This week marks the third entry in the Leatherby Libraries Staff at Home blog series, as we hear from Library Events and External Relations Assistant (and your most frequent blogger) Rachel Karas about how her job has changed, and what she’s reading at home. After this week, this series will be put on pause for the summer, but we’ll return in the fall with more profiles of fabulous Leatherby Libraries staff.

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

A desk in front of a window. On the desk are a large computer monitor open to the Leatherby Libraries home page, a water bottle, a phone, a keyboard, mouse, and two notebooks. Outside the window is a tree.

Rachel’s home office

I got lucky in one major way – my husband and I moved into a new condo just before the stay-home orders went out, and the condo has two bedrooms, which means we’ve been able to dedicate one of those bedrooms to being an office, so that’s not too difficult for me. What I have struggled with, though, is figuring out when and how to disconnect. Back in my office at the Leatherby Libraries, it felt easier to take breaks away from my desk. Working from home with no visual cues that I’m out of my office, though, has been a struggle, and for the first month or so, I really felt tied to my desk. I’ve been getting a lot better recently, though, at using the Available/Away/Be Right Back status on Teams to let my co-workers know when I’ve stepped outside for a short walk or taken a tea break.

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

Although I’m not a librarian myself, most of my good friends at work are, and they’re all amazing resources. Our librarians at the Leatherby Libraries are really excellent at teaching and assisting in research projects. If you’re looking for help, the best place to start is the Subject Liaison Directory, which will point you towards the librarian with expertise in the subject in which you’re doing research, and send them an email; I guarantee they’ll offer fabulous help!

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

A stack of books on a blue background, shot from above. The top book is David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens. Below that is East of Eden, by John Steinbeck. On the bottom is a Kindle in a dark blue leather case

Rachel’s current pleasure reading stack

I read several books at a time, so I’ve got quite a few on my plate right now. My current slate includes East of Eden by John Steinbeck, A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin (the fourth in the A Song of Ice and Fire series), and David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. I’m also listening to Life After Life by Kate Atkinson as my audio book; I would say that losing the time in my commute to listen to my audio books in the car has been one of the small things about quarantine that bums me out the most, but I’m trying to use my walks to stay on top of my audio reading.

A gray, black, and brown tabby cat sniffing a stack of books on the floor. The stack of books has their spine facing the camera. From top to bottom, the titles of the books are Likeable Social Media, Advanced Social Media Marketing, Marketing and Managing Electronic Reserves, Portfolio Building Activities in Social Media, Stickier Marketing, Marketing the 21st Century Library, The Complete Marketer, Social Media and Integrated Marketing Communication, Mobile Marketing, Understanding Social Media, and Understanding Digital Marketing

Rachel’s cat Minerva helps her get through her work reading

In addition to my pleasure reading, one of my work from home projects has been reading my way through a big stack of books on digital marketing, social media marketing, and library marketing that I checked out from the Leatherby Libraries just before work from home started.

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

My job has shifted dramatically. Ordinarily, the events part of my job takes up at least half of what I do, and a fair amount of the marketing and communications that I work on are event-related. Obviously, since all events have been suspended, that’s no longer taking up the majority of my time. Instead, I’ve gotten to really stretch my communications muscles, spending a lot of time using our blog, newsletter, and social media to make sure people are aware of all the great things the Leatherby Libraries has to offer, even while we’re not physically available. I’ve started a social media series, “Leatherby Libraries from Home,” that gives me the opportunity to go through our archives on a daily basis, which I love. I miss our events very much, but I’m really appreciating the opportunity to shift my focus for the time being.

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

Find an accountability buddy. One thing that’s so tough about working and studying from home is that deadlines and structure aren’t as formal as they are when we’re in class and at work in person, and it can be easy then to let big projects just sort of drop. To combat that, ask a friend or colleague to be your accountability partner, so that the two of you can set due dates for each other/yourselves, and check in on your progress on a regular basis.