Lee Rowe, Toi Ohomai Library Manager explains, ‘Our staff are longer employed by Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology, but are now employed by Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology Limited’. There is no change to any employment terms and conditions.
Supporting library users
We have taken extra steps for staff to work remotely from home – e.g. before the lockdown staff were provided with equipment such as laptops, monitors, headsets, office chairs to work from home. We have set up a roster to answer email and phone queries from home, and our faculty librarians can provide video call support for students. This has been promoted to students and staff to ensure they know we are still “open for business”. We are working closely with other student support services and our marketing team to ensure an integrated and cohesive support service. We have extended the due date items on loan, and suspended all notices such as reminders and overdues.
We are working on providing digital or other alternatives to required resources that are in print format and developing additional online guides. Many of our suppliers have extended access to their resources – for example offering unlimited licences to e-books, or in some case free access to a suite of resources. We are currently working through the technical tasks to get that set up and then promote to students and staff. Our library system is Koha and our support company Catalyst IT have also offered a range of extra support at no cost.
In terms of working from home, we recognise the highly unusual circumstances we are living through and that normal work hours don’t apply. We have emphasised to staff and encouraged them to build in whānau and wellbeing time into their “work” hours– this can include exercise, games, mindfulness or meditation, spending time with families or pets in their bubbles, watching online public library storytimes with their children, connecting to other family members and friends remotely, essential trips to the supermarket, or reading/learning activities.
For those staff that don’t have much “normal” work tasks to do, we have put together a list of suggested free online learning activities which include library and information skills, technology skills, Te Reo and Tikanga courses, wellbeing activities such as mindfulness, meditation, yoga videos.
I am forwarding all LIANZA communications to the team so they are in touch with their association.
We have set up a team Facebook page, and our institution also as a virtual staffroom on Facebook, so there are lots of opportunities for social connection. One of my teams have set up a weekly Skype get together at 3 pm on Fridays over a glass of wine. We are providing at least daily updates to the team via email and Facebook, and my team leaders are keeping in touch with staff via phone or video calling.
Adrian Jenkins: As busy as ever – My experience as a Polytechnic subject librarian during the COVID-19 lockdown
We all have so much time to binge watch Netflix, do home projects, do lots of jigsaws and play board games says the media. Yeah right, I say. As a Polytechnic subject librarian, I’m as busy as ever. Our campuses may be closed, but after classes at Unitec were cancelled for four days from March 24 to 27, our students have come back this week (from March 30) with classes happening via technology such as Zoom & Echo360.
A key part of role is to teach information literacy skills to students. On March 25, I was scheduled to do a session with students studying Construction Procurement, guiding them with searching for and finding support information to back up their recommendations for a particular construction procurement model that they would recommend for a building project. This session required quite a lot of preparation as in addition to recommending the best procurement method, the students had an extra part of their assignment where they had to assess what would change in their recommendations if they were involved in a project built on Māori land. That required me to go and find that information, so that I could guide students. The face-to-face class session ended up being cancelled and so I had to put my content onto two videos instead. There started the challenges. If any of you have recorded sessions to video before, you will know that if you make too big a mistake in your speaking, it is usually best to start again. I also had to ensure that I had the right pages open on my screen at the beginning and during my video recording. Talking at a moderate pace (slower than in a classroom) was also necessary, as was breaking the lesson up into two so that the videos were not too long. It didn’t help that I had a version of the Echo360 personal capture software that was no longer supported.
On Friday 27 March, I recorded the two videos, but couldn’t upload them to the web because the older software doesn’t support https. On Monday March 30, with some help from our academic advisors, I finally got the new software downloaded but then had to re-record my videos from scratch. That took most of the day on Monday, and I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I finished. This task was really dominating my thinking so that I couldn’t take on much more.
We are now having daily catch-up meetings each morning via Skype for Business with my team and if students need 1:1 help, we are setting up Zoom meetings to meet with them virtually. During this lockdown period, the very short commute (from bedroom to home office - about 30 steps) has been nice, particularly as an Aucklander, but getting used to these new ways of working has been tiring. As of April 1, we change to working for a new limited liability Crown company as a subsidiary of the nationwide New Zealand Institute of Skills & Technology (NZIST) (working title). While there will likely be little change for a while, we will have to see how that plays out.
I realise that for many of my colleagues in other library sectors, your physical libraries being closed likely significantly hinders the services you can offer. For me, as a polytechnic librarian, I am fortunate that I can do most of my work from home. This situation has been good in that I’ve learned more about how to support students when they are not physically on campus, but I will be glad to return to normal when we can.
Unitec New Zealand Limited
Adrian also wrote a poem reflecting on his experience of being a polytechnic librarian during the lockdown:
I sit within my chalet in the sun,
It's time to rest now the cleaning is done;
It was an extra task to do as my cleaners normally make this place new.
I am now working full time from home,
On Skype and Zoom and often Chrome;
My workload has not dropped at all,
I must be available if students call.
It's lucky I'm an introvert
If I wasn't, this lockdown would hurt.
It's not too bad, though it's not a hoot,
At least I'm loving my short commute.
I have a class to teach this week
to guide students on their searching technique,
To help them find the info they need
And so to see them all succeed.
Teaching online is now the way
And I'm learning to do that everyday,
I must now record myself to screen,
(I must make sure that I look pristine!).
To meet online is a new thing too,
To meet up with my friendly crew;
To share ideas and discuss new knowledge
That's coming from managers at our college.
Stay inside, save lives is the message here,
And make sure that no-one is near.
We can only go out to exercise,
Or go to get essential supplies.
We will get through, I'm sure of it,
although to some fear I will admit;
But until that time back with everyone,
I'll stay here in my chalet in the sun.
©Adrian Jenkins, March 2020.