The Library Work-Study

COVID on Campus: Jackie Ritz

“The interactions are a lot less personable.” - Jackie Ritz
Published: January 12, 2021


COVID on Campus - Jackie Ritz - Bird Library Work Study.
Junior Jackie Ritz works at Bird Library.

I work on the third floor of Bird, which is the maps and government information desk. So pretty much I sit behind the desk for the most part of my shift, especially this semester with COVID. And if a patron needs any book on the third or fourth floor, I can help you find it. Typically, it’s a lot of students in Maxwell, because it is like the master government information floor.

When I’m not helping patrons, I’m allowed to like do homework or do any personal work on our work computer. And it’s given me a lot more opportunity to actually get my work done. So I guess it’s like pros and cons. The interactions are a lot less, but I have more time to do my own thing. So I guess that’s definitely the biggest thing. Like last year, I hardly got any homework done at work because I was actually working and now it feels like I’m hardly working when I’m at work.

My interaction with students has changed a lot during COVID. Last semester, if it was a Monday or Tuesday afternoon or night, I was probably helping at least five to 10 people an hour. But now I probably help maybe one person an hour or two people. Definitely a lot less. A lot of my interactions now are pretty much just directional — people asking where the small study rooms are is increasingly popular during COVID. I have helped some people find books, but it’s definitely a lot different.

It seems that like in the past, last semester, there was a lot more small talk with patrons and our interactions were longer and everything. But now I just assume people are there to get what they need and leave as quickly as possible. But obviously, because of COVID they want to be exposed and in public as little time as possible. So it makes sense. But it feels like the interactions are a lot less personable. Last semester it was actually interesting hearing what a lot of people were researching and everything, especially because I’m minoring in history. So like a lot of the things that people are looking for, they’ll start talking about their projects and everything as we go and find the book to fill up the time that we’re walking around the floor.

But my relationship with my coworkers has improved this semester because of the lack of interactions with our patrons. So when I work behind the desk, only one student works at a time. But there’s three adults that work in the back as well. And whenever they walk out to either get food, get water, go to the bathroom or something, we always have a conversation, because I’m always there. In, nine times out of 10, I’d be helping a patron. So I feel like our small talk has definitely increased a lot. But it’s pretty nice. Like, I’ve enjoyed getting to know them more this semester, because last semester, they just felt like colleagues. And now I feel like I know them a lot more.

There is an adult who works at the library, who one time was going to the bathroom. And she wasn’t wearing a mask. She was very far away from anybody, but she wasn’t wearing a mask and obviously had to wear a mask. But she always is wearing a mask. So I think she genuinely forgot. She wouldn’t have done that knowing she wasn’t wearing a mask. But then when she walked out again to get food like 20 minutes later, she yelled at somebody else for not wearing a mask. And I felt that it was really ironic because she wasn’t wearing it. And it was kind of uncomfortable because the other guy clearly saw that she was wearing a mask 20 minutes earlier either. And watching the whole situation, it was really weird.

Usually, people are really respectful of social distancing. We also have a barrier between the desk and the patrons. So that obviously helps in keeping a barrier, and we changed some of our protocols as well. We don’t take students’ cards to scan them or to look at their ID, they do a self-scan. We also have patrol —  I’m not completely sure what their exact title is, but like patrol people on each floor responsible for making sure that everyone was wearing their masks properly, and they weren’t eating where they shouldn’t be eating. It made me realize this has translated over into everything else at the university.

COVID on Campus

COVID on Campus

This as-told-to interview is part of COVID on Campus, a series created by students in the Reporting classes at the Newhouse School in Fall 2020. COVID on Campus documents the experiences of students, staff, and faculty living through this extraordinary time.

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Is a contributor for The NewsHouse.