Week 59: Q&A

This week’s message takes the form of a series of questions with answers. Over the past few weeks, some questions that have come through the Countway anonymous reporting form as well as in general conversations with staff. Some of these questions are straightforward in their answers, while some we are awaiting final guidance from the university and HMS. Please understand that as we prepare for a more robust opening of the campus and Countway Library, the guidelines continue to evolve and change. These answers are what I know as of this week. I will continue to communicate updates via regular bi-weekly Countway town halls, monthly staff meetings, internal Countway email announcements, the Staff on Track Newsletter, our Countway Facebook page and this weekly message.


Q: What hours are being proposed for the beginning of the academic year?

A: The academic year for the medical school begins August 2nd. The proposed hours for the library are: Monday thru Thursday 8am-9pm; Friday 8am-6pm; Saturday 10am-6pm and Sunday noon-9pm.

This proposal has been submitted to the HMS Committees (SORT and BCTF) who must approve all opening proposals.


Q: When will CHOM open?

A: Emily and the CHOM team have developed a phased opening proposal to open the reading room for research beginning August 2nd to approved HMS campus categories with expansion in September to members of the wider Harvard University community. This proposal will be submitted to the HMS committees (SORT and BCTF) who must approve all opening proposals.


Q: Will Countway staff continue to work on the inventory and be assigned other onsite duties such as junior ambassador and ambassador duties during the upcoming academic year?

A: Len and Emily expect the inventory process that requires the help of onsite staff to conclude this October. In anticipation of that goal, there will be a continued need for many staff on site to remain working on the inventory project to some degree, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. In addition, of course, we may need help in wrestling with those items that took more research to determine ownership. We put these items in the parking lot so we could continue to move along the inventory and not get bogged down in the process. We are quickly getting to a place, where our BiblioTemps contract staff will be able to finish the inventory and/or fewer number of staff will be needed to finish up the more complicated items. Thank you to everyone who have diligently plowed through this project. We are in a good place because of your teamwork.

As for ambassador and junior ambassador roles, these will continue as long as the campus has social distancing guidelines and other Covid-19 protocols such as mask wearing, limits to building access, limits to elevator use, restrictions on food and drink in study rooms, etc. Thanks to our ambassadors and junior ambassadors who monitor the library for violations and report them and to our captains who immediately address any concerns that are reported. We have had no workplace transmission. In addition, our students continue to tell us they feel safe in the library and would rather study in Countway than elsewhere because we are enforcing safety protocols. We will continue our policy of “see something, say something” and using ambassadors and junior ambassadors as long as we are in a public health emergency and/or the medical school has Covid-19 safety protocols in place.

There are aspects of the ambassador, junior ambassador and concierge service that have been very beneficial to the library. Most importantly, our ability to get to know our students and have a chance to talk with them one-on-one. We are thinking about aspects of these programs that we may want to continue post pandemic.


Q: When will visitors (non HUID holders) be allowed in the library?

A: We are awaiting guidance from HMS regarding who will be allowed on campus this fall. The first step is to gradually return the approximately 1200 remote HMS employees who have been working remotely to campus.

Presently only students from all three schools, graduate students, and post docs are allowed in the library for study purposes. As the campus brings more school employees including faculty back onsite, we will receive guidance on additional user groups being added to the approved list of those who can be allowed in the library.


Q: Will the stacks be open this fall? Will there be grab and go at the concierge desk or will we be opening the locker system?

A: The opening team (Meredith, Luciana, MJ, Yasmina and I) are beginning to hold internal Countway discussions with the groups responsible for these areas about opening the stacks and using the locker system. We would need formal protocols and procedures, and to create a proposal to submit for approval to the BCTF and SORT before doing so. As of today, we are investigating how we might open these services, talking to the appropriate units, and have not made any decisions one way or the other as to when these services might open.


Q: What is happening with the Café and the Coop?

A: You may see some activity in both these areas as the groups in charge of staffing and servicing these spaces are in the process of planning and preparing for opening. The Café is waiting for the university and medical school to add more on campus dining options and they must obtain Massachusetts Board of Health Approval before they can open. The Coop has brought in some display tables for merchandise but nothing new on a planned opening has been communicated to us.


Q: Will we still need to have weekly testing and Crimson Clear when the campus more fully opens?

A: This is still to be determined. Please continue to adhere to weekly testing and Crimson Clear attestation protocols until further notice.


Q: Many Massachusetts colleges are requiring students returning to campus to have proof of vaccination. Will Harvard do so?

A: At this time, there is no decision or announcement on whether or not HMS or Harvard will require vaccination for students. However, many of our HMS students work in hospitals during their clinical rotations and have been vaccinated by the hospital system.


Thank you for your questions. Please do not hesitate to send them via the Countway anonymous reporting form or on email to me or through your supervisors. As I said, we are in a changing environment with protocols and practices being adjusted as the campus prepares for a more robust opening come this academic year. Many questions remain to be worked out. As I hear more, I will let you know. I look forward to seeing you all at our upcoming Countway Town Hall meetings at the dates below:


Tuesday, May 11th 1:00 to 2:00pm

Thursday, May 27th 2:00 to 3:00pm