As my time at IU comes to a close, in the strangest way I never would have imagined, I want to take some time to reflect on the ways that this semester and the COVID-19 crisis changed aspects of my internship. I never could have imagined the ways that my life would change in the wake of a pandemic, self-isolation, and the adaptations I would have to make as my life and work morphed so rapidly.
I have always felt that I have a solid grasp on using technology to shape or enhance a learning experience, but to take everything online in the way that we all had to do starting in March was something I have never experienced. One doesn’t realize how much they must prepare when tasks move from being mostly in-person to solely from home, especially when the transition happens immediately and with little notice. IU had to make prompt decisions to do their part to stop the spread of COVID-19, and that meant closing campus as fast as possible. No one was truly ready to take it all home, although myself and the IU Archives staff adjusted in the best way possible. We have amazing tools at our fingertips that provide learning tools and opportunities for engagement, such as Kaltura videos, lib guides, blog sites and social media, but until now I had only used those as a way to enhance the in-person experience. I have never had to rely on those avenues to engage with my community.
What’s more, the collaboration work that archivists do is a lot more difficult when everyone works from home. It is so much easier to bounce ideas off of my coworkers when I can hop over to their desks, or have an impromptu brainstorm session in the workroom where we process collections. E-mail, video conferencing, texting cannot replace in-person collaboration, so I found it hard to make that adjustment.
However, these challenges have helped me build knowledge in areas I was a little less adept. Thanks to my new working-from-home environment, I built several screencasts that the IU Archives can now use to help online users navigate the sometimes-tedious Archives Online. I had little experience creating screencasts, and now I feel much more comfortable doing them. Although I have experience building lesson plans from my time as an educator, I have less experience building a lesson that can be fully implemented online. That experience challenged me to think of methods and tools that I had not yet considered in my time working in a typical environment of mostly in-person teaching and outreach. As I look towards a future career in libraries (that may see another life-altering event that requires working from home like this) I know I can adapt, stay focused and positive, and offer interactive learning tools for my patrons no matter if it’s in-person or online.