Robbie Short

Without academics poring over medieval texts and visitors squinting at the fine black print of the Gutenberg Bible, Yale’s most iconic library lies dormant. Those who work at the Beinecke — which houses hundreds of years of history — are now busy living in another historical moment.

Adrienne Sharpe, a library service assistant at the Beinecke, no longer spends her days among the fragile tomes. Instead, she works, cooks, dances, reads and meditates at her home in West Haven with her husband, Kurt, and daughter, Evey.

I’ll be honest, I’ve been going a bit stir-crazy from being home nonstop,” she said. Since the Beinecke stopped normal operations, the carefully balanced routine that Sharpe mastered has been rapidly reworked.

Before lockdown, Sharpe’s parents watched Evey every day. But for the sake of their health, Sharpe decided that they should keep their distance and make FaceTime calls instead of house visits.

“They are in complete withdrawal because they miss having her around all day every day,” she said.

On top of keeping a 2-year-old happy and healthy, Sharpe is still logging work hours. Sharpe said both she and her husband “are both pretty blessed” in that their work is guaranteed and that they are both able to work remotely.

Though scholars cannot access some materials, Sharpe and her colleagues are creating a queue for when they return to the Beinecke. With some of her extra free time, Sharpe is auditing a graduate art history seminar on William Morris.

Sharpe is also a ballet teacher at Elite Sounds of the Arts Academy in New Haven. Though her classes have been suspended, she’s still making time to attend dance classes over Zoom.

Understanding the challenge the epidemic poses for artists, Sharpe is trying to support other dancers and musicians virtually by watching their livestreamed concerts from home.

“I love how the arts communities have really rallied together and continue to keep us connected,” she said.

With the financial losses many artists are facing, Sharpe is also trying to support musicians through Patreon. Most shows, she explained, are “optional in terms of financial commitment.” 

One of her personal favorites is guitarist Robert Messore. He hosts “Toddler Tunes,” which Sharpe and her daughter watch together. 

Like many, Sharpe is trying to maintain a sense of normalcy. “I read the news but in a limited way. I’ve preferred to keep my distance from the constant barrage of news reports, not because it’s overwhelming, but because I’m trying to find some balance,” she said. Her husband, on the other hand, is “inhaling every bit of news” he can get.

She’s grateful to be safer in Connecticut, too. “I can’t imagine being in NYC or another high-traffic city at this time. I was in NYC for graduate school and the subway is just a way of life,” she noted.

A week before New York went under lockdown, she had a close scrape with the virus. Along with other Beinecke staff, she attended a book fair in New York after which some attendees fell ill. “We really lucked out in that none of us became sick.”

All things considered, Sharpe is cautiously optimistic. “I just bought concert tickets for a show in NYC in June. I’m hoping that show will actually still happen,” she said. “We’ll see.”

Tyler Brown | tyler.james.brown@yale.edu

This story is part of a larger series profiling Yale and New Haven community members during the COVID-19 pandemic. To read more, click here.