A Student Reflection on Remote Work: Spring 2021

Today’s reflection was written and shared with us by library outreach student assistant Vero Urubio. Vero has worked for various library departments, including Circulation and Outreach, and will be returning to the library’s student assistant team in the fall!

I don’t think I’d ever heard or read the word “remote” more than I did the year of 2020 (except for maybe whenever my parents would lose the one to our television, initiating a house-wide search party). I do, however, think it’s safe to say that it lost all meaning by 2021. Unwillingly shoved in the throes of working “remotely,” I found that juggling club meetings, internship applications, and classes became more weighted—more impossible to check off everything on that list that would look good on my resume.

So, I stopped attending club meetings, bookmarked the tabs with applications, and did my best to focus on classes. In trying to explain why I wasn’t getting things done like I used to, I felt like screaming “we are in a pandemic and we are not meant to be productive at full capacity, using our time at the height of efficiency as if we weren’t being exposed to what was going on in the world, our communities, and inside the home” but it took less energy to not say anything. And I had a “remote” meeting I wanted the mental capacity to not only attend, but be present for: it felt like all I had left that was “for me” sometimes.

Gessoed-over paintings with Post Its
Gessoed-over paintings with Post Its

Over the course of a year, I found that “remote” work with William H. Hannon Library was a steady constant, like it had been throughout my first year of college. I think I knew that being a student worker with Hannon Library would end up as a reprieve from everything, so I devoted myself to this opportunity that found me and let it take priority in my life along with the people I had the chance to meet through my work. So when my 12×15 and 34×34 gessoed-over paintings became a place to stick Post-It notes of all my upcoming assignments, quizzes, and other such dreaded deadlines, my “remote” work as a library assistant with the Outreach Department wouldn’t be found on it.

On the fifth of April (a Monday), I wrote a long text to a stressed friend, suggesting that what we’re being asked to manage—given everything we’ve gone through (and everything we’ve lost)—is not a time management issue like she thought, but an unfeasible workload issue. I wrote this as I was already suffering a migraine from the busywork of classes I attended the week prior all with a flickering laptop screen that only exacerbated my condition and had yet to be fixed.

On the sixth of April (a Tuesday), I knew there would be no getting around a failed class.

On the seventh of April (a Wednesday), I had a meeting for “remote” work.

By the eighth of April (a Thursday), I was already in a better headspace as I watched one of the interviews I conducted that had been posted on the library’s YouTube channel. I felt less like I wanted to stay in bed and more like I wanted to laugh, as I implemented one of the many ideas we proposed the day before for a weekly social media engagement activity. Something I had contributed to was out there and it was fulfilling to watch.

On the ninth of April (a Friday), I was smiling over Zoom as I conducted two more interviews, bridging the gap of the kind of socialization I had missed with individuals who offered great conversation and resources I still have bookmarked on Firefox.

I won’t say too much about what had happened on Tuesday, but it was the support and advice I received from my Hannon Library coworkers, supervisors, and interviewees alike that reminded me to take a deep breath and go at my own pace, and that I wasn’t the only one in my position. Sure, “remote” was never my preferred method of doing everything, but being able to open my laptop and see the faces of friends in their windows was an anchor reminding me of how it was okay to feel: just because I failed doesn’t make me a failure or inadequate. Sometimes, we’re given too much to juggle, and it is okay to put down some pins or to have dropped one in order to keep the rest up in the air—contrary to popular belief.

Getting to contribute ideas, collaborate with my fellow library assistants, and speak one-on-one with my supervisor to check-in felt like a reminder that I was not alone and there was so much outside of this one thing that I knew I was fulfilling with my best effort with every “thank you” and “amazing work” email I received. Working remotely became the sole conduit of which I was connected to the LMU community outside of classes. With every event or program I engaged in, it felt less like “obligations” and more like “opportunities.” I liked contributing to, planning for, and executing ideas. I liked being introduced to, interacting with, and spending time with people. I liked being able to have a space where you didn’t feel obligated to say “I’m doing great!” when asked for a check-in. I liked being able to be honest with how I was feeling and receiving authenticity right back. I liked that we carved a space for ourselves to talk about not only what was going on in the world or in our communities, but what was going on inside either in a group setting or in a one-on-one with our supervisor, who made sure to check in with us if she noticed and made sure we knew that projects could be pushed later if we needed. I liked being a part of the library student workers—being a part of something—after feeling like I had to give up so many other things that I chose to be a part of in order to breathe. This was the last one I had and I refused to let the pandemic take this from me, too.

I’m still incredibly grateful to everyone who not only played a role in being that anchor I keep seeing in the library, but for everyone I’ve met through the library who understood and was genuine. Although the world, our communities, and the home might not be where it would be just and right for them to be, there exists pockets to recharge and passions to ignite within them. While cliché, I doubt I would be anywhere near where I am now—both academically and mentally—if it weren’t for my connections and projects collaborated on with the wonderful individuals at William H. Hannon Library. Thank you.