We hope this blog finds you feeling safe and healthy. We have broken into our already-scheduled social media posts to bring this update from the Southwest Collection regarding how our archive is continuing to work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The South Plains of Texas was operating under cautious but somewhat normal circumstances in early March. A handful of our Southwest Collection employees judged area schools’ history day projects on March 7th. However, the next week, with conditions worsening across the United States, our administration began to ask department heads to prepare contingency plans for working from home. All of this was done in hypotheticals until late on Monday March 16th. We received an email from the President of Texas Tech University, who told all employees that starting at the end of the day March 17, as many employees as possible should start working from home. This was implementing Phase III of the university’s COVID-19 response plan (for more on this, see http://www.texastech.edu/downloads/ttus-memorandum-operational-phases-march-16-2020.pdf ). The rest of the week was spent methodically ensuring that all of our full-time employees had plenty of work to do at home and the resources with which they could work successfully. Friday March 20th was always a staff holiday, but it was also a time for us to catch our breath. The vast majority of our building was now working remotely.
We write this on the week of March 30; our archive is now officially closed. On the week of March 23, only a skeleton crew remained at the Southwest Collection. Our registrar worked fervently to get all accessions and paperwork sent out. Our Associate Dean, along with our reference staff, remained on duty to handle last minute patrons to our Reading Room by appointment only. A few of our staff popped in and out of the building as needed for technical support that could not be done remotely. Phase IV of the university’s plans began Friday March 27. And so we will begin the month of April with our entire building working from home.
With that in mind, we wanted to make our patrons, donors, and virtual community aware of some of the projects we’ll be working on while we are home. We will be posting photos our staff members share of their home office set up (and, of course, highlighting their furry coworkers).
A few of the projects we are currently working on remotely (and that our staff will explain more about in future posts):
- Uploading EAD finding aids to Texas Archival Resources Online (TARO).
- Categorizing reference file materials and updating comprehensive lists.
- Transcribing oral history interviews and uploading transcripts to dspace.
- Cataloging books.
- Expanding metadata on our dspace holdings.
- Cleaning up and organizing our digital file systems.
A couple of housekeeping notes for interested individuals:
- The Reading Room will be closed to researchers until the campus reopens. Phase IV of Texas Tech’s operational phases designates our department (and the main library) as non-essential.
- Our reference department can still field queries and requests, but no duplications can be completed at this time (since we lack an infrastructure for payment or physical copies to be made and mailed). Please be aware that our reference staff has very limited digital resources and does not have ready access to any physical manuscript materials. They will keep a running list of duplication requests to complete when we return to campus. Patrons should feel free to email regarding our digital holdings, finding aids, or oral history abstracts. Contact information can be found here: https://swco.ttu.edu/Reference/policies.php
- The West Texas Historical Association annual conference (April 4-5) has been cancelled, as well as the 50th anniversary Lubbock tornado symposium (May 8-9).
- Our exhibit commemorating Texas Tech and the 1970 Lubbock tornado has been delayed but will be completed and on display once we return to campus.
- We are still available to connect with researchers remotely—you can still call or email individuals directly with questions. Fortunately, our phone systems are tied to our computers now, and so even working on laptops and at home, staff members can answer calls as needed. If you are unsure who to contact, our main lines are 806-742-3749 and 806-742-9070.
We thank you for your continued support during this time of uncertainty. We will be here virtually and back physically whenever it is safe to do so. In this time, we look forward to slowing down and expanding our digital offerings for our remote patrons. So look to this space as we update you on new developments from the Southwest Collection!