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Student Board Member Wears Three Librarian Hats During COVID-19

January 28, 2021

In the second part of this “mini-series,” I wanted to reflect on how my work-life balance has shifted during the pandemic. This fall I had three different jobs across the Madison area. One position was my practicum, which I mentioned in my first blog post. An all-digital practicum was unprecedented for Edgewood and myself as well, but since I had been working from home this summer, I was familiar with what it was going to entail. In addition to doing online reference, I worked digitally helping choose resources for a future reference guide, and assessed and made recommendations for digital religious reference materials. These projects were great for developing my librarianship skills and were also easily accessible from a distance. I was able to work when I had available time, which gave me more flexibility than a traditional practicum during specified hours. I also provided reference chat services during unexpected times and could easily switch hours. This way I got to chat with a variety of users and was able to help with many different questions.

This juxtaposed my (limited) in-person experiences at Verona Public Library as a reference assistant. I was hired in late February, and then couldn’t start my position at Verona until June! Unfortunately, I was just getting my paperwork in as everything truly unraveled. I had some time to adjust myself to working

Empty Verona Public Library
Librarians’ work continues, despite no patrons in Verona Public Library

at VPL, and then this summer we opened back up… for a few months. This was a strange time to be working with patrons in the building, but it felt more like a traditional reference position. Then in October as cases rose again, we shut down. However, despite there being no patrons in the building we are still extremely busy. We offer computer appointments, and a good majority of my time is spent fulfilling curbside orders (we fill 125-200+ a day). In my spare time I have other projects I’m working on—but spare time is a rarity these days!

Lastly, my other part-time job is working as a project assistant librarian at the Journalism Reading Room on the UW-Madison campus. This position has taught me so much thus far, and I continue to learn more every day (pandemic or not). As the PA librarian, I am running the day-to-day operations of the library, and because we have limited hours, I’m the only employee. Usually, I would hire two or three students to help provide extra “open” hours for the library, but this year I’m a solo show. At this position, I usually work from home during semester and summer breaks, and then when the semester starts up, I head back to being in the library. My work here hasn’t changed too much, mainly because I was hired in June and it’s all I’ve ever known. I did a lot of work this summer figuring out how we could operate the library safely, and after a few trials, I’ve worked out a safe system for students and faculty within the School of Journalism and Mass Communication (SJMC). Moreover, I think that I’ve still been able to serve the SJMC community despite setbacks.

My positions, although currently different, have been a great reminder to appreciate that I am still able to work and to cherish interactions with co-workers and patrons. They are teaching me a lot about myself, and also are allowing me to work on and develop new projects that may have not been possible with full in-person hours required. As I open the new page of 2021, I look forward to continuing these projects, and being able to take these skills outside of the time we are in now, and applying “new eyes” to challenges that will come in the future.

Hopeful in the New Year,

Anna Dinkel