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Library Quarterly Report FY21 Q4: April-June 2021

A new chapter: Libraries Adapt to COVID-19


uring months 14-16 of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic library staff awaited guidance on "reconstitution" of the VTRC workforce. While COVID cases nationally and in Virginia leveled out last quarter and decreased each month this quarter (reaching their lowest levels since June of 2020) we remain optimistic but realistic.

On May 18, VDOT Commissioner Brich updated employees on COVID precautions, noting that in alignment with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam lifted the universal indoor mask mandate, which meant fully vaccinated VDOT employees no longer needed to wear a face covering at work. Unvaccinated employees were still required to wear a face covering and were encouraged to get vaccinated. All other precautions (including self-screening, supervisor notifications and social distancing) remained in place through June 1, at which point VDOT implemented Stage Three, Part 2 of the VDOT Reopening Plan.


This incremental shift is likely to play a role in how VDOT employees return to office spaces, which may play a role in how patrons who have borrowed library materials ship them back. Since the pandemic started we have seen dramatically increased "renewals" for overdue books, which we speculate is being driven by patrons who are not "back at the office" on a regular basis (where items can be freely and easily shipped), and who don't want to pay for shipping out of their pocket.  


This quarter Gil Kenner joined Barb Neyman in "solo-staffing" the library one day a week. Barb returned one day a week last quarter. Becky Ernest and Ken Winter continue working remotely. In-person activities at the library have been almost non-existent since the pandemic started. On multiple occasions we have relied on help from a non-staffer at VTRC to locate an item, scan a resource or do similar library tasks. While library collections have remained well organized, some processes (Eg. reshelving) have been postponed. As staff return to the library they will have some clean-up chores.


Also Worth Noting: 

  • Late payment to UPS caused all VTRC shipping to cease temporarily, a similar issue related to procurement of services VDOT has struggled with during the pandemic. Shipping was only down one week.
  • Zscaler secure cloud access software (implemented last April to allow remote access for teleworkers without VPN) was replaced suddenly with Prisma Global Protect on April 7th and seems to be working much more smoothly.
  • In June VDOT lifted the COVID-19 protocols that restrict walk-in visitors at VDOT offices and other public-facing facilities, though this adjustment had little change on operations at the VDOT Research Library or VTRC.

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