Greetings from the Austin (Texas) PTRC. I’m Larayne Dallas, Engineering Librarian at the University of Texas at Austin. At UT-Austin, PTRC services are offered through the Engineering Library; the library has been part of the program since 1983. I have been on the staff — and associated with the program — for 34 years. Though I am the designated staff member for PTRC services, Lydia Fletcher, the Physics-Math-Astronomy Librarian, has a significant role in providing patent information as contact for junior-level design classes in the College of Engineering. Additionally, I am grateful for the support of Adam Hatley, Engineering Library Manager, and for the technical skills offered by members of the Libraries IT staff.
Because of the Covid virus, the Engineering Library has been closed since March 13, 2020. Library guides are updated in an effort to warn users about the situation and, I hope that most members of our community know to check in advance on whether a facility is open or closed. PTRC services have continued to be offered through e-mail, by phone, and using Zoom. Even before the virus closure, I encouraged initial inquiries by phone or e-mail and generally discouraged on-site visits. Unfortunately, I do hear from individuals who would like to visit in person but we have added web-based meetings as an option for those with the technology.
For web-based meetings, I prefer to use Zoom and most people are able to work with that. An early glitch was my fault; I didn’t realize that university Zoom guidelines had tightened access so that those not currently affiliated with the university had to register in advance. I have switched to using my personal Zoom account to avoid problems. Another concern I have is about returning phone calls; callers leave messages on my work phone but I call back from my home phone. When I don’t get a response, I wonder if there is reluctance to accept my call. I have additionally modified my telephone message, hoping to clarify the situation.
As for the future, we have recently been told to expect to work on campus in the fall. Librarians in my work group haven’t yet heard more. It may be that visitor access will be limited but we are looking forward to a “near-normal” fall semester.