Joshua Vossler

Joshua Vossler, associate professor and head of reference and instruction at Morris Library, is among the library staff members working from home. He created a multimedia production studio in his home office to assist with the “Ask-A-Librarian” online chat service and he also creates instructional videos to enable students to effectively conduct library research. (Photo provided)

March 31, 2020

SIU’s Morris Library continues to be a valuable resource

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Because of safety protocols enacted to combat the spread of COVID-19, Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Morris Library may not be the bustling hub of activity it normally is. But the library and its staff are very much still “there” for people in a multitude of ways.

Students and campus can access part of building

At this time, the library’s extended hours area, including the computer lab in Room 139, remains open for use by students, faculty and staff.

The remainder of the facility is closed. That means that while practicing social distancing, the campus community can utilize the study space around Delyte’s and have WiFi access along with use of 14 computers and a printer from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. The lab has been reconfigured to keep users a safe distance apart.

While the facility is open for limited use and not accessible to the general public at this time, resources and help are still at your fingertips. Staff members are working remotely and staying quite busy making sure students, faculty and staff have access to the resources they need.

Computers for Salukis

Some Salukis needed help accessing computers when classes were switched to the online format for the rest of the semester. Through SIU’s Saluki Cares program, the library staff worked with the Dean of Students Office to provide computer loans to students, faculty and staff.

Library staff reformatted about 60 laptop computers for off-campus use, according to John Pollitz, dean of library affairs, and then made special arrangements to get them to those who needed them in order to complete classes or do their campus jobs.

The goal is to help people safely study or work from home while limiting their outside exposure, said Cherie Watson, outreach and instruction librarian.

Virtual help

Have a question or need assistance with resources?  Online help is just a click away. You can connect with Morris Library’s librarians and reference staff at

This handy, one-stop online reference system allows users to:

  • Chat live via instant messaging through the “Ask-A-Librarian” feature.
  • Connect through email at
  • Contact the Special Collections Research Center, also accessible via email at, for help with SIU archives, manuscripts, rare books and political papers.
  • Call 618/453-1455; if you leave a message, someone will return your call.

Find them on Facebook

The library also maintains a very active Facebook page. In addition to updates on library services, the page also features interesting historical pictures and information, usually tied to the library or university.

For instance, last week Special Collections staff posted pictures and noted that on March 27, 1945, “Elements of the U.S. Seventh Army crossed the Rhine River at Worms, Germany. Among them was Sgt. William Clark Ashby, who taught plant biology at SIUC from 1960 until 1992. His papers and those related to his father's service in World War I are housed in the library's Special Collections Research Center.”

Extended loans

Although you can’t check out books right now, one of the library’s major e-book services is offering unlimited access.

In addition, interlibrary loan staff members are working hard to assist students, faculty and staff in obtaining access to materials from other institutions as some interlibrary loans are still happening. However, at this time interlibrary loans are being processed only for PDF-format items, not for physical books and materials. 

Patrons are encouraged to hold their books and borrowed materials if possible, but they can still return their items in the north entrance book drops. Returned items will be in quarantine for a week before they are touched, as a measure to protect staff. No overdue fines will be assessed on items borrowed directly from Morris Library or those acquired through interlibrary loans if they are returned by July 1.

Still your go-to resource

The library faculty/staff are working hard and thinking creatively to keep people connected to the resources they need at this time, Watson said.

Marissa Ellermann, clinical associate professor and head of circulation services, and Rich Beach, library systems manager, along with their staffs, have managed all of the efforts to provide laptop loans and are working with faculty across campus to give them as much access as possible to materials within the library’s collections.

Joshua Vossler, head of reference and instruction, is coordinating online reference services and creating helpful digital resources for Salukis from his home office/production studio.

They and their colleagues are determined that Morris Library continues to be the “go-to” resource, available at your fingertips. 

Their motto is, “SIU and Morris Library are wherever Salukis are!”