Audrey Drohan is Digital Library Manager at University College Dublin

UCD Digital Library went into ‘Work From Home’ mode on Friday 13th March 2020, and it was quite a surreal transition. One minute I was in the building with all of my colleagues, putting a few things into Google folders for the two weeks we were going to be out of the office, and the next minute my office became a roving location in my house: first the kitchen, then the sitting room, and finally the spare room.  A few things threw me initially: my five-year-old trusty personal laptop was suddenly getting lots of new software that it was not happy with, and it could not cope with the work that my higher spec workstation handles with ease; there was no printer, which in hindsight, is probably a good thing; I was battling neighbours for broadband; my amazing colleagues were miles away; the VPN connection was appalling; and everything just changed.

Being immersed in the digital world meant I could transition most of my work easily enough, but suddenly everything became harder and slower to do. Data transfers felt like they took years. Suddenly storage on my local machine became an issue. And then Zoom entered my life.

I like Zoom but only since I finally got a new work laptop that can handle it properly. I appreciate all that it has enabled me to do. I like the connections it facilitates and the information that can be shared. However, I dislike that it cannot handle broadband issues, and that it has the audacity to tell me that I am unstable (it might be referring to my broadband, but still). Telling people that they are on mute or that they have frozen are now perfectly acceptable everyday phrases – a momentary micro-break, allowing you to disconnect from the bustle of consecutive online meetings, with their confined windows of presence. I am not sure I will be able to return to in-person meetings without having a camera pointed at me, so I can see what I look like…in the meeting.

So, work continued. The UCD Digital Library was awarded the CoreTrustSeal in June 2020, (a renewal of sorts, as we previously had the Data Seal of Approval), and we celebrated demurely in the digital realm. My sincere thanks to the rest of UCD Digital Library team (Peter Clarke and Órna Roche) for all their hard work getting this ready and for its success. Our collection throughput went up, and we overhauled our Rights and Re-use Policy, to include the addition of Rights Statements (from and a new policy on sensitive material. We hope to publish this soon. Our user statistics also showed an increase in traffic, with everyone scrambling to locate as much digital primary source cultural heritage and research data as they could find. Years of justifying our existence in the traditional library world finally ended in acceptance – in fact, people wanted to know why we had not digitised more.

We got a new team member, Claire Gibney, in July 2020, so training someone online in ‘remote working’ times was a new experience for me. Claire has been a great addition to the team, and we are delighted that she was recently awarded the DPC Career Development Fund for the DPTP Online course "Introduction to Digital Preservation". The rest of the team have previously attended this course, and have learned so much. Many thanks to DPC for facilitating this training opportunity.

What is next? We completed the DPC RAM before we switched to 'working from home' last year, so we want to submit that for peer review. We know we are not where we want or need to be. We are also undertaking extensive research around full preservation systems – our bespoke digital eco-system is aging, and we need to make sure we continue to secure and future-proof our digital library and digital assets. For who knows how we will be working in the future…or where!

Ad astra per aspera. (Through adversity to the stars)

Scroll to top