Reflections on work and life during the historic Covid-19 pandemic

Who could have dreamed or envisioned, way back in mid- February, when the first snippets of international news reported a mysterious and unknown virus threatening its way into the world—that every aspect of life as we know it, unprecedented in our lifetime, would be transformed rapidly, and likely permanently—and historically?

I squirm with a bit of remorse when I report that my work here in my medical and School of Nursing libraries has not changed noticeably or sensationally. I have been able to continue to work onsite in both locations, masked on one campus in our hospital, but as close to normal as before in my academic library.

The locations of both of my libraries are rather isolated from well-traveled public or patient areas. While my hospital library has maintained everyday “traffic” from physicians, nursing staff, and allied health personnel, most of our research/informational requests have been accomplished online (as for all of us).

Mail and journals have still arrived, new books have arrived, requests for assistance have continued to pour in—the pace has not slowed at all. As with all our colleagues, no doubt, the pace of activity has increased, as our Administration and clinical and non-clinical departments have scrambled to request literature, guidelines, protocols, and policies regarding the therapeutic and spiritual and ethical care of our COVID-19 patients, especially those with comorbidities.

In our Education Center and School of Nursing, while our students and faculty transitioned to remote learning and teaching, and other non-clinical departments’ personnel moved home to work, our Building became more deserted—so one could work onsite and possibly not encounter another human being for the entire day and evening.

However, even as my own work world has not changed in terms of location and everyday concerns, I have observed and pondered (and ogled) at the vast creativity, ingenuity, perseverance, collaboration, hard work, and faith of all our library and informational colleagues in every type of library: special, academic, school, and public.

I have been challenged to learn about negotiating Go to Meeting, Microsoft Teams, ZOOM, conference-calling, virtual everything—and have marveled at its efficiency and quality. I have “met” colleagues in online meetings and have been able to see them via camera (AND their children and pets!), after emailing or communicating with some of them, sometimes for several years, without having met them in person.

As the weeks have passed, and winter has crept into spring, it has been enthralling to observe how makerspaces and 3-D printers have created life-saving equipment, how folks have served each other in person and online, how everyone from the great and famous to everyday folks has offered talents and time and treasure to uplift others of all ages, whether reading stories online, delivering food and visits, writing cards, singing, praying, or simply caring for each other.

Our country and profession, and nearly every facet of our life, has been challenged to continue to work, learn, pray, communicate, heal, live, thrive—in a transformed virtual world—and we have made it happen! As the list of caregivers, teachers, librarians, health care workers, front line emergency personnel, technical service personnel, food services
personnel, and students at every level continue to learn and share and assist and live, we have seen humankind grow in creativity, sharing, collaborating, and caring in ways we may have alluded to in the past, but perhaps have not previously had the urgency to develop and strengthen those bonds.

And now we are in the spring time of this historic year, a time of Commencements and conferences, festivals, milestones—which were scheduled months, and even years, ago, and must now transform in order to proceed. For those of us professionally affiliated with colleges and universities, and for those of us whose family and beloved ones were
scheduled to graduate, may we hopefully still celebrate with virtual celebrations—including Pomp and Circumstance, processionals, speakers, honors, recognition of each student individually by name and degree, and pep talks and greeting from alumni/ae.

May this time of sheltering in place and quarantine become a lesson and commemoration of the spirit and strength and the capacity of human beings of all ages and places to create and collaborate, explore, design, work, serve one another, and thrive—long after we are hopefully healed and “back to normal” (whatever and whenever that might be).