Shira Buchsbaum, class of 2019


In this interview, Shira Buchsbaum, Brown University class of 2019, describes her experiences as a graduate student and future librarian during the COVID-19 global pandemic.

Buchsbaum begins by sharing why she chose to attend Brown University for her undergraduate studies. She explains her family legacy at Brown and feeling at home while on campus. She describes her work at The Brown Daily Herald and specifically a series she authored on sexual harassment and rape culture on campus. She goes on to detail her work as a Special Collections Assistant at the John Hay Library and the ways that it shaped her decisions around graduate school and her path to becoming a librarian.

As the pandemic spread across Europe, Buchsbaum describes being at the University of London where she was completing a graduate program on the history of the book. She recalls first learning about the virus and then deciding with her friends to self-isolate in their London flats. She describes the moments leading up to her ultimate decision to move back to the United States to stay with her family as well as her experience traveling home. She talks about completing her course work remotely and conducting her dissertation research without physical access to archives and special collections.

In closing her interview, Buchsbaum considers the increased wildlife activity in her suburban New Jersey back yard as well as the consequences of long-term remote work for humans and libraries. Finally, she recommends that, “if you want to watch something, watch Hannah Gatsby’s Douglas. If you want to listen to something, try Billie Holiday. And if you want to read something, Big Friendship by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedmanis.”


Recorded on May 28, 2020 via Zoom
Interviewed by Amanda Knox, Pembroke Center Assistant Archivist

Suggested Chicago style citation: Buchsbaum, Shira. Interview. By Amanda Knox. Pembroke Center Oral History Project, Brown University. May 28, 2020.


Shira Buchsbaum, Brown University class of 2019, is currently studying for her Masters in the History of the Book at the School of Advanced Study, University of London, with intentions of becoming a librarian. During her time at Brown, she worked at the John Hay Library as a Special Collections Assistant, which was one of her most formative college experiences.