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Uaa Online Classes – Left to right, Lorelei Sterling, interim head of access services and building manager of the /APU Consortium Library, and Paige Brannon, head of instruction and research services, say the library is open to students, faculty and staff with WOLFcards and restrictions. hours, but their online services have expanded since COVID-19. (Photo by James Evans / University of Alaska Anchorage)

Since the impact of COVID-19, people’s daily lives have changed a lot and almost everyone is either working or learning remotely – except for university librarians and staff – from a bustling campus full of students, faculty and staff. /APU Consortium Library, a shared resource between the university and Alaska Pacific University (APU), remains open, albeit with more limited hours, to all students, faculty and staff who can access the library with their WOLFcard. This extends to students, faculty and staff of APU and the university system who can present their university identification.

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While many departments and colleges are quickly transitioning students and faculty to alternative course delivery or working from home, Lorelei Sterling, interim head of access services and building manager for Consortium Libraries, said the WOLFcard swipe system makes the transition much smoother. It became easier for Sterling and her staff to control access to the library.

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“We were really lucky because before all this happened we had a card swipe system for after-hours research — normally we were open from 8am to midnight — but after 8pm. We became an after-hours study facility,” Sterling said. She said during normal Consortium library hours, once 8 p.m. hit, the library was open only to students, faculty and staff. “We already had a system in place and when the mayor issued the “hunker down” order, we switched on the card swipe system only at 8 p.m.

/Students, faculty and staff using APU Consortium Libraries must present their WOLFcard for entry and practice safe social distancing measures while studying or doing research. (Photo by James Evans / University of Alaska Anchorage)

Additionally, Sterling said a side benefit is that students, faculty and staff are already used to the card swipe system, which requires no additional training for library staff or visitors. She said her department conveniently makes WOLFcards for those who don’t currently have one or need a replacement. In fact, the Consortium Library is the only place to get a WOLFCard as the University’s cashiering office is currently closed to personal traffic due to COVID-19. Sterling said students, faculty or staff who need a WOLFcard should call the main library number and staff will let you in.

“All the services we provide made this transition as smooth as possible,” Sterling said. “I have to give a big shout out to the facilities. They had everything we needed in a day. We had plexiglass, we had Virex, towels, gloves — they just took care of us.” She said that as soon as the facilities provide all the safety equipment and cleaning supplies, they give them clean/dirty signs to place on desks, tables and other surfaces, which library users use from clean to dirty after using an area. What the library staff needs to clean up.

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“We are intentionally keeping the library open for a number of reasons,” said Paige Brannon, chief of instruction and research services, whose division provides library research instruction, research support, collection development and outreach services. “One, we know that some students don’t have internet access or technology at home and may need a place to study. We also know that our building has materials that students need to use as well as computer lab software that students need to use. So we’re trying to provide a place where people can get what they want from us while being safe.”

Signs placed on desks, tables, and nearby computers help students, faculty, staff, and library staff know that an area has been cleaned and is safe for use.

Brannon said she and her team of liaison librarians are able to work from home, for the most part, because they already provide online services such as chat, text, Zoom and call tools. One of her department’s biggest decisions was whether to keep the information and research help desk open. She said they ultimately decided to move those services online, because of the intimate nature involved in helping someone gather research material. Moreover, library instruction was also moved online.

“We often sit next to them, co-browse things, help them with software and switch back and forth on the computer keyboard to show a student how to do a specific task,” Brannon said. “We can do that through link sharing and Zoom – even if someone is in the library – they can chat, text, call or have a Zoom session with us.”

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Both Brannon and Sterling said the Consortium Library’s services, both in-person and online, are made possible by the systems they already have in place. He said that while the library remains open, many personal resources have now moved online and it is much easier to redirect students to virtual assistant tools and other online resources.

“Since those resources are already in place, we don’t have to build anything,” Sterling said. “We just wanted to remind people that we’re still here and this is what we’re doing now.”

Both Sterling and Brannon want students — especially new students — as well as faculty and staff to know that the Consortium Library is open and its resources are available. Although hours are shorter than normal and many in-person resources have now been moved online, Consortium Library staff, faculty, and student staff are readily available to make the fall semester as smooth as possible.

“We’re open and we’re here and we want our students to succeed,” Sterling said. “We’re happy to help.”

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During the first half of this year, I served as Interim Chancellor. Reflecting on my time in this role and the perspective it afforded me, I can’t help but be inspired by the positive momentum heading into the fall semester. As we welcome new Chancellor Sean Parnell and prepare to return to individual campus operations this fall, financial aid and student support are at an all-time high.

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