By Christine Davies, Learning Environment Assistant
Can you tell us more about your role?
Together, our teams – Facilities Management, Learning Environment, Service Delivery and Support & Liaison – look after the physical spaces, resources and service points in the Templeman Library. We help users make the most of our physical collections/study spaces and provide in-person/online help with library and IT queries. We could be the person on the phone helping you with a password reset, issuing your carrel key from the Welcome Desk, trundling past with a trolley of textbooks, or handing over a computer to support working from home.
Students are at the heart of what we do, but we also have plenty to offer staff, as well as our local community. A real privilege of working in the Library is our dual capacity for education and leisure. Of the 12 items I currently have on loan (you can borrow up to 40), one is a cookbook, a CD, two are DVDs and the rest a mix of fiction (titles like Golden Hill and The eye of the reindeer) and non-fiction (topics as diverse as running, medieval science and beauty).
How has the pandemic affected your work?
In March 2020, the pandemic prompted a University-wide lockdown and the Templeman closed its doors too. Most of our teams were suddenly tasked with working from home although a handful of essential staff remained to manage building maintenance (Covid-proofing) and book returns (or avalanches, in those early days!).
The experiences of front-line colleagues – including Jon Peacock (Support Supervisor), Nick Goodman (Support Officer), Sally Vinicombe (Welcome Desk Supervisor), Joe Lucas (Learning Environment Team Leader) and Luke Ranger (Facilities Manager) – highlight three distinct phases in the Templeman’s pandemic timeline:
1) Panic stations (March-July 2020)
Jon: The IT & Library Support Desk had to move entirely online and quickly familarise ourselves with MS Teams and other remote working tools so we could advise others. The first lockdown was particularly busy in fielding calls, emails and online chats from students and staff grappling with remote-working and technology, all in the lead-up to exams!
2) Covid-proofing (July-December 2020)
Luke: As we planned how to re-open in line with Government guidance, we re-calculated our building capacity and implemented measures to promote safe movement and behaviour. This involved moving/removing furniture to create individual socially distanced study spaces, distributing signage to support a one-way system, and locking/cordoning off areas of risk (like unventilated group study rooms).
Joe: We adapted team operations, introducing work bubbles to limit the spread of Covid. We focused on fulfilling book fetch requests to ensure access to physical resources while limiting visitor footprint. We made retrievals twice daily, processing and storing requested items at a reservation pick-up in the Welcome Hall. We also introduced a 72-hour stock quarantine to delay items moving between users.
Sally: The Welcome Desk stripped everything back to essentials only, suspending our visitor services to prioritise student access to the Library, and switching our approach to advisory rather than hands-on. We handled a wider variety of queries, stretching our own knowledge base and encouraging students to be more self-sufficient.
Nick: We’ve added Perspex screens to the Support Desk and re-spaced the desks to reinforce social distancing for the safety of staff and customers. It’s also been exciting to explore new ways of improving our remote support through MS Teams.
3) The new normal (January-June 2021)
Joe: From September 2020, we noticed that quarantine had an impact on users, particularly in accessing high-demand items. So we increased our digital offering, reintroduced self-service shelf access and made adjustments to secure everyone’s safety and wellbeing. In response, students were complying with what was once considered unnatural: sitting a desk apart from their friend, studying with a mask and following a one-way system around the building.
How can colleagues make the most of library services?
As lockdown eases, we hope to gradually reintroduce our full range of services over the summer, as well as prepare for an effective Welcome Week. Our bookable study spaces are already available and we hope to reopen our popular Chill-Out Room by September.
If you’re visiting the Library, check out key updates on our website and a whiteboard in the Welcome Hall. We recommend using our online tools to check opening hours, building occupancy, and our catalogue. Library Search remains an invaluable resource, and our Library Collections colleagues have been busy adding more e-resources throughout the pandemic, so do use the filters to check if your book or journal is available online.
Other useful digital tools include our Software finder and E-resources A-Z. Why not check out BOB (Box of Broadcasts), a handy way to catch up on recent TV & radio, our recently-added collection from the National Theatre or Summer Reads chosen by colleagues from across the Library?
You can stay up to date by following our blog and social media channels. Our Support Desk is open through the summer (09:00-18:00 weekdays, 12:00-18:00 Saturdays), and you can reach us remotely during these hours by phone (01227 82 4999), email (email@example.com) or via the “Chat to us” that appears on most library webpages.
[Main image shows: Front Line Services staff (from left to right) including Christine Davies, Joe Lucas, Jon Peacock, Sally Vinicombe and Kaidi Goke]