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Library Quarterly Report FY20 Q4: April-June 2020

A new chapter: Libraries Adapt to COVID-19


he library has done an admirable job adapting to the most difficult conditions seen since workforce reductions from VDOT's Blueprint reorganization in 2009. Staff effectively shifted to full-time telework (Ken Winter has been a full-time teleworker for 10 years and two of the three other staffers have teleworked occasionally) and as each of us has developed strategies that worked in our home environments, we made progress finding our "new normal." That has allowed us to shift back to the business of serving our customers, who have been appreciative and steady users of library collections and services. However, each week seems like a roller coaster ride with new challenges we've never faced before. Patience, empathy, communication and a sense of humor have helped us maintain esprit de corps.

To our advantage, most of our core functions have been "virtual" for years: the Library Catalog went online in 2007, subscription databases have been accessible to anyone with a Virtual Library Card since 2014, LibAnswers and LibChat were unveiled in 2015, and LibGuides CMS and the Library's public Website in 2016. Here are a some things we've noticed since the library closed to patrons and library staff started working from home:

  • We miss seeing our patrons and they miss visiting the library, and everyone at VTRC misses direct access to the 60,000-volume print collection and commonly used office resources.
  • We miss seeing each other in person! Our weekly staff meeting is held online and we use internal library chat tools an our LibAnswers online ticketing system all day every day, but it is not the same.
  • We have experienced a lot of challenges related to IT, which is understandable considering the workload and challenges IT professionals face. Adequate IT support will be critical in the coming months.
  • We have experienced delays in procurement (especially routine contract renewals for databases). These agency-wide challenges have been exacerbated by the fact that some invoices were overdue prior to the pandemic. Multiple times library accounts have been shut off, causing delays in document delivery to patrons.

We've shifted priorities to address new challenges, but suspect the full effects of the pandemic are yet to be seen and the new normal may not look exactly like the old normal.

VDOT IT Adds Zscaler Authentication In Attempt To Improve Connectivity
In April VDOT IT pushed the authentication software Zscaler to VDOT laptops in an attempt to shift network loads from a bottlenecked VPN in an effort to connect agency employees to applications and resources on the VDOT network. While Zscaler got many teleworking employees back on the VDOT network, they had little documentation or instruction on its use, and Zscaler had known drawbacks. One drawback is that it blocks many frequently used Web sites. The library fielded a number of questions from patrons attempting to use Zscaler to access subscription databases.

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