For the last couple of months, I have been working from home. It took me a week or two to realize I would need to take a more active role in establishing a new work-life balance. In normal times, this balance can be difficult enough, but is largely determined just by the physical separation of your home and your workplace. When those two places merge, however, more of an effort is required to make the distinction between when you’re at work, and when you’re not.
One key for me, to make this distinction, was to make a schedule for when I would work each day, and stick to it. Mostly. When I wasn’t working, I would chase down all the random ideas and activities that I could partake in from the safety of my home. These adventures were largely aided by the library’s digital resources.
A seemingly big trend, throughout the global quarantine, has been making sourdough bread. I jumped on that bandwagon pretty quickly, because bread is amazing, and slowly building a sourdough starter over the course of a week gave me something to do. Not long after that, I was eating sourdough bread, pizza with sourdough crust, and sourdough pancakes. If you’ve never had the latter, they’re worth the time commitment.
I like to thoroughly research a topic before I dive in, and one book I found on Hoopla, “From No-knead to Sourdough” by Victoria Redhed Miller, was particularly useful. She takes the time to explain the various ingredients and the process, and then breaks down the types of breads that can be made into different comfort zones. She moves from simple no-knead breads up to low- and no-gluten breads. If you’re already a pro, you can go right to the recipe index at the back of the book and start wherever you want, maybe with lemon-currant scones or Montreal-style bagels.
While waiting for my starter to take off, I had some time on my hands. Throughout my life, I have dabbled in various computer programming languages, and recently I’ve become interested in Python. I’ve picked up a book here and there, but have never really taken the time to dig into them. Much like sourdough, however, I haven’t been able to throw a stick online without hitting a reference to Python, so I took it as a sign.
The Manhattan Public Library recently brought back Lynda.com, and that resource has a wealth of Python and general programming courses, good for beginners on up to advanced users. I started with the course “Learning Python” with Joe Marini. It’s only two hours long but gives a good overview of what you can do with Python, without being overwhelming. It starts with how to install Python on your computer and goes through multiple examples of working with Python, like editing text files and automatically grabbing information from a website.
Near the end of my time working from home, I began to feel nostalgic for my more creative pursuits, most of which have been on hiatus, for one reason or another, for a while now. I’m not entirely sure what I want to do yet — maybe take a class on Creativebug, one of our newest online resources. In the meantime, I read “Steal Like an Artist” by Austin Kleon through Sunflower eLibrary, for inspiration. It is a quick read, packed with valuable tidbits, both from the author and quoted from other creative people. You are encouraged not to wait for creativity to strike, but to jump in and start making stuff. Kleon also admits that nothing is original and everything is built on what came before it, noting, “The writer Jonathan Lethem has said that when people call something ‘original,’ nine out of ten times they just don’t know the references or the original sources involved.” After finishing this book, I’ve started collecting art with the elements I would like to try out, and the writing that has the voice I want to achieve.
Like many of our patrons, I’ve been thankful for the digital resources I have been able to access through the library while at home. I have been able to read and listen to books, take classes, watch movies and read magazines, all without leaving the house. On the other hand, I’m very excited that we’re once again able to access physical materials. Patrons can now place up to five items on hold, and schedule a time to pick them up once they’re ready, through our carryout service.
Jared Richards is the learning and information services supervisor at Manhattan Public Library.