April 2012 Archives

Debunking the Conspiracy

This morning I saw a bumper sticker with these lovely words of wisdom: “It IS as bad as you think, and they ARE out to get you.” While I cannot attest to exactly what that Volkswagen-driving amateur conspiracy theorist has in mind, I can assure you that that phrase does not apply to Simmons GSLIS.

I have nearly completed my first GSLIS semester (yay!), and not once have I felt that it is really that bad or that someone is out to get me. My undergrad experience left me with haunting memories of walking into class the week after taking a test or handing in a paper and having the professor say that half the class failed and the average grade was a 74. I didn’t necessarily feel like my professors were out to get me, but sometimes it did seem that they were going out of their way to put us measly college students in our place.

Thankfully, GSLIS has not rekindled that foreboding feeling of failure.

Continue reading Debunking the Conspiracy

Classes | GSLIS | 1 comment


Power Moby Dick

I never understood the first line of Moby Dick, "Call me Ishmael." Got it now though.

The site Power Moby Dick doesn't so much interpret Moby Dick but rather reveals the history and meaning of words in the text. Very helpful. You can make up your own mind on author's intent. Plus they have links to every conceiveable related resource on the web and beyond. Fascinating if interested in Nantucket history and that of whaling operations and their minutia. Some drawn out passages sure, but ends with more violence than several Die Hard movies. Good stuff. Also put the Whaling Museum on your list.

Events | leave a comment


End of Term Projects

 

Holy Overdue fines, Batgirl!  I have so much to do this last week of the semester!

I could plead an excuse why I don’t have time for a fabulous blog entry this week, but then I thought, why not let you see what a sleep deprived GSLIS student has been up to?

As part of a larger Tech tutorial project, I created a sample library website using Drupal Gardens. The actual tutorial is still in progress, but please visit my sample website and tell me what you think!  I will be adding more content and improving the site in response to peer feedback, including yours.

http://steenson123moretutorial.drupalgardens.com/

This website is the product of a “How to...” I created for my Technology class.  Be sure to click on all the tabs, links, and complete the short survey…and of course, follow the link at the bottom of the website to “Like” us on Facebook!

Classes | Technology | leave a comment


Getting Involved

I know, I know. It’s annoying to talk about how important it is to get involved in extracurricular activities. We’ve been hearing about it in every stage of education since we were old enough to make our own decisions about how to use our time. I think it is important, however, to re-emphasize once again, even if only to myself, how crucial it is to make an effort to get involved in the student professional community during your short time in library school.

For me, Simmons GSLIS was very different from anything I’d ever experienced before in terms of how much effort it took to get involved. For the first time, I’m attending a commuter school; this semester I only have to be on campus twice a week. Each semester I’ve worked 3-4 days a week, and oh goodness, so much homework! How could I possibly find the time to drag myself to campus other times during the week to go to faculty and/or student group-sponsored events?

It’s true, there’s no way to conjure up extra time, as much as us humans would love it.

Continue reading Getting Involved

Events | Students | leave a comment


The New Grad School Try

I could have tried harder in college. In fact, I should have tried harder in college. For some reason it just didn’t seem “cool” to do so at the time. When I embarked on my thesis at the beginning of my senior year, I realized that I was going to have to change my work habits. And change them I did. I daresay I enjoyed writing my thesis, and even finished it before the deadline. I relegated myself to the library for self-imposed “Thesis Thursdays” in addition to several hours per week when my former self would have been watching some stupid dating show on MTV. (Because clearly that was the cool thing to do.) My thesis went without a hitch, and I realized that investing myself in my work could actually be…cool.

After three and a half years in the real world (MTV pun intended), I entered GSLIS and promised myself that I would work hard.

Continue reading The New Grad School Try

Students | 3 comments


Two Weeks!

That’s pretty much all I have left in this semester, and I’m working (not too) furiously to wrap up all of the assignments I have to do.  Today I’m trying to finish writing my literature review, the subject of which is related to my summer internship!

I am looking at the literature that describes the ethical considerations and debate surrounding the acquisition, preservation, and access to Native American collections in institutional repositories and archives.  Historically, indigenous cultural materials were collected and described not by Native Americans themselves but by white collectors, anthropologists, historians, curators, etc, which has had devastating effects on Native American identity and cultural preservation in their communities.  There has been a call to improve the relationships between museums, archives, and repositories that house Native American materials and tribal nations to balance the needs of researchers and the “public good” with the needs of indigenous peoples.

While many people now sympathize with Native Americans and would argue in favor of repatriation, many archivists are faced with a conflict of interest. 

Continue reading Two Weeks!

Students | leave a comment


Change in Curriculum for Fall 2013

Recently, the GSLIS community received news that beginning with the incoming class of 2013, the curriculum will be changing.  The core requirements are changing (Evaluation of Information Services will be replaced with a Foundations course), the program will increase to 39 credits, and most importantly to me, that there will be a new capstone requirement put in place.  For me as a SLT student, my capstone experiences are my practica, both at the elementary and the high school level.  It's part of the state licensing requirements, but as I draw to the end of my elementary practicum, I realize just how valuable an experience this is, so much so that before this announcement was made, I was going to write a blog post exhorting new students to sign up for LIS 501, a 150-hour, hands-on internship.

Here's why I approve of this change.

| leave a comment


Dig In

You don't have to subscribe to online newsletters, blogs, and tumblrs - but since you are reading this you are halfway there... Librarians were and are some of the most profilic bloggers around and there are reams of lists and feeds from which to choose. I am going to just suggest two; the technical/rural  Jessamyn West, and the user experience (UX) commentator Aaron Schmidt.

Again, you don't have to use twitter, leave comments on people's blogs, or create an online presence for yourself - but I would recommend it.

People | Technology | leave a comment


All the Things that are Good for You: Broccoli, Shoveling Snow, and Group projects

[caption id="attachment_1302" align="alignleft" width="384" caption="Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Watterson"][/caption]

You probably remember being a kid and being told, “Eat your broccoli…it’s good for you.”  As a parent, I have had said my fair share of “It’s good for you” moments in raising my daughter.  A couple of specific examples stand out:  “Stacking wood builds character,” and “I know it is hard to work in a group, but it is good for you.”

While I have no problem eating broccoli and I love to stack wood, I have had to eat my words on the group project thing.  Just two days ago, on a visit home, as I was stressing about an end of term group project, my daughter gave me a sympathetic smile and reminded me that group projects are good for me.

I have to admit that I wasn’t prepared for group projects at GSLIS.  I know we will work in a collaborative environment and so learning how to reach our goals with our peers is important, but there have been some real challenges.

| leave a comment


Marathon Monday

When you move to Massachusetts, they give you a free holiday!  The third Monday of April is Patriots’ Day, the Massachusetts state holiday commemorating the Battles of Lexington and Concord.  There were battle reenactments, parades, and ceremonies all over the state this weekend.  One other big thing about Patriots’ Day is it always serves as the day of the Boston Marathon.  It was certainly an exciting weekend to be a resident of Boston!

Unfortunately, I didn’t make it out to any of the Revolutionary War commemoration events, but I did have a chance to be a spectator at about mile 24 of the Boston Marathon.  I used boston.com’s handy interactive map to determine that the route went through Coolidge Corner, which is within walking distance from my apartment.  (With Boston well over-capacity due to the international pull of the marathon, I did NOT want to brave public transit!)  I doused myself in sunscreen and made way to join the crowd of eager Bostonians awaiting their chance to cheer on the marathoners.

Continue reading Marathon Monday

Events | leave a comment


How Running a Marathon is (sort of) Like Attending Simmons GSLIS

I want to make the Boston Marathon relevant to GSLIS. I really do. “Library school is like a marathon.” “The last two weeks of the semester are the final sprint to complete a marathon.” “The Boston Marathon is awesome, and so is GSLIS.” As much as I enjoy figurative language, those statements just don’t quite get it done.

I couldn’t watch the Boston Marathon last year, but two years ago it was one of the most inspiring things I have ever witnessed. Despite being a certified stoic, at one point I found myself holding back tears. The combination of beautiful weather, everyone’s positive energy, and the camaraderie among the runners and spectators created an experience that I will not soon forget. There is something overpowering about watching 27,000 people meander 26.2 miles from Framingham to Downtown Boston. A marathon is hardly about winning in the traditional sense. Everyone out there, whether on the course or alongside it, wants every single marathoner to succeed. In a marathon, to succeed is to finish and to finish is to win.

Having completed two marathons (neither being Boston) and almost one semester at GSLIS, I decided to ditch the figurative language and just stick with the facts. So, for the sake of relevancy, here are some ways that running a marathon is (sort of) like attending Simmons GSLIS:

People say it’s crazy to run a marathon. People say it’s crazy to go to library school.

You learn a lot about yourself in the process.

It’s a good idea to stay on course.

You can finish at your own pace.

Everyone who is either involved or on the sidelines wants to see you succeed.

Help, support, and advice come from unexpected people along the way.

It’s not always fun, but it is rewarding.

There are no shortcuts.

To succeed is to finish and to finish is to win.

Boston | Events | Libraries | 2 comments


Building a Fancy CV

This semester, I’ve been trying to take advantage of all of the opportunities—beyond Simmons—that living in Boston has to offer.  Three weeks ago I attended the NEA Spring Meeting, and this week I attended a conference that on the service might not seem strictly relevant to our field:  the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association (PC/ACA) conference in Boston.  True, there were a lot of panels on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Harry Potter, World of Warcraft, and other popular fandoms, but the conference itself was huge!  The program was over 450 pages long, and I managed to find a few sessions that were on the intersection of popular culture, research, and archives, special libraries, and museums.  So of course I attended!

I’ve found that some panels on an archive’s holdings can turn into a form of show and tell—look at these awesome things I have in my collections!—that never evolve into a discussion on methodology, theory, or issues of access publicity, etc., which can be frustrating.  One of the most interesting presentations, in fact, was on the proposal for a new National Museum of the American People.  Somehow, this had completely flown under my radar, and I find it an interesting solution to the controversy over minority representation in our current National Museum line-up.

Rather than erecting a museum to each individual group that demands representation, essentially fracturing the Mall, one museum would function to bring those stories together.  Irish-Americans, Indian-Americans, Muslim-Americans, etc., etc., etc.  Maybe I’m an idealist, and maybe that museum doesn’t need to exist at all, and there’s plenty of opposition (check out this Washington Post article:http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/one-museum-over-all/2011/09/23/gIQA537mAL_story.html), but it’s definitely a discussion worth having.

All in all, I was really happy with my experience at the PC/ACA conference, and as I overheard one of the panelists mention as she was leaving, sometimes it’s nice to get away from librarians.  Our profession touches so many disciplines, it’s important for us to branch out and share what it is we’re doing with other people.  So if you’re looking for a conference to attend and add to your CV, branch out from library conferences and see what’s out there!

Jobs | Libraries | leave a comment


So...why library school?

If you are currently contemplating the decision to attend library school, chances are at some point in your search process, you have heard some helpful individual say something along the lines of "Libraries are dying/e-books are rendering books irrelevant/why do you need a degree for that/fill in your own silly reason here." This issue irked me so much, it actually wound up being the introduction to my admissions essay for Simmons.

Are e-books and the internet changing the way in which libraries operate? Of course.  But the library as an institution is far from becoming irrelevant, and in fact, I think this is a fascinating time to choose to enter our noble profession.   For a start, there's so much potential that technology and the internet opens up for us, and a simple Google search is just the tip of the iceberg.  When your friends and family learn that you actually know how to extract useful information out of Google in a method more refined than random keyword searches, their estimation of you will rise.  If you ever help them locate information using a database, well, you might as well be able to walk on water.

There's also the legal side of things - issues of copyright, fair use, pricing and licensing of e-books.  We might not be directly involved in these conversations, but they certainly affect us all and the work that we do.

Take e-books.  You probably own an e-reader of some sort or know someone who does, and your public library probably offers access to e-book downloads that you can checkout, just as you would do with a hard copy.  Yet, the decision last March by HarperCollins to limit checkouts of their e-books to 26 (at which point a library would have to re-purchase the license) or even the case brought this week by the Justice Department against Apple and other e-book vendors about price fixing have an impact on our field.  Do we move with full speed ahead to e-books? Do we wait and see how this all plays out? How do we keep up with a field of technology that is producing better, faster, sharper, cheaper devices every six-eight months?

And that's just the start of things.  Information preservation.  Archives.  Curation. These are all issues of concern addressed within the LIS curriculum and within our profession.  So, to all those who think that going to get your LIS degree is a huge waste of time, I say psht.  The road ahead might be uncertain, but the challenges and rewards of entering the profession at this point in time are immense.

Archives | Libraries | 1 comment


The Shawshank Redemption and an example for the defense of libraries

The Shawshank Redemption is a fantastic film, we can move past that point. But when discussing libraries (and marketing) I often remember Andy Dufresne's persistance in writing a letter a week to the state house asking for funds to buy more books and supplies. It is a crystal clear example of inserting yourself into the conversation that has to continue for public libraries to survive. Of course, once he gets a check and a few boxes of weeded books (after 6 years of writing) he doubles his efforts and writes two letters a week. Well played.

Events | 1 comment


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last week, in talking about career paths for librarians, I reminded everyone that Batgirl was, after all, a librarian.  The day after that post, I headed off to the University Of Rochester in New York, to join my daughter on a grad school visit.  The purpose of the visit was my daughter’s admission there this fall, but I had just read about the University of Rochester’s Undergraduate Research Project for my Evaluation class (LIS403). This qualitative study was a fascinating account of how this one academic library adapted both their physical space and information access to better meet the needs of the population they serve.  Naturally, I went off for a little library tour of my own to see the spaces I had just read about in the study.

You can imagine my surprise at turning a corner in the Reference Room and seeing an amazing display of the “League of Librarians: Research Superheroes at Your Service.”

Continue reading

Libraries | People | 2 comments


Experience, Experience, and More Experience

Internships are very important to the Simmons GSLIS experience. Many programs have internship requirements built into their curriculums. The Archives Management concentration, which is the only one I can speak to with any kind of authority, features a 60-hour internship at the beginning of the program and a 130-140-hour field experience at the very end of the program. The first allows students essentially to get their feet wet before delving into coursework, and the second serves as an opportunity to apply everything learned in the program in a culminating, final experience. Especially because level/amount of experience is one of the most important elements potential employers consider when looking to hire new archivists, I really appreciate having the opportunity to gain hands-on experience as a part of the curriculum.

Internships | leave a comment


Librarians in Disguise

On Wednesday I went to an Alternative Career Panel sponsored by the Simmons Special Libraries Association (SLA). The panel consisted of three women, all of whom graduated from Simmons GSLIS in the past ten years and none of whom are employed in a library. (Gasp!) One of the panelists researches potential litigation cases for an economic consulting firm, and the other two, whom I will call “techies” for lack of a better/more creative term, work in the user access/user experience area of technology. On the most basic level, the first panelist does research (duh), and the techies collaborate with web engineers and graphic designers to simplify and enhance user interaction with a web interface.

One of the questions for the panel was “How do you define yourself professionally?” The researcher said “librarian” (although no one she works with would refer to her as such), one of the techies said “information scientist” (but sometimes “librarian” when she really wants to blow someone’s mind), and the other techie said “information architect.” Technically, they are all librarians. Technically, they are also information scientists. Remind me again why people perceive an LIS degree as a one-way ticket to Libraryville, USA?

Continue reading Librarians in Disguise

Events | Libraries | leave a comment


Nearing the End

I’ve really been enjoying reading the thoughts of my cohorts regarding their paths through the GSLIS program at Simmons and their future career goals.  Elise talked about dropping the MA in History aspect of her degree, but I think I’ll continue to pursue it.  It means I’ll still be in the program come the Fall of 2014, but in the end I think it will be worth it.

I have a summer internship lined up with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian’s Cultural Resources Center (pardon the long string of proper nouns) that I’m really excited about.  I also hope, within the history program, to focus my studies on Native American history—but up to and including contemporary issues like repatriation, energy, and access to education and information.

On the other hand, I still have a month of spring semester classes to finish, and I really need to remind myself of that.  I’m really excited for  the summer, but I have a lot to do first.

Internships | leave a comment


Simmons Perks!

With the end of the semester just around the corner, everyone is predictably buried under end of the semester papers, projects, and group work. I know for myself, the mammoth practicum binder that SLT students must submit at the end of both of their practicum experiences has begun to infiltrate my dreams. My respite is delving into the stack of dark and depressing books I have chosen for my youth programming materials talk in two weeks time. But if you have some spare time, or you simply want to take a break, why not take advantage of that little blue card in your wallet? Yes, that one. The one that says "Simmons College" on it? There's probably a very unflattering picture of you beneath the logo? Yes, that blue card.

You may not realize it, but that Simmons ID card gets you two rather nice perks. You see, Simmons is located right in the midst of two of America's finest museums: the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (which you can literally see out of some of the GSLIS classrooms on Palace Road). Both museums have opened new wings in the past year and a half, both feature excellent collections of art, and both are free with your Simmons ID card.

You read that right: free. Sweeter words were never heard to a poor graduate student's ears, especially when regular admission at both museums can get pricey rather quickly. All you need is a current sticker on the back of your card (available from the campus card office in the MCB), and you're good to go.

So one of these days, when you'd like to remind yourself that there is a world beyond programming and materials talks, when you'd like to escape from your final reference project or the intricacies of LOC cataloguing, use that ID and go immerse yourself in a different world for a few hours. You won't regret it.

| leave a comment


Librarian or Batgirl?

Library and Information Science – that is the degree program we are pursuing and the name says it all.  The Master’s degree program years ago was just Library Science, but as the world changes, so does the role of librarians.  We are not just librarians, but information and technology specialists…scientists, in fact. If you think you know what your librarian does, think again. This is a much bigger world than checking out books. We are Superheroes of the Information Age!

Earlier blogs discussed our personal journeys to discover what area of Library and Information Science we wish to pursue.  I, like my peers, have changed my mind countless times in these first few months.  Why?  Because there are so many choices!

Here is my short list of career paths I have considered:

  • Tradition public librarian with a modern technology twist – database management, technology public outreach (iPads, kindles, etc.), web development, social media.
  • Reference librarian in an academic library.
  • Faculty librarian in an academic setting – Yes, librarians are now embedded in university departments, as faculty members, bringing information literacy in the modern age to students and faculty alike.
  • Special libraries – Information and technology specialists are vital in medical schools, hospitals, law libraries, patent research, and even prisons.
  • Embedded librarians – They don’t need a “library” in the traditional sense.  Any place information needs to be organized and retrieved, you will find librarians!  Embedded librarians work in all kinds of businesses, hospitals, government agencies, even the CIA.
  • Anything at the Library of Congress – After all, it IS the Library of Congress!
  • And of course, Batgirl.

My peers have also mentioned the following:

  • Archivists
  • Museum curation
  • Systems librarian (Lovers of technology, this is for you!)
  • Web developer
  • Database management in the corporate world
  • School librarians

I am sure this is a very incomplete list…feel free to add to it in the comments.

Remember, the diversity of careers with our degree is the essence and beauty of it!

 

Libraries | People | leave a comment


Program Change

For the second week in a row, Danielle’s post has provided a great springboard for mine. She discussed how many of her friends/colleagues in the program have been questioning their concentrations in GSLIS. I began my career at Simmons GSLIS as a dual-degree History/Archives student. For a better part of this semester, I had been questioning whether I wanted to continue to pursue my MA in history. After much debate (as outlined below), I’ve concluded that, while I will continue to maintain an archives concentration in the MLS program, I will no longer be pursuing an MA.

There are three main considerations that guided my decision pursue the dual degree:

  1. An MA would make me a more competitive applicant than the MLS alone would.
  2. Archivists make collections available to and work with historians, so being a historian myself would help me be better at my job.
  3. Academia is fun! I like thinking hard and writing and exploring new avenues of thought.

Especially over the past semester, as I’ve learned more about myself and the field I’m going into, I’ve begun to see the flaws in these considerations.

Continue reading Program Change

Dual Degree Programs | leave a comment


Dungeons and Dragons or: Libraries and Librarians

On Friday, to conclude the Best March Ever, I went to “The Future of Reference” hosted by Simmons GSLIS. The keynote speaker, Joe Janes, Chair of the MLIS Program at the University of Washington’s Information School, ended the evening with a bang. He championed the idea that librarians are important. He was, of course, preaching to the choir, but I tend to have a hard time justifying my existence as a library student. Arguments I have heard against libraries include, but are certainly not limited to: “When was the last time that any of our friends went to a library?” and “Libraries are like dungeons.” (Does that make librarians fire-breathing dragons?)

But Mr. Janes unleashed the dragon in his talk called “Information makes us human.” He said that “Our profession is central to what we are as a people. We make humanity more human.” That message had me breathing sweet hot librarian fire. Libraries may seem like dungeons in the incandescent world of Google, but over time libraries have preserved information in a way that Google cannot. Search engines are not save engines. Libraries are save engines. They preserve information that represents a community, a generation, and even information itself. Librarians are responsible for maintaining and discovering information that people cannot find in a world that is overwrought with it. Librarians are the ultimate stewards of information. Information makes us human. After a quick (and loose) application of the transitive property, we see that librarians make us human.

Mr. Janes also said that “the biggest mistake that librarians make is saying that library work is easy.” Any librarian who has said that is surely not doing the job correctly.

| leave a comment


In Flux

A lot of the friends, acquaintances, and colleagues I’ve made since my time began at Simmons have been or have started to question the direction they’re going in library science/archives school.  I can’t say I’ve been exempt!  Through the classes I’ve taken, internships I’ve had, and even internships I’ve applied for, I’ve been molding and trying to figure out the course and shape of my future career.

Do I want to work in a corporate or academic environment?  Out of all the areas and time periods of history that interest me, which do I want to continue to pursue?  What will be the topic of my dissertation?  Yes, I’ve definitely been weighing that one in my head, even if it’s still two years down the road.  Do I even want to continue pursuing history?

One thing I’ve learned, which seems quite obvious but isn’t necessarily always black and white, is that I’ll never be happy in a job that doesn’t interest me.  Friends of mine that aren’t enjoying their internships find the material boring, and it’s hard to do a job day in and out that bores you.  I enjoy my internship because, strangely, pouring over the material of the political campaign to abolish rent control in Cambridge doesn’tbore me.

I definitely didn’t know what I was going to do out of high school, and I really didn’t know what I wanted to do out of undergrad.  Even when I applied to graduate school, my focus was a little fuzzy.  But that’s okay.  I feel like if I continue to plug along with an open mind, I’ll be able to connect the dots.

A few months ago, on a flight back to Boston from Arizona, I sat next to a very successful and established neurosurgeon who asked what I could possibly do with a degree in library science.  Libraries, after all, are on the “decline.”  But I’m of the firm opinion that no matter what degree you get, it’s all what you make it.  You need to really love what you’re doing, and if you don’t, you might want to consider doing something else.  I feel like I’ve found something that I truly believe in.

Jobs | Students | 2 comments