Library staff face changes due to COVID-19


Photo credit/ Carter Cerretani

Mary Kay Maldonato, interlibrary loan clerk, works in her office in the Learning Commons. Due to COVID-19, safety protocols such as mandatory masks have been implemented at the Learning Commons.

Carter Cerretani, Staff Writer

From quarantined books to furloughed staff, the Learning Commons library is facing new challenges this semester.

According to Library Director Zhong Geng, one of the most significant challenges has been the furloughing of 90% of the library staff. Geng said the furlough has led to him having to take on more duties.

“I had to do my assistant’s work, the electronic system work and the secretary’s work,” said Geng.

Other functions of the library have also been altered. For example, the billing for student fines has been suspended from March of 2020 to June of 2021, and returned books must be put in quarantine for two days.

Additionally, Interlibrary Loan Clerk Mary Kay Maldonato said the Pennsylvania Academic Library Consortium Inc (PALCI), the self service system for requesting books through interlibrary loan, has also been affected. PALCI is composed of about 77 libraries throughout New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia that lend and borrow various books and materials for free Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students and faculty now have less access to physical books.

Maldonato said the number of book requests for various universities through PALCI have dropped but that online print requests have been skyrocketing.

Due to COVID-19 safety protocols such as mandatory masks and the limit of one person in a study room at a time have been implemented. However, James Frutchey, acquisitions, said he has noticed some students disregard the protocols.

“I have seen that most people come in with their masks on, and once their upstairs or wherever they’re going to study, they seem to take them off, and the study rooms also— there’s supposed to be one person per study room, and I’ve noticed more than one on quite a few occasions and quite a few without their masks on,” said Frutchey.

Fruetchy said he hopes to see more students follow the protocols.

“If you’re not worried about yourself, then worry about other people that might have problems with COVID,” said Frutchey. “Even if you think you can tough it out, other people can’t, so try to do whatever you can to eliminate the spread.”

Despite these challenges, the library has launched a monthly library newsletter. A collaborative effort of the entire library staff, the newsletter includes book reviews written by Fruetchy, interlibrary loan tips from Maldonato, recipes from Geng, technology tips and a monthly calendar of library hours.

“We feel that it’s the best way for the library to communicate with the campus, including students and faculty,” said Geng.

Contact the writer: [email protected]