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The Libraries' (Safe) Summer Escapes

August 6, 2020

This summer has looked quite a bit different than in the past due to COVID-19 and the resulting local, national and international travel restrictions and concerns. That has not stopped Drexel Libraries staff from finding time to relax, take up new hobbies and enjoy the great outdoors. Check out just a few of the ways our staff have been spending their time during the summer of COVID-19.


A small indoor tomato plan against a windowSummer is my least favorite time of the year. Folks who know me know that I am happiest when it is snowing. However, the summer of 2020 is different. I still hate the heat and humidity, but I have found a sense of peace from being inside more than usual, and I love watching the summer sunsets from my apartment. I tried my hand at urban farming with one cherry tomato plant. My little tomato plant yielded seven tomatoes. Watching it grow—green tomatoes finally turning a bright shade of red—has been satisfying. One plant, seemingly insignificant, but focusing on it, checking it daily to see if it needed water, or if the tomatoes were growing, ripening, gives me hope.  My tomato plant reminds me of Mama’s plant in Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun. The plant in Hansberry’s play symbolizes hope and strength, and so does mine.   

—Sharon Brubaker, Technician II, Acquisitions


Screenshot from Animal Crossing: New HorizonsI’ve been trying to stay inside as much as possible, so my “summer escape” lets me get away from reality without having to leave the house. I’ve been getting by with tons of TV and video games, especially Animal Crossing and Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Those monsters won’t defeat themselves, and I have a tropical island to landscape! 
 –Tiffany Harris, Drexel Libraries’ Marketing & Communications Co-op 

The home vegetable garden My family turned to vegetable gardening as our method of relaxation this summer. We learned about wild edibles and delighted in picking purslane from the weeds, along with harvesting asparagus, carrots, spinach, peppers, swiss chard, and more. I tried my first home-grown eggplant - fried - and it oddly tasted like a tortilla. It was almost like going on vacation and sampling the cuisine of a different locale. Almost.

—Sam Kirk, Manager, Curricula Support    



Before I joined the Drexel University Libraries in July as the newest member of the Curricula Support team, I was participating in a joint Fellowship with the Center for Public Health Readiness and Communication at Dornsife School of Public Health and the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. As a Public Health Preparedness Librarian, I spent the summer as part of the Department of Public Health's Incident Command System responding to the pandemic. My role involved helping with the city's response by compiling research on SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19, answering reference questions from city public health officials and answering phone calls and emails from the public.

Jen Lege Matsuura, Health Sciences Librarian


A natural landscape paintingThroughout the year (and most of my life), I find balance and relaxation through rather intense engagement with some form of artistic expression. The past seven years, my primary medium has been fabric collage. Here’s an image of one I completed this past Friday night; it is cotton fabric on canvas, 16x20 inches, inspired by a photo I took in a Japanese garden during a visit to Seattle. Normally during the summer, I take longer trips to meet my other strategy for maintaining sanity by getting out of town at least once a month. This year, due to the Covid-19 precautions, I’ve not left my Center City Neighborhood since March.

Danuta A. Nitecki, Dean of Libraries


A prickly lettuce plant I’ve been learning more about the plants I find in my backyard and on my walks at Cobbs Creek Park and Mt. Moriah Cemetery. I upload photos to the iNaturalist app, which provides suggested identifications from other app users. Recognizing more plants and learning about them changes how I see the “weeds” at the edge of a sidewalk, and now hanging laundry in my backyard is also an opportunity to observe the life cycle of plants. Learning just a little has made me far more curious about all the green things around me. Two of the most interesting plants in my backyard: hemp dogbane (Apocynum cannabinum), which has fibers that can be used for everything from rope to clothing, and prickly lettuce (Lactuca serriola), which is the closest wild relative to domesticated lettuce, though it has very unappetizing prickles. One of the plants in my backyard is over ten feet tall. Elsewhere, I’ve also found wild garlic, a native species of grape, American hog peanut, and hops (though an invasive variety), as well as a range of plants that are toxic to humans. Lately, I’ve started identifying spiders, funguses, birds, and insects.  

—Simon Ragovin, Archives Technician 


Several crochet projects My daughter and I have been going for “rides to nowhere” and just enjoy the scenery and take pictures of the homes we thought were unique or beautiful. I also crocheted—a lot—and I painted my own Christmas decorations. I caught up on many of the TV series and movies I’ve always wanted to see.

—Nancy Spedding, LITS Specialist II



A flock of sheep in a barnEarlier this summer, I spent some time at my friends’ small farm in upstate New York. If you’ve ever visited a friends’ farm before, you’ll know “visit” usually means “work.” Although tending the vegetable gardens, feeding hundreds of sheep and chickens, and weeding cut flower beds isn’t what you typically think of when you hear “relaxing,” it provided a much-needed change of scenery and change of pace. I'm an avid gardener myself, and getting some tips from the pros was an added bonus -- my modest urban garden is flourishing as a result!

—Stacy Stanislaw, Communications Manager



Sunfish Pond at the Delaware Water GapThis summer, I’ve been keeping myself busy with baking projects, visiting virtual islands on Animal Crossing, and going on a few hiking adventures. This photo was taken at Sunfish Pond located at the Delaware Water Gap. I do miss seeing my friends and going to the beach (I still don’t feel comfortable going there yet), but being at home gave me the opportunity to spend more time with my family and try out new restaurants and food recipes with my boyfriend.

—Jena Wong, Assistant II, Print Resources