“We wanted to make sure students had not only work, but meaningful work,” University Librarian Laura Robinson says. “That was a really big push for us — how can we create work that students can do from home that they can learn from and express through?”
Evening and Weekend Supervisor Aly Smith ’19 came up with an idea: a blog through which students could share stories, provide inspiration, and connect with the campus community until Clark reopens. Several weeks ago, “The Closed Stacks” was born.
“We easily could’ve filled the time with useless tasks,” Smith says. “I thought a blog sounded like a perfect way to have a meaningful thing to do and engage with as many people as possible. The response has been really great — we have more than half of the students working from home on this.”
Each week, Smith comes up with a different writing prompt to help guide students’ responses. She wanted to keep the first week open-ended, so she asked the workers to reflect on the word “change” and what it means to them. Because so many of their posts included song lyrics, Smith made the second week about music, asking students which songs have helped get them through the pandemic.
She plans to compile a playlist based on their selections.
Tayla Cormier ’20 is among the student workers contributing to “The Closed Stacks.” As a biology major, creative writing isn’t typically part of her workload, but she’s been grateful for the opportunity to blog — especially because it’s given her an outlet.
“I do really enjoy writing and I’ve been trying to do more on my own — including poetry — so I’ve enjoyed the chance to write and share,” she says. “I’m very thankful for it. I think it’s cathartic to write.”
For psychology major Alix Hietala ’23, “The Closed Stacks” is an opportunity not only to put her thoughts into writing, but also to provide support for those around her. She chronicled the stages of grief she went through when the University closed, and wrote about the music that has helped her process those emotions.
“I’ve always loved writing and I’ve always had an interest in writing a blog, but I never had any reason to, so this was a neat and exciting way to get out everything I’ve been feeling,” she says.
In addition to contributing to the blog, the student workers also are handling other library tasks from home. Robinson says staff created an internal website with a variety of options to address students’ varied interests and give them an opportunity to learn new tools. Some are searching the library’s collections to find and curate unique resources in their majors, while others are using Qualtrics to develop questionnaires for their fellow library workers.
“I think one of the goals of the library is to always engage students more broadly, and one of the best ways to engage students with a library on an academic campus is to have them sharing with one another the value they see in library services,” Robinson says. “In a crisis like this, you see how libraries have turned digital. We still think of libraries in a lot of ways as big boxes of books, when in reality we have a lot of resources available online.”
The following are excerpts from “The Closed Stacks”:
“Change” by Maria Miranda Moreno ’21
Here’s the thing, we are not in control of everything and change is an inevitability of life. It’s true that change can be scary, and uncertain. Yet, as cliché as it may be to say, change can also be good and sometimes leads to something even better. Likewise, it is important to realize that while we are all going through difficult times, it is our way of reacting what really matters. Read more here.
“Change and Feelings” by Alix Hietala ’23
Before all of this started, I thought I was great with change — I LOVE change! Tattoos, piercings, a new hair color every month; I get bored if something doesn’t change every once in a while. Turns out I only love changes I can control and, considering the lack of control I’ve had lately, I can’t say I’m much of a fan of this one. Read more here.
“Music: The Tapestry of Life” by Kayleigh Watson ’21
Music is the language of my life. I’ve been surrounded by it my entire life. I sincerely believe that my life is one large mixtape, interwoven melodies and chords, creating the musical tapestry of my life. Snippets of lyrics and motifs drift through my head like a leaf drifting lazily in the breeze. Music allows me to see and appreciate the beauty of the world. Read more here.