In this interview, Amanda Strauss, Associate University Librarian for Special Collections at Brown University, describes her experiences as the first woman Director of the John Hay Library and as a mother during the COVID-19 global pandemic. She also discusses the national civil unrest that occurred in the summer of 2020 due to racial injustice and the death of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.
Strauss begins by describing her role at the John Hay Library and the enthusiasm she felt as she entered 2020 after making great strides during her first 6 months as Associate University Librarian. She recalls first hearing about COVID-19 and gradually becoming more concerned as threats of the virus moved closer to the United States. She discusses participating in several meetings to help develop plans for the Brown University Libraries to safely and effectively move to remote work while also tending to her family life and young son. Strauss talks about feeling guilty for being pulled in multiple directions and never being able to devote her full attention to any given task. Additionally, she describes the nature of caregiving in her professional life and ensuring that her staff feels adequately taken care of in their remote work.
Strauss goes on to remember how she felt when police violence and racial injustice became a national topic following the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minnesota police. She elucidates multilayered feelings of rage and privilege as well as national and individual sadness and fatigue from navigating the pandemic and race politics simultaneously.
In closing, Strauss says that she hopes this moment in history will bring forth new conversations about mental health and she commends the younger generations for their tireless efforts in fighting against inequality and violence.