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Going Green… and Back to “Normal”

July 3, 2020

As of Friday, June 26th, the county of Lehigh officially moved into the green phase. It was one of the last of the counties in Pennsylvania to transition to the green due to our proximity to Philadelphia (as well as Montgomery and Delaware Counties), New Jersey, and of course, New York City. More and more restrictions have been removed. Restaurants can now offer indoor dining for the first time in over three months, but gatherings of more than 250 people are prohibited. My parents went to the Wind Creek casino for the first time since March, but by invitation only. Hair salons are re-opening. And my place of work is going “back to normal” (in nearly every sense of the word) come July 6th.

There has been a lot of resistance among the college’s employees to this transition back into the workplace. For the sake of this blog, I will only focus on what our library will be doing to take precautions against COVID-19 while remaining committed to maintaining excellent service to our students, faculty, staff, and administration. (Our college will be closed to the public for any events such as orientations and job fairs through December 31, 2020.) Our library is comprised of two levels. Our lower level is where the majority of our physical collections are housed along with an information service desk and three study rooms. For the time being, we are roping off this level to students to help maintain social distancing and to contain touching of highly used surfaces to the upper level. Our upper level features the main circulation and reference desks, three more study rooms, our new releases, a reading room of fictional works, and our computer lab. Our circulation and reference desks are equipped with plexiglass shields. Social distancing will be enforced come Monday to make sure there are at least six feet between students on the computers. Curbside service will still be offered to those patrons who do not wish to enter the library. Disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer will be made available and students will be strongly encouraged to wipe down their work stations before and after each use. We have agreed — more or less — among our staff and librarians that we will not be the “watchdogs” when it comes to disinfecting surfaces and commonly used surfaces, although I have volunteered to gladly do such tasks. Others feel like that is not their job to do so, but I kind of have an “all hands on deck” kind of mentality when it comes to battling and containing COVID-19. I am not sure how I can provide reference help while maintaining social distancing. I wear my mask religiously, but I find that our students are very nervous when it comes to asking for assistance and are technology-shy. They are reluctant to grab the mouse and enter in search terms which I recommend to them, so I often myself leaning over them or reaching across to type search terms for them. Unless we use laser pens (which remind me of playing with cats), I do not see how I can maintain six feet between me and a patron. Does anyone else have any suggestions?

No doubt, it is going to be a challenge returning to the way things used to be but with the necessary precautions. The option for us to work remotely is now completely off the table, and I am not too happy with that executive decision, as are a lot of my fellow employees. It almost seems like there is a total lack of concern for the health of the college’s employees as well as the students. Under the guidelines for operating in the green phase, Governor Wolf has stipulated that remote work is still strongly encouraged. Why our college is not adhering to this guideline is not clear, and the question has straight out been avoided and left unanswered when addressed to those in charge. I see a return of the students, faculty, staff, and administration at 100% a recipe for disaster and an open invitation for COVID-19 to make an appearance. Couple that with the startling fact that should any of us at my college get sick with the virus or be exposed to someone who has contracted the virus and who must be quarantined for fourteen days, is now only eligible to receive two-thirds of their pay during that time off-campus, and you can get a glimpse of how irritated we are by this unfairness. I question why there was really no extended “buffer” period to ensure that we could transition slowly and safely as we grew steadily in occupancy and why those who are most vulnerable could not continue to work remotely if they did not feel safe returning to campus. In my opinion, it would be safer to have the students return in the fall.

Since becoming a librarian, I have never been wary of Mondays. I do not mind them. I have found my niche in this world and time and I enjoy my profession. However, come this Monday, I might be operating in a completely different mode and state of mind. Thank you for listening to my rant! I am concerned about a spike in COVID-19 cases once we are all back on campus and it is not going to make the college look good. I know of no other college in the area doing the same thing and returning to 100% occupancy at this time in the green phase. I am hoping that we can take the necessary precautions with disinfecting surfaces and with wearing masks, but I do not see this as enough protection. The best option would be to allow remote work whenever possible. Contrary to what the higher-ups might think, many employees are just as, if not more, productive when working from home. I can honestly say that my three and a half months working from home have been productive, as I have felt calmer and certainly less interrupted. I am just hoping that it will be worth the risk of being back onboard at full capacity.

PA Forward Resources for Academic Libraries

June 21, 2020

If you are interested in learning more about PA Forward and how your academic library can get involved, see the resources below from the Pennsylvania Library Association and Academic Gold Star PA Forward Libraries. Feel free to reach out to the librarians from these libraries for more information about their programs and resources.

Academic PA Forward Gold Star Libraries Showcase

General PA Forward Resources 


Academic Library Resources

Pennsylvania College of Technology PA Forward LibGuide

Gold Star Libraries and Librarian Contacts

Pennsylvania College of Technology
Joann Eichenlaub

Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences
Amy Snyder

Penn State Harrisburg
Emily Mross

Shippensburg University
Aaron Dobbs


Announcing WPWVC-ACRL Professional Development Video Series

June 18, 2020

Consider attending the inaugural event in the Western Pennsylvania/West Virginia ACRL Chapter’s Professional Development Video Series.  Registration is free and open to all colleagues regardless of geographical location or professional status.

WPWVC-ACRL Professional Development Video Series

Friday, June 19, 2020, 12:00 pm – 12:30 pm (EST)
Working From Home With Your Partner or Children – Tips and Tricks

Description: Not home alone? Join two colleagues who share their tips and suggestions to make the work from home experience better. Whether you share space with a partner or children, this session covers things that should be settled sooner rather than later and other recommendations.
Register via Zoom Link (Registration is required and free):

Martin Dunlap–Engineering Librarian,West Virginia University

Rocco Cremonese—Business, User Experience and Outreach Librarian, Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania

Do you have ideas for a presentation?  Membership in WPWVC-ACRL is not required and we would love to consider you as a presenter. Please review our FAQ and fill out our Presentation Submission Form:(

Do you want to know more about the series?  Please contact Rocco Cremonese ( or the committee (

How I learned to stop planning

June 5, 2020

There have been many uncertainties during this COVID19 crisis. As a matter of fact, it often feels like the only certainty we have any more is uncertainty!

Many of us have spent our professional careers, and possibly even moved up the professional ladder, by developing solid planning and organizational skills. In short, we have always been rewarded for having plans. A plan for this, a plan for that. Often we are asked “okay but what is your plan?” So we had this instilled in us that the pathway to success is having a solid, actionable plan. I know that has been my experience.

COVID19 has really challenged this tendency in me, as a librarian, as a campus administrator, and as a director. As soon as it became clear that we were going to have to change our daily lives, my first thought was, “I need to put a plan together.” But I think we all discovered very quickly that this was a pointless endeavor. We would spend Monday putting a comprehensive plan together that, by Tuesday, was irrelevant. As things changed on a daily, and oftentimes even hourly basis, planning became a moot point. All of those skills I developed and honed as a leader, organizer, and planner were suddenly not serving me or my team.

I quickly discovered, as I’m sure many of you have discovered as well, that in times of crisis trying to pretend that we as leaders have all of the answers was a waste. I don’t know about you, but at my University our students, staff, and faculty were looking to us for answers, and I simply didn’t have any answers to give them. At that point, communicating a “plan” was probably the worst thing we could have done when plans were changing so regularly. Trying to pretend we had a plan was misleading to our stakeholders.

This is a time to develop and hone new skills: vulnerability, honesty, and ethical transparency. The ability to stand in front of a group of people (figuratively, and virtually of course) and say “look, things are changing so fast, we simply can’t plan for the future right now” required skills I hadn’t yet developed, and I found myself deeply uncomfortable doing so. However, being ethically transparent was the best solution for everyone. Sometimes our students and stakeholders may think they need certainty and a plan, but really what they need is empathy from the administration. They were looking for leadership, and sometimes leadership means showing vulnerability. And that’s okay.

I had to develop a new way to communicate and lead during this crisis, and that has been “listen, I hear you, I am looking out for your best interests, and we will make decisions based on certain criteria while keeping everyone as safe as we can. Here is the criteria that will affect our decision making.” This has proven to be a much more effective way to lead during this crisis than “here’s my plan.” And at the end of the day, being vulnerable, ethically transparent, and empathetic with one another is what people need in uncertain times.

New Issue – Pennsylvania Libraries: Research & Practice (Spring 2020)

June 5, 2020

The latest issue of Pennsylvania Libraries: Research & Practice is now available at 

Articles include:

  • Changes to PaLRaP Editorial Team: Welcoming Two New Co-Editors
  • In the PaLRaP Spotlight: Tim Mulholland
  • Phenomena of Cultural Intelligence in Pennsylvania Libraries: A Research Study
  • Redefining the Pedagogy: Service-Learning in Libraries and Archives
  • Connecting with Faculty and Students through Course-Related LibGuides
  • Academic Integrity: Developing an Approach Students Can Own!
  • Librarian Fascination and Student Confusion with “RE” words: Research, Reference, Resources, and Reserves
  • Playing as Argument Architects: Bridging a Learning Gap in the Research Process
  • Noteworthy: News Briefs from PA Libraries

Tom Reinsfelder & Larissa Gordon, Co-Editors


Pennsylvania Libraries: Research & Practice (PaLRaP) is a peer-reviewed, open access journal, sponsored by the College and Research Division of the Pennsylvania Library AssociationPaLRaP provides an opportunity for librarians in Pennsylvania to share their knowledge and experience with practicing librarians across Pennsylvania and beyond. The journal includes articles from all areas of librarianship, and from all types of libraries within Pennsylvania.