Patron Driven: No Matter the Space

Patron Driven: Season One Blog Series

Patron Driven is a new podcast series that tells crowd-sourced library stories where the personal and professional meet. Season one follows four library staffers whose library flooded due to Hurricane Harvey. Arriving June 22, 2020.

Imagine it: A natural disaster ravages your workplace, leaving you with no materials, no building, no home base. What do you do? Though a hurricane is certainly a different crisis than a global pandemic, many in today’s workforce now have dealt with the reality of working without their permanent office space. But the library staff at the Lone Star College–Kingwood campus had already faced this reality in late August 2017.

In the ensuing weeks after Hurricane Harvey, the entirety of the Kingwood campus had to provide an education to thousands of students while lacking the classroom space—something many are now familiar with due to campus shutdowns to prevent the spread of coronavirus. As professors turned to online education, Anne McGittigan and Allison Huffy, the circulation coordinator and circulation assistant, respectively, had to reimagine how to work without the central component of their job description: books.

Anne and Allison setting up the ID machine in the student bookstore.

Allison turned her attention to printing student IDs. Students needed their IDs, an essential item, to access all types of student services, even to get onto the online learning database D2L. The student bookstore became Allison’s temporary “studio.” With a tiny table, a makeshift project board background, and one chair, Allison set up shop in the bookstore’s display window. Anne pointed out that despite the cramped quarters, taking photos in the window “was great for advertisement.”

For Anne, she found her home away from home at one of Lone Star’s other campuses, North Harris. There, she, like many other staff in Kingwood, relied on donated office supplies to be able to work. “We were scraping all over Houston, all of the Lone Stars, that had extra computers, laptops. I had a laptop for the next two years that belonged to University Park Lone Star.”

For Jennifer Martinez, purchasing coordinator, and Mikha Mitchell, librarian, their temporary space was just as roomy: one of the student study spaces. Jennifer explains that it was a bit tight. “This student study space was enough for four students, so we’re talking very cramped quarters. It was a table with four chairs.”

Hope LeJeune and Mikha in one of the makeshift library spaces.

Eventually, staff moved out of the study room into a computer lab. But even then, not all employees fit. Some stayed behind in study rooms. Some were still stationed at other campuses. Anne started the trend of carrying around a TV tray and a laptop wherever she went—a literal mobile office. What they all had in common was the need to adapt to this transient form of work life.

The Kingwood Library staff dealt with small rooms, a lack of supplies, and, really, the frustrating inability to designate any space as their own. Though this period was a difficult one, learning to adjust was a skill the staffers now deeply value. Despite the hurdles, they still managed to provide library services to the students and faculty no matter the space, preparing them for these current, unpredictable conditions.

— Sabrina

To get the full story, subscribe wherever you get your podcasts on June 22.

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About the author:

Sabrina Cofer is the digital media assistant at Choice. She produces the Authority File and Patron Driven podcasts.