Week 55: Planning For New Beginnings

Planning has started for welcoming additional faculty, staff and research groups to return to campus. Some groups will return prior to August (such as DBMI) while others will return throughout the summer and fall (i.e. administrative office staff). Newly enrolled students as well as continuing students have been instructed to be physically in Boston and plan for onsite learning and study. The medical school has already started to increase onsite class offerings to currently enrolled students within TMEC and Countway spaces. Students are now offered the opportunity to study in groups in designated spaces within these buildings.


Being onsite is not new to Countway. Staff have been working in the library in a reduced onsite hybrid model since June, and have had the building open for limited patron onsite services such as student study and grab and go since January. Staff hours onsite have also increased, but are not at pre-pandemic levels. As more Longwood Area faculty, staff, researchers, and students return to onsite campus work and activities, the need for onsite Countway services will expand and we will be expected to increase building hours and onsite staffing to meet those needs. Planning for what expanded onsite Countway services will look like and the corresponding staffing model will be the priority for the Countway Administrative Team for the next couple of months. The management team will need to develop these plans soon because we need time to submit the plans to the appropriate groups such as the HMS Business Continuity Taskforce (BCTF) and the Space Operations and Resources Taskforce (SORT), respond to their questions and get final approval prior to the beginning of the new semester (August 2nd for HMS). We will also need to submit our Countway staffing plan to Human Resources for approval. Any plan for hybrid work needs to be framed in terms of the entire library, submitted as a complete package and presented in light of how we will meet business needs as well as provide some potential flexible work options.


Given the above, as we develop our expanded opening plans, I have asked managers to work with you to consider the following questions:


  • Who are our customers?
  • What are their onsite needs?
  • What services beyond student study seating should we make available in order to meet these expanded customer needs?
  • Which Library services should be onsite and which should continue remotely? Or are there services that need to be offered simultaneously onsite and remotely?

While exploring the answers to these questions, I have also asked managers to develop scenarios for a hybrid model of staffing within each unit. What are some hybrid work options for staff in each unit that still will allow us to work together as an entire Library, meet our customer needs and maintain current required safety protocols? Can we provide some workplace schedule flexibility and respond to not just individual unit needs but library-wide needs as well? In order to provide some work schedule flexibility and respond to unit and library wide business needs, I have posed these questions for managers to consider with you:


  • Would staff consider earlier shifts to help with library opening?
  • Would staff consider later shifts to help with library closing?
  • Would staff consider working a weekend day in substitution of a weekday?
  • How would you staff your unit if staff worked one or at maximum two days remotely per week and still be able to respond to onsite customer needs?
  • What are specific remote work tasks for your unit vs onsite tasks? How do these get accomplished?

I have asked managers to work with their staff to consider the above questions under the following basic assumptions:


The Library will be open longer hours, including nights and weekends, 7 days a week.

We will continue to adhere to university and state safety protocols.

We will still be under some density restrictions but these continue to be less restrictive.

We will continue seat reservations and concierge services.

We will continue Captain, Safety Ambassador and Junior Ambassador roles.

We need to continue to work on the BML Inventory and the other previously identified onsite work that all staff will participate in while onsite.


The Library is different than other campus units. We have some services that our customers must come to us in person to use because the services are only available onsite. We have a space that customers need to walk into for some services. In some cases, our customers may need to spend several hours in the space. We have inventory (collections) that are only available as a physical resource and this inventory needs to be processed and maintained while staff are onsite. Customers can only access some of these resources while onsite by the nature of the format of the resource. Staff need to be onsite in order to help make those resources accessible and to answer customer questions. Students need a place to study and one of those places is the library building. Staff are needed onsite to monitor building access by approved user groups. The nature of our customers is such that these onsite services and the library building need to be available and staffed 7 days a week including early mornings and evenings.


As we think about planning for an expanded opening we have many questions to consider. We also need to remain nimble. We are in a constantly changing environment and we need to develop plans for now and in the future with a focus on responding to our user needs. I am optimistic however, that by working together and thinking like a team we can explore new ways of delivering our services, meeting the business needs of our users and perhaps provide some flexible onsite work options for staff whose tasks allow it.


I continue to be impressed by the hard work and dedication our staff exhibit during this challenging time. We work with much effort during a period that remains uncertain in many ways and, am hopeful there will be positives that come of this new way of thinking about work schedules. Thank you for your support and flexibility as we explore different ways of supporting both our customers and business need all while perhaps having opportunity to consider some alternate schedules.


As a reminder, there are a number of upcoming Countway Town Hall meetings scheduled, the dates and times are outlined below:


  • April 13, 1-2 pm
  • April 29, 1-2 pm
  • May 11, 1-2 pm
  • May 27, 2-3 pm


Finally, please continue to submit any anonymous comments or concerns to this survey link.