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Monday, Dec 11, 2023

Kat Cyr ‘11 in Ferrisburgh, Vermont

Kat Cyr ‘11

Alumna and current interlibrary loan associate at Middlebury

Location: Ferrisburgh, Vermont

Submitted April 9, 2020, updated April 29, 2020 

Sophia Grace out on her first walk of 2020. (KAT CYR)

When the virus came stateside, I heard whispered rumors of Midd closing, though most of us in the library were unconcerned beyond washing our hands more frequently. Midd never closes. Heck, I have coworkers who have skied to work because it was safer than driving, and the library doesn’t close for anything. When the official email sending students home went out, we were floored. Concern instantly rose about how our student workers would be affected, particularly after that initial rejection of applications to stay on campus. Our staff are mainly Vermonters, but our student staff is almost entirely international, several from countries that were unstable or already deeply entrenched in outbreaks of their own. While our staff members chugged along, doing our best to sanitize and adapt to the constant changes thrown at us, we worried. Policies shifted from "please return your overdue items," to, "keep it, we'll figure out the renewals," and we urged people to take care of themselves first and worry about the logistics later.

 I more or less started living by the word of The Campus and the updates we got from our student workers — no one ever thinks to update the staff on campus events, so we were just kind of making things up as we went. Soon we were down to four student workers and a mostly empty library, in a strange sort of limbo where we knew there was a crisis, we knew people were struggling, but students and faculty were off campus on “vacation” leaving us with an oddly light workload and an uncertain future. We prepped for work from home, but our department was more-or-less experienced in working from unusual places, mainly due to Midd’s history of staff reductions and its need to be open regardless of the situation, so there wasn’t much to prep.

Eventually, faculty started replying to our emails about establishing reserves for online classes, which at least gave us some sense of purpose directly related to the crisis. With help from circulation staff, we set to work scanning as much as we could of any reserve book acquisitions that couldn’t be acquired digitally. Copyright had been relaxed significantly because of the crisis, so we were scanning tables of contents, indices, chapters and even entire books for any faculty or student who asked for them.

We stayed right up until we were ordered out of the building, unwilling to deprive remote-access students and faculty of the resources in the library. We've been working from home ever since, frustrated at lack of access to physical items, but doing what we can to provide access to online resources and procure scans from the few libraries worldwide that still have staff in-building.

What has been your greatest worry or day-to-day concern as coronavirus has spread? 

Personally, I worry about the high-risk relatives and friends I have — diabetes, asthma, anxiety and depression are common on both sides of my family. Many of my friends have health complications and occupations that could make Covid-19 very dangerous for them. I’m pretty well safe in the backwaters of Vermont, but I worry for those who aren’t here with me.

What has made you happy over the past few weeks?

The cats have adored having me home and have taken to sitting on me when I work. Regaining that commute time has been amazing and, since I'm privileged enough to have a safe place where I can take my dogs running without fear of other humans, I've spent a great deal of time outside with my dogs (and cats). I’ve even gotten back into a bit of gaming to pass the time and get me out of my own head.

Anything else you'd like us to know?

I want students to know that we're here for them, especially those who aren’t the stereotypical rich white Midd Kidd. Staff, particularly those of us at the bottom, don't have any control over what happens at Midd. That said, especially at the library, we want to help so dang badly. If you have accessibility needs, tell us — we will not ask you to prove it. If you have limited access to the internet, let us know and we’ll work with you to shrink down files and find alternate sending methods. Helping you is literally our job and in the utter chaos of our current times, it feels so good to be able to make even the smallest bit of difference.