Studying from home, teaching from home, and working from home are all offering a unique set of challenges these days. In this new blog series, Leatherby Libraries librarians offer their advice on overcoming obstacles while working from home, their favorite online resources, and their current reads. In this first installment, we’re chatting with Coordinator of Special Collections and Archives Annie Tang.Portrait photograph of Annie Tang

1. What has been the most challenging aspect for you of working from home so far, and how did you overcome it?

I’m an archivist–meaning I manage archives, historical papers, and artifacts. I usually get to work with my hands! Until now. It was rough initially. I overcame the hump by focusing on what remote wishlist of (digital or electronic) projects I’ve always wanted to complete, but never had time to work on. Turns out there was plenty: updating the department’s 44-page operations manual (a page turner, I know); remotely supervising my graduate student intern in her completion of an inventory regarding an Orange County theatre history collection; and correcting metadata/cataloging information for old collections we organized long ago, just to name a few projects.

2. What is your favorite remote resource for students and/or faculty? 

Media History Digital Library (MHDL), also known as Lantern, a database created by the University of Wisconsin-Madison (which happens to have one of the best archivist-training programs in the country). The MHDL digitizes collections of classic media periodicals that belong in the public domain for full public access. For example, there’s beautiful scans of vintage Variety, Motion Picture News, and Radio Age magazines, with every scanned text being word searchable. There are over 2 millions digitized items, going back to the early 20th century to the 1970s. As I am also the Librarian for Film, it’s been a saving grace for the film studies classes in their research.

3. What book(s) have you been reading recently?

Chain of Gold by Cassandra Clare. Book cover for Chain of Gold by Cassandra ClareIt’s one of many books regarding a fantasy universe of demon-hunting families, with this one set in the steampunk-influenced intrigue of Victorian-era London. It’s incredibly escapist, which has been useful in these strange times we’ve been living in.

4. What is the most interesting change you’ve made to how you do your job in the past few weeks?

I think many of us in education have now become much savvier video conferencers, that’s for sure. I had never taught research sessions online prior to this, and I learned how to demo a hypothetical research project, while searching through multiple, unwieldy databases on our library websites to more than a dozen students on Zoom. It was exhilarating, terrifying, and rewarding. I also may’ve thrown a Tiger King screenshot in there just for giggles. As mentioned, these are strange times.

5. What is your number one piece of advice for students learning remotely and/or faculty teaching remotely right now?

Laugh. Nothing is more soothing for the soul more than laughter in hard times. And to not worry about being productive or “busy” enough. You’re working or studying right now during one of the most unprecedented moments in human history. You accomplishing this much is a win in my book.