A university’s library is the center of campus life. It’s where lives change as students study their way to achieving their dreams. It’s a place of respite from loud roommates so students can hear themselves think.
It’s where friends meet to offer each other support, many building lifelong friendships.
But like so much in life right now, the pandemic changed that. The library doors closed, and Pollak’s faculty and staff scrambled to open virtually. It hasn’t been easy. How do you move a building of resources online and quickly? The Pollak faculty and staff found a way.
Cotton Coslett is Pollak’s Online Learning Librarian. He creates websites, tutorials, guides, videos, and more for the library, other librarians, and instructors. He admits that the transition during the pandemic has been anxiety-inducing, but it’s also provided some unexpected opportunities, especially since online learning is his area of expertise.
“It was a chance to really try out what I’d been working on with a much larger audience,” said Coslett. “One thing I’ve been especially proud of is the level of dedication shown by everyone involved, from the faculty to the students to the special services, everyone has rolled up their sleeves and worked to make sure that we are ready to serve the CSUF community.”
Coslett is also the liaison with the Nursing and Public Health program. He meets with students every week who are working on the front lines of the pandemic.
“Sometimes I meet with a nursing student who is spending their lunch break from a doctor’s office in their car talking to me in the parking lot,” Coslett said. “It means a lot to me that I can be helpful to anyone working that hard through this.”
Michaela Keating, the Open Educational Resources Librarian, goes the extra mile to help students whenever possible. “My normal working hours went out the window sometime in April or May,” said Keating.
Keating serves as the Subject Librarian to the Women’s & Gender Studies and Liberal Studies departments, and the Queer Studies Program and the LGBTQ Resource Center. She also works with faculty to find open and zero-cost materials in place of traditional textbooks that can be expensive, a service that’s needed now more than ever.
“As the majority of instruction shifted to remote, I knew faculty would need even more support finding alternatives to costly textbooks,” Keating said. “We all knew our students were hurting from pandemic-related layoffs, and I spent the majority of my summer reaching out to faculty and offering support to zero-cost and open educational resources as easy to adopt as possible.”
Collection Development and Management Librarian, Keri Prelitz, monitors the collection and the materials budget for Pollak. She’s proud and grateful to be part of a team that successfully navigated so many unknowns as the pandemic unfolded.
“It was with serious consideration that the library decided to close,” said Prelitz. “And much preparation and weighing of perspectives and recommendations has gone into the decision on how best to re-open. In many ways, we were in a better position as our library has had a focus on e-materials for a long time.”
On a personal note, a positive that has come out of the pandemic is that her 4-year-old twin boys stopped fighting.
“Being without their other friends has really forced them to bond and appreciate each other and their differences. I wish this was the takeaway for the rest of society, to look out for each other, be kind and empathetic.”
Pollak Library Dean, Dr. Emily Bonney, says she’s incredibly proud of how her faculty and staff have met the transition challenges. Simply reading what her team accomplished is exhausting.
“They supported the FDC in training faculty for a virtual environment, started getting print materials to patrons faster than almost any other library in the system, digitized almost 200 films for faculty in preparation for the fall, arranged a locker system for book withdrawal and return, and oversaw the installation and implementation of a new system for class reading lists,” said Dr. Bonney. “In addition, they moved hundreds of thousands of books in a full-court press to get all the library collections back to where people could get them, and they supported the creation of the study area on the first floor north. They are an amazing team.”
For Coslett, he’s hoping that at this time next year, he’ll be back in the library working with students, going to lunch with colleagues, and visiting his parents. And if there’s another world pandemic a hundred years from now, he has some words of wisdom for those in the future.
“Pay attention to the past! There are so many lessons from the pandemic of 1918 that were completely ignored because people think that what happened a hundred years ago wouldn’t be effective. But they were pleading with people to wear masks and wash their hands back then, just like they are now. Also, listen to your public health officials and make sure you take care of yourself.”