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Employee Spotlight: Librarians Alexa Duncan & Kassandra Cumming Transition to Research & More

With Buncombe County library branches closed, librarians are keeping busy in various ways that are helping vital services run during the COVID-19 pandemic. Alexa Duncan and Kassandra Cumming are helping the County’s Emergency Operations Center with research projects that are helping various community-based responses. “This shift in reality has taught me how adaptable we all can be. Additionally, in my new positions I have found a deep sense of gratitude,” says Kassandra. “I'm in a high-risk category,” notes Alexa. “I'm honestly just so grateful to have a concrete way to help during this crisis. I'm thankful to be able to put the research skills I have as a librarian to work in a new way. The team we've put together is so hardworking and responsive.”

Kassandra is also working hard at the Hominy Valley Crisis Ministry. She says balancing safety with acclimating to new duties was an adjustment. “It took a bit of time for me to determine how my skills would be best utilized. The second big challenge was figuring out how to be safe from germs in this environment,” explains Kassandra. “While I have found my niche and dove into meaningful tasks while there, I am still struggling with making sure that my presence there is met with appropriate social distancing and protection from COVID-19.”

Alexa is also juggling the additional duty of assisting the library’s initiative to record content for children in Spanish. “I always knew I worked with great people, but I have a newfound appreciation for how hardworking, dedicated, and thoughtful all of the people I work with are. Everyone has been so supportive and eager to share any skills they have to help,” she says. Alexa also notes the importance of making resources and programs available for all members of community to help ensure they are “safe and healthy.”

While COVID-19 has repurposed Alexa, Kassandra and others, they say it’s part of the job. “Public service means celebrating your community while being an active part of it… I am incredibly lucky that I have a community that buoys me up,” exclaims Kassandra.

“Public service is personal for us. So, in the midst of a global pandemic, serving our community means being adaptable and using whatever skills or labor we have to offer to protect and strengthen that community,” says Alexa. “It means thinking outside the box, moving beyond our regular routines, and being willing to try, fail, and try again so that we can learn new skills and meet others' needs.”

Buncombe County thanks Alexa and Kassandra for lending their expertise for important EOC projects, food distribution, and helping share stories with children. And thanks to the rest of the research team: Katherine Cutshall, Jaime McDowell, Tim Means, Brandon Autar, Whitley Albury, and Michelle Ruedin.