Public Spaces in Macedonia and Boston

ourmarathon.pngWhen I lived in a country that had a strong socialist history, I spent a lot of time in one of the remaining relics from that equalizing time: the dom na kultura. This translates from Macedonian to the house of culture. It's a place where people come together for concerts, art exhibits, dance  recitals, poetry readings, and other such endeavors.  This is a public space that can be used by anyone. You can book the space and it, and all of it's resources are available to you. I happened to take dance classes there as well as hold a photography exhibit. It was one of my favorite places. I remember walking down the main street on a Wednesday afternoon when the director of the dom na kultura saw me, crossed the street and thrust a postcard into my hand, "COME!" he said with such enthusiasm that I could not refuse. The postcard advertised a band named "Amniotic Fluid" (no joke) that was playing that night. I went. It was the most intense jazz trio I have ever heard in my life. The clarinetist turned out to be from Macedonia but had just come back from spending 4 years at Berklee in Boston. This is why I loved the dom na kultura and THIS is why I want to be a librarian.

How do the two connect? What public space is for the people and everything they need and desire? The library. Where can you go to hear someone sing or dance or discuss books among friends? The LIBRARY. I was on my way to work the other morning when I heard a short piece on WBUR about the central branch of the Boston Public Library at Copley holding an event called "Share Your Story". Being a fan of anything and everything to do with stories I perked up. As it turns out Copley is hosting a number of events for the public to commemorate the marathon bombings.  I don't know why this surprised me. Every institution in town is holding a ceremony of sorts to commemorate the year anniversary. I suppose in my imagination though, the idea of people gathering in the library to share their stories, to commune with one another, is one of the exact reasons I came to Simmons. I want to be that person to open the doors and welcome a community of people inside. I want to build a space that welcomes people of all faiths, races, talents and ages. I am so proud to be an almost graduate from a program that enables us to watch over these community spaces. It's an amazing responsibility but one that I really look forward to having for a long time.

Boston | Events | leave a comment


Simmons Neon 5K

This past Saturday, me, my sister, and close group of friends came together to participate in Simmons Neon 5k. For most of us, this was the first time any of us had run a significant distance in a long time. Although I used to run competitively, I haven't run a race since my senior year of high school, so going into a race like this was both exciting yet nerve racking. A part of me really wanted to run the race as fast as possible but I knew that that would be a pipe dream; there was no way I was in any shape to run a 5k in about 25 minutes. So, I decided to aim for something else; finish under 30 minutes and do it without walking. Even if I did have to stop, I knew that both my friends and my sister would be there to support me.

On the day of, the six of us met on the course with mixed emotions. My sister and I were excited to get started, the others were a bit more weary. Even so, they all had signed up and were determined to finish one way or another. Afterwards, we had already decided that we would reward ourselves by going to a local pizza place and stuff our faces with delicious food. 
So how did the race go?
Well, I did manage to run it non stop and finish ahead of thirty minutes. The rest of my ragtag group did finish as well, although I think out of all of us, I was perhaps the one taking the race the most seriously. Once we had all caught our breaths, I was eager to know who would be interested in running another race with me at one point in the future. Let's just say that I don't think any of them (with the exception of my sister) will be running again in the foreseeable future. 
On the brighter side of things, at least we all got to eat some awesome pizza!

Events | leave a comment


Making Membership Worth It

I voted in my first ALA election today. So, consider this entry my big "I voted" sticker. I'm actually quite proud of myself. No joke. For once, I didn't let those thoughts in my head of "I'm not a real librarian" get to me. Because, if you've read my previous entries, you'll know that I am. We all are here at Simmons.

Anyways, since I didn't really know most of the people on the ballots, I had to skim through everyone's bios to see who I thought were the best candidates for each position. The best part, though, was when I did know someone (go Em Claire!). It kinda got me thinking about the strong likelihood that some of the people I'm in library school with now will someday be on that list. I may someday be on that list. And you never know who's going to remember you, or whom you're going to remember. I'm certainly going to take that to heart.

This extends beyond the Simmons community. I will probably meet a lot of the people who are on the ballots as I attend conferences in the coming years. They also matter. Among other things, they could be potential employers. Sometimes, when you spend so much time at Simmons, it's easy to forget that there are (a) other library schools, and (b) librarians in this world who aren't students or professors. This is certainly the case for me. In fact, I'm excited to graduate next summer so I can have even more world-shattering revelations. I recently realized that I'm qualified enough that people can pay me to do library work now. Let the job search begin!

A word of advice that they tell you at orientation: Join ALA. Listen to them and actually do it. I'm discovering that it's worth it--and not just because you get to vote. It's the smaller things, like being included in e-mails and getting copies of American Libraries Direct sent to you. Like Uncle Sam and the military, ALA wants you. Don't deny the call. It'll only help you achieve your dream.

Students | leave a comment


Dear Boston at the Boston Public Library

forboston01.jpgOn Saturday I went to see the Dear Boston exhibition at the Boston Public Library, which opened on Monday and will remain there until May 11.  The Marathon bombings that happened last year are obviously all over the news in Boston right now, but nothing in all the interviews I saw or stories I read really affected me as much as seeing the items that people left at the bombing memorial in the days and weeks after it happened, including the hundreds and hundreds of pairs of running shoes.

The exhibition is at the public library but was coordinated between the Boston City Archives, the Boston Art Commission, the New England forboston02.jpgMuseum Association, and the BPL, which shows how amazing our resources really can be when we pool them between informational institutions.  I have worked in a lot of public libraries and one thing I have been somewhat disappointed about when I've interned in local archives is the lack of outreach.  I don't just mean the button making "fun" outreach that I mentioned in my blog entry about the NEA conference, but using the information in our archives to educate the public about the community's history by creating exhibits.  It's something museums do all the time, but archives do on a very limited scale - a display case or two within the archive itself, which doesn't really do a lot for people who have never been into or even heard of their local archive.  But by teaming up with public libraries to use a space that people are familiar with, we could put on medium to large exhibitions of photos or other objects that really connect with the community we serve.  Some archives - mostly larger ones - do that already, but none of the archives I've interned with have, and I'm always on the lookout for examples, like Dear Boston, of what amazing things could be achieved if they did.

Boston | leave a comment


Sightseeing, Ducky Style

My parents were in town last week, so I had the pleasure of doing lots of touristy things. Probably the biggest thing I did was go to a Red Sox game (which for a Seattle Mariners fan like me does, in fact, constitute tourism). I also did many smaller things. The best small thing: going on a Duck Tour. (1) Because I happen to really love ducks, and (2) Because our tour guide wore pajamas and pretended to be friends with Christopher Walken. I don't remember his name, but I do remember that he was awesome.

There's nothing quite like seeing the city you live in from an outsider's eyes. Sure, walking around and familiarizing yourself with somewhere new is liberating and can be deeply personal. But there's also something incredible about being a voyeur. At least in terms of tourism. On a tour, you get to listen to someone explain their love for the city--their favorite parts and favorite stories--while you simply keep quiet and watch, asking questions when queries arise.

On the Duck Tour, I learned that Mother Goose is supposedly buried at the Granary. My children's literature classes have taught me that she isn't a real person. Or, if she is, she is based on multiple people. So, though I contended that "fact," it was nice to fantasize.

I also learned that the Copley Plaza Hotel is the Tipton Hotel from Disney's The Suite Life of Zack & Cody. This I had no reason to doubt, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I not only knew the show but also once considered myself a fan. (Side note: Look where Sprouse is now.)

Perhaps the most magical thing I saw--and heard about--was a pair of running shoes in a Back Bay window that had flowers planted in them. Our tour guide revealed these to be old running shoes that get put out every year in honor of the Boston Marathon. What made the shoes so magical for me was that they probably aren't world famous or anything, just a bit of local lore. And local lore is the best kind of lore because, in some ways, it feels like it's yours. Like you're let in on a secret.

Anyways, the point of this blog, I guess, is to remind you not to make Boston only a place for school, or for work. I've been especially guilty of this lately. True, there are so many wonderful professional opportunities here. But don't forget about the littler things that make this city great. And, who knows, maybe you'll create your own local lore while you're here.  

Boston | leave a comment


LISSA's role in GSLIS

Before I went to the NEA Spring meeting a few weeks ago I was pleasantly surprised to discover that LISSA would reimburse my expenses at the conference up to $300.  This was great news for me, because money is always tight as a grad student.  LISSA has always been one of those elusive organizations on Simmons campus for me - it crops up in conversations a lot, but I've never been involved in it or really known what it was.  One of my fellow students, Joy Rodowicz, is involved with LISSA (and helping to plan this year's Graduate Symposium) and offered to write some pointers about it for everyone, because as a GSLIS student (or potential student), LISSA is a valuable tool to be aware of.

1) How did you get involved with LISSA?

I first got involved with the Library and Information Science Student Association (LISSA) after I finished my first semester here at Simmons. I wanted to find a way that I could be more involved with the GSLIS community and saw my opportunity when elections for several student officer positions were announced.

2) What do you think LISSA provides for GSLIS students?

LISSA is an umbrella student organization that exists to represent and support all students in the GSLIS program. Every active GSLIS student is automatically a member of LISSA. All students may attend meetings, choose to run for office and/or participate in LISSA sponsored events. The following are just some of the ways LISSA works with and for the GSLIS community:

  • Plans GSLIS events such as Beginning and End-of-Semester parties, tours, field trips, and guest speakers;
  • Conducts semester-end class evaluations maintained in binders outside the Student Services office in the Palace Road building;
  • Provides coffee, tea, chocolate and spring water to the Matarazzo Student Lounge (P-212G);
  • Voices student concerns to the faculty and administration through the President and Faculty Representatives;
  • Reimburses student professional development costs up to $300 per year, covering costs such as library-oriented workshop and conference attendance.

3) Why should people think about leadership positions?

Student leadership is an excellent place to start and get involved in professional organizations at the student level. Most of the GSLIS student organizations are related to local or regional chapters of the different professional organizations. Not only is it a good way to network with others in your chosen field, but it provides you with the opportunity to gain confidence in your own abilities as a leader and organizer.

4) What sort of opportunities are there?

The opportunities are really limitless. Every semester positions open up in each of the student organizations. I know that after this semester, there will be openings for several officer positions throughout the different groups, as well as one of the student representatives to the faculty meetings. I would recommend attending the many diverse and exciting activities held around campus and if a particular group interests you... inquire about how you can get involved. In addition, you can always contact the LISSA president, Lindsey Clarke, at lissapres@simmons.edu for information about vacant positions.

5) What was involved in planning the symposium?

This is the third year GSLIS will be holding its annual Graduate Symposium and the first time we have extended it to include the entire Simmons graduate community. A core group of 10-12 student volunteers made up this year's planning committee. The process began in October when we decided on our theme for this year: Moving Forward: Transforming the Way We Think and then putting out the call for proposals. Once the proposals started coming in we reviewed them and worked out the panel assignments along with plans for catering and technology needs. The final stage of the process was marketing and gathering additional volunteers for the actual event. This year we will also be including poster presentations from the GSLIS After Dark event being held the night before.

6) What are you hoping people (both presenters and attendees) take away from it?

The goal of the symposium is to give students the opportunity to experience peer review and the professional presentation experience in a format that might be less intimidating that a regional or national conference venue. The symposium committee hopes that events like this will continue to foster a sense of community and collaboration where students can share their recent research and demonstrate how they plan to contribute to their respective fields upon graduation.

Students | leave a comment


Five Reasons Why it Needs to be Spring

Although spring technically started about ten days ago, it sure does not feel like it. In fact, while I was out running errands today, I realized that the rain turned into hail. Now I am an total fan of winter but even I know when enough is enough. Unless this seemingly endless winter is a curse accidentally placed on us by Queen Elsa from Frozen, starting tomorrow, it better start feeling like spring. Now, I know its been a while since it has even come close to feeling like spring so I've composed a list of five reasons why its time to open up the windows and enjoy the fresh spring air.

1. Warmer weather. Think how wonderful it will be when we no longer need to go outside bundled up in winter wear? Rather than having to wear extra socks on my feet, I cannot wait to bust out my t-shirts and flip flops.

2. The rebirth of nature. One thing that I absolutely love about spring is how everything seemingly comes alive again. Flowers bloom, trees sprout leaves, and butterflies are everywhere. Yea there are those pesky bees flying around but who cares? The world is full of color and life and that is more than enough reason to put up with bees.

3. School's out. Ok, this is technically not totally true, but at least those of us taking summer school get a bit of a break. And with our newly acquired freedom, we are finally given a chance to get outside and do fun things, like urban exploring or simply chilling out in the Common.

4. BBQ!!!!! Simply put, there is nothing more fun than being outside grilling with your pals on a warm spring night. Also, BBQ'd corn is a personal favorite of mine. Yum

And the most important reason why is needs to be spring is....


5. More time for reading. Yes, that's right, with spring comes ample time to catch up on all that leisure reading I've been setting aside. Being the bibliophile that I am, I take pleasure reading very seriously. And right now, all I want to do is find a nice shady spot under a tree in the park and read to my heart's content.

Winter, you are a wonderful season but seriously, its time to go.

Relaxing | leave a comment


Tumblarians!

I spend way too much of my time every day online.  I am fully aware that it's a problem, but not one that's going away any time soon.  It's gotten even worse lately, as I've been trying to use social media to learn more about archives and archivists, and have been working on networking through Twitter and tumblr (since I'm so terrible at doing it in person.)  I'm not entirely sure about the librarian/archivist community on twitter, but the tumblr community of tumblarians (tumblr+librarians) is vibrant and very friendly.  (I'm libromatic on tumblr, by the way.)  The wonderful thing about tumblr (and Twitter, too) is that if you're shy and nervous about posting a lot when you're not entirely sure you know what you're talking about, reblogging (and retweeting) are completely acceptable ways to share ideas!

If you're not on tumblr already, and you're looking for ways to meet people in the library/archives field, here's how to get started.  After joining the site, find people to follow.  A list of library and librarian tumblrs can be found here; a list of archive and archivist tumblrs can be found here.  I started out following just about everyone, and gradually cut down the list to just the ones I really enjoyed reading.  Library Journal posted a "Tumblarian 101" starter kit that has a lot of good pointers, too.  One thing I love about tumblr is that it is such an image-based site; as librarians we're surrounded by words all the time, so it's a nice change.  (Not that there's anything wrong with text!  But it's definitely a good thing to mix it up once in a while.)

Connecting on social media to people in the field is something almost every professor I've had in GSLIS has mentioned as a great way to make connections - and possibly get a job down the line.  Besides that, it's a wonderful way of sharing knowledge that doesn't cost anything but time.  And, you know, it's also a lot of fun.

Libraries | Technology | leave a comment


Let it Go!

frozen_elsa_by_meddek-d6w674h.pngSo, I'm going to come clean. I watched Frozen for the first time this weekend. I don't want to say it changed my life, but I'm definitely in some sort of magical place. I was thinking about the last time I was in this euphoric state and I remembered it exactly. It was when I finished the book The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. No, I'm not a sadist. I don't enjoy suffering and death. It was just such a wonderfully romantic story. It filled me with hope and I think pushed me to further understand the human condition.

I tell you all this because I think libraries are in a unique position insofar as they are the dispensaries of these emotionally transformative materials. Amazon is not the only peddler of these fine products. We too share these artistic treasures, and what's more, we put a human face behind it all. We have the opportunity to share our opinions about these books and films with patrons in a number of forums: blogs, reference interviews, readers advisory, programming events, displays, tweets, tumblr, facebook posts, shelfari, goodreads. In this information age, the librarian has a number of ways to reach patrons.

So, this is my wisdom for the week: Spread the word and find more ways to do just that. Watch a great film (COUGH - Frozen) or read a gripping book (COUGH - anything by John Green) and find an enticing way to share that item with a patron. We do an excessive amount of critical analysis and technical tasks in our line of work, and that's incredibly important. It's what separates us from the beasts (i.e. computers). However, I relish the sharing that our profession also demands from us. We need to share our passions with others. We need to be passionate. So go forth and be pumped about your latest love affair with a book. The people who use libraries will be thrilled that you are.

Relaxing | leave a comment


A New Kind of Storytime?

One of my greatest regrets about leaving home is that I don't get to see my five-year-old niece, Riley, very often. But, lucky for me, I got the opportunity to video chat with her this week (bless technology!). One of the greatest challenges about video chat, though, is remembering that not everything you do can be seen. And this becomes particularly important when you're reading picture books. Or so I've come to realize.

Simmons faculty Megan Lambert teaches a method of reading picture books called the Whole Book Approach. This is basically just a way of interacting with the picture book as an art form. When reading via this approach, children are asked to engage in a dialogue about the text. They move from being passive listeners to active participants in the story. Though I haven't (yet) been formally trained in this approach, Megan demonstrates it often in her classes. If you're curious, you can learn more about this method by taking her course at the Eric Carle Museum this summer.

Anyways, I tried to use the Whole Book Approach with my niece during our webcam storyime. This was as much a validating experience as it was a troubling one. We were able to pay attention to most parts of the story proper but video chat made interacting with the whole book difficult. Smaller images disappeared in the pixelated graphics. Because of this, I often had to hold the page closer to the webcam for Riley to pick up on certain things--and then I felt as though I was mediating her reading. I was choosing what to show her, which didn't give her the autonomy the Whole Book Approach allows for.

As much as I enjoyed practicing some of the things I've been learning at Simmons, I was also struck by the circumstances in which I was reading to my niece. How cool is it, first of all, that our current technology allows for a bedtime story (or in my case, four) in a highly personal way? I think it's incredible. I never imagined that I would ever be in a place where this sort of reading would become necessary, but I imagine I'm not alone. There have to be parents who work away from home or can't be around who have to settle for this kind of interaction. This brings me to my second point: I feel like someone could make a lot of money developing software to make webcam reading easier. Or maybe I just need to get a better camera.

Either way, I recommend you try it out. If you don't have a child in your life, read to your friends. You never know when this sort of skill might come in handy. Maybe someday Simmons will even teach a class. What say you to that?

Children's Literature | leave a comment


City of Neighborhoods Exhibit

neighborhoods_exhibit1.jpg

This past Saturday, the map gallery where I work, the Leventhal Map Gallery, premiered their newest exhibit to the Boston public. The new exhibit, City of Neighborhoods, celebrates the racial and ethnic diversity of the city of Boston. While the former exhibit, Made in Boston, had featured antique maps of both Boston and the New England area from the late 1600s through the 1700s, this exhibition "Compares the neighborhoods of today's 'new' Boston with those of 100 years ago." Through the use of photographs and maps, the exhibit is colorful and enlightening. As music representing the cultures that form the social fabric of Boston plays in the background, one can see the areas where newer immigrant groups have settled and how the physical appearance of the city had changed to reflect those who live and work there.

As part of Saturday's opening, the map gallery pulled out 

neighborhoods_exhibit2.jpgall the stops. In a separate room, we had activities for families with children while a band played music from Cape Verde. For many people who attended the event, this was the first time they had ever realized just how diverse the city was. A few people approached gallery attendants like myself and inquired about the location of Cape Verde since they had never heard of it before (it's off the western coast of Africa in case you are wondering). While children created their own bookmarks using scraps of old maps and/or decorated their own map with stickers, parents and other attendants labeled two maps, one of Boston and the other of the world, with Post-Its as a means of identifying not only the area of the city in which they were from, but also where in the world they drew their ethnic and racial identity from.

This was the first new exhibit to come into the gallery since I started working there back in Febuary and I have to say, setting it up was an absolute blast! While I didn't get to handle any of the antique maps from the previous exhibit, I did get to see what it takes to set up an exhibition. Detail truly is everything!  From the placement of photographs and images to the angle that newspaper is placed, my co-workers took great care in ensuring that everything in the new exhibit was placed in a fashion that would be appealing to the public eye. Since I'm rather petite, my co-workers kept asking me to stand in front of an exhibit and offer my insight on whether something was too high or too low.

City of Neighborhoods will be at the Leventhal Map Gallery from March 22nd-August 22nd. If you happen to need something to do on a weekend, stop on by and check out the exhibit.

neighborhoods_exhibit3.jpg

Events | leave a comment


New England Archivists Spring Meeting

This week the New England Archivists held their spring meeting in Portsmouth, NH, and I (and a good portion of my archives classmates) were in attendance.  This was actually my first professional conference, and I went to see and hear professionals in the archives community talk about their jobs, the current state of the archives field, and of course, a decent dose of networking, networking, and more networking.  (I am terrible at networking, and would generally rather rip out my own tongue than talk to a complete stranger, but I went into the conference knowing that I would have to do exactly that at least once because it was an assignment for my LIS440 class.  Let the record show that I did manage to talk to one stranger and did not die as a result, so I think I may be a better person for the experience.)  (Let the record also show that one stranger was exactly how many I talked to, so... baby steps.)

buttonmaker01.jpgThe thing about the archives field is that it is incredibly diverse in terms of both the types of archives institutions that exist and the types of archiving jobs within those institutions.  The two internships that archives concentrators take in GSLIS give us a taste of that diversity, but professional organizations and conferences like the NEA really drive the point home.  The highest points of the conference for me were presentations that helped me see sides of archiving I'd never considered before: a talk by international archivists about how archives work in their countries on Saturday and a talk about using a buttonmaker to do outreach on campus and in the community for a college archive on Friday.  (The picture is of the buttonmaker, which they pulled out after the talk to let people play with - I need to learn how to take decent photos with my phone.)  As someone who used to work with teens in a public library, I'm very familiar with the idea of outreach, but I'd never really thought about outreach and advocacy for archives - and how similar creative and fun tactics could be used, far beyond the usual flyer and poster distribution.  I'd definitely never known that Outreach Archivist was an actual job, but the more I learn about it, the more intrigued with the idea I get.

When I entered the GSLIS program I was certain I knew what sort of job I'd want when I graduated, but the longer I spend in the program the more opportunities I see that interest me.  This is how things should work, I think, but I really wish I had some sort of time machine that could let me take a peek at my life a year from now, because at this point I'm leaning in a lot of directions at once.

Conferences | leave a comment


Storytelling Semi-Finals this Weekend

Semis2014.pngThis is a shameless plug for a certain storyteller (ME) who is competing in the MassMouth Story Slam Semi Finals this Sunday at Ryles Jazz Club in Cambridge at 6:30 pm. I'm telling a story from my days in the Peace Corps, so it should be ...hilarious. A story slam is every bit the event you are conjuring in your imagination: a forum where people from the audience tell personal stories, within a time limit and people cheer for a well told tale. In this particular story slam there will be no judges. The audience decides! So come out to hear some great stories and support a fellow GSLISer. Storytelling is a big part of our society these days thanks to organizations like MassMouth and the Moth. Librarians should stay involved in an arena they championed so many years ago. Let's get back in this game and begin telling our stories!

GSLIS | Students | leave a comment


March Madness

Clever title, right? It's fitting because of everything going on right now, I cannot believe March is almost over already! This semester ends in just about a month and I'll have finished 10 of 12 classes to graduate. In fact, just this week GSLIS made an exciting announcement, August grads (like me) will be able to walk at the May graduation ceremony. Although it will feel weird to receive a (fake) diploma for a degree I haven't technically earned yet, I'm so excited to participate in the graduation ceremony! The one downside of finishing in the summer was that I thought I wouldn't get to walk at graduation, so props to Simmons for changing their policy. It wouldn't feel real to me if I didn't participate in a graduation ceremony to make it official.

March madness doesn't just refer to school and my basketball bracket, last week I accepted a full-time job starting in June! I'll be working for a tech startup company called Green Mountain Digital working on an amazing (and free!) app called Yonder (www.yonder.it) focusing on connecting people to the outdoors. Stop what you're doing and go download it now! I'm going to be working with amazing, smart, motivated, innovative people and I'm so looking forward to this new challenge.

Is my job going to be in a library? No, but that's okay. I'll be using much of what I've learned at GSLIS at this new job, and learning so much more about technology, skills that will certainly translate into a library someday. I'll also be finishing my degree during a weeklong intensive course in July, I didn't get this far to bail at the last minute! So why take a job that's seemingly not in my field, a field I've been waxing poetic about for years now? Because now is the time to take a crazy risk. Librarians as a group are not the biggest risk takers and up until now I've fit that mold perfectly. Now is the time to change and try something totally different and super exciting. If I've learned nothing else during my time at GSLIS it's that it's important to do things your own way and to try new opportunities as they present themselves. I'm really looking forward to this next chapter in my life and starting my first "real" (read: full-time) job! My list of books to be read is also looking forward to my homework-free existence. 

Jobs | leave a comment


Gateway to Reading

Welcome back! Here's hoping your vacations were as pleasant as mine. I was able to return to the Pacific Northwest, and I spent some time in a museum in Oregon that a friend of mine works at. It was interesting to see the ways that libraries and museums differ. I wanted to ask the librarian about her collection, but it was her birthday and she was out. I did get to see the way certain artifacts are stored though!

What I really want to talk about happened before my vacation. Just before I left, I had the opportunity to see Marc Brown, creator of the beloved Arthur television series, at the Boston Public Library. The talk he gave was part of BPL's Lowell Lecture Series. Luckily for me and other kid lit types, this year's theme happens to be "Gateway to Reading." Marc Brown is only the second of many more lectures--many of which you might want to check out. (I'd extend my commercial beyond this, but I think you can decide for yourself what you'd be interested in.)

Things I learned from Marc Brown: Arthur is now the longest running children's television program (just renewed for two more seasons!); Arthur has taken to addressing more difficult issues, such as cancer or Asperger's syndrome; and, lastly, Arthur's nose used to be longer when he was originally drawn. I won't go into the details here because you should be able watch the talk for yourself on the series homepage.

As you can see, the structure of his talk was to answer questions that children asked him as opposed to giving a lecture about his work. It was an interesting concept--and certainly less self-aggrandizing. I appreciated the way the librarians had prepared some students from around the area ahead of time to submit questions to answer onstage, while also opening it up to live audience members. It's definitely a strategy to tuck into one's back pocket. The kids get really excited, and it's awesome to watch them in the spotlight.

Needless to say, this isn't the first of the lecture I'll be going to. Perhaps I might see you during Norton Juster's talk on April 2. Don't be afraid to say hello!

Events | leave a comment


Going Home and Coming Back

In the weeks preceding spring break this year, I'll admit, I was starting to get a bit stir crazy. You see, for the last four years, I had the luxury of being able to journey off my undergraduate campus for weekend hikes all around Massachusetts. These weekend adventures not only provided me with a break from my academic responsibilities, but also helped fend off any possibility of developing recklessness.  As an individual who can't ever seem to stay in one place for too long, you can imagine how much I miss these weekend outings. While I absolutely love living in Boston, sometimes, a person just needs a change every now and then and I hit that wall about a month a half ago. Of course, without access to a car or enough free time to venture off on the commuter rail, I've found myself essentially stuck within the confines of the city. Now don't get me wrong, one can never go wrong with a bit of urban exploring, but sometimes, a person just needs to get out. And so, I decided to do just that and last Wednesday, I said adios to Boston, and hello to New York.

Returning to my hometown was like seeing a classmate I had not seen since graduating high school. True, the last time I was home was in January, but my town seems to have a case of restlessness all its own; it is not uncommon for local businesses to come and go within two months' time. And just like said metaphorical friend, my hometown was still essentially the same, although sporting some new features. A restaurant had closed its doors; a new dance club had opened; a fire had destroyed a number of buildings near the edge of town; and a number of local places apparently decided to spruce up their interiors. Naturally this is not the first time my town has decided to change itself while I've been away, but I always find it to be somewhat jarring when I discover these changes. It feels like slowly but surely, the town of my childhood is slowly being replaced by some new entity. Needless to say, I don't like it very much when such changes happen.

On the positive side of things, I did get to reconnect with some childhood friends that I hadn't seen since Thanksgiving. And just how did we spend our time together? Why by going to the Big Apple for some hijinks of course. And it was while I was strolling around the streets of New York City, the city of my childhood that I discovered something startling: I not only missed Boston, but actually preferred Boston over NYC!!!!! Talk about a shocking epiphany. For the longest time, NYC to me was the greatest place on Earth but now that I'm older and have actual experience living in a place like Boston, I've come to realize some of the major pitfalls of NYC. For one thing, the place is just too big. Depending on what your plans are, you could spend forty-five minutes to over an hour simply traveling around. The same principal does apply to Boston, but the commute doesn't always feel that bad. Another thing I noticed, sometimes being in the city that never sleeps isn't always a good thing. While most places in Boston shut down around two in the morning, in New York, the party doesn't stop until at least four in the morning. Public transportation on the other hand, does. One of my friends wanted to stay out later but we had to head back to Long Island around one am since the next train didn't depart until four thirty. That sentiment was not shared by the rest of us. Were we in Boston, such a night out wouldn't have been such a big deal since I could have called a taxi service like Sidecar or Lyft to take my friends and I back to my apartment. Since I live in Long Island, something like that was simply not an option.  All in all, as my friends and I took the Long Island Rail Road back home to Huntington, I realized that without a doubt, I desperately wanted to get back to Boston. Any reservations I might have had about moving to Boston for graduate school had literally flown the coop.

Now that I'm back and settled into my Brighton apartment, I'm not really sure where home is anymore. While Long Island will always be my childhood home, I feel like I might have outgrown the place. For where I am in my life right now, Boston is absolutely the place where I want to be. New York is a nice place to visit, but would I live there full time? NO WAY. Going home just to get away from everything is nice, especially if I haven't been back in a while, but I think right now, I'm quite content to stay exactly where I am. Even if it means I might get a bit restless every now and then.

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Alternative Spring Break

schoollibrary02.jpgThis week I took advantage of one of the many opportunities that are offered during spring break to try something new and spent an afternoon volunteering at the school library of the Boston Teachers Union School.  I've spent a lot of time working with teens and adults in public libraries, but have not really spent a substantial amount of time in the children's rooms.  I've also never worked in or even volunteered in a school library before, so I thought it would be a really interesting and fun experience -and that I was pretty much guaranteed to learn something.schoollibrary03.jpg

Given my lack of experience, it was a good thing that our day consisted of labelling, barcoding and shelf reading; anything more advanced probably would have been a little nerve-wracking because I would have been too worried about screwing up something completely new to me.

Boston Teachers Union School is K-8, so we got to see kids of every age throughout the afternoon, and process materials for every age as well.  We also got to see a little bit of how a library gets up and running: the school is only 4.5 years old, and is cooperatively run by teachers.  The library has only been in place for a couple of years, and runs entirely on donations and the hard work of one part-time intern and one staff member who isn't a librarian.  It's a set up that has an awful lot of possibilities for creative fundraising and collection building, and getting to be part of it, even for just an afternoon, was amazing.

School Libraries | leave a comment


Being a Librarian 20 years ago... today

Today I worked in a library system 20 years ago. Ok, that's a lie. I don't wake up every day, hop in my time machine and travel back to the simpler age of the card catalog. Though, if I did have a time machine I would choose a much simpler time with cooler clothes and become friends with Billy Shagspar (see Bill Bryson's biography of a certain Elizabethan playwright). No, today my colleagues and I were mostly immobilized by the World Wide Web (the birthday present it re-gifted to us). Our circulation program, Millennium, just decided not to work. We began running around like chickens with our heads cut off for a good fifteen minutes, calling every supervisor under the sun to no avail. What could be done? Without computers how do we run the library?library-cards-digital-scrapbook-paper.jpg

Technology is not the maker and breaker of libraries these days, although it seems like it. If it were the only thing holding a library together then there would be very little point to getting an MLS degree.  The cooler heads of librarians do prevail over the fickle lords of the technology dance, though I had no idea in my moment of crisis. Librarians think ahead. They have contingency plan after contingency plan in place for just such a moment. They're like four star generals going into battle to serve the patrons to whom they are dedicated. What was in place for me after I talked to the 3rd on-call supervisor was the following: write down the information on a spreadsheet (provided) for all of the books being checked out. That was all: write it down, get all of their information and call the people who fix Millennium.

I don't want to admit that this is why I should strive to pay more attention to the history portions of my classes here at Simmons. I probably can't admit to myself that there is indeed a great deal to learn from our collective past. Having worked in a library from the past today though I can see why it's useful and why I will tell you that I'm on my way to talk to the oldest librarian I can find and pick his or her brain ASAP. Card catalogs: not so ridiculous now.

Libraries | leave a comment


180 Degree Perception Change

In the fall of 2011, when I first started telling friends and family I was planning to pursue a masters degree in library and information science, the response across the board was something to the effect of "you need a masters degree to be a librarian?" I would reply by saying things along the lines of "well libraries are about a lot more than books" and "technology is so key now, I've got a lot to learn." This all sounds well and good, but at the time I think I was more or less parroting back what I'd read and heard from those already in the field. I knew this was all true, but in the back of my mind a little voice kept asking "is it really about more than books?". This self doubt was justified, especially given that the public image of a librarian is a matronly woman surrounded by books making shushing noises. That said, it didn't take me long at Simmons to realize that, yes, it's about a whole lot more than books.

Now, as I'm starting to wrap up my degree at GSLIS, I cannot imagine working in this field without the skills I've gained from this program. I can see the value of what I'm learning during my time at GSLIS. My own realization of how valuable this degree will be is much less impressive than the change in perception I've observed from those outside the profession.

This past week I had a strange networking experience, one that started because the red line train unexpectedly shut down (problems with the T are a common occurrence in Boston). I wound up splitting a cab with a business man who happened to be going in the same direction and whose patience for waiting on the T was equally short. We got to talking and I mentioned that I'm finishing my degree at Simmons in library science. His response? To paraphrase: "wow, what a cool field to be pursuing, there's so much going on in the world of libraries, and technology is so interesting, and the field is changing, you're so cutting edge!" What a difference a year makes. Instead of commenting that libraries are outdated or making a joke about the necessity of a masters degree, this guy got it! A man who looked to be in his mid-fifties, wearing a suit, who works for a tech startup no less.

I'm not sure if its the fact that I'm in different situations than I was a year ago, talking with people who really get it, or if public perception really has changed, perhaps a combination, but I'm happy about this change. For those of you just starting your journey into this field, know that you're not entering a dying profession, you're not behind the times, instead you're futuristic and awesome and entering a profession that's got a very exciting future! Even if for starters you're just in it for the books.

GSLIS | leave a comment


Little Libraries

One of the first things I learned from working in public and special libraries was that even though they all provided more or less the same services to the community they served, there were countless differences in how they functioned and what people even meant when they said "library."  The wonderful thing about libraries is that they don't have to exist in a certain way. They can be the giant buildings with borrowing littlelibrary04.jpgcards and policies, but they can also just be a small shelf of books that people are invited to take and replace as they will, all for free. 

Little Free Libraries are a network of tiny libraries set up on street corners and curated by anyone who wants to put in the work, who have free books that anyone can come along and take, and leave their own books in.  There are 10,000 - 12,000 Little Free Libraries set up around the world, including seven in the Metro Boston area, mostly in Cambridge and Somerville.  They each have their own eclectic selection of books, so they're all worth visiting. littlelibrary01.jpg

Simmons GSLIS has its own Little Library for GSLIS students to borrow from freely.  It's stocked by the PLG (Progressive Librarians Guild) student group, and free for anyone to use.  It's located in the second floor lockers in the Palace Road building - just look for the one with the red and black "Locker Library" label right outside the Tech Lab.  The combination is on the outside, too.  It's a fun way for GSLIS students to share resources with each other, and the collection inside the locker is always changing, so it's worth it to check several times a semester.  

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