We're open: UAA's library is available in person or online for campus community

by Catalina Myers  |   

From left to right, Lorelei Sterling, interim head of Access Services and the UAA/APU Consortium Library’s building manager, and Page Brannon, head of Instruction and Research Services, say the library is open to students, faculty and staff with a WOLFcard and with restricted hours, but that their online services have expanded since COVID-19. (Photo by James Evans / University of Alaska Anchorage)

Since COVID-19 hit, much about people’s daily lives have changed and life at UAA has gone from a bustling campus filled with students, faculty and staff, to almost everyone either working or learning remotely — except for the university’s librarians and staff. The UAA/APU Consortium Library, a shared resource between the university and Alaska Pacific University (APU) has remained open, although with more limited hours, to all UAA students, faculty and staff who can access the library with their WOLFcard. This extends to APU and university system students, faculty and staff who can present their university identification cards.

While many UAA departments and colleges pivoted quickly to transition students and faculty to alternate course delivery or working from home, Lorelei Sterling, interim head of Access Services and the Consortium Library’s building manager, said that the transition was fairly smooth because of the WOLFcard swipe system that was already in place, making it easy for Sterling and her staff to control access to the library.

“We were really lucky because before all this happened we had a card swipe system for after-hours research — normally we were open 8 a.m. to midnight — but after 8 p.m. we became an after-hours study facility,” said Sterling. She said during normal Consortium Library hours, once 8 p.m. hit, the library was only open to students, faculty and staff. “We already had a system in place, and when the mayor issued the “Hunker Down” order, we just turned on the card swipe system all the time, instead of just at 8 p.m.”

Students, faculty and staff using the UAA/APU Consortium Library must present their WOLFcard for entry and practice safe social distancing measures while studying or researching. (Photo by James Evans / University of Alaska Anchorage)

Additionally, Sterling said a side benefit was that students, faculty and staff were already accustomed to the card swipe system, which didn’t require any additional training for library staff or visitors. She said her department conveniently makes WOLFcards for those who don’t currently have one, or are needing a replacement. In fact, the Consortium Library is the only place to obtain a WOLFcard since the university’s cashiering office is currently closed to in-person traffic due to COVID-19. Sterling said students, faculty or staff needing a WOLFcard will need to call the main library number and staff will let you in.

“All the services that we provide made this as smooth a transition as it could be,” said Sterling. “I have to give a major shout out to facilities. They had everything we needed in place within a day. We had the plexiglass, we had the virex, towels, gloves — they just took care of us.” She said soon after facilities provided all the safety equipment and cleaning supplies, they provided them with clean/dirty signage to place on desks, tables and other surfaces, which library users flip from clean to dirty once they are done using an area, signaling to library staff what needs to be cleaned. 

“We are intentionally keeping the library open for several reasons,” said Page Brannon, head of Instruction and Research Services, whose department provides library research instruction, research assistance, collection development and outreach services. “One, we know that some students do not have internet access or technology at home and may need a place to study. We also know that there are materials in our building that students need to use, as well as software in the computer lab that students need to use. So what we’re trying to do is provide a space where people can get what they need from us while staying safe.”

Signs placed on desks, tables and near computers let students, faculty, staff and library staff know whether an area has been cleaned and is safe for use. (Photo by James Evans / University of Alaksa Anchorage)

Brannon said that she and her team of liaison librarians, for the most part, have been able to work from home, since much of what they provide, like chat, text, Zoom and call tools were services they were already providing online. The biggest decision her department faced was whether or not to keep the Information and Research Help Desk open. She said ultimately they decided to move those services online, because of the close nature that is involved when helping someone gather research materials. Additionally, Library Instruction was also moved online.

“We often sit right next to them, co-browse things, help them with software and switch back and forth at the computer keyboard to show a student how to do a particular task,” Brannon said. “We can do that through link sharing and Zoom — even if somebody is in the library — they can still chat with us, text, call or do a Zoom session.”

Both Brannon and Sterling said that much of what has made the Consortium Library’s services, both in-person and online possible, was because of the systems that were already in place. They said that although the library is open, many of the in-person resources have now been moved online and it was fairly easy to redirect students to virtual assistant tools and other online resources. 

“Having those resources already in place, we didn’t have to create anything,” Sterling said. “We just had to remind people that we’re still here and this is the way we’re doing it now.”

The biggest takeaway both Sterling and Brannon want students — especially new students — as well as faculty and staff to know, is that the Consortium Library is open and its resources are available. Although hours are shorter than during normal times and many of the in-person resources are now moved to online, the Consortium Library’s staff, faculty and student staff are readily available to make the fall semester as smooth as it can be. 

“We’re open and we’re here and we want our students to succeed,” Sterling said. “We’re happy to help.”

For additional UAA/APU Consortium Library information and resources check out:

Learn about library resources and hours during COVID-19.

Ask a librarian and chat virtually.

Take a virtual library tour.

Take the CRAAP test, a questionnaire to help you evaluate your research.

Creative Commons License "We're open: UAA's library is available in person or online for campus community" is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.