While 2020 will be a year forever marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, for the staff at Milne Library, 2020 will be marked as the year we suddenly and unexpectedly vacated our beloved library in response to the discovery of asbestos, occupied and made Sturges Hall our temporary station, and transitioned all services to virtual to keep students, faculty, and ourselves safe during the pandemic.
2021 began with another move, this one to Fraser Hall, our temporary home until Milne Library reopens in 2024. In 2021, we also welcomed our print and physical collections back. We received, organized, shelved, shifted, and relabelled materials from the College Archives and Special Collections, Teacher Education Resource Center collection, main circulating collection, media, and microfilm collections. We eagerly prepared for the return of students and faculty for the Fall 2021 semester.
This timeline represents the story of Milne Library, 2020 to the fall of 2021. The staff would like to share our story, with all its challenges and successes, with the College community.
Library staff were informed of the discovery of asbestos on the third floor of Milne Library. Shortly afterwards, the staff was told that everyone must vacate the building for the next couple of days while further testing was done. Staff gathered their coats and boots, materials needed for the next few days of work, and in the case of our Special Collections Librarian, several boxes worth of archival materials, and trudged to the College Union. For the rest of the day, library staff occupied two conference rooms in the Union and worked. Soon afterward, the library staff learned that Milne..Read more and view photos
Library staff occupied Fraser Hall until a more long-term location on campus was found. In those first few days, library staff scrambled to give direction and provide documentation on alternative sources for print resources that were now locked inside Milne Library. Library staff had the chance to request that personal belongings and materials necessary for long-term work outside of the library could be retrieved from Milne. Staff members requested that basic materials be retrieved, such as print files and folders, label supplies for books, physical materials that were in process, and materials used for research skills instruction. Staff requested that..Read more and view photos
Library staff worked tirelessly to develop and update research guides for directing patrons to other locations for collections, as well as new methods to contact staff for research consultations and instruction. The Library website was updated daily, sometimes hourly, and a new Milne Project page was created as a central point of contact and information. Library patrons were directed to contact Wadsworth Library and the Livingston County Historical Society, and make use of interlibrary loan services. Library staff made contact with other libraries in the region that also had teacher education collections to set up borrowing agreements so SUNY Geneseo..Read more and view photos
Within a few days of learning that the asbestos in Milne would result in an indefinite closure of the building, the Library’s Leadership Team started touring available spaces to temporarily house library services. One of these spaces was an office suite on the main floor of Sturges Hall. This space was most recently occupied by AOP, who were actively moving to Blake Hall at the time.
In the coming days, additional walkthroughs of the selected space in Sturges took place to plan locations for library staff and services. Of note, the Leadership Team needed to find locations for 25 staff members, the Service Desk, Course Reserve Collection, CIT HelpDesk, Writing Learning Center, Research Help Desk, and the Mail room for shipping / receiving purposes.
While library staff continued to process interlibrary loan requests for electronic journal articles throughout the duration of the Library’s closure, the sending and receiving of books and other items for IDS was interrupted. With Fraser being centrally located on campus and without a loading dock, library staff worked with campus Central Stores to coordinate continued shipping and receiving of library materials through the mail. On January 16, 2020, IDS courier services resumed, restoring a vital library service to the campus. Prior to the closure, the Library had employed approximately 60 student workers. The move to a significantly smaller location meant..Read more and view photos
Facilities delivered the entirety of the Library’s Reserve Collection (approximately 1,000 books), with the goal of having materials ready for checkout by the first day of classes. This collection was among the highest priority of items to be retrieved from the Library, as this relatively small collection regularly accounted for more than 50% of all physically circulated items.
By the first day of the semester, nearly all library services were operational, and library staff members were moved into their new Sturges offices. While the closure of Milne was deeply upsetting to students, faculty, and staff across the campus, resuming operations in such a short period of time was the result of a truly immense amount of time and effort by library staff, Facilities Services, state contractors, and the campus administration.
With rising concerns about a number of different campus issues at the start of the Spring 2020 semester, SUNY Geneseo Administration held an open forum to hear concerns from students. The Library was represented by Alana Nuth, Milne’s Head of Collection Management.
Even as library staff were getting settled in Sturges, and students and faculty were getting used to the temporary library “situation” brought on by the discovery of asbestos in Milne, news of COVID-19 was catching the attention of the world—and the campus. By the beginning of March 2020, unprecedented shutdowns were taking place throughout the United States and the rest of the world and across all sectors of society, including academia. On March 5, 2020, President Battles sent a message updating the campus community about preparations being made on campus, urging everyone “to remain calm as we learn more about..Read more and view photos
The week of March 9, 2020 brought a flurry of messages from the President, Provost, HR, Campus Communications, CIT, and other offices, as well as the Governor, SUNY, and our unions. All led to the same eventuality—the campus would be transitioning to all-remote learning after the spring break, and students should plan on not being able to return to campus. Libraries started preparing for transition to electronic delivery, limiting collection access, services, and resources to be online-only.
Two additional open forums were held by the Library in conjunction with Campus Auxiliary Services and the campus administration to gather input from students on a proposed Library move to Fraser Hall. Stakeholders wanted to hear what sorts of seating options and supplemental services students hoped to see in a long-term temporary library space in Fraser 203.
On March 12, 2020, Alana Nuth, the Library’s head of Collection Management reminded faculty that educational videos were available to stream from Films on Demand and Academic Video Online, which the Library subscribes to. Alana and Bill Jones, our Digital Systems & Electronic Resources Librarian, also fully switched our collections to be electronic or online-only.
The campus was closing down. The morning of Tuesday, March 17, 2020, was the last time library staff gathered for a meeting in Sturges. Immediately afterward, staff packed up their work things, completed the necessary forms for working from home, and left. For the remainder of the spring semester, at least, the Research Instruction, Collection Management, Information Technology, and Administration units would transition entirely to remote work.
On March 20, 2020, the Library’s head of Collection Management notified faculty that, for the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester, Milne Library would be purchasing electronic books and streaming access to films rather than print books or DVDs, and included a link to a purchase request form for titles the Library did not already have access to.
Research Instruction librarians, along with the rest of Geneseo’s teaching faculty, prepared to make the switch to remote instruction. CIT provided webinars, tutorials, guides, and other assistance for getting up to speed with Canvas, Zoom, and other technologies useful for teaching online. Our Library IT/Web Services Developer, Leah Root created Zoom Asynchronous and Synchronous options for Library Instruction requests in our custom Library DataPortal web application and database system. Library Instruction continued in this mode through the Spring and Fall 2020 semester.
As an alternative to in-person research help drop-in hours, Research Instruction librarians provided research help services to students and faculty using virtual chat and the Library’s Ask a Question form, a service that directs patrons to submit a question which would be answered via email. Students were still able to meet face-to-face with librarians for more involved research consultations, but the meetings would be conducted virtually. Initially, Google Hangouts or G-Chat were the options offered, because students had access to these platforms without the need for any new technology. Not long afterward, when the College purchased a “deluxe” Zoom subscription,..Read more and view photos
During the Remote Learning Period (Spring 2020 Semester), the Library would continue to provide access to journal articles and books that could be delivered electronically, via its Information Delivery Services (IDS). Due dates were extended for books that had been borrowed, either from Milne or from other libraries via IDS, prior to the campus closing.
Library ITS set up a separate Answers Queue for students asking how to return books, and posted method returns on our website and social media. The book drop bin, located outside Sturges Hall, was closed on March 22, 2020. It would be reopened on May 13, 2020, to accommodate students returning to campus in pre-scheduled time slots to move out the rest of their belongings—and hopefully return borrowed library materials. Access Services staff began coming periodically to campus to empty the bin and put the books into quarantine in Sturges.
Librarians planned for the inevitable reduction of the main circulating collection. Using data gathered from the current library catalog and data harvested from the previous system, as well as a holdings analysis conducted by SUNY Library Services to identify which titles had few or zero holdings within SUNY, librarians put together several scenarios to share with campus project stakeholders. Regardless of which scenario was selected, the collection would have to be reduced in size to fit into any temporary location on campus while Milne Library underwent abatement and renovation. The College Archives and Special Collections and the TERC collection would..Read more and view photos
Starting in June 2020, eight library staff members began a project to flag more than 100,000 books, using blue painter’s tape, to indicate which books in the main circulating collection should be cleaned of asbestos and retrieved from Milne Library. The 100,000 books were selected based on circulation history, date of publication, availability among SUNY libraries, local and regional value, date of purchase by the Library, and titles selected by faculty for retention. Armed with dozens of rolls of painter’s tape, clipboards, lists, and pencils, the staff visited Milne daily for the next two and a half months to apply..Read more and view photos
The Library was still in its temporary location in Sturges when the Fall 2020 semester began. Most of the staff were still working from home, but some—notably, Access Services staff—were spending part of their time working in Sturges (it was a “hybrid” semester, after all). Even though limited, there was a small physically circulating collection available (the flagged books and items), electronic versions of items were available, and instruction and consultations were ongoing.
The Library still held events, though entirely virtual. Our Library collaborated with the Anthropology Department to create a Student Virtual Art Gallery exhibit in August 2020. Our Library Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity committee held an online Human Books series in September 2020, interviewing students and members of the campus community with diverse backgrounds. We also held our annual Geneseo Authors celebration virtually, with congratulatory videos from our Provost and President in November 2020. We created a site displaying published works by faculty, staff, and students from 2020, including links to the works’ DOI and online access.
Meanwhile, over in Fraser Hall… Plans for renovating the third-floor space were finalized and crews began the work of transforming the place into a proper library, one that would aim to provide all the services students were used to (including an on-site café!) as well as adequate workspaces for staff. In December 2020, library staff began moving out of Sturges and into their Fraser Hall space. Units coordinated their moving days with each other, again to minimize contact, but also to avoid too much competition for the boxes, book carts, and elevators involved. Historically, Fraser Hall was used as a..Read more and view photos
Students returning to campus at the start of the Spring 2021 semester were welcomed to the “new” Fraser Hall Library. The books were still in Milne, and seating capacity was limited (COVID!), but students came just the same—some to access reserve materials, some to seek research help, and many to study in the bright, cheerful space.
Crews were now turning their efforts toward installing shelving in Fraser’s closed stacks area (as well as in Schrader), in preparation for the much-anticipated books that would soon be moved from Milne. Planning and Construction secured two locations to store print books for the duration of the Library’s occupancy of Fraser Hall: the former periodicals room in Fraser Hall (Fraser 210) and a satellite location in Schrader Hall. Books would be requestable in the library catalog (GLOCAT) and library staff would retrieve materials and make them available for checkout at the Service Desk. In preparation, the former periodicals room was..Read more and view photos
After much anticipation and space planning, print books and other physical materials from Milne were cleaned of asbestos and delivered to Fraser and Schrader Halls. Materials from the College Archives and Special Collections arrived first as these items required the greatest care. Researchers were notified as soon as materials were available, as these collections had been inaccessible to users for more than a year. Books were delivered to Fraser Hall on book trucks twice a day. Library staff worked furiously to unload the books onto shelves so the asbestos contractors could bring the empty trucks with them back to Milne..Read more and view photos
After all collections were received from Milne Library, the library staff worked to sort books and shelve them into their proper location, scan barcodes of books in the main and TERC collections to ensure an accurate inventory, and shift all books in all collections so each area in the collection occupied a footprint that would accommodate current holdings and allow space for future growth. This phase of the project took the longest, and required a great deal of space planning to measure and mark where each collection and each Library of Congress class and subclass would be located in the..Read more and view photos
While many library staff members were still working mainly from home—providing remote library instruction and research assistance, processing IDS requests, etc.—as the semester progressed some staff started to spend more time in their campus offices, settling in and getting used to providing socially distanced and masked service. In July 2021, along with the rest of campus, library staff returned to campus to work from their Fraser Hall offices.
In August 2021, the College re-opened its public buildings and areas to the non-college public, and many of the Library’s “regulars” were very happy to be back using the facilities, accessing Special Collections materials, or just enjoying the atmosphere. Soon they would be able to borrow circulating materials as well. Books, DVDs, CDs, and the like from the Library’s circulating collection are available for loan simply by clicking on the “Pick Up at Fraser” button in GLOCAT to have them retrieved and held at the Service Desk for pickup. Although the book stacks are not open, users can still Browse..Read more and view photos
Research Instruction librarians are back to interacting in-person with students and other researchers, with drop-in research help hours Monday through Friday in Fraser 203A (the Research Instruction office) or by appointment (for more in-depth research assistance). The librarians are also providing in-the-classroom instruction again. Throughout our unprecedented events, our Research Instructions Librarians provided excellent service, whether remotely or in various temporary locations. From January 2020 through December 2021, our Librarians taught 481 Instruction sessions and had 1986 consultations, question sessions, and scheduled appointments.
Fall 2021 finds Fraser Hall Library in nearly full operational mode: all the collections that were brought over from Milne in the spring are accessible; staff are interacting face-to-face (masked and socially distanced) with students, faculty, and each other; and students are filling the seats. Here we will continue to provide ever-improving service as, across the quad and up the hill a bit, the Milne Library building undergoes its major renovation, aiming for a truly grand reopening in Fall 2024. Fraser Hall Library Open House, February 2022 In the meantime, the Teacher Education Resource Collection (TERC) occupies the back section..Read more and view photos