By Samantha Paul
At Valdosta State’s Odum Library, we used the extended Spring Break to identify ways that we could operate an essential campus component (and socialization hub) in a way that could reduce risk for students, faculty, and staff during this COVID-19 pandemic. Library staff worked on signage, reducing the capacity of our computer labs in order to facilitate social distancing, and removing extraneous shared spaces, like study rooms and additional computer labs. During these preparations, we realized that our traditional reference desk would make it difficult to maintain a 6-foot distance while assisting students at the reference desk. We were able to take advantage of our existing dual monitor setup and a web camera to create a virtual reference desk. This virtual reference desk was a group effort. The reference librarians were able to borrow a webcam from our New Media Center and collaborate with our Library Systems Services Coordinator to create a generic computer login that would have sufficient system privileges to support a webcam. It took two days to hammer out the logistics, but we are pleased with how it is working so far. This new virtual reference desk setup has been well-received by visitors to the building and has allowed us to provide research assistance beyond chat and phone.