How I make it work: Nathan Coy

June 4, 2020
Nathan Coy
Worker at desk

Nathan Coy, Sound Archives Librarian, Archive of Recorded Sound


Where are you sheltering, and how are you?

I am currently in SOMA in San Francisco with my partner. We were incredibly lucky to move into a below market rate condo we won in November. The process was started in November but wasn’t completed until March so we moved in April. My partner is finishing school in a social justice teaching program she entered last summer, the program is called STEP and is a partnership between the Stanford Graduate School of Education and San Francisco Unified school district. In this time of difficulty we both are working on engaging constructively with the current short term international crisis of Covid-19 and long term national crisis of systemic racism.

What has your experience been like working remotely?

The libraries have a great team in Information Technology and Digital Libraries Systems and Services. Their hard earned expertise is allowing for, all things considered, a somewhat smooth transition to working from home. I have a large monitor at home I use for media editing that has been really helpful, but there were a few ergonomic kinks to work out and I have to remind myself to walk around occasionally. I do think the lack of human proximity is very difficult through the work day and that remains a challenge.


What sorts of things have you been working on? 

After shifting to off campus, the Archive of Recorded Sound staff switched their focus to already digitized collections that are not yet fully described and discoverable in Searchworks. So we anticipate being able to release many new item records into Searchworks in four weeks or so. This is exciting for us, the digitized sound recordings range from recordings from the first Cabrillo Music Festival to recordings of on campus civil rights actions in the 1960’s. The Archive staff have been holding virtual office hours and I put together a Libguide on digitally available recordings from the Archive of Recorded Sound and several other Stanford Libraries collections. We are quite busy right now truth be told.

What do you do to differentiate between “work” time and “home” time?

I try to stay off the computer when it’s not work hours, but I have a significant amount of digital underwater photos and video to edit. I have been an active underwater photographer for several years now with photos from the eastern Pacific and the Indo-Pacific, particularly southern Luzon and the Indonesian side of the island of New Guinea. I also occasionally compose music using computers, primarily for underwater video. With these both requiring computer seat time, to differentiate from my archival work, I try to wear button up shirts during work hours and t-shirts when not on the clock. This works pretty well for me both symbolically and literally.


What would you most like to do when you return to campus?

I miss working with students, staff, and faculty in person. Class instruction sessions are one of my favorite parts of the job; we get great questions that create meaningful dialogue that we all learn from. I’m not sure when we will resume in person instruction sessions and tours, or what they will look like, but that will be a wonderful day.


Do you have any recommendations for viewing/listening/reading to enrich the at-home experience?

Often we think of the Stanford libraries as primarily for research, and that is our primary purpose as a research institution. That said, I enjoy listening to the Stanford Libraries streaming database Smithsonian Global Sounds for Libraries, especially Sones Jarocho and the Les Blank films in Kanopy, especially the Dizzy Gillespie film that’s part of The Short Films of Les Blank 1.


Has anything proven to be more or less of a challenge than you anticipated?

For me I find maintaining a sleep schedule difficult as time goes on, I try to go to bed at the same time every day, but it’s easy to go head long into ruminating. I find at moments it’s hard to imagine the end of social distancing, and as an extrovert, I find this particularly challenging; the absence of lots of different people. On the positive side I’ve found cardiovascular exercise a little easier to schedule. I try to remind myself to get out most days to run which helps with the challenging parts of life. 

I think the single most difficult thing is the murder of George Floyd and the response by the executive branch. Across the street from where we live is a staging area for Highway Patrol and to a lesser extent the San Francisco Police Department. We have been seeing large amounts of police mobilization, with battalions walking down the entirety of the street at times. The sense of helplessness is overwhelming. We have been selectively protesting (less than we would like due of Covid-19), but it's not enough, the two of us and society as a whole needs to do more. The staging out front is a constant reminder of the unmitigated brutality of the acts in Minneapolis, and Sacramento and New York City and Louisville and San Francisco and...


Final Thoughts?

Black Lives Matter


Law enforcement blocking street

(Highway Patrol on the block where we live during the afternoon of May 30th)