The coronavirus, online classes, and physical infrastructure

Back to work today, from the comfy chair in my home office. We began putting together the systems we’ll need to give students online access to reference services when they return from break. I like the system we’re using (LibAnswers, from Springshare). There are collaborative tools embedded that will allow the librarians to work together on reference questions in a way we rarely do. The real question is will students have reason to ask questions of us, and even if so will they actually ask those questions? The first depends on how the teaching faculty teach over the next two months, and as for the second the best we can do is figure out how to make it easy to engage with us, and to follow up quickly on questions.

But to take or teach a virtual class requires the right hardware and software, and many people need that set up by our IT side. Faculty have been instructed to move courses online and don’t have the equipment or knowledge to do so. They’re actually coming to the building more now than at any time during the semester because they need in-person help. Schools in the area have shut down and other colleges have sent their students back home. So there are more people than ever looking for a public space to work in, and we are the only one left. Plus we are going to have an estimated 700 students returning after spring break, some presumably from places with community transmission of Covid-19. So, when we are supposed to be spreading out and away from each other, the college and library will become more densely populated. I do not think that the system or the college will look good when this is over.