Work in the Time of Corona: Alden Coffin, Public Service Assistant

Posted on April 29, 2020

By Alden Coffin

Our library staff members are chronicling their experiences living through a pandemic. If you keep a daily journal of your experience, consider donating it to Swem’s Special Collections when the crisis has passed.

Name: Alden Coffin

Title: Public Service Assistant

Department: Research and Circulation

How has your work changed during the pandemic?

My schoolwork has been rather uninterrupted; law classes are lecture based with a final exam, so the Zoom platform has allowed me to continue in a somewhat normal fashion. The main change in Swem work is that instead of working from our circulation desk, I am monitoring the research chat in New Hampshire. As a result of this, I am relying upon our electronic resources to help our patrons. It is strange not being able to walk to a research librarian’s office to ask for assistance, but I think we are handling the remote work situation as adeptly as possible. We are definitely much more reliant on electronic communications these days! 

What are your challenges?

The largest challenge has been the lack of routine. I find that the simple act of walking to class, meal prepping for the day and engaging in small talk during transition times helps us feel a sense of normalcy. I have been disciplined enough to attend Zoom lectures at normal class times, but moving twenty feet from my living room to my office doesn’t have the same mental transition effect to which I am accustomed. 

What has surprised you?

I have been absolutely amazed by how quickly and efficiently WM leadership and staff mobilized to make the transition to online instruction as seamless as possible. I am also encouraged by the institution’s support for affected students. This pandemic has certainly reinforced that WM is a strong-knit, resilient community.

What do you miss most about being in the library?

Although it sounds cliché, I genuinely miss seeing the patrons, other students and coworkers. Whenever I got overwhelmed with schoolwork or other commitments, my work shifts were an opportunity to be surrounded by enthusiastic, fun people who would always improve my mood!