Peralta librarians talk ups and downs of working online

College of Alameda Library is closed due COVID-19 in Alameda, Calif. on Monday, Oct. 12, 2020. (Leticia Luna/The Citizen)

October 13, 2020

By Leticia Luna, Staff Writer

From the safety of their homes, Peralta Community College District librarians are working hard to make resources available to the students within their community. 

A librarian’s job typically revolves around physically interacting within a library, but now — with campuses closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic — their job has become more complicated. Readjusting to ensure resources are accessible to students during this new era of learning has been an ongoing challenge for Peralta’s librarians. With physical campuses closed through Spring 2021, these public servants must navigate through lockdown obstacles to fulfill their commitment to the community. 

According to Evelyn Lord, head librarian at Laney College, there are plenty of great resources available online for the community through the Laney Library database — and connecting with librarians for help is possible through online chat, Zoom conferences and the Laney Library website. 

Library poster affirming that library services are still available online at College of Alameda. Alameda, Calif. on Monday, Oct. 12, 2020. (Photo credit: Leticia Luna, The Citizen)

Jane McKenna, head librarian at College of Alameda and Joshua Boatright, head librarian at Berkeley City College, both explained a change on how they utilize and reorganize their funds that are typically used to buy physical materials such as books, magazines and newspapers. Now those funds are being used on online resources.

“The lack of access to our physical collections impacts students that rely on reserved textbooks, which we can’t check out,” Boatright said, adding that he is working to get as many online resources as possible to help students and faculty in this new way of learning and teaching. 

“Just trying to find the sources, and you know, find the funds to get the sources, it’s a struggle because it is more of an immediate thing than really thoughtful collection development.” 

College of Alameda is providing prearranged curbside pickup for physical material (if you need this service check their library website for more information). Librarians at Berkeley City College also intend to start a curbside pickup program. 

Merritt College and College of Alameda have made the Chromebooks part of the library checkout. This system makes it easier for students to check out their Chromebook for the semester, and if needed, can easily extend the borrow period into the following semester. 

When students are physically able to return to campuses in-person, many of the resources developed during this pandemic will be useful. 

Technology training is one of the positive outcomes of the time away from campus at all four Peralta libraries.

Note directing students to pick up service location at College of Alameda Library. Alameda, Calif. on Monday, Oct. 12, 2020. (Photo credit: Leticia Luna, The Citizen)

“We are all getting trained very quickly, and that is great. It will only benefit students when we are all back in person,” McKenna said. 

McKenna and Boatright have also worked on giving the library class instruction fully online and are providing embedded librarians upon faculty request. 

Embedded librarians work with instructional faculty and are “embedded” into certain Canvas courses by request at College of Alameda and Berkeley City College.

“[Embedded librarians] help the instructor,” McKenna said. ”When questions come up, the instructor has a specialist in that class and it also gives students a potential mentor that they get to know, besides their instructor.”

The system “gives a more direct contact with the students,” Boatright said. 

“I am hoping that even if we are face to face, instructors will still ask for the embedded librarians in the Canvas shell.”

McKenna reminded that studies have shown that students who engage with the library have higher success in their academic life. 

“We are here to help,” Boatright said.

The most challenging aspect of being a “virtual” Peralta librarian during the pandemic? Missing students. Librarians across the campuses expressed how they miss being at their base, watching students study and getting to know them in person. 

“I do miss seeing coworkers, interacting with students in person. I miss walking through the library and seeing people studying,” McKenna said. “It is sad to walk through the library and see it empty but obviously safety is the most important thing, so I think we are doing the right thing.”


Laney College 

Monday – Thursday: 8am – 8pm 

Friday: 8am – 6pm 

Saturday: 9am -2pm 


College of Alameda

Monday – Thursday:  7:50 am – 7:50 pm 

Friday: 7:50 am – 3:50 pm 


Berkeley City College 

Monday – Thursday: 8:30am – 8:00pm 

Friday: 8:30am – 4:00pm 

Saturday: 10:00am – 4:00pm 


Merritt College 

Monday – Thursday: 8 a.m.-8 p.m. 

Friday: 8 a.m.-4 p.m. 

Saturday: 10 a.m.-4 p.m.