Cook Library collecting stories, offering most services despite closing

April 3, 2020

While the library may have closed its doors at the end of March, staff are still working hard to provide research help and other services

Cook library exterior
Though it closed at the end of March, Cook Library continues to offer most of its services to students, faculty and staff.

The Albert S. Cook Library may have closed at the end of March because of the new coronavirus, but staff are still hard at work assisting students, faculty and staff, and working to add to the University Archives.

In fact, other than checking out physical books and working in the new Data Studio, almost all other library services are able to continue online, says assistant university librarian for development & communication Joyce Garczynski.

There's an online chat box that anyone can use to ask a librarian for research help – and staff can always be emailed. Additionally, the library has a page of free online resources for Towson University affiliates, including e-textbooks, video streaming and online journals.

And while library staff may not be shelving books or thinking of creative ways to use physical library space, "There are still ways to get to most of what we do," Garczynski says.

And if you've got a book checked out from the library, don't worry, Garczynski says. Books are going to be automatically renewed while the library is closed, and any late fees will be waived. 

"Don’t worry if you can’t return something. Please don’t try," she says with a laugh. "You may still get notices [about due dates], but disregard them."

At the same time as most regular services continue, the library is taking on a new project: Collecting stories from students, faculty, staff and other university affiliates to document how the coronavirus pandemic changed lives.

"Our mission, within Special Collection and University Archives, is to be the institution's memory," says Ashley Todd-Diaz, assistant university librarian for SCUA. "This is one of those unique points in history where it’s our job to collect memorires and experiences so that there’s a record of them going forward."

The online form is anonymous, and respondents can self-identify as much as they want and filling out as much detail as they want. Todd-Diaz says the 30-some responses that SCUA has received so far have been "intense" and "deep."

"I think it’s serving a need that people have, just to have and reflect, and share what they’re experiencing," she says.

The librarian says she's glad people are participating in the survey, in part because it's creating a new trove of primary resources that anyone studying this pandemic in the future will be able to look at.

"To be able to see all of those different stories and different voices that are very raw, and very real, within this time, it provides much more context, and much more perspective to this time than we would be able to know from the news or from a textbook," she says.