Staff heroes: Remote law school finals had extra challenges


Not only did School of Law finals need to be administered anonymously last spring — that’s always the requirement — but when the entire University switched to remote work they also had to be done using not Blackboard or Canvas but a third content management system: TWEN.

TWEN (The West Education Network) has long been used by the law school for classes, but not for finals. Susanna Leers — the Barco Law Library’s electronic resources and technology services librarian — was asked to work with the University registrar to get dozens of final exams onto TWEN.

During these timed exams, Leers fielded “many panicked phone calls” from students, she says: “They were having all kinds of trouble with their internet.” For her own part, Leers remembers the other fun bit: “Keeping track of all these anonymous IDs!”

“I work with a great bunch of people,” she adds, crediting colleagues and administrators, Pitt IT and the University Center for Teaching and Learning for help with adjustments, then and now. “I just love my job.”

Leers has been doing this work for 17 years, starting with an internship in the Barco library, while she was working toward her Master of Library and Information Science degree here in 2000.

“I’ve always been a computer-geeky kind of person,” she says. “I just love playing with computers and it was a great fit for me.”

The job has evolved from keeping the library’s internet resources functioning to “overseeing pretty much everything in electronics,” Leers says: databases and digital resources, including e-books, as well as the websites. She also does a lot of training for professors and students to use the school’s many specialty legal databases. Some of those databases were only available inside the school’s building before COVID-19 hit; Leers worked to make them accessible remotely.

The library has since been re-opened to students and faculty, with distanced seats at carrels and tables, and each of the librarians works inside it once a week.

I like to think the biggest impact of my job is that nobody notices me doing anything, because it works so smoothly,” she says. “Tech is supposed to make our work easier … When technology fails, it hinders us. You shouldn’t have to be anxious about using a computer to find the information you need.”

Marty Levine is a staff writer for the University Times. Reach him at or 412-758-4859.


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