Saint Mary’s Library Focuses on Students Studying From Home Plus Pre-Finals Help

Books in libraryThe COVID-19 pandemic has presented distance-learning challenges to many students, but the Saint Mary’s Library has been going above and beyond to ensure students have access to resources to help them succeed. “We are still here, just as much as we have always been here,” said Dean of the Library and Academic Resources Lauren MacDonald. “When you’d walk into the library, there’d be people at the front desk, and then there would be a librarian at the reference desk. They're still there; they’re just there virtually,” MacDonald added.

The library has compiled a list of Remote Library Resources for SMC on its website, which includes resources that have always been available to students, such as the Library Catalog, databases, Research Guides, and FAQs. In addition, the Saint Mary’s Library has developed a plan of action in response to campus closure on its website, outlining the extra steps it is taking to make information accessible to students learning from home.

While the physical library is closed due to COVID-19, library staff still provide all research and reference support remotely through chat, text, email, and Zoom on Mondays–Thursdays, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Fridays, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Saturdays, from 11a.m. to 1p.m. and 2 to 5 p.m.; and Sundays, from 2 to 5 p.m. and 6 to 8:30 p.m.

For pre-finals and finals week, the library is launching a Research Help Zoom Room. Librarians will be providing research help live in a Zoom room during regular reference hours, so students can just drop in and talk to a librarian like they would at the reference desk. Instructions on how to join the Research Help Zoom Room will be posted on the library website on Tuesday, May 12. Students can also continue to get research help via chat, text, and email.

In addition, since students cannot physically access the library services, all library item due dates have been extended, and late fees are being waived so that students can hold onto any library items until it is safe to return them. While book drop-offs are still open, students are encouraged to keep their books until it is safe to return them, as books and other materials can carry the virus for several days after contact.

Since many Saint Mary’s students depend on library resources to access information for their research projects and reading materials for courses, library staff members have been working to make these available to students from home. If a professor needs pages from a textbook scanned for a course, he/she can fill out a textbook scanning request form, and the library will make the material available to every student in class through Moodle. Students who need pages from a textbook scanned can request it through their professor, and if they need a book from the library collection, they can request it through ILLiad.

“We have had over a thousand pages scanned in the first week, and at least seven people were scanning pages,” said Publishing Services and Subject Specialist Librarian Shannon Meaney-Ryer. “It’s all hands on deck.”

Librarians also still provide instruction through library research classes via Zoom. Professors can schedule a library research class by contacting subject librarians through the library website.

Information Literacy Librarian Gina Kessler Lee shared her experience transitioning to only online library services. “There’s been a lot of us that have been adjusting to learning Zoom. I’ve spent a lot of hours…learning how to adjust my pedagogy or my teaching practices for an online environment, especially when, for some students, I know it’s harder to participate.”

The library has worked hard to alert students about all of the many adjustments it has made through email and social media. The library staff has been active on its YouTube page and in creating tutorials to help students access materials, including how to use ILLiad or how to access the library website off campus. Students can also stay updated on library changes by following it on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.  

The Saint Mary’s librarians also advise students struggling with completing online classes and schoolwork from home. Lee suggests that students who enjoyed the library’s quiet schedule study times with their friends and classmates over Zoom. “I think study groups can be really good for accountability,” she said. She also recommends “making your own space that’s comfortable, that’s maybe separate from where you sleep or eat if you can do that, to really get in the zone.”

To manage stress while doing schoolwork from home, Meaney-Ryer recommends “setting a timer every hour to get up and stretch, or taking a break every two hours. That’s very important—maybe going for a walk for five minutes.” She suggests “getting out there, breathing some air, coming back, and having a fresh mind,” she said. MacDonald recommends that students add structure to their days by trying bullet journaling and making lists of things to do each day. “It feels therapeutic to say, ‘Yes, I accomplished these things,’ ” she added.

Students who find themselves with additional time on their hands can search local public library websites, said Lee, which are also making more books and streaming services available to users online.

As much as the COVID-19 pandemic has presented the Saint Mary’s community with challenges, it has demonstrated the library’s dedication to students and their success. “I think many of these practices will be sustained and adapted now to how we help students and faculty,” expressed MacDonald. “The important thing to recognize in all of this is our focus always has been and continues to be to help the students, and to be there for students and work with you on your research, and help you be successful in your classes. However we have to do that, we’re going to do it.”