2020 has been a year of many disruptions. Last month, on the eve of another national lockdown and a nail-biting general election in the US, there was a sense of teetering on yet another precipice. At such times of uncertainty, I reach compulsively for information, which nowadays is almost exclusively digital and online, readily available at the instant swipe of a finger or click of a mouse. It was during this moment, however, that I was barred from doing so, as my home broadband connection broke down and my mobile data and coverage rapidly depleted. Four days of disconnection from the online world of information and communication ensued, filled with much panic and frustration, as well as fruitlessly long calls to Virgin Media tech support in international call centres.
Before long I had little option but to embrace the disconnection and use it as an opportunity for a different kind of focus. I estimate that at least 90% of my job coordinating and facilitating reading lists and library teaching is not possible without an internet connection – probably closer to 100% in the present remote working and learning context. After spending some time tidying up my inbox and reading through old emails and digital documents, I turned away from my screen and picked up a book.
Continuing the series about getting to know our lovely colleagues, next up is Clare, Senior Library Assistant in Cataloguing.
If you’d like to submit your answers to the Q+A, fill out the template and send it to email@example.com, or get in touch with the Blog admins – Lizzy & Sam…
We’d like to include a brief biography before the Q+A. To help with this, could you tell us, in a couple of sentences, where you’re from, where you live now, and a little bit about your working life so far…
I was born in Brighton and have been hanging around it ever since. Studied at Sussex and lived on campus in the early 2000s and now I live in Lewes. I worked in a load of different shops from the late 90s until I finally escaped retail for library work at East Sussex County Council in 2009 then started here at Sussex in what was then Lending Services in 2013.
What’s your favourite part of the library?
The whole of the top floor. The back bit looking out to the trees and the front when the sun comes up and shines through the windows in the early mornings.
We asked Library staff to write about their experiences of working from home during lockdown.Lizzy shares her thoughts.
There’s been a lot of discourse around “returning to the office” recently in the press and on Twitter. “OFFICES ARE COOL AND FUN AND NECESSARY” say one side. “OFFICES ARE HELLHOLES DESIGNED SOLELY TO PROP UP PRET AND TRAIN SEASON TICKETS” say the other. Of course, the more boring and nuanced and less clickbait response is to say that maybe those two statements both have elements of truth and will apply to some people and not to others.
Some people enjoy the sense of community an office can provide. Other people find they’re much more productive at home. Some people hate that their commute takes away from family time. Others relish the opportunity to have a bit of peace and quiet in their car or on the bus or train.
Personally I like working from home. I like being able to sing along to music with my feet up on the desk, answering emails with wet hair and one hand in a bag of crisps. I even like the Zoom meetings, trying to make out what books people have on their bookshelf backdrop and watching cats, dogs and kids pop up at the best, most inopportune moments. The lines between work and home blur and suddenly you’re seeing colleagues in their natural habitat, in a space that you might not normally be allowed access to – their homes. It’s revealing and it’s intimate and it can feel strange after only knowing someone in an office context for years and years.
We asked Library staff to write about their experiences of working from home during lockdown. Maria Menezes and Tim Haillay share their thoughts.
I’m in Week 10 of lockdown!!!!
By Maria Menezes
When lockdown came into place I hated my first week at home because I missed seeing people – I’m a people person. As the weeks went on I found it easier to cope with my new working environment and amazingly learn new technology on my own – I’m now a Zoom whiz.
However in Week 6 I was not in the right frame of mind but zooming and talking to friends and family helped me through this rather dark period – it’s difficult not having anyone directly to talk to at home living by myself. I have now accepted that this situation will continue – but hopefully not for much longer.
I need structure and though I have tried to set myself a “rota” being the Rota Queen (hee hee) it doesn’t always work. I can’t wait to get back to work – daytime telly is awful.
Up with the larks
By Tim Haillay
The idea of working from home when we were still working on campus was not an attractive one to me, mainly as the physical journey to work was part of the discipline and by losing that, part of the holistic work experience would be missing too. My coping strategy therefore has been largely based on keeping things as normal as possible.
In the wellbeing group for staff, we have been looking at how we can best support and inform colleagues, particularly at this time. We know how difficult the current situation continues to be for all of us, adjusting to unprecedented changes in our work and home lives.
For Mental Health Awareness Week, from the 18th to the 24th of May, we wanted to focus on resources and activities that would help support wellbeing and calmness, and also provide some positive information and ways to connect with ourselves and our surroundings. We sent out an email each day of that week, our aim for each email was for them to be accessible and helpful, no matter what everyone’s individual situation may be.
The week started off with our Music Monday email. We had such a positive response to our previous lunchtime music session that we thought it would be good to share the playlists and engage with people further. We listed several playlists created by staff, highlighting music that made them happy.
Women’s magazines. Trivial, eh? Just a collection of inconsequential articles on how to keep your man happy, patterns for knitted shorts, vile make-do-type recipes, and adverts for lipsticks and washing powder.
Well, yes, all of these things can be found in the copies of Woman’s Own, Woman’s Friend, Woman’s Realm (do you see a pattern emerging?) and Woman that we hold as part of the archives at The Keep, but to dismiss them as trivial really does this amazing slice of history a disservice. The idea of the feminine being somehow less important (as I am sorry to say has been the tendency for more time than I care to think about) gifts us archival time travellers with a view into the past that is wonderfully unguarded and true to the moment. Adverts, advice columns, recipes, short stories; none of these exists in a vacuum, they all come from the worlds women lived in, aspired to, and wished to escape from.
We can use these snippets to see through the wormhole and into the past, and catch a glimpse of the sort of woman who might make Carnival Queen…or, as I have always thought of it, Weetabix Trifle.
Normally when you tell your family / friends about what you do, unless you’re a fireman or a nurse they just zone out (especially when your job title is Metadata Discovery Officer).
But it really seems as if the BLDS was actually my genetic destiny, as it turned out that not only was my dad interested in the project but it turns out that collecting African pamphlets runs in the family.
our loft were the following:
East African Annual 1934-35 – Tanganyika, Kenya, Uganda, Zanzibar
“Writing is an incredibly powerful tool, because if you can be yourself when writing, then you have what might be a rare space in your life for completely genuine self-expression and self-reflection. Who you are is important – and finding and expressing that is important to Mass Observation, as well as to other people” – Kim Sherwood, Writer.
12th May is Mass Observation’s national diary day and we welcome day diaries from people across the country recording their everyday lives. The more ordinary the better. Of course, we are currently living in extraordinary times and so we are expecting this year’s crop of 12th May diaries to be anything but ordinary.
If, like me, you’ve been juggling home schooling, home working and looking after your own health and well being and that of your family, I would recommend sitting down and writing. You could even download and print off a diary template from the MO website, so your kids can join in too. We welcome drawings as well as written diaries and everyone is invited to take part.
By Caroline Marchant-Wallis, Daniel Millum and Tracy Wilson
There are many fascinating rabbit holes to explore in the BLDS Legacy Collection, and you often come across them in the most unexpected places. Perhaps this just shows our limited imagination, but when we first came across a run of journals relating to different African ports and harbour authorities our hearts didn’t leap with excitement.
File under “worthy but dull” and move on was definitely the first reaction to a front cover like this:
By Caroline Marchant-Wallis, Daniel Millum and Tracy Wilson
We’re taking the opportunity of our (temporary) exile from
our beloved BLDS collection (personally given its resemblance to a Cold War
nuclear shelter I voted that we should spend the lockdown period in the IDS basement
where the collection is housed, but University management thought differently)
to spend a bit of time writing about some of the interesting and unusual items
we’ve already found as part of the project.
These are found in unlikely sources. At first glance the title The Zambian Parliament 24th October, 1964 to 31st December, 1974 sounds of course worthy of inclusion in the collection, and of interest to scholars of Zambian political history, but possibly a little dry. Yet delving inside shows the Zambian parliament to have been a more colourful and contentious forum than you would expect the official record to reveal.
In his introduction, President Kenneth Kaunda solemnly states that he has ‘repeatedly reaffirmed our complete confidence and trust in democracy’, and this is followed by a quote from Edmund Burke stating that Parliament should be a deliberative assembly of one nation guided by the general good. However, it appears that not all members had taken this lofty Burkean approach to parliamentary discourse, as can be seen from a brief perusal of appendix one, which contains a list of ‘unparliamentary expressions’ for each year.