My name is Shu Wan. As an MLIS student, I am currently matriculating in the School of Library and Information Science at the University of Iowa (UI). Meanwhile, I also serve as a student cataloger in the UI Main Library’s Department of Cataloging. As well as most metadata and cataloging librarians in the United States, I underwent a significant transition from onsite work to remote cataloging. The process was uneasy and challenging for me. In this blog post, I will deliver a brief reflection on my transition and the lesson I took from it.
Prior to this transition in mid-March in my institution, my primary job duty in the Department of Cataloging was to assist my supervisor Cathrine with processing a great number of books authored and published by individuals and institutions in South Asian countries. My workflow consisted of checking the bibliographic information of the physical copies of those books and then creating their cataloging information electronically. However, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic suddenly interrupted the routine and thrust me to move to the cloud-based platform Ex Libris Esploro for cataloging.
However, the transition to cataloging collections remotely was not an easy task for me. Initially, I felt difficulty in using the platform. It was because I hadn’t had any experience in using the software before mid-March. Thanks to my supervisors, Catherine, Brenda, and Wendy’s patience and kindness, I was encouraged to take practice in cataloging on the new platform. Eventually, I became adept at cataloging remotely in an efficient manner. In fact, the first week of the transition to work online was the hardest time of my life. I felt upset about adapting to the new system. Without any savvy in acquiring the skill of cataloging remotely, I was stuck in frustration and disappointment of my awkwardness in learning how to catalog on the Ex Libris Esploro. Thanks to my supervisors’ consistent encouragement, I became skilled in cataloging remotely despite the unpreparedness and unreadiness in the first few days.
Reviewing the transition from the traditional onsite work to cataloging online forced by the pandemic, I may encourage my peers to take a look at its bright side. As an international student of Chinese origin, my home language and culture enable me to view this transition from a different perspective. As shown in President Kennedy’s speech in 1960, “In the Chinese language, the word “crisis” is composed of two characters, one representing danger and the other, opportunity.” In other words, within the process of resolving the crisis appropriately, we could transform it from danger to an opportunity. This comprehension also works out for our transition during the pandemic. In the face of the disastrous consequences of the pandemic and its ramification across the world, I had to work at home and adjust to a new normal of working offsite and communicating with my supervisors and colleagues virtually. However, this crisis may provide an opportunity for improving our ability to work at home. One day when we return to the office and work onsite again, “work from home” may become an integral part of the workflow of cataloging and metadata librarians. Hence, in spite of the frustration we may encounter when beginning to work remotely at the moment, we still shall embrace the change. This may be one of the most significant lessons I have taken during the transition in the past few months.