With summer well underway here in Orange County, we’re wrapping up – but only for now! – our “Leatherby Librarians at Home” blog series. Joining us to fill us in on her favorite online resources for data and her current reads, Development Librarian Essraa Nawar helps us bring the series to a great finale.

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

While it has been blessing to be able to spend more time with my family for the past three months, I cannot deny the challenging and stressful times we have been through. With three school aged children (17, 15 and 10) as well as a husband who is also a faculty member at Chapman University, it was a madhouse at times. All of us trying to remotely work, learn, work on deadlines and projects and even piano, fitness and ballet lessons. I remember one day all of us were on some sort of a Zoom meeting at some point. Eventually, we found a balance and magically we were able to overcome the challenges. I used white boards and chalk boards to manage the kids’ schooling, and my husband and I balanced home responsibilities and made sure to coordinate our schedules and keep the house quiet when the other has an important meeting. Now, we will only deal with remote work as my kids are finally done with school. The older ones are taking summer classes, but that should be a breeze!

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

I cannot stop recommending SimplyAnalytics, a mapping application that enables users to develop interactive thematic maps and reports using thousands of demographic, business, and marketing data variables. It includes access to the EASI Standard Package, which includes data from the year 2000, 2010, Current Estimates, and Five-Year Projections; Experian SimmonsLOCAL; and Nielsen PRIZM Data Packages. As COVID-19 spreads across the United States, the SimplyAnalytics team has just added COVID-19 data at the national, state, and county levels to their database. The data is from USAFacts.org and is updated daily with the latest numbers. It is extremely user-friendly and I am happy to provide a training session if needed. Just contact me directly.

Also please see the Leatherby Libraries Remote Resources or the Library Content for Online Teaching and Learning guide for up-to-date information on how the Leatherby Libraries can support your needs.

Screenshot of a map of the northeast of the United States on Simply Analytics. The map shows, in varying shades of red, the incidence of COVID-19 infections in the region, county by county

A sample of what Simply Analytics can show you

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

I am actually going back and forth between two books, both gifts from friends and supporters of the Leatherby Libraries.

Cover of I've Been Thinking. The cover shows a photograph of Maria Shriver from behind, facing to her left, in front of a backdrop of a Southwestern landscape

One of Essraa’s current reads

The first is I’ve Been Thinking . . . Reflections, Prayers, and Meditations for a Meaningful Life, by Maria Shriver, which was given to me as a gift by Kimberly Blakesleay, parent of Chapman student and library student assistant Ruby Blakesleay ’22. The book has been of a great help during these tough times.

Cover of India's 1984. The cover is red and black, divided diagonally by a line from the bottom left corner to the top right corner. The left/top half of the cover is black, with red font, and the right/lower half is red, with white font

Essraa’s other current book

Through the mail, I received the book India’s 1984: For the Record: Illustrated Essays, by T. Sher Singh, as a gift from Library supporters and Chapman Board of Governors members Bicky and Gurpreet Singh. They sent me this book in lieu of the in-person Vaisakhi celebration that was scheduled to be held on campus in April 2020. I also plan to add it to our collection of Sikh Initiatives at Chapman University. The book provides a fresh look at the tragic events of 1984 in India and attempts to put all of the pieces of the puzzle together as to why and how the genocide of Sikhs occurred. This is a harsh part of history that our Sikh Initiatives at the Libraries highlighted through an exhibit and play in 2014.

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

The challenge has been finding the balance between my duties as a mother and as a full-time working professional. Sometimes my kids do not even realize that I am working and come wave to me while I am in the middle of a meeting or slip me notes to read. It makes me laugh!!

Also, as a development professional, I miss seeing library donors and friends face to face. Even though some of our conversations that lead to inspiring ideas and instrumental library support have continued over Zoom or Microsoft Teams, there is something special about breaking bread with someone over a meal. I am looking forward to the day we can make that happen.

I also miss the students and sitting at the Reference Desk waving to faculty members that I know and community visitors, and answering student questions. I am grateful that we are still able to provide all of these services remotely, yet I cannot wait to be physically back on campus.

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

Last week I wrote a piece titled “Stubborn Optimism or Toxic Positivity.” It contains pretty much all my advice for a productive time during this world pandemic; I hope you will get a chance to read it. The motto of the piece is to encourage everyone to, ‎”Plant a seed even if you can’t see it blossom. Do good even if the reward seems insignificant. Nothing goes unappreciated by the All-Seeing.”

A woman wearing a headscarf and large over ear headphones sits at a table working on a laptop.

Essraa working from home