Carolina People

Carolina People: Sarah Morris

Although campus libraries may be closed, Morris is ensuring faculty and students have the resources they need to conduct research remotely.

Sarah Morris in her home office
Sarah Morris in her home office.

Sarah Morris

Humanities Research Librarian

2.5 years at Carolina

How have your responsibilities changed since the University switched to working remotely?

I am the library’s liaison to faculty and students across five different departments: religious studies, Jewish studies, American studies, English and comparative literature and classics. I help them find what they need for their research and think critically about the questions they want to ask. Additionally, I’m interested in digital humanities and digital pedagogy, so I help faculty design and implement alternate kinds of digital assignments. Since being remote, my work has not changed in spirit, only in the way that it gets done.

In what ways have you been able to assist students and faculty with digital learning?

A lot of what I’m doing right now is trying to make sure that faculty and students can get digital editions or alternative editions of materials that they need. We have so many resources in print or at other libraries that are currently inaccessible because of building closures. I’ve been able to ease this burden of access by purchasing books and texts that we don’t normally purchase or that were previously available only in print. I’ve also held virtual office hours where students can drop in and ask questions if they need to, and I’ve continued to teach a couple classes using recorded versions of my tutorials.

How have you set up your workspace at home, and did you bring anything home from your office?

At home, my office is a little makeshift. It’s in my third bedroom, which has a daybed and a chair. I like to move between the two. Sometimes I work on my front porch. My newest colleague is my dog, and she has many needs that are different than my former officemates. I was also able to run to the library last-minute and rescue my plants.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced when transitioning to remote work?

I had an open-door policy while I worked at my office, and anybody was welcome to come and interrupt me. I find a lot of meaning in those spur-of-the-moment requests and interactions, so going through the day without that spontaneity is one of the biggest challenges for me.

How is your department maintaining a sense of community?

We now have team meetings more often than we did before, and once per week we like to include a sort of social time in those meetings. Today, for example, we traded book recommendations for 15 minutes. There is also a water-cooler channel where our teams can chat about life and have casual conversations. It’s nice to try to simulate what actually happens during a day and include the relationship-building aspects of a work environment.

How are you continuing to support Carolina’s mission?

I believe that Carolina’s mission is to educate and to equip the population of North Carolina and others that come to the University to become informed citizens. I think my role in the library contributes in that way by making sure that education isn’t interrupted — that access to materials and resources isn’t interrupted — just because students are in a different place and because faculty have to teach from home.

What do you like most about your work?

I love working with the students. And I love their energy and questions, which I think are infinitely rich and exciting to explore.

Carolina People is a regular feature that asks one of your fascinating colleagues questions about the work they do for the University. Do you know someone with an interesting or unique job at Carolina? Please email your suggestions to thewell@unc.edu and put Carolina People in the subject line.