Societal Table-Flipper

by Hunter Findon - April 23, 2020

Upon the arrival of the societal table-flipper that is the COVID-19 virus, UAlbany closed down, pushed their students out, and required employees to work remotely. This left me in a place where I had to adapt to a new form of schedule which relied entirely upon my own discipline and choice as opposed to the set structure found on campus. This change allowed me to choose where and when I wanted to work. Instead of working in the brightly lit processing room of the Department of Special Collections & Archives, I would find myself surrounded by family and in the comfort of my own home. Moreover, I would be in a place where I would not have to worry about contracting the pandemic virus.

Before the pandemic, my project in the Department of Special Collections & Archives involved vetting books in our department’s stacks to potentially be transferred to the University Libraries Storage. I used a detailed, multi-step review process where I researched the number of titles in circulation and value of the book and considered the subject matter, unique features, and physical condition among other factors. I’m still working on the same project, but, along with my supervisor and department head, we’ve had to adapt to a remote environment.

A distinct and slightly frustrating aspect of working remotely is that I now have to rely on a collection of PDF images, instead of the physical books, so now I only see the title page of the books. The result of this is that I cannot personally consider the structural integrity of the item, whether or not the book has a dust jacket, determine if the item has a soft or hard cover, or be able to identify unique aspects such as an author’s signature. I also am unable to perform other aspects of my duties, which require my physical presence like reshleving. Lucky for me, however, these steps were entrusted to Brian Keough, our department head, who went out of his way to be present at the archives and created a very large batch of these PDF files for me to review. These were then sent through email, which was the primary form of communication I have with my supervisor, Jodi Boyle, and Brian Keough. I keep a master spreadsheet of my work and update my supervisors with a weekly report on my progress.

Despite the restrictions of working remotely, it is ultimately a smooth experience, which requires you to adapt to a discipline-based schedule and email-heavy communication. I found myself in a very comfortable and safe place where I was free to work wherever and whenever I wanted. Ultimately, I enjoyed my time working remotely for the archives.