Hired During the Pandemic – UConn Library Edition

On Friday, March 13, 2020, Jason started his first day, attending the required Human Resources orientation. At the same time, the staff were preparing for what we thought would be a two-week timeframe to work from home. He never had a chance to log on to his computer or even sit at his new desk. Edward, recently hired as our Business & Entrepreneurial Librarian, was set to move in March from his home in Singapore, only to “commute” for ten months until he could move to the United States.  

Throughout the roughly 15 months of working from home, the Library has had the fortunate opportunity to hire ten new full-time staff members and we wondered, what was it like to start a new job in the middle of a pandemic? Even though their individual experiences are as unique as the two examples above, they collectively share an experience like no other. We sat down with several of them to talk about their challenges, successes, and hopes for joining the Library in person soon. 

Geographically Distant – Together on Screen! 
Staff came from far and wide, and close by too. Some have relocated, and some are still waiting to move. Where are they from? We have representation from almost all of New England – Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont, as well as New York, California, Georgia, and the prize for farthest – Singapore. And yes, that means that in some cases, time zones have to be considered when scheduling a meeting! 

What is it About the UConn Library?
Without the ability to experience the environment and have only online interactions, what was it about the UConn Library that helped them decide to make the move? Even in a challenging online environment, they felt connected with the organization on collective goals and aspirations, and with individuals in the meetings. We also have a secret weapon for our search committees – Ellen Silbermann. A Georgia native and full of Southern charm, Ellen is a one-woman welcoming committee, putting applicants at ease from start to finish. 

Space, the Final Frontier…
Roughly half of our newly hired staff have never stepped foot into the building they will be working in or seen their work space. Some have never been on campus. So what are they wondering about? Do I have a nice chair? Should I bring my space heater? Is there a dress code? How far exactly is the Dairy Bar? What does the campus environment at a land grant institution feel like? How remote and bucolic is remote and bucolic? 

Take Me Home, Country Road. 
What will they miss from home? Coffee within arms reach. Lunchtime walks with four-legged and furry co-workers. Impromptu playing of the mandolin during a quick meeting break. The warm snuggie and a wood stove. A new, special order, purple home office chair. 

We Can’t Wait For….
Did we mention the Dairy Bar already? New and exciting lunch options. New office mates (more than the four-legged furry ones and family members we have now). A welcome party!! 

Not All Bad.
Online orientation does have some advantages. For example, having an online meeting for the first time instead of in person removes a lot of the stress. Decreased anxiety means increased number of connections which means a win for us all. A new initiative this past semester, Coffee Connections, also helped break the ice. It was designed for in-person meet-and-greets over coffee, but translated well via video. Online orientation also erased the physical divide, breaking down the barriers that we often face with staff in multiple campus locations. Online, we are all in the same space. 

The UConn Library is looking forward to reopening this fall and with that the return of our staff. It seems like after working at home for so long, we are all going to feel first day jitters! 

Thanks to the staff who chatted with us – from top left to bottom right:

Jean Nelson (interviewer and photo taker); Edward Lim, Business & Entrepreneurship Librarian, Hilary Kraus, Research Services Librarian specializing in Kinesiology and Psychology; Jason Anderson, Web Services Coordinator; John Cropp, Access Services Associate, evening; Michelle Greene, Access Services Associate; Roslyn Grandy, Pharmacy Librarian; Sam Boss, Head of Research Services; and Sarah Goldstein, Head of Digital Infrastructure Services. 

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