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Disposable Mask Waste on Campus: Please Be Mindful of Your Environmental Impact

Disposable mask near statue of St. Thomas of VillanovaAfter reading about the 130 billion disposable masks used globally each month during the height of the pandemic, according to the Sierra Club, I couldn’t help but see all of the masks littered across the campus, even nearby the statue of St. Thomas of Villanova, the University patron.

Additional research revealed the personal protective equipment (PPE) waste has been observed in the ocean and washing up on shores. It threatens ocean life, like whales and turtles.

And, according to a story from the MIT News Office, the cost to our environment will only continue. “The Covid-19 pandemic is estimated to generate up to 7,200 tons of medical waste every day, much of which is disposable masks. And even as the pandemic slows down in some parts of the world, health care workers are expected to continue wearing masks most of the time.”

I reached out to Villanova’s Sustainability Office to ask “what can we do?” Turns out masks are difficult to recycle, but the office found a company that handles them and responded, “If you collect them, we will fund a recycling solution.”

I expected to find a handful, maybe 50. But the problem of one person accidentally dropping a mask was magnified when there are thousands of students, faculty, staff, and visitors. I would collect what I saw along 2-3-mile runs, circling, eventually, the whole campus.

Map of running route

An example of a typical day’s route around campus.

Yet each morning I ventured out, there were new masks to find in the same places. Some days topped 40-60 masks, but it wasn’t until I passed 400 masks in less than a month that I understood the scope of the  problem.

Why was this happening?

I never saw anyone drop a mask, so I pondered where they appeared and reflected about how they may have appeared there. While the whole campus had a least some mask litter, most was squished near cars, frozen on pathways, dangling from plants in front of academic buildings and residence halls…even blown against the fences of our beloved campus community garden.

As of this morning, Jan. 13, I have collected 729 disposable masks, along with 65 reusable ones. 

Disposable Mask Chart

It’s clear that this is not one person or group. It is a community problem. Likewise, this could be solved by the community. It takes all of us.

I know. Masks are no fun. Just one more thing to carry. And disposable masks (vital protection during a public health crisis) are treated like plastic bags or soda cans. If they are dropped, people don’t go back to find them, and if seen on the ground, they are ignored. But if everyone ignores them, what then?

Disposable mask hanging from plants on Villanova's campus.

A disposable mask, one of more than 794 masks collected, hanging from plants on campus.

In a community of thousands, nearly 800 masks left on the ground is completely avoidable. If our community can be mindful of their masks and reuse them, or discard them when they are worn out, we can reduce the issue, at least in our small community.

Better yet! Drop them off to me, and I’ll recycle them.

A big improvement would be to invest in reusable masks, but, at the very least, be as mindful of those items as you are of your phone.

If you dropped your phone, you’d go back to get it.

Villanova can be a model for how sustainability can succeed beyond campus. And working together to make small changes, just as we have to ensure campus environmental health and safety, we can model how to make a big difference in our world.

Learn more about the impact of mask waste (and possible solutions) during the pandemic through the Library’s digital resources:

Face Masks, PPE and Throwaway Cutlery — After Covid, Where’s Next for Sustainable Packaging? The Global Pandemic Pushed Consumer Behaviour Back Toward Single-use Plastics to Avoid Contamination. So How Can Short-term Hygiene Requirements Be Balanced with Long-term Sustainability Goals?The Guardian (London, England), 2021.

Hartanto, Broto Widya, and Dyah Samti Mayasari. “Environmentally Friendly Non-medical Mask: An Attempt to Reduce the Environmental Impact from Used Masks During COVID 19 Pandemic.” Science of the Total Environment, vol. 760, 2021.

Majerník, Milan, et al. “Environmental Waste Management of Disposable Surgical Coverage.Polish Journal of Environmental Studies, vol. 30, no. 6, 2021, pp. 5163-5174.

Torres, Fernando G., and Gabriel E. De-la-Torre. “Face Mask Waste Generation and Management During the COVID-19 Pandemic: An Overview and the Peruvian Case.Science of the Total Environment, vol. 786, 2021.

Venesoja, Anu, et al. “Healthcare Workers’ Experiences and Views of Using Surgical Masks and Respirators, and Their Attitudes on the Sustainability: A Semi-Structured Survey Study During COVID-19.” Nursing Reports, vol. 11, no. 3, 2021, pp. 615-628.

Shawn ProctorShawn Proctor is Communication and Marketing Program Manager at Falvey Memorial Library.


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Weekend Recs: Changing Vaccine Updates

Happy Friday, Wildcats! After a year hiatus, Falvey Memorial Library’s back to Weekend Recs, a blog dedicated to filling you in on what to read, listen to, and watch over the weekend. Jenna, a graduate assistant from the Communication department, scours the internet, peruses the news, and digs through book stacks to find new, relevant, and thought-provoking content that will challenge you and prepare you for the upcoming week. 

Although 95% of the Villanova community is fully vaccinated, it’s still important that we keep up with the latest vaccine statuses, especially given a COVID-19 booster may be just around the corner to help us fight the Delta variant.

In addition to announcing an upcoming booster, President Biden also announced that the Pfizer vaccine is officially FDA-approved beyond emergency usage. What does this all mean? What about the other vaccines? With everything changing what it feels like is every day, we’ve compiled resources to help you keep up to date whether you have two minutes or a whole day. 

If you have three minutes… read this article from The Skimm on vaccine immunity, boosters and breakthrough cases. 

If you have seven minutes… Read this other article from The Skimm about everything you need to know about the top COVID-19 vaccines.  

If you have 11 minutes… Watch Biden’s statements on the FDA Pfizer approval on Aug. 23 from PBS News Hour.  

If you have 30 minutes… consider contributing to Falvey and the Albert Lepage Center for History in the Public Interest’s Documenting COVID-19 collection efforts.

If you have the whole day (or at least 11 hours)… read or listen to the new-ish memoir by American television personality, dancer, and fitness instructor, Amanda Koots about her late husband and Broadway actor, Nick Cordero’s death from COVID complications. Live Your Life: My Story of Loving and Losing Nick Cordero explores the love they shared and the grief that came with his loss and the international pandemic.  



Jenna Newman is a graduate student in the Communication Department and graduate assistant in Falvey Memorial Library.

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From the Archives: AIDS Awareness Week

AIDS Ribbon Illustration, 1995

In continuation of presenting traditions of the past, the University Archives draws attention to Villanova’s AIDS Awareness Week held in the early 1990s. June as Pride Month is a celebration of the progress of LGBTQIA+ community and the COVID-19 pandemic amplifies a time of reflection of forty years ago when the world started to live through another epidemic that suffered from rampant misinformation and government inaction. Just like with COVID-19, health inequities and social injustices, stigma, fear and bigotry around HIV/AIDS fueled the spread and destruction of so many lives. AIDS remains decades on an unspoken epidemic, but is so clearly entrenched in our history and its affects reverberate through the LGBTQIA+ community and beyond.

Through articles from the Villanovan, the University Archives highlights how Villanova community responded to the AIDS crisis. Villanova established an AIDS task force in the 1980s as the virus was gaining media traction. Into the late eighties, lectures and panel discussions would be sponsored by student organizations or departments on campus about the virus and transmission. Though, through perceived lack of interest and advocacy, the task force faded away by the end of the eighties. The necessity to address the crisis really emerged in the early 1990s and the task force was reorganized in 1992 (Compitiello, 1992). By the early 1990s, AIDS cases had peaked and college campus across the nation were faced with the reality of positive cases on campus (CDC, 2001).

In 1991, the University started AIDS Awareness day, which expanded into AIDS Awareness Week in 1993. Awareness Week included invited speakers, panel discussions, student performances, masses, and vigils. The main goals were,

Raise awareness about the impact of HIV/AIDS; to offer HIV/AIDS educational programs during the week; to create an opportunity for spiritual reflection on the impact of HIV/AIDS upon the University community at the beginning of the Lenten season; to provide members of the University community with opportunities for reconciliation and for consideration of their own personal outreach in the context of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and to raise money for local HIV/AIDS care advocates and provider (Lee, 1994).

Panel discussions and lectures would cover questions related to AIDS in relation to discrimination, health care, and how perception is affected by the Church and what is the Church’s response to HIV/AIDS.

One of the most longstanding traditions has been selected panels of the Names Projects AIDS Memorial Quilt on display at the Connelly Center (which continued in to the 2000s).

In 1994, Villanova started to contribute to the quilting project. Here are images from the “Have a Heart” Quilting Bee campaign in 1995. Students could help with quilting and banner making at St.Mary’s Library.

For more information on the AIDS Awareness events on campus, visit the Villanovan in the Digital Library:




Cat in the Stax: Connecting Virtually

College is all about meeting and connecting with new people from all over the country that normally you wouldn’t get an opportunity to interact with if you stayed in your small town. Unfortunately, the last year has made it really difficult to form and maintain those relationships. Below are some ways to stay safe, mask up, but still connect with friends, new and old.

Virtual Study Sessions
This was one idea my undergraduate roommate had as a way for us to spend time together despite the fact we were both super busy in grad school and hundreds of miles apart. We pick a time that works well for both of us, find our own, safe study space, then hop in a Zoom room to study at the same time. Our fields couldn’t be more different, but the important part is being able to spend time together, like we used to when we had study sessions back at Delaware. 

Attending NEW Events
Walking into a room full of people you don’t know to hear a speaker on a topic you’re unfamiliar with can be super intimidating. However, with Zoom events, you can feel free to leave your camera off and no one will even know you’re there! And who knows? Maybe you’ll find a new topic you enjoy learning more about or see the name of someone you have a class with also at the event and make a new connection!

To view a list of upcoming events hosted by Falvey click here. To check out the latest Villanova Theatre production, Songs for a New World, click here

Fresh Air
Going for walks, masked up, around Villanova’s beautiful campus is another way to connect with new and old friends while still staying safe. Swing by the library to pick-up some books, grab some food, loop around campus, and then go your separate ways back to your building or house. Being outdoors is a safer way to connect and is a great way to take a break from studying (if you don’t believe me, read any of my stress reliever blogs from last semester). 

What new ways have you been able to connect with people this past year that you’ve never thought of before?


Jenna Newman is a graduate assistant in Falvey Memorial Library and a graduate student in the Communication Department.

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From the Archives: Digitized Primary Sources on the 1918 Flu Pandemic

By Rebecca Oviedo

Preserved in Villanova University Archives and now available in the Digital Library are dozens of first-hand accounts and records from women religious of Philadelphia who volunteered to nurse the sick during the 1918-1919 “Spanish Influenza.” The accounts were solicited and collected by Rev. Francis E. Tourscher, O.S.A., who quickly took up the timely task to “assemble facts while they are still a living memory” and compiled that research as Work of the Sisters during the epidemic of influenza, October, 1918 / Philadelphia : American Catholic Historical Society, 1919.

Now we are making the original experiences and recollections written by the Sisters available online. Rev. Tourscher served as University Librarian from 1923-1939, and his papers are part of the Falvey Memorial Library records. His aim in gathering these facts was “to record the experiences and impressions of the Sisters, and incidentally to record their personal observations of the symptoms of the disease and conditions existing during the epidemic in private homes and hospitals.”

Senior Elizabeth Lyons works in the library as a Collections & Stewardship Technician in the scan lab and was eager to digitize the papers. “These papers were a crucial part of my research into volunteering efforts during the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic in Philadelphia. They offered a unique insight into what it was like at the hospitals in Philadelphia. There weren’t a lot of personal accounts of what it was like to live through this period of time, so these offered a really unique perspective. I love working in the library and getting to interact with all sorts of historical documents. It’s really exciting to see what sorts of things have been preserved and what life was like back then! A lot of my fellow history majors were jealous that I get to keep working with primary sources like this, since most archives are closed right now.”

Further access to the manuscripts is provided through careful transcription of each handwritten document. Briana Felice is pursuing a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and is completing an internship at Falvey Memorial Library. She has been transcribing the Sisters’ recollections into machine-readable format (Microsoft Word document and PDF) where they are available alongside the digitized item in the Digital Library. This added process ensures that the papers are more easily accessible and findable for users when performing keyword searches. She observes, “With everything going on with the looming pandemic, these letters are very timely. It shows that history really does repeat itself. Hopefully, we can learn a little something from the past.”

Just as scholars today are examining these records of the past, we anticipate that future scholars, staff and students may wish to know and understand what it was like for the Villanova community living through the current COVID-19 pandemic. We invite you to submit your own story and be a part of history:




Rebecca Oviedo is Distinctive Collections Librarian/Archivist at Falvey Memorial Library.





Falvey Memorial Library Hours: December 2020–January 2021

Electronic collections (articles, e-books, and more!) are accessible through our website 24/7. Please visit the Fall Semester FAQ Page for more details. Click here for printable calendar.

  • Dec. 1–6 (Fall Semester Hours)
    • Service Hours: 9 a.m.– 5 p.m., Monday–Friday
    • Building Hours: 6 a.m.–midnight, 7 days a week
  • Dec. 7–20 (Adjusted Operations Period)
    • Service Hours: 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m., Monday-Friday
    • Building Hours: 6 a.m.–midnight, 7 days a week
  • Dec. 21–23 (Adjusted Operations Period)
    • Service Hours:  No service hours
    • Building Hours: Monday, Dec. 21 and Tuesday, Dec. 22, 6 a.m.–midnight; Wednesday, Dec. 23, 6 a.m.–5 p.m.
  • Dec. 24–Jan. 1 (University Holiday Closure)
    • Service Hours: No service hours
    • Building Hours: Building is closed
  • Jan. 2–10 (Adjusted Operations Period)
    • Service Hours: 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m., Monday–Friday
    • Building Hours: 6 a.m.–midnight, 7 days a week
  • Jan. 11–Jan 24 (Pre-semester hours)
    • Service Hours: 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday–Friday
    • No service hours Monday, Jan. 18
    • Building Hours: 6 a.m. –midnight 7 days a week
  • Jan. 25–30 (Spring Semester Hours)
    • Service Hours: 9 a.m.–5 p.m., Monday–Friday
    • Building Hours: 24/7

A Wildcard is required to enter and a mask must be worn while visiting. Contactless pickup, printing, and self-scanning services are available during building hours.

Book Stacks Access

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Falvey West and the third and fourth floors are CLOSED for stacks browsing and study space. Villanova students, faculty and staff may request library materials for Contactless Pickup. Requests must be placed by noon on Friday, Dec. 18. Materials requested can be picked up through Dec. 23, 5 p.m. Any requests placed during the holiday closure will be ready for pickup by Jan. 5.


To request a scan from a physical item in Falvey’s collection, submit an ILLiad request. Patrons may also continue to use the ILLiad service to request scanned copies of articles from other libraries. Patrons may also request books, DVDs, microfilm, etc., from other libraries through ILLiad. E-ZBorrow services will be available throughout the intersession except during official University holidays 12/24—1/3. Expect processing delays when submitting requests. 

For real-time updates, continue to check Falvey Library’s website and social media (@FalveyLibrary on Facebook and Twitter; @VillanovaLibrary on Instagram).

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Foto Friday: Step It Up

Picture of Kallie Stahl, Communication and Marketing Specialist, viewing her steps on her i-Phone.

Kallie Stahl, Communication and Marketing Specialist, checks her daily steps. Photo courtesy of Joanne Quinn, Director of Communication and Marketing.

To maintain safe social distancing practices, the Library’s Main Collection, located in Old Falvey’s ground through second floors and on Main Falvey’s third and fourth floors, is accessible only by Library staff. However, physical books are still available! Once you request items from the collection using the contactless pickup service, Falvey Library staff locate, process, and package your items for pickup.

A sought-after service, contactless pickup has seen Falvey staff working hard to fulfill a growing slate of requests. For example, Kallie Stahl, Communication and Marketing Specialist, averages three miles each shift when collecting items for contactless pickup!

Library patrons can pickup their requested items during building hours, Monday through Sunday, 6 a.m. until midnight. Other materials, including Course Reserves and Special Collections, remain unavailable, but scans of page ranges can be requested through ILLiad.

We welcome the community to continue using the Falvey’s virtual Library to keep yourself and the Villanova community safe.

View additional information about fall reopening FAQs here.


#TBT: The Flu and the Class of ’22

black & white photo of the Senior Class of 1922

Photo of the Senior Class of 1922. Image courtesy of the Villanova University Digital Library.

“’22 will never forget the days of the “flu.’” Classes were suspended because those that were not sick were required for different kinds of necessary detail work. Guard Duty (at the gates with wooden guns), K.P., and hospital duty alternated rapidly. Charles A. Belz, class of 1922, reflects back on the impact of the Spanish Flu in the 1922 Belle Air. 

The same way the classes of the early 2020s will speak of how COVID-19 impacted their college experience, so did the classes of the 1920s when thinking about the Spanish Flu.

Consider contributing to the “Documenting COVID-19” collection effort so that future generations can look back the same way we are on this throwback Thursday. Find more information on this collection effort here.

Jenna Newman is a graduate assistant in Falvey Memorial Library and a graduate student in the Communication Department. 





Become Part of History: Contribute Your Experiences to Villanova’s “Documenting COVID-19” Project

Future scholars, staff, and students will want to understand this period of history was like. Who better to describe it than the people who lived through it?

For that reason, Falvey Library, in conjunction with the Albert Lepage Center for History in the Public Interest, is launching a “Documenting COVID-19” collection effort.

All Villanova students, faculty, full and part-time staff, and alumnae/i are invited submit stories, photographs, video, audio, or digital objects that reflect experiences about school, work, home, or events surrounding the BLM protests.

The goal is to ensure that future generations will have original sources of information regarding the lives and times of Villanovans who experienced this global pandemic.

Collecting will be ongoing throughout the pandemic and in the subsequent weeks after the pandemic has passed. People are allowed to submit as many times as they like as events or emotions change. All submissions will be preserved in the University Archives at Falvey Library.

Also, please enjoy this video, created by Beaudry Allen, Preservation and Digital Archivist at Falvey Memorial Library.

Shawn ProctorShawn Proctor is Preservation and Digital Archivist at Falvey Memorial Library.





Falvey Answers Your Frequently Asked Back-to-School Questions

Wordcloud of FAQ keywords

By Shawn Proctor

Villanova’s 2020 fall semester will be unlike any in the University’s history. Due to COVID-19 safety measures, many familiar aspects of campus will look and feel different, including Falvey Memorial Library.

Yes, the Library is open. And our friendly, welcoming staff is ready to provide the same level of care and service, but how those services are delivered has been changed, in accordance to our community’s Caritas Commitment.

All of your frequently asked questions, including how to obtain a book, print a paper, locate a resource, and consult a librarian, are available on our FAQ page.

To help you jump to the section of interest, it has been broken down by functional area:

Also, learn about our partners in the building:

Villanova remains a special place to learn, live, and work. Everyone at Falvey Memorial Library is looking forward to a successful semester!


Shawn Proctor
Shawn Proctor, MFA, is a Communication and Program Manager at Falvey Memorial Library.

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Last Modified: August 13, 2020

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