April 2021

Pandemic Year Recap

The first week of Governor Pritzker’s stay-at-home order kicked off on March 23 last year. It’s hard to believe we’ve been living through a pandemic for more than a year. Over the past 12 months, we’ve filled your email inbox with numerous updates about remote work and virtual services, library hours, PPE, fulfillment, non-instructional break days, and vaccinations–just to name a few. And, I’m very pleased that all of us are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

As you may have noticed, the Dean’s Note in Library Office Notes has been on hiatus. I hesitated to throw even more information your way over the past year. However, with this one-year anniversary upon us, I wanted to take this opportunity, with the April LON, to return to a more recognizable Dean’s Note as well as to provide a brief recap.

I’m proud of the way that our University’s leadership has navigated the hundreds of millions of dollars in budget impact associated with the pandemic, but it certainly has had an effect. We have many open positions and some Library employees are participating in the Staff Volunteer Retirement Plan (SVRP). Those individuals will be announced, but we are not able to share that information quite yet. When the time comes, of course, we will congratulate our colleagues on their retirement.

The Library’s budget report for FY22 was well-received by the Provost. (More on this and the Budget Report itself were included in an email from me via LIB-NEWS on March 5.) While we won’t be able to hire some of the positions we had hoped to (at least for now), we remain committed to a strategy that does not involve furloughs or layoffs. I’m hopeful about the Fall and our ability to “snap back” economically, but time will tell.

With the increased availability of COVID-19 vaccinations, we expect to see a “more normal” Fall semester, albeit with some precautionary measures still in place. No one knows what that will look like just yet, but we will share that information with you as soon as we have it.

The DEIA Task Force is off to a strong start and we’re moving closer to interviewing candidates for the Library’s first Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility. This person, along with the Task Force, will work together closely on the important next steps to support and advance DEIA within the Library. Their progress will be shared with you monthly and documented on the Task Force’s web page.

We are very close to announcing the architect/engineer selected for the archives and special collections building. A contract is in the final stages. A Main/Undergraduate Library Integration Program, with the goal of blending core student services currently in the UGL into other campus libraries, is underway. The Library has the support of Chancellor Jones and Provost Cangellaris and we’re moving forward!

In addition, I’d like to remind you that the COVID-19 page for Library employees is still online and updated regularly. It includes a list of all the emails and information we’ve provided to you since March 2020.

Finally, I’d like to thank everyone for their flexibility and good cheer during the last year. I know we’re not out of the woods yet, but things look promising. The pressures have been significant, but I was encouraged by the way everyone pulled together and provided support to each other. There has not been a more significant year in terms of attention given to inclusion and the work environment, and I’m sure that stems in large part from the way that all of you cared for and invested in the Library. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

John Wilkin
The Juanita J. and Robert E. Simpson Dean of Libraries and University Librarian