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Library seeks Huskies’ personal reflections on COVID-19 for archives

May 6, 2020

As coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to disrupt life around the world, the University Archives is asking students, faculty, staff and alumni to share stories of how it’s altering them.

Sarah Cain, curator for Rare Books and Special Collections in the NIU Libraries, expects the answers will describe not only on the challenges but also “the things that have come out positively from this.”

Online submissions at can include digital versions of everything from artwork, photographs and poems to letters, emails and social media posts to preserve on library servers.

Physical contributions also are welcome to store in an archive that would mirror the Feb. 14 collection; examples could include diaries and journals, scrapbooks, artwork of any medium, brochures, fliers or other memorabilia. Details on how to donate these artifacts re available at

“This is a way to document the experiences of the individuals rather than just the university,” Cain said.

“While we are documenting the official response of NIU by capturing some websites, archiving emails from the president, from NIU Today releases – things of that nature – we really don’t get the perspectives of individual students, faculty, staff and alumni,” she added. “We’re hoping to learn their perspectives on how day-to-day life has changed for them.”

Questions in the online form ask respondents when and how they became aware of the pandemic, how they reacted initially, whether their feelings shifted over time, how they spend their days, what causes the most anxiety, what is proving most difficult to manage and where they are finding inspiration and hope.

Meanwhile, Cain also hopes to read accounts of how the stay-at-home orders are allowing time and opportunity for personal pursuits – taking up a new hobby or learning a second language, for example – or for streamlining workflows in ways that perhaps can remain in place afterward.

The information will allow archivists to compare how COVID-19 impacted the various groups similarly and differently, and examine “where those perspectives cross,” to create what Cain calls “an interesting conversation piece for researchers looking back.”

“I’m looking at how we’re adapting to the situation, and what this is going to mean maybe a year or two or five out,” Cain said. “What are we going to take away, and what are we going to incorporate into our normal processes and day-to-day life?”