Adapting Through Adversity: Keeping Productive (and Sane) During COVID-19

2020 has been anything but normal.

Entering the eleventh week of work from home and social distancing practices, we have all experienced impacts to our lives, both professionally and personally. It is very easy to become overwhelmed by the growing uncertainty and conflicting reports about our world returning to some form of stability. At Emory Libraries, the whole staff has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and are adjusting to this new work/life balance.

Personally speaking, the idea of working remotely for an extended period of time would have been largely unfeasible before the pandemic. The bulk of my work for Emory Libraries Digitization and Digital Curation involves photographing archival and special collections materials in a specially-designed studio. My job often requires interacting and often collaborating with several departments, staff in the library, and others across campus. So, as we packed up my workstation and other equipment in mid-March, I and my co-workers were skeptical about how this was all going to work. There were some stumbles at first, to be sure -figuring-out connectivity, creating effective communication channels, altering job duties- but after that first week, I began to find my groove.

Example of my workstation with slide scanner set-up and LCD TV as a secondary editing monitor.

Like most people, I prefer a routine to maintain some semblance of normalcy, especially during stressful times such as these. Coupled with a strong aversion to change, these last few months have certainly tested my resolve. In order to maintain stability during this period of our lives, I’ve found that keeping my workspace separate from my non-work/living space is key. I set-up an at-home studio of sorts where I can scan, edit, and complete my new digitization work effectively. Instead of mainly working with our Phase One reprographic camera in the on-campus studio space, I switched gears to using a slide scanner and a flatbed, far more portable for at-home use. Having an area that allows me to travel to work, even if it’s still in my home, gives me a sense of routine, boosts my motivation, and helps with productivity.

Another important facet of maintaining my sanity during this period of uncertainty is to remain connected to my co-workers and collaborators. Video meeting software such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Skype have been around for several years but are now part of our daily lives in 2020. The Emory Libraries Preservation Department holds weekly, virtual meetings in small teams and department-wide. Being able to connect with team members and peers on a regular basis has been a boon to productivity and morale. Despite our distancing protocols, I’ve felt more connected with my co-workers over the last few months through virtual channels than if we were working on-site.

Finally, I have been impressed and proud of our Emory staff, adapting to the challenges that COVID-19 generated. Maintaining a positive mindset in the wake of uncertainty is not easy. It has been truly inspiring to witness how new and different work (and life) responsibilities are met with cooperative collaboration.

Brian Methot, Digital Photography Coordinator-Emory Libraries