With online learning now in full swing due to COVID-19 and physical distancing, many students are feeling the strain of isolation, uncertainty, housing and food insecurity, additional childcare or family responsibilities, layoffs or reduction of hours, termination of contracts, and health-related issues. I’ll be graduating this June and am worried about getting a job. Other students I know had their hours cut or were laid off and are worried about making rent payments. Creating a separation between work and school at home is difficult even for students in established online programs like myself.
It’s important to continue staying connected – with physical distancing in place, it’s easy to feel alone. Here are some resources to help you connect with others as well as manage your time, take care of your mental health, and engage in professional development opportunities.
- Plan out your days. It’s easy to let the day drag by without getting any work done. I have found writing down a daily schedule helps me stay focused. I’ll give myself a certain number of hours to work on a task and then, when the time is up, move on even if I’m not finished. Setting time limits or deadlines, even if artificial, can help. Don’t forget to take breaks and stretch, drink water, or get something to eat.
- If you can, create a separate space for work away from tempting furniture like beds and couches. I’ve bought a simple standing desk to change things up and a desk foot rest for when I’m sitting to help with my posture.
- The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has some suggestions for taking care of your mental health, including separating what you can control from what you cannot and going outside (such as on walks, if you can). I schedule in 30 minute walks every day; putting it on my schedule gives me less of an excuse to not go out.
- Fellow writer Lauren discussed Twitter chats in her article from last week here. Check out her article for other ways to stay professionally engaged. Other hashtags to follow include #LISMentalHealth, #displacedarchivist, and #archivistsathome.
- Curator Colleen Theisen from Syracuse University started a Twitter thread for information professionals who are open to being contacted by MLIS students for informational interviews. Currently there are over 500 responses. Expertise includes preservation administration, STEM librarianship, business librarianship, school librarianship, reference, instruction, liaison work, cataloging, law librarianship, and digital archives.
- If you were hoping to do an internship this summer but are now worried you won’t be able to do one in-person, consider remote internships. Organizations are working now to shift work virtually, although there will still likely be fewer options this summer. They might not even be able to take on new interns or volunteers. Be proactive and start reaching out to organizations or people you’d be interested in gaining experience from. It might lead to a virtual volunteer or internship opportunity or just an informational interview, considering how busy people are.
- Connect virtually with fellow classmates. Because my classes are all asynchronous, I rarely, if ever, talk to my classmates in real time. For some classes that were originally in-person but now are online, they might be synchronous. Even if the lecture/class is recorded, try to attend and participate. Engaging with others, even virtually, can help ease the isolation. If your classes are asynchronous or you still yearn for more interaction, see if there are any upcoming online events hosted by student groups or suggest/plan one. One student group I’m involved in are hosting movie nights with Netflix Party.
If you’re interested in virtual professional development opportunities or online learning, here are some archives-related suggestions:
- The SAA website has resources on a variety of topics. The Standards Portal includes “SAA-approved standards, guidelines, and best practice documents” and the Webcast Catalog has webcasts that are both free and for purchase.
- ALA Association for Library Collections and Technical Services has an archive of webinars. You can watch them six months after the event date. They cover a large range of topics relevant to libraries and archives: web archiving, digital preservation, cataloging, data visualization, legal issues, linked data, Python, and more.
- The Northeast Document Conservation Center also has webinars available – both free and for purchase. They also offer a student discount for certain courses.
- Syllabi from archives classes from MLIS programs. You can find syllabi online by doing a simple Google search. These can provide a wealth of information on important readings and resources as well as to see what other programs are teaching related to archives. Here are some examples: University of Denver, University of Kentucky, University of Tennessee, University of British Columbia, Dalhousie University (Canada), and Valdosta State University. You can also conduct similar Google searches for topics that interest you.
Finally, go easy on yourself. We’re in a pandemic and things are not normal, nor will things go back to what was considered normal. We’re stressed, tired, and gazing into an uncertain future. We may have lost someone or a source of income. It’s okay to only do the bare minimum or feel unproductive. Take care of yourself.
Cover photo by visuals
Kelli Yakabu is an online MLIS student at the University of Washington focusing on archives. You can follow her on Twitter @kelliyakabu.