COVID-19 is like nothing that ever happened to the world before. Just a few weeks after it outburst in the country, we were told to start work from home. No one expected to work from home for so long under such strict rules.
Right before the library was closed, the metadata librarians came together for a couple of hours to brain storm what work to do at home and what we need to support those jobs. There are three librarians in our unit, one metadata librarian, one chief cataloger and one digital initiative metadata librarian. We almost immediately came up with a list of things that can be brought home, such as batch loading MARC records, cataloging digital collections, creating metadata records for digital collections, ect. And of course we can always spend time on our research agenda items. Then we started to think for our staff members. We have two staff members working on maintaining the e-books database to support Textbook Affordability Project. It is very easy for them to take the work home. On copy catalog team, there is one staff member usually mainly working on print materials. He will need new tasks to work on in this situation. He is very familiar MARC records and OCLC Connexion. We quickly decided he can work on correcting our holding information in our local ILS. The project will get our catalog records clean and ready to be migrated into the new ILS system, yes, we are moving to a new ILS system soon. On our preservation team, one member is busy with the same project as well. She is very well covered for a substantial amount of time. The other member, though, needs new tasks and needs to be trained. One of the digital collections projects required move data from a spreadsheet to standardized metadata worksheet. We thought this could be a good task for him since this task doesn’t require high computer skills nor high metadata/cataloging skills. It’s basically a data crosswalking project that the team member can feel comfortable to take over. Thus far, we have established a good starting point for all of our team member in the metadata/catalog unit. As for our collections, 99% of the collection is e-resource now and we have only tiny bit of print materials coming in as printed materials. In an emergency situation, the onsite essential staff members will help to mail those materials to us and they did it for us one time.
So far, we have covered all of our team members with tasks. Then we started to think what support they will need. The university has provided the official communication tool, Microsoft Teams, on top of the email system. This tool will be used to support online meetings, quick chats and team work collaborations. The university also provided the cloud-based file storage and share space through Box. For some of our team members, they need to install OCLC Connexion, library ILS (Aleph), MarcEdit, etc on their individual machines. With all software installed, we all felt confident that we can work from home and still be productive. Before we left, we updated our phone tree to make sure that we will for sure be in touch.
Transitioning in work-from-home mode did take us a little bit time. We are used to the office working environment so much that working remotely feels strange. But we tried to be flexible with ourselves, gave everyone some time to settle in and adjusted working styles to fit the situation. After about two weeks, we all started to feel more comfortable with the new working style.
Once more and more voice saying the new normalcy after COVID-19 will be forever different than before. I am wondering if the workflow in metadata/cataloging will be different afterwards and more and more tasks can be remotely done. Will it impact how we hire and organize our team in the future? Will it impact the wanted skillsets for metadata/cataloging team in the future?
Establishing and transitioning to the new normalcy will be our next big question.