Back Among the Stacks

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For the first time in 14 months, I returned to regularly working in person last Monday at the Estes Library at LeTourneau University. Coincidentally, that was also the first day the university issued new COVID-19 guidelines that ended the mask-wearing requirements and relaxed sanitation standards. I stuck my mask back in my pocket and spent a quiet day at the front counter of the library, filling interlibrary loan article requests and assisting the occasional patron.

Very occasional patrons, actually. It is always slow in the summer at the library. Usually, a student worker is at the counter, and I am in a room slowly going through the R.G. LeTourneau archives we have been working to organize for several years, joined by two other part-time reference librarians. But on the first day, I handled the counter.

I know many of you worked in person throughout the entire pandemic, which, to be certain, is certainly not over. Last night I looked up the COVID-19 stats, as I do each week for the Capital Highlights column that I write for the Texas Press Association. In the past month, according to the Corona Virus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University, Texas recorded 91,522 new cases and more than 1,500 deaths. That is far fewer than at its peak but still seems like a hefty and concerning number.

The number of new cases is steadily decreasing as more people get the vaccine, but the rate of vaccinations is slowing as well. It appears increasingly likely that achieving herd immunity is going to be impossible, which means COVID-19 will remain a health threat to those not vaccinated. I am not wearing a mask at work but maintain safe distances and am behind a plexiglass shield when helping patrons at the counter. I have been fully vaccinated for nearly three months, as has my Beautiful Mystery Companion and our family. I feel perfectly safe being around them. But I still wear a mask when I go to stores, since my fellow shoppers don’t know I’m vaccinated. It seems to be the respectful action to take.

Sorry, it is hard not get sidetracked talking about this pandemic and how it changed our lives. I was fortunate enough to be able to work from home until it felt safe to come back. Most people didn’t have that option.

Back to the library. I reshelved about two dozen books mid-afternoon on that first day back. It is one of those simple but satisfying tasks, making sure a book gets back in its right spot, nestled between BS 192.2 A1 1964 G3 V.11 and BS192.2 A1 1964 G3 V.13. Reshelving books is right up there with cleaning the yard for providing me that sense of minor accomplishment — minus the sweat and mosquito bites.

Last summer, I spent two days alone in the library, which was closed, installing new end cap signs designed by a co-worker. The signs tell patrons (and us) which Library of Congress classification of books is on which row of shelves. The signs are larger and much more attractive. Spending a couple of days alone in the library with a new cordless drill, listening to NPR while making sure all the signs were level was a soothing respite during lockdown. And they sure make it easier for all of us to find or reshelve books.

This is my fourth year working in Estes Library. It was fortuitous to land this half-time position, post-newspaper career, which allows me time for other pursuits, such as writing and photography. It’s not the money that matters at this stage of my life, though the pay is decent. I have always been wired to work, love books and libraries, and enjoy assisting LETU students and faculty. What a great combination.

As always, I feel blessed

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