After months of lockdown during which most print-based workflows were interrupted, many of the Duke University Libraries Technical Services staff recently returned to glorious Smith Warehouse as part of Phase II of the Return to Work plan:
We are pleased to report that almost immediately our working lives went back to normal, with no inconveniences, disruptions, slowdowns, or meltdowns!
Or, wait, let me check my notes…
That is not what happened. In fact, like all DUL staff we have had to change almost everything about how we do our work in order to continue to get resources to our patrons while maximizing safety for our staff.
Only about 50% of our staff were approved to return to Smith. Included were only those whose work involves the processing of incoming physical material for Duke Libraries’ collections and by necessity must be done on-site. This included members of:
Continuing Resource Acquisitions
In advance of the staff’s return, Tech Services department heads reviewed the workstation layout in Bays 9 & 10, reconfiguring it like callous deities so that we could have at least one vacant cubicle on all sides of any single occupied workstation. In some cases, this meant that we had to uproot our staff from their comfy, familiar desks and send them somewhere new:
In addition to creating physical buffers between workers, we have somewhat staggered our schedules to minimize the number of people on site on any given day:
Once we had everyone spaced out appropriately (no double meaning intended), we established quarantining procedures in keeping with the DUL Protocols for Collections Handling.
Incoming freight is quarantined for 48 hours before being transferred to our box-opening area for unpacking:
Meeting rooms have been re-appropriated as quarantining and staging areas:
But what of the Catalogers, ask ye? (Ye were about to ask, weren’t ye?) Well, the Monographic and Serials Cataloging staff is currently working entirely remotely. We have set up a contactless system for each Cataloger to pick up boxes of books to take home for description on a regular basis. The boxes are quarantined for 48 hours before being released to staff and upon return:
The above-described space and process changes have been disruptive to the level of efficiency we have come to expect from ourselves, it must be said. And returning staff experienced heightened anxiety, having to acclimate to new routines in the midst of an already stressful RTW process. But taking the time to implement these changes systematically has allowed us quickly to resume the important work of getting books, periodicals, CDs, and DVDs out to the shelves and into the hands of our patrons. We’re pleased to report that freight shipments to Smith have resumed and that, having settled into our new routines, we’re up and running at speed now.
Sadly, though, our weekly Tech Services bathroom parties are now on indefinite hiatus: