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LILAC in 2020 / Welcoming 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic would forever change the way librarians live, socialize, work and teach. Prior to March 16, 2020, I remember a life that was made up of commuter traffic, in-person meetings, and face-to-face time with students and teaching faculty. Soon an emerging virus would became deadly and very quickly the stay-at-home orders were initiated. Everything changed.

The remaining months of spring 2020 became a semester consumed with figuring out each day while thinking about how best to move forward. CUNY Librarians worked swiftly on plans to provide all our services 100% online. It felt like a scramble to quickly adjust professionally and personally in this new normal. Just as other CUNY groups, LILAC and its members navigated teaching information literacy fully online. Our meetings were a break from the overwhelming transition. Throughout the spring they continued to be a place for us to share ideas, see faces and discuss online instruction success and failures. By the end of the semester there was a palpable collective exhaustion. We decided to scrap plans for a traditional Spring Training; instead we imagined a spring event that  would allow the CUNY community to reconnect and reflect on an unprecedented semester. 

This two day event took place on Thursday, June 4, 2020 – Friday, June 5, 2020. Attendees were given the opportunity to be part of conversations on asynchronous instruction, synchronous instruction, outreach and access. Small groups were facilitated by LILAC members and everyone was encouraged to reflect on their experiences. The event showed how much we had in common. We learned that consistent synchronous and asynchronous instruction requires a lot more work ahead of time. We learned that CUNY Librarians trained themselves those first few months. We utilized familiar tools while incorporating new ones (usually free online tools). Outreach became more about building relationships. The challenge was in keeping the Librarians’ availability “visible” to students who no longer see us on a daily basis. During the accessibility session, many understood the necessity of implementing universal design principles into online instruction material. Notes from the session reveal Amy Wolfe’s (CUNY Central’s Accessibility Librarian) Accessibility Toolkit was especially helpful.

By the fall, we were more prepared. Some of CUNY’s IT Resources for Remote Work and Teaching provided online conferencing options, some video creation, and editing tools. Similar to all other committees and groups, LILAC currently functions completely online. In-person presentations are now virtual and thanks to Linda Miles (Hostos Community College), Ian McDermott (LaGuardia Community College), Robert Farrell (Lehman College), and Christine Kim (Queensborough Community College) we’ve had a great start to the Instruction Chats. We look forward to sharing these recaps with the CUNY Community via our blog. We enter the new year more seasoned and with an openness to keep learning. We are committed to continuing to foster information literacy throughout the CUNY community in our new normal. We will continue to provide a space for members to share teaching materials, tools, and tips for remote instruction. There remains much uncertainty but our resilience proves the adaptability of information literacy. 

This year LILAC is proud to work alongside ACRL/NY’s Information Literacy/Instruction Discussion Group and METRO Reference & Instruction Special Interest Group (SIG) planning the Critical Pedagogy Symposium. This major event will take place on May 17, 2021 – May 19, 2021. It will replace LILAC’s annual Spring Training.  

We are in this together and you are invited to step into a bright future with LILAC.

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One Response to LILAC in 2020 / Welcoming 2021

  1. My comment here will be that at the beginning of the COVID pandemic, I was very grateful to have the kind of instructional team that jumped into the fray with both feet and then some. While I have always felt that as academic librarians we are not only adaptable, but can improvise on a dime and needle, my crew, was exceptional.
    Andrews, Antobam, myself, Sanabria, Santana, Watson, Williams exhibited teaching skills ‘online’ that clearly impressed many of our faculty who ‘dared’ to schedule an online class.
    I say ‘dare’ because at the point when it became clear that classes were NO LONGER in person, many teaching faculty on our campus went into ‘panic’ mode, for lack of a better word. This is not to say they were not prepared-but their students were caught with the proverbial ‘what the xxxx’.
    But “our”, not my Instruction team came up with concepts like mind-maps, screen shares, one-on-one, group sessions, teaching faculty collaborations that saved many our students who would have otherwise failed and dropped out.
    As the most senior faculty member of the group, I am both honored and humbled by my junior and somewhat senior faculty members of this illustrious group. In a moment of sheer pandemonium, we improvised, adapted; we used tech skills learned on how to develop online tutorials; how to use web conferencing tools even before WEBEX and ZOOM were officially introduced to the University. All at the same time, completing professional development protocols for reappointment, tenure, reassignment.
    Ladies and Gentlemen: MY “A-Team
    Prof. Carl Andrews
    Prof. Emma Antobam-Ntekudzi
    Prof. Jesus Sanabria
    Prof. Nelson Santana
    Prof. James Watson
    Prof. Nicole Williams

    Semper fei

    LaRoi Lawton, Assistant Professor
    Bronx Community College | Library Department
    Learning Services Head

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