Why librarianing from home during the coronavirus outbreak is like… a chair cushion

Hello! How are you all doing? Mostly okay? I’m mostly okay. I mean it’s weird isn’t it. I’m in the upstairs box room, perched on a wobbly old kitchen chair with my feet resting on an ancient Försiktig footstool. If I’d known when I left my library in March that I would still be at home in May I’d have pocketed my mouse. And my small keyboard.

Hindsight hey?! Very naively, I thought I’d be back in 6 weeks. Tops. Definitely, I’d be back by the end of semester. That’s why I didn’t put that much effort into fashioning a chair cushion. I made do with what was knocking about the house. And what was knocking about the house was an old apron and some foam chips that had previously filled a threadbare square of yellow fluff that had at one time passed as cutting edge home decor. I guess things were different in the 1970s.

It was the same with work. I, and indeed we, were making do with the stuff that we already had. Those subscriptions that had served us perfectly adequately when we had access to our physical collections. Fairly quickly though, it became apparent that this was much longer term.

That’s when I looked into making a much sturdier filling for my cushion pad. Long term, my bony bum would require more padding.

Seat cushion on wooden chair. The cushion is made from fabric covered in cartoon images of cats.
Seat cushion version 1.2 (released late April 2020)

Long term, our subscriptions need padding. Expanding.

I was at USTLG today. Whilst there, attendees were polled:

Have you been buying more eresources recently?

97.8% of us replied yes.

Yes, we’ve been buying more eresources.

But if you look at the discussion on Twitter you can see that it’s not yes, we’ve been allocated more budget to expand our collections, but yes we’ve spent remaining budgets on e instead of print. Maybe, we’ve all also been working our keyboards loose on massive spreadsheets in order to select, highlight and promote the new free stuff that is also available.

But what happens next? What happens at the end of June when all the free stuff goes? I can’t be the only one supporting subjects where some key texts are only available in print. Do I go back onto campus with a long list of books that are only available in print so that I can scan them at home? Obviously, if I could go back in time I would not ask but TELL Past Penny to pocket her mouse and her small keyboard. I would then tell her to grab a box and make a Supermarket Sweep style dash about the library grabbing key texts as she goes. Finally, I would firmly advise her to pop the box onto her beautifully padded, squishy and adjustable office chair, and wheel the whole lot around to the car park.

What would advise your past self to do? And what do you think will happen next?

5 thoughts on “Why librarianing from home during the coronavirus outbreak is like… a chair cushion

  1. I’ve missed you, Penny!
    This whole lockdown experience is – what’s the word I’m looking for? – weird, busy, crazy, intense, disconcerting and, yet, sometimes fun.
    I’ve been on furlough since after Easter so I’ve become the home school teacher in our house while my wife works full-time in the dining room. Being teacher-dad is not as easy or fun as just being “dad” but we’re doing the best we can.
    I actually did a supermarket sweep in the college library on my last day and grabbed armfuls of books and audiobooks for the boys…the library staff said take as much as you like, and there’ll be no fines when we eventually go back, so it would have been silly not too, really… Anyway, stay safe in your box room with your feline chair cushion 🙂

    1. Hello! *waves excitedly*
      Wished I’d had your presence of mind and trolley dashed around the library before leaving!
      It’s SUCH an odd time. Resident teens are very much missing their social lives. Eldest should have been in Tokyo/Thailand/Bali but is instead furloughed from BV. Youngest is ploughing through endless A-level material. Roll on half-term that isn’t really half-term. Roll on the week where we give ourselves permission to not work work!

      1. Yeah, I’m more excited about half term than perhaps I should be! I feel very thankful my two are not in the year groups being asked to return to school after half term. We’re happy to carry on as we are for the moment, and have no intention of sending them back to school until at least September. At the back of my mind I am worried for my job – the college will have to rethink everything about how we work – but for now I am lucky to be getting full pay on furlough. I feel for your eldest – how disappointing to not be off on adventures, but at least you are at home all together rather than being separated at a time like this. Stay safe! – Matthew

  2. I wish I’d told my past self to spend all the budget NOW instead of rationing it out. I’ve got a few weeks to spend £££ and I’VE BEEN TOLD I CAN’T BUY PHYSICAL BOOKS. Sigh

    1. Oh, I am such a rationer. I very rarely buy something because I think it *might* be useful, it’s all direct requests or reading list material. And,whilst I can see that e-only is sensible right now, some things just aren’t available electronically. Part of me thinks that print that I KNOW will get used when things are ‘back to normal’ would be better than e that is ‘good enough’. Tricky, tricky, tricky.

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