A Diary of a Lonely Librarian, Part 6

Chronicles of sadness and strangeness in the time of COVID-19

Monday, May 11: I feel like Zoom meetings are the LaCroix Sparkling Water of human contact. I acknowledge that many of the people I love care a lot for LaCroix. And, when I’m at a picnic on a hot day, I’ll give it a chance and reach into the cooler and dig through the ice for a Pamplemousse LaCroix (the flavor name that makes me feel more traveled). But as soon as I take a sip, I know what I really want is an Orange Crush. Some actual flavor. It’s going to be a while before we can freely see one another safely in person again, and online get-togethers are just not a flavorful replacement. I miss actually being in the same space, being able to read subtle facial expressions or body language, and being able to flow with a group conversation without having to pause between statements to make sure I’m not talking over someone else on the video. NONETHELESS, I attended the most delightful Zoom meeting today. My co-worker, Kate, asked me to participate in a Zoom call with some colleagues from Stanford Law Library as they discussed how law libraries can support student wellness right now. It was the best thing I’ve done all week. We had a really nice conversation and I got to spend an hour with some really pleasant and creative people who I might not have otherwise met, talking about issues we all care about as librarians. Kate and I are on the East Coast. They are on the West Coast. We might have met at a conference, but also likely not. Now I hope to see them in person one day when that’s again possible. I often finish Zoom meetings these days feeling tired and frustrated. This one was actually affirming. It reminded me of a blog that a good friend recommended to me for right now called Alive, Awake & Making It Through. Recently, the author wrote of “How to miss the world”: “Let yourself dream. . . . Once you feel into what you miss and why that matters to you, let yourself envision the ways in which aspects might arrive to you in new and unexpected form. We don’t know what’s coming, but we know it won’t be only loss. Things will arrive. What might they be?” I miss people. I miss human contact. I miss the spontaneity of in-person conversations. I miss hugs. Zoom meetings are a pale comparison. But if they can remind me of what I love about human contact and get me through to when we can all be with one another again, then I’ll take them.

Tuesday, May 12: The law school lawn is empty where, right now, there would normally be a flurry of activity. Every year, during this week between the end of final exams and graduation, a facilities team would be setting up the lawn for graduation. In just a couple days, they usually set out hundreds and hundreds of chairs, all carefully aligned, covering the main lawn and the two grassy areas beside it. They build a stage with exit and entrance ramps. Tents. It’s pretty amazing work. And then they take it all down even more quickly immediately after graduation. Not this year. This year the lawn is empty. It looks very pretty, but it feels lonely as I sit out here, taking a break on my one day at the library this week. I feel bad for the students and their families. Celebrating accomplishments is important and graduating from law school is a big one. Graduation will, with hope, take place in person in the Fall instead, and this weekend there will be online ceremonies. Personally, I miss seeing the hundreds of chairs all ready to go—it’s always a nice marker of time.

Wednesday, May 13: I checked in with my library gymnastics coach today. We can only check in through online chat, so we have to summarize how to do a cartwheel or a round off just using written words, which is definitely hard. She said I was doing a good job working hard at practice! “Working hard at practice” seemed like a good method of encouragement, without passing any judgment on the measurable results, or lack thereof, of the practice. I can say that I no longer get spots in my eyes when I do cartwheels, so that’s measurable improvement. We discussed how I seem to find round offs a little easier than cartwheels. I think that’s because a good-looking cartwheel correlates with one’s ability to do a split, and on the spectrum of split ability, I definitely fall on the “cannot do a split” side of things. I have been practicing my back bridges, which I last did in high school 30 years ago, and which I’m hoping will help when I get to the back walkover point. Who knew that being a librarian was so hard!

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Ben Doherty

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