Scenes from the start of the fall semester

backpack, laptop and notebook on a wood desk

I work at an institution with no mask mandate and no vaccine requirement. The emphasis is on personal responsibility, sphere of influence, and individual liberty. Our Access Services workers have kept our building open over the last year and a half while I and my other liaison services colleagues have been able to work from home, parent at home, teach virtual school to our children from home, etc. We returned to the library part-time this summer and full time now that the semester is in full swing.

The fall semester started on Monday. Masked and unmasked students enter the building in a surging mass looking for computers between classes, a place to sit and study, a break from the oppressive heat, or a working printer. I’m sitting in my office with my door closed fielding class requests from instructors who may or may not want a virtual option. Because of our institution’s politics it’s a weird dance of “we can offer…” and “what are your options?” We can’t come out and say “That’s way too many unmasked students in a classroom built for 30.”

I have virtual meetings with colleagues down the hall. We get together to go on masked walks–unmasked if the crowds are thin–and it’s odd but better than nothing. We are all in sneakers or birks and our comfiest workwear. Everyday brings a new administrative email about vaccine incentives, testing options, contact tracing, flow-charts for classroom instructors, temporary remote work guidelines, etc. We all feel at turns hopeful, fearful, gaslit, angry, and exhausted.

I don’t know what fall semester will look like in 2 weeks much less 2 months from now, and I mean that in terms of work, family, health, and general well-being. I don’t do well with broad uncertainty (hello, anxiety!) but it’s the way of life right now. I’ll take joy in a well-placed LEGO set, an iced coffee, or a day off work to go to an empty beach with my family. I will do what I need to do to do my job well and keep my family safe and healthy.

What is your fall semester looking like this year?

2 thoughts on “Scenes from the start of the fall semester”

  1. After a year of working from home with the building closed, we librarians were given two working days’ notice to return to the building full time. Our request for some transition time went unheeded even as our instructional colleagues were told they could teach fully online due to the Delta surge. We were then used as an example of “faculty who wanted to get back to working in-person.” We’ve been gaslit, flat out lied to, and subjected to unfulfilled promises for support from the larger institution. Next up: we’ve been asked to expand our hours longer than we were even open ore-pandemic, and we’ve also been told we need to start admitting the general public again with no way to check vaccination status. We’re shaken, and our understanding that this is hard for administration, too, has been stretched to its breaking point.

  2. Sorry for using Anonymous, but I’m worried my words make come back to bite me.

    This is the first semester that our library has been fully open since spring 2020. (We had curbside and then were pen by appointment only.) Our campus requires masks and vaccines, so that is a great thing. I only have to be on campus three days a week, which is also a massive privilege, because many of my fellow staff must be there all five days. The thing is, we were originally told that departments would be able to decide amongst themselves how many days on and how many days off. Then about a month ago, they abruptly changed their minds and mandated a minimum of 3 days, with no explanation. SO here I am, working 3 days a week at a library with almost no students, and the handful of students that are there, don’t need anything from me. We are having all of our consultations on Zoom to cut down on too many people being on our small office area. My office is freezing. And I lose productivity due to the commute. It feels pointless being on campus when all of my work is happening virtually, and I’m more comfortable at home to boot.

    The kicker is that school leadership fed us this line about how they were going to be on campus every day to “set a good example” and I have yet to see all of them there everyday. And communication from them has been piss poor regarding return to campus. It’s really made me rethink my loyalty to my employer and how much I bust my ass to do the work of two people.

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