Episode one: The Undergraduate

Sunday, May 10, 2020

"All I hear all day long at school is how great the Library is at this, or how wonderful the Library did that. Library, Library, Library!" — adapted from Jan Brady

Written by Mary Lynne Bartlett (pictured left, second row)

The virtual library bunch collageOver the next few weeks we will be exploring how University of Waterloo library staff — the virtual library bunch — are embracing innovation and change in our new virtual environment. It is no surprise that staff have quickly adapted to the unpredictable changes caused by the pandemic with creativity and enthusiasm. This first instalment of a four-part series takes a look at how chat reference, course reserves, interlibrary loan services, and student engagement have been adapted.

Continuing to provide solid and effective services to our users was our main goal. In order to maintain a high level of service, extended reference support was initiated, involving an increased number of staff needed to provide support through our email and chat service. Brooke Brassard (pictured bottom right), circulation desk clerk, one of the staff deployed to this area notes that communication is one of the biggest challenges of working in a completely online environment. However, Brooke embraced the change, creating methods for succinctly articulating library processes and procedures in written format. Working online has also opened up opportunities for her to do work in other areas of the Library including Resource Sharing and the Student Engagement Committee. Brooke also assists the Instructional Design team by reviewing learning objects, using her experience as an Arts 140 instructor and her PhD in Religious Studies. Whether she is assisting the Instructional Design team, helping create a virtual escape room for the Student Engagement Committee, or providing critical support for online reference, Brooke is well versed in assisting students, faculty, and staff to find resources and educate them about the Library.

In the Spring term, the chat service has expanded hours to Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday noon to 9 p.m., so if you have a question be sure to check it out.

Course reserves staff play an important role providing students with access to the resources they need for their courses. Leah Haisoch (pictured left, third row), library associate, reserves, gave us an inside look at how course reserves staff have been strategic in providing resources to UWaterloo in these changing times. These staff were required to adapt their workflows quickly as the Library's print collection was no longer available, forcing them to find alternative ways to acquire materials digitally. Course reserves staff needed to get creative and have been successful at finding solutions. For example, keeping in mind that their colleagues are valuable resources, they created partnerships with other departments on campus and beyond. In collaboration with the W Store, they are working to find and license electronic versions of textbooks that instructors have adopted for their courses. Working in partnership with ten other Ontario college and university libraries, they are also sharing material previously scanned under fair dealing guidelines. The course reserves unit is a win-win for the University. It embraces innovation by working with instructors to investigate digital options, obtain material digitally, clear copyright permissions with rightsholders, and always striving to make course reserves accessible in terms of cost and access to students! Leah notes, "We miss meeting and interacting with you in person, but while we are not physically present, we are still working to support your remote teaching and learning needs.  If you have questions about Course Reserves and would like our assistance, please reach out and email us at libreser@uwaterloo.ca."

"We miss meeting and interacting with you in person, but while we are not physically present, we are still working to support your remote teaching and learning needs."

Interlibrary loans materials are free of chargeInterlibrary loans (ILL) service adds to the magic of the Library, finding materials from around the world to support our users' needs. Staff in this small unit use their strong critical thinking skills and resourcefulness to find book chapters, e-books, articles, conference proceedings, and theses for UWaterloo quickly and free of charge. ILL serves as both borrower and lender, borrowing from and lending to other institutions. Resource Sharing Associate, Ted Harms (pictured top left), has worked as a borrower for fifteen years during which time he's developed many innovative methods to obtain obscure and rare materials. The ILL team has always taken extra steps to track down items and come up with solutions to problems. For example, obtaining a chapter instead of a whole book or emailing the author directly to obtain a copy of a paper, all part of the exceptional service offered by this team. Materials can be obtained free of charge to you from around the world as well as other select providers and databases. Even though Interlibrary loans can only provide electronic resources at this time, they still have a 90% success rate! Are you unsure if a resource can be obtained? Put a request through RACER and ILL staff will see what they can do. It's always worth a shot because sharing (resources) is caring.

message on de-stress kitAnother important group is the Student Engagement Committee (SEC), which consists of 14 staff (co-chair Caitlyn Sageman pictured right, second row) dedicated to bringing engagement initiatives to students. This committee uses the concept of "serious fun," allowing them to think strategically about their approach when connecting with students. Their goal is to educate students in a fun and engaging manner about all the treasures in the Library. Many SEC initiatives happen in person, so working from home was a big shift. However, they were up to the challenge, adapting events and activities for the virtual environment, including collaborations with Campus Wellness and Athletics and Recreation to produce virtual exam de-stress kits (pictured left). They've also worked with the W Store and the Student Success Office to create the 'What do you meme? Mr. Goose' contest. Other activities include a virtual green screen (Earth Week), suggested reading lists (Asian Heritage Month) and the Talking Pets and Plants of the Library series. Keep an eye out for upcoming activities, including a virtual escape room, Pride Month, virtual planting event and Indigenous Persons Day. Whether they are working on campus or from home, SEC is here to connect with students.

It's been a period of growth, change, and innovation over the last few months, and library staff rose to the challenge. In next week's episode (part two of our series), Greg and Marcia find out how subject librarians are assisting students in: "Is there a librarian available?"

Read Episode two: Is There a Librarian Available? | Episode three: Dear Library | Episode four: The Show Must Go On?

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