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Friends Student Board Member Considers the Impact of 2020

December 28, 2020

As we near the end of 2020, I‘ve been reflecting on the various ways my life has changed over the course of nine months. I wanted to recognize these new and very different parts of my life; my academics, work life, and personal connections have all majorly shifted. As the student board member of the Friends of the UW-Madison Libraries, I was excited at the prospect of being able to write a “mini-series” for the Friends blog.

Anna Dinkel, Friends student Board member, wearing a facemask
Anna Dinkel, Friends Student Board Member

I’m hoping that through this series we can recognize that many of our common struggles will continue to deeply affect the ways we interact and communicate with one another. For this part of the series, I will look at the big shift in my schooling. As I mentioned earlier, I’m a student at UW-Madison in the second year of my Library and Information Studies master’s program. This pandemic not only affected how I attend school, but it also changed the way the library field reaches its community and stakeholders. Last March, during the middle of our courses, professors had to make a swift change to the modality of our classes with little time to reset. I haven’t been back in the Helen C. White building where I was attending classes since March. Having courses online is not only difficult and challenging for students, but for teachers and professors as well. Both of my parents spent their lives in public education, and I know how hard it is to juggle so many different projects at once— especially when many educators are devoting time in-person and online.

What I’ve learned in my academics through the pandemic, is that the need for flexibility and adaptability is key to student “survival.” I saw this not only in my own experience—when I quickly had to solve audio issues on my computer, or switch between five different softwares, or change a meeting time or online platform— but also in practice. This semester I completed an all-remote practicum at Edgewood College. During my practicum I was able to work on several different projects, but one of the most meaningful parts of my work was providing reference services to students through online chat. I walked students through citation help, database searching, and research questions on a regular basis. This shows not only the quick adaptation of librarians, but also the student’s willingness to learn and utilize new resources available to them. This reference service, just like the UW-Madison Libraries’ chat, has been a vitally important service for academic libraries during the pandemic.

Christmas tree and sleeping kitty
Anna’s study spot

This is just one example of the new ways that libraries have adapted to reach their communities. It is fascinating because I get to witness it as both a user and through a librarian lens. And while I know these times are challenging (and that I’ve been interrupted one too many times by my attention-seeking kitty), I think we should all take some time to appreciate the amazing feats and successes from the year 2020, both academic and non-academic. Moreover, I think that we need to recognize this, and wear it as a strength as we enter 2021. While the days on this year dwindle down, I can honestly say I’ve learned more about myself both as a student and librarian, and I’m excited to be able to put my knowledge to good use in my last semester, and as I enter the workforce.

Cheers and a Happy Holidays,

Anna Dinkel