New Mexico State Library

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What it is like for the staff in the Technical Services Bureau these days.

Writing to you on day 38 of our social distancing and teleworking. (Things may have changed by the time you read this.)

Technical Services Bureau Chief, Brad Carrington assigned all six of us tech services staff, himself included, to report what our lives are like as we adjust to our separate situations while under state mandated quarantine.

My job is to tell you our story. It is based on our reports.

Everyone has expressed in their own way their gratitude. To remain employed and virus free is a gift.

This is our collective situation. The biggest challenges for us are technical. Some of us are using state laptops and others our personal computers. We are reliant upon the strength of our home internet connections. Some of us have intermittent connectivity issues. Along with technology struggles there are ergonomic challenges. We are sitting hunched over our little screens on our couch, in our home office, or at the kitchen table, in shared family spaces. We miss our office furniture. One of our staff is still working in the bureau. He describes having adjusted well to working alone and, in fact, liking it. It will be yet another adjustment when we are able to re-populate our office, for all of us.

We were used to our work space, physical proximity to each other and the quiet atmosphere of the technical services bureau. We adjust. We are taking frequent breaks and getting outdoors to counterbalance the intense focus on the small computer screens. We are patient as we wait for email responses or wait to join a meeting. We have adjusted well. Those of us working from home are finding some joy in it. We go outside more. We listen to the radio. We are finding comfort in not having to commute, being in our homes and near our loved ones (people and pets). We walk our dogs and cat. We miss our plants. Our in-house plant manager has stepped up to take care of them.

Since we all work on computers much of the time, that adjustment has been minimal. The adjustments are in space and time. Most of our cataloging tools are available to us online. We continue to do our work. It took some time to get set-up at home. Thanks to Aaron Dark and Doug Patinka for quickly providing us with remote access to our work computers. It is not perfect, but it does work. Remote access feels like working in another dimension. Again, we are patient.

Some of us are busier than anticipated, taking on new responsibilities in developing our state library’s online presence. And simply taking care of business. It is a lot more complicated paying the bills and taking care of the administration of the bureau remotely. Lots of meetings! We are coming up with cataloging training material to share online. We are creating workshops for our local library colleagues so they can brush up on their cataloging skills while working from home. We are staying connected to our external partners at OCLC and the Library of Congress. We continue to catalog new books in a publishing queue of specific New Mexico publishers. It’s called Cataloging in Publication (CIP). We continue to submit our serials records, albeit records for online publications only, for review to the Library of Congress cooperative serials cataloging (CONSER). This review process, we discovered, might take up to three years! We are one year in. We are cataloging digital state publications filed on the state library’s “digi- drive”. This might be where your eyes glaze over. Stay with me.

During this quarantine time, and quite remarkably, we welcomed a new library technician to our staff. Our hats are off to the gallant work of both the bureau chief and the new tech. They are doing this in uncharted, choppy waters. They meet virtually several times a week. The training materials are provided online. That’s got to be challenging! I know I need to see and touch the thing I am trying to learn. New dimensions, indeed, requiring emergent brain powers.

It is on us to stay motivated, disciplined and focused, to manage our time and schedules. So far, we are doing it and keeping our heads above water. The environment is eerily quiet. It is a beautiful spring. We are happy to see each other when we meet online. We don’t discuss the pandemic or anything very personal. We are, collectively, happy for the work. I have heard meowing, barking and birdsong when we meet online. That’s a bonus.

Finally, and again collectively, we thank all those who are out in the community working. We understand that their work is far more challenging and dangerous than ours. They are saving lives. We, humbly, are cataloging, preserving what was before.

Any mistakes in this report are entirely mine.
Sincerely yours,
Margaret Van Dyk

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