By Alexa Dumas
The start of the spring semester has been met with many difficulties, not just for students, but for faculty and staff as well. Some of these changes have greatly impacted the Benjamin F. Feinberg Library, which provides a multitude of services and support to students. As many students are choosing to attend classes remotely this semester, they can still access Feinberg digitally.
“Our mission as librarians is to provide access to the resources that libraries traditionally provide while maintaining the safety of our students and our library staff and faculty who use our library,” Elin O’Hara-Gonya, Instruction and Reference Services coordinator, said. “It has been somewhat of a shift for us in order to balance these two things appropriately.”
The Feinberg Library staff expects fewer students to make the return on-campus. During the fall semester, there were students who voiced their concerns over contracting COVID-19 and applauded the library for ensuring student’s safety while studying.
“There are fewer face-to-face classes, so it is hard to know actually how many students are here, but our numbers are down,” Carol Bleaux, Classroom and Support Services coordinator, said. “I think most of them accept it and appreciate it.”
While students were on winter break, Feinberg Library introduced a new contact-free service to students, faculty and staff who still needed access to resources. The curbside pickup service allows patrons to request books and various other items for loan through an online form found on the Feinberg Library page on the plattsburgh.edu.
“They fill out what they need, we pull it, and then we contact them and arrange a date and time,” Bleaux said. “We unlock the door five minutes before they come to pick it up, the time that we agree upon, then we lock it up when they have left.”
The curbside pickup is not the only new service the library is offering. Students can now schedule virtual research appointments via Zoom with a library staff member. This service will allow students to ask questions and gather information on their desired topic.
“We are quite proud of the virtual research appointments because the librarians believe that the ability for students to self-schedule their research appointments is a valuable addition to students right now,” O’Hara-Gonya said. “They can simply access a calendar that lists the available appointment times that we have each day with librarians. Then the students can choose which appointment works best with their schedule.”
The virtual research appointments can be helpful to students who are fully remote this semester and do not have access to library services in their hometown. The library staff wants to ensure their patrons get the help and guidance they need for any given task.
“To my understanding, it has been extremely beneficial in making sure people can get the help, guidance in leading them through the research process without having to physically risk coming in any kind of close contact,” Holly Heller-Ross, Dean and Chief Information Officer of Library and Information Technology Services, said. “So, if a student is working on a research paper and they happen to be in Albany, or Long Island, or Rochester, they can just interact with a librarian and get the help that they need without having to travel, without having to risk any contact. It is just as personalized with the services that are provided in house.”
Students can also talk to members of the library staff on demand by using a chat feature on their webpage. The chat service can be used during the Feinberg Library business hours from 8 a.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and noon to midnight Sunday. The chat service can be used to answer any questions a student may have.
As the Feinberg librarians continue to deliver access to the resources students need, they also have been trying to keep the library safe for the campus community. Some of the safety guidelines have resulted in modifications to the setup of the library.
“We’ve had to close our study careers, we’ve had to close some of our group study spaces,” said Heller-Ross. “We’ve had to cancel public events we normally do. We had to reduce our hours and student employment, and those things are very impactful.”
The guidelines for the fall semester will still be applicable to the spring semester as well. Social distancing, table spacing and the food and drink ban in Feinberg have been guidelines provided by the American Library Association, an organization helping other libraries develop core values within their community, as stated on its website.
“We’ve tried to make the building as safe as possible for people. Removing chairs, sterilizing, moving tables further apart so there is social distancing,” O’Hara-Gonya said. “Hopefully we’ve created a space where students who feel like they need someplace to go to study or type or do their work, the library is available.”
The Feinberg Library has made providing information and support available to students their mission to students since its inception. The pandemic has created challenges for its staff, but they have made it their mission to provide resources to students here at SUNY Plattsburgh.
Email Alexa Dumas at firstname.lastname@example.org