Pandemic Diary: September 30th, 2020

Today is officially Day 199 of my working from home in self-isolation for my university library system, holding staff meetings in Microsoft Teams and conducting Libraries training sessions via Cisco Webex or Zoom, depending on the professor.

My work email routinely gets spam like the following (yes, we get librarian spam from publishers ALL THE TIME, but the pandemic has added a new wrinkle):

And, no, our university library system will not invest in a STERI-Book machine; our staff just handles all returned items wearing gloves and masks, and let them sit and air out until any potential coronavirus on the surface of the materials dies off, before they are reshelved or recirculate.

(You might be interested to know that REopening Archives, Libraries and Museums (REALM) is a research partnership between OCLC, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Battelle research laboratories to create and distribute science-based information and recommended practices designed to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 to staff and visitors who are engaging in the delivery or use of museum, library, and archival services.) 

Our physical collections are still off-limits to faculty, staff, and students (although they can search our online catalogue and request a book be sent to a hold locker for pick-up; most of our collections are online now, anyways), and all of our libraries are still closed. Two libraries have opened up only to provide study space for students, but only solitary studying (with proper social distancing) is allowed. Students cannot book the group study rooms, browse the stacks, or even ask a reference question in person!

All user queries are referred to our online chat reference system, which is staffed by Libraries employees throughout the day, into the evening, and on weekends, to get answers to their questions. I usually work one two-hour shift a week, safely ensconced at home, answering reference questions.

Our university president has already announced that, similar to our current Fall term, the upcoming Winter term (January-April 2021) at my university will be conducted online and remotely, with rare exceptions. What this means is that I will, once again, be working from home, much the same as I do now. I fully expect to reach Day 365 in my work-from-home odyssey! I remain grateful that I have the option to work at home; I know many people who don’t have the opportunity.

Even if we do discover viable COVID-19 vaccine candidates by the end of this year (which seems likely), there still remain the significant logistical hurdles of manufacturing sufficient quantities of any successful vaccine(s), and distributing them.

Additional, there will the fiendishly difficult process of determining policies and procedures for who gets the vaccine first, and who has to wait—which I fully expect will be politicized in some countries, with social-media-driven misinformation, disinformation, and conspiracy theories adding fuel to the fire. Throw in all the anti-vaxxer nonsense that was circulating even before the pandemic, and you’ve got a very disturbing situation. (I read somewhere recently that fully one-third of Americans will not get their children vaccinated for the flu this year, which is a basic, sensible precaution experts are recommending for everybody this year.)

I am very happy—nay, make that ecstatic!—to report that my new strategy of avoiding social media and the news media has been largely successful! For example, I have heard, only in the briefest of brief passing, that there was even a presidential debate taking place, and I remain blessedly ignorant of what happened, and all the resulting social media fallout. (Don’t tell me; I DO NOT WANT TO KNOW. I will be staying away from social media and the news media from now until after the U.S. federal election. I’d currently rather be ignorant than mired in anxiety, despair, and depression, triggered by whatever new low Donald Trump has managed to reach, thankyouverymuch kthxbai!)

The only exception to this rule are the Canadian and global coronavirus subReddits, where I can just pop in to get the latest headlines and then leave again, without getting tainted or infected by any other kind of news stories. So I will remain vigilant (as I have since this whole mess started in January) as to the latest developments in the coronavirus pandemic. (By the way, there’s also an excellent, science-based COVID-19 subReddit, which I can recommend to help you sift through all the latest scientific research articles.)

I will not lie; I am still struggling. With my underlying health conditions, I am still at a high risk of a severe case of COVID-19 if I should become infected. I worry about my brother’s family (all of whom work with the public), and my elderly mother and stepfather. I worry about my best friend John, who is in his sixties and still recovering from prostate cancer surgery.

But tomorrow, on Day 200 of my self-imposed exile in my apartment, I will wake up, and get out of bed. I will shave, shower and get dressed, I will brew a vat of black coffee (a 10-cup pot nowadays instead of 8!), and I will log in to my university email system and Microsoft Teams, ready to face whatever the day brings. I am choosing to focus on my work projects, which I have some degree of control over, and my blog, which I have complete control over, rather than continue to obsess about what is going on in the wider world that I have zero control over.

Stay healthy and stay sane! This will be a marathon.

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One thought on “Pandemic Diary: September 30th, 2020”

  1. Had to laugh at the idea of the steri-book machine. It sounds like the kind of thing thats aimed less at librarians and more at university managers and the people responsible for procurement. The sort of thing some well intentioned manager would buy up because it sounds like a good idea, go through all the hassle of having it delivered and installed, only for it to be used only occasionally or absolutely never. I mean I fail to see how it would even work – does it only go over the outside of the book, or does it have a mechanism to flip all the pages or something? Either way it seems like it wouldnt be thorough enough and would stilll require you to just leave them out of circulation for a few days anyway to let any viruses die off.

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