Work in the Time of Corona: Chela Aufderheide, Student Transcriber

Posted on May 8, 2020

By Chela Aufderheide

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.

Name: Chela Aufderheide 

Title: Student Transcriber (Georgian Papers Project)

Department: Content Services

How has your work changed during the pandemic?

In theory, hardly at all! My work is all on the computer with the Transkribus program. But I miss the atmosphere of working in the library with the other transcribers, the quiet conversations in the background, and being able to easily ask for a second pair of eyes when eighteenth-century handwriting defeats me. I do appreciate that at home I can always have a hot beverage and a snack on hand!

What are your challenges?

I had gotten used to going into work to transcribe, which creates kind of an automatically focused mindset and temporarily turns off some other distracting thoughts—for some reason the kitchen at home, with family popping in and out, doesn’t seem to do this. Also, since my work hours are flexible, I often find myself stealing extra hours of sleep and shifting work to later in the day. Hopefully by the time this is posted, I’ve managed to get my sleep schedule under control at last—fingers crossed!

What has surprised you?

For one, I’ve been surprised by how easily Swem adapted to allow remote work because of COVID. Of course, my job is one of the easiest to make the switch to working from home, but I was impressed at how responsive and helpful people were, how quickly we were notified about our options, and how flexible work hours are. Even though everyone has dispersed into their separate time zones and circadian rhythms, for some reason I expected library work to continue to be confined to about 8-5PM EST. It was a pleasant surprise to hear I could adjust my hours to any time of the day that would work best for me.

What do you miss most about being in the library?

I miss my coworkers, whom I always felt I could talk to whenever I had questions—see above handwriting concerns, especially regarding anything to do with currency! Although my supervisor is extremely responsive and helpful over email, the in-person atmosphere can’t really be replaced, and I miss having people to commiserate with over an illegible sign or shorthand. While we didn’t talk much, I feel some positive energy in working with my fellow student employees on the same project, seeing their smiles, and getting to know them a little that just doesn’t carry over into the online realm. And Swem is in general a beautiful and inspiring place to be, especially in spring when everything’s blooming.

Also, I have never appreciated the huge, clear monitors at the library so much. My laptop screen is very cramped in comparison!

Anything else you’d like to share:a brown dog lounging in a white dog bed

Just this photo of my family’s dog Daisy being comfy in her dog bed! She is a calming presence in our house.

Also, I would like to recommend RBdigital, an audiobook app for public libraries, including the Williamsburg Regional Library (free audiobooks, no need to pay for Audible!) I spent too many years of my life not knowing this was an option for library-goers and it’s been keeping me sane through social distancing, so now I have to share!