Over the past few months, we’ve been interviewing Leatherby Libraries librarians about their experiences working from home, and their recommendations for students and faculty. In the past few weeks, we’ve added conversations with Leatherby Libraries student employees to the blog as well. In our newest series, “Leatherby Libraries Staff at Home,” we’re talking to some of the often-unsung heroes of the Leatherby Libraries, the staff members. And who better to kick it off with than someone who is the glue that holds most Leatherby Libraries operations together, Laurie Gates Cussalli, Administrative Coordinator.

1. What has been the most challenging aspect for you of working from home so far, and how did you overcome it?
Finding a suitable working environment has been the most challenging aspect of working from home. My husband and I rent a one-bedroom condo with limited space. He already had a desk in the bedroom, but I didn’t have a dedicated home office. At first I kept my small Ikea desk near the dining room area where it was a “junk table.” After three weeks, a revelation came! On a particularly lovely spring day, my coworker Theresa Paulsrud (Head of Acquisitions) said in an email that she hoped I had “…the same beautiful clouds to look at that I’m seeing.”  That weekend I moved my desk next to the sliding glass window and I now have my own space in an inspiring environment. Instead of being stuck in the dim, back of the room behind a divider screen, I am now enjoying the natural light, looking out at the trees and blue sky, hearing the birds singing, and feeling better. Some might think this would be too distracting, but it has helped me be more productive. Nature is so important for our well-being. Even if you can only have a plant on your desk it’s a good idea.

View from a desk of an outdoor patio, with a tree and various potted plants in view

Laurie’s workspace with a view

2. What is your favorite remote resource for students and/or faculty? (This could be a database, our digital reference service, or anything else students and faculty can access from home.)
My favorite remote resource is actually the searching capability on the library’s homepage, especially within the Search Databases by title or subject A-Z list. There are so many online databases to access there and just browsing through one can find resources they may not have thought to utilize. Of course, a user could narrow down that search for relevant results, though I find that browsing satisfies the desire to look around in the physical stacks. One resource useful for local historical research is the Los Angeles Times Historical (1881-1988) newspaper database. I can always search with a keyword and see the actual scan of the article, whether it’s from the 1990s or the 1890s.

 3. What book(s) have you been reading recently? (A picture of the cover(s) would be great, too)
Between work, and home projects, I haven’t actually had much free time to read, however I’ve been wanting to re-read Siddhartha and Narcissus and Goldmund, two novels by one of my favorite authors, Hermann Hesse. In different ways both lead the reader on winding paths of self-discovery and spirituality, in a captivating style. Summer reading project! In a different mode of storytelling, I have recently been watching one Star Trek: Picard episode a night. For a sci-fi fan this is very exciting, and it gives me something to look forward to each day.

A small orange-brown dog sits on a blue blanket with a open book, Narcissus and Goldmund. The book is open to the title page, which the dog's paw rests on

Laurie’s companion Sunshine helps her start her summer reading!

4. What is the most interesting change you’ve made to how you do your job in the past few weeks?
To keep up employee morale I have been adding fun photos, memes, cartoons, and articles in my daily message to the Leatherby Libraries’ staff. In the past I have done that type of thing, but it does take some effort, so it fell by the wayside. I felt it was a good time to revive the practice and give everyone an enjoyable start to their day. My advice to others: look for some short, funny or interesting thing to view or read as you go through your day – it will lift your spirits. Might I suggest watching The Pet Collective? The other change has been using Teams and Zoom. I had previously never done an online meeting of any kind so figuring out the best lighting and set-up has been a new experience. I feel like I can now start my own YouTube channel…no…just kidding!

5. What is your number one piece of advice for students learning remotely and/or faculty teaching remotely right now?
Try new things and don’t let inadequacies deter you from using a remote technology that can help you connect with your fellow human beings. I do think in-person interaction is more meaningful, but since we can’t do that right now, we need to make an even stronger effort to not let communication disappear. Learn and use resources for instant interaction through video or email. Or use a tried-and-true method and call someone on the phone. Remember that any little communication is appreciated. Also, go easy on yourself! In times of emergency everyone understands that things are less than ideal, and though we can still try our best, we don’t need to expect perfection in that type of situation.