Hear The Thunder of Our Chorus. Alma Mater - Hail

By Azana Carr

I’m thankful I still have the opportunity to work remotely with External Relations. What I do in lieu of my in-person work is writing pieces for the W&M Libraries or learn new skills through Linkedin Learning. However, writing this piece has been difficult. I haven’t worked as often as I would have liked. Truthfully, I felt like I didn’t have an “inspiring” story both as a senior or as a student assistant. But I’m coming to terms that my time spent these past two months is disorganized and fragmented, as so much of our lives have been in the past two months. 

People have asked me, “What does it feel like to focus on academics at home?” For the first three weeks after spring break, I didn’t. When the university advised students leave campus, I made the decision to move from where I was staying. For those first three weeks I lived in “hidden homelessness,” or people who have a place to sleep at night (couch-surfing) but it is not a permanent or stable living condition. I’m grateful, despite the hardship though.

I found connections inside and outside of W&M who provided me with food, shelter, and support. As a LGBTQ+ African American woman, it was difficult at times finding a sense of belonging at predominantly white institution. But the members of the W&M community helped me feel less alone in my time of transition. 

Now, I’m learning how to process what I’ve endured throughout my life as a place to rebuild, including living through the Covid-19 pandemic. To keep me going, I turn to think of one of my childhood loves: libraries. Before the impact of Covid-19 this year, I planned to work for a library and pursue my Master’s of Library Science. I love libraries, I love stories (as noted by my self-design major “The Power of Storytelling”) and I loved the idea of sharing stories in libraries. 

The best part of my student assistant work with W&M Libraries was being able to make the bonds with the W&M Libraries staff and our patrons. It was more than, “May I take your photo for our social media campaign?” It was about the in-person discussions after the photos where I could say, “How are you? How’s your new project coming along in your work or your student research? I can’t wait to see your work when it comes out!” It was about seeing the spark in someone’s eyes as they talked about their research, or the funny squirrel they saw at lunch that day.

I mourn for my loss of smelling the scent of dusty pages, the chatter of students grabbing coffee, and watching guest speakers discussing their work to a lively crowd. I miss never hitting that point in my senior year where I had the time to pull a book from the shelves, sit down, and read a book in between stacks. They were small rituals that made Earl Gregg Swem Library, my library, and I miss it. And I wonder how long will it be before we get to step foot in a library again?

At W&M Libraries, we’ve been able to help the W&M community during a global pandemic than I’m sure many of us could have imagined. But we’ve learned to take challenges together. My fellow seniors and I won’t be able to say goodbye to each other and the things we love (or not love) at our beloved William & Mary; including our libraries. I’m still very much in a place of shock, mourning, and reflection. But I know I can hear the W&M community around the nation chanting,

Alma Mater's love they're telling,

Ringing far and near…..

Hear The Thunder of Our Chorus.

Alma Mater - Hail


Our library staff members are chronicling their experiences living through a pandemic. If you keep a daily journal of your experience, consider donating it to Swem’s Special Collections when the crisis has passed.