Covid that continue to make our jobs easier. Two things we started using that I will not give up are Calendly and Zoom. I love Calendly because many students are just not comfortable approaching the desk to ask for help. My Calendly link on our portal page allows students to easily make an appointment with me, and the bonus — I get the heads up about the subject of the meeting. Most students still just come up to the desk, but for those who need a quieter way to reach out, Calendly works great.
We have night staff for academic support, but sometimes no one knows an assignment or a student like I do. Zoom allows me to meet with students from the comfort of my home during study hours when I am normally not at school. As we reach year three of the virus, I know Zoom sometimes gets a bad rap, but as a faculty member who lives off-campus, it has been a godsend. It allows me to connect with students when they need me most — during their evening study hours.
With those thoughts — here’s hoping for a peaceful end of the year, a restful summer, and a healthy 2022-23 school year for everyone.
I salute you for dealing with reality. Years ago I read about campus planners who delayed adding footpaths until they saw where students actually walked and then placing the sidewalks there. Why fight the wisdom of the crowd with arbitrary interior design?
Thank you for this! I love that most of your favorite things are about changing the mindset and how you and your staff think about them. I think a good number of things that frustrate me most about library work get mitigated when I figure out a different way to think about them. I can be someone that elevates my preferences into principles so your post is a really helpful reminder!