October 2012 Archives

A Hurricane Can be Good for Library Business

In honor of Hurricane Sandy, my Monday class at Simmons was cancelled so I filled in at work at my local library for a colleague who has a long drive.  All the local NH schools had also cancelled and to be honest, I didn’t expect it to be a busy day.  What a surprise!

With the winds still mild and the showers light in the morning in NH, we did a brisk business as everyone scurried in to stock up on books the way squirrels stock up on nuts. The last storm left us in the dark for ten days so we had to be ready.

When Governor Lynch urged us all to go home and get off the roads by 3 pm, we reluctantly closed at 2:30 pm, just in time as the winds really started to howl. Power and phone were knocked out a couple of hours later and I am writing this on my laptop with my DSL modem hooked to the generator.

It was a good day at the library.  It was great to see families excited to pick out books and plan craft projects to do by oil lamp and even a few old curmudgeons who grumbled about what all the fuss was about – “...just a little rain…” Hopefully, everyone is safe…especially our utility crews for whom hurricanes can be just a little too good for business.

Events | Libraries | People | leave a comment


Fathoming the Frankenstorm

I tend to not get too hyped up about storm forecasts. I recognize that people need to be alerted about the potential severity of a storm so they can prepare accordingly, but I personally don’t get caught up in the 24-7 Weather Channel or local news coverage. (Confession: in small doses, I do enjoy watching the live reporters who can hardly stand up due to the driving wind and rain. And how do their microphones not pick up any of the wssssh sounds from the wind?) On Sunday morning I picked up some bottled water and non-perishables, tested my flashlight, and collected some candles, so I felt like I was more than prepared for Sandy the Frankenstorm.

Sunday evening I was surprised to see that many Massachusetts schools announced Monday closures. Then I received an email from my Monday morning professor that she was cancelling our in-person meeting and putting the lecture notes online. Then Simmons called, texted, and emailed me to say that the campus would be closed on Monday. Are people overreacting to what Sandy has in store for us? Am I underreacting? I guess we’ll all find out as she blows through. I’ve never had to hunker down for a truly severe weather situation before, so maybe I’m underestimating what can go wrong.

So I’ll sit, and I’ll wait, and I’ll implore the power not to go out. I hope that everyone is overreacting, and that in retrospect Monday will have been just a really crappy weather day that I happened to have an online lecture. I’ve heard that taking an online class at GSLIS is a worthwhile experience, so Monday can serve as a preview of that. But if the power goes out and I don’t want to drain my computer battery flipping through PowerPoint slides, I’ll do what any librarian would – grab a book and read the day away. As long as Sandy doesn’t prove to be a complete catastrophe, there are worse ways to spend a day.

Boston | People | leave a comment


Current Trends and Topics in School Librarianship

One of the best ways to get a sense of whether or not school librarianship (or really, any aspect of LIS) is right for you is to explore what the current trends and topics are in the field.  The school library field is a particularly rich one to investigate from the comfort of home because even if you don't have database access to the leading journals, there's a lot of great stuff out there that can give you a sense of what we school librarians spend our time thinking and talking about, and better yet, they're free!

Blogs:
The wonderful (really, I've met her in person, she's fabulous!) Joyce Valenza can be found over at NeverEnding Search, her blog at School Library Journal.
Buffy Hamilton blogs at The Unquiet Librarian, and closer to home, Michelle Luhtala publishes her thoughts at Bibliotech.me.
SLTP Professor Rebecca Morris is also active in the blogosphere at School Library Monthly.

There's so many more diverse and interesting voices from the field out there, so go explore!

Webinars:
YALSA offers webinars, both for free and for a price, but members have access to these webinars and the archives, so sign up today (you can do it even if you're not an LIS student, but you will have to get an ALA membership first, and then select YALSA for your secondary membership).
Booklist offers a veritable treasure trove of webinars, relevant and interesting not just to school librarians, but to all librarians, and you don't have to be a member or sign up to download them.
Twitter:

Really, if you're not on Twitter, you should be.  Check out the hashtag #tlchat for the scoop on what teacher-librarians are talking about in the Twitterverse.

For the cash-strapped amongst us, these free resources are a gift, a way to enrich our practices and our ideas about what it means to be a school librarian in the 21st century without spending a dime or having to worry about transportation to and from conference venues.   It's a wonderful way to begin learning about the profession, to get informed, and to figure out if this field really is for you.

People | School Libraries | Students | leave a comment


Boston Book Festival

Two weeks ago I wrote a post about volunteering for conferences and other events around Boston. Well Saturday was one of my favorite events: The Boston Book Festival. The festival is only in its fourth year but it has amazing organization and a huge turnout.  Of course being in Boston, and being affiliated with the Boston Public Library allows the festival to bring in some big names. This year Lemony Snicket himself was the keynote speaker for the children.

That’s one reason I love the BBF. Its not just for one group, there are children’s programs, teen programs, and adult programs, and except for the keynote speaker, all are free. Last year I volunteered and enjoyed it so much that I did it again this year. Both years I have been assigned to the children’s room helping the costumed characters. Last year I got to meet Moe Williams and helped with Elephant and Piggy as well as Geronimo Stilton. This year I worked with Frog and Toad and Curious George. The kids LOVED Curious George, they almost mobbed the poor woman in the costume and I had to help form a line in order to let them all have a chance. Frog and Toad did not have as many admirers but they were not any less enthusiastic. One little girl gave them a picture she had drawn. This touched me more because many kids know Curious George through his movie or TV show but the children in love with Frog and Toad can only have been introduced to them via their books. It’s great to know that their books are still classics.      

 

Boston | Events | Libraries | leave a comment


Seriously Folks, It Only Takes ONE

I wonder if it's common for anyone in their chosen profession to watch someone else in the same field with trepidation. And when I say trepidation I mean fear. And when I say fear I mean an acute sensitivity.
Pre-Story information/philosophy:
I'm a new resident of Brighton. One of the first things I did upon moving was go to the library to get a library card. For some people, it's internet or electricity. Me, I wanted to have a library card because that's how I connect to a community. The library is the place where people can come to learn about what their neighborhood has to offer. The library is a space to see new things and meet new people. None of this can happen if librarians are barricaded behind the desk. I say all this because I believe in libraries. I think that much is plainly true. I go to library school. I work in a library. AND, AND, I don't buy books on the principle that anything I want to read I should borrow from the library.
Actual Story:
So, coming back to the idea that people with the same or similar jobs are a little more sensitive when it comes to observing job performance, I walk into my public library. I am looking for a book by my beloved Shaun Tan.
"How do you SPELL that?!"
The question still rings in my ear. As I spent time talking to three different library employees, who looked at me like I had just interrupted their work on the next New York Times bestseller,  I began to realize how upset I was at my profession. HOW DARE YOU?! How dare you spit on the name of librarian by speaking to a patron in this manner? I kept thinking that THIS, THIS is why librarians have such a stereotypically terrible reputation. It only takes one, or in my case three, people who have no interest in helping a patron that makes people never want to enter a library again.
I told my colleagues at work and they shrugged it off and said I should just put things on hold from now on and go pick them up without having to bother anyone. While this is caving, and I don't like to cave, I also need books. So I put some on hold. I found that I can't get into my library because my work schedule perfectly conflicts with their hours of operation. Alright, it's ok, I'll send my husband to go pick up the books I need. Not acceptable. They won't give him the books because he's an honest man and admit's that he's not me but that I can't come in because I'm at work.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I ask you, how is it a security risk to have my husband pick up my books for me?! I have entered into the land of shrill, but I think the larger issue is this: it only takes one. Truly, one bad apple can spoil the who experience. This is why I don't eat fruits or vegetables and why I'm determined to wipe out the entire population of ludicrously evil librarians that don't know who Shaun Tan is and insult me for not being able to navigate a library without a map and who won't give my husband (with my library card) my books. And while THAT was the longest run-on sentence since Paul's second letter to the Philippians, I rest my case.

Libraries | People | leave a comment


Getting Hired

[caption id="attachment_1680" align="alignnone" width="300"] Photo credit: http://www.lyubomir.bukov.com/photo/index.php?showimage=34[/caption]

Many students writing and reading this blog are Millennials, actively pursuing a first-time career. Yes, you were born digital and your perspective brings one thing to the field of library science, whereas the life experiences and digital growth of mid-lifers bring something different.

With all the hoopla over the value of the master’s degree, we are all, regardless of age, concerned about the same thing:  Will we get a job? In this economy, every profession seems to share this concern, but a visit to the ALA group of LinkedIn tells us that library graduates across the nation share the same worries about getting a job, getting the experience required for a job, keeping current…and whether gray hair is a detriment or a plus.

Graying hair means:

  • Life has been your university.  You are mature.  You have experience triumphing over adversity and meeting challenges.

Graying hair does NOT mean:

  • Deadwood, technologically illiterate, or a lack of enthusiasm or innovation.

These less desirable attributes belong to tired personalities that have nothing to do with age.  I have met plenty of boring, lazy people of all ages, and plenty of vibrant, exciting people, too.

For more on this subject, I refer to one of my favorite blogs, HiringLibrarians.com, which recently addressed the question Which do you think is a bigger disadvantage in a job hunt: youth or age?” in the October 5 post.

http://hiringlibrarians.com/2012/10/05/further-questions/?goback=.gde_40592_member_173135621

Beyond this posting, enjoy this great blog about all things related to getting that library job of your dreams!

Jobs | Libraries | People | leave a comment


“Library” Cataloging Experience

I thought that cataloging would be my jam. My calling. My future. This assumption, for better or worse, was based on one thing: my iTunes library. Ever since I can remember, I have been militant when it comes to organizing my music. I have carefully constructed playlists by genre (Country, Hip-Hop, Rock, etc.), but I also have some that are not quite so easily categorized, such as “Chill,” “Random,” “Strange,” and “Guitar Hero” (thank you, junior year of college). My basic cataloging method is as follows: For every song in each of my playlists, the “Genre” field in iTunes contains the name of the playlist that the song is in. That way, if a playlist gets accidentally deleted, or I can’t remember whether I put a song in “Strange” or “Chill,” I can easily figure out where it lives. It isn’t sophisticated or foolproof, but it forces me to make deliberate categorizing decisions and gives me peace of mind.

One thing that I love about my iTunes library is that many of the choices that I make are completely arbitrary, but they make sense in my head. And, if I stumble across something that seems misplaced, I can re-categorize it as I see fit. That’s all there is to cataloging, right? Shouldn’t I have been able to test out of the required GSLIS cataloging course? Well, not quite. It didn’t take long for me to discover that in a real library, cataloging doesn’t quite work that way.

It turns out that real library catalogers are also militant, but in the sense that they must follow the rules. Not their rules, the rules. Standards, classification schemes, and guidelines reign supreme. There is little to no flexibility in library cataloging, and nothing is arbitrary. I understand why this is the case – imagine the confusion and inconsistencies that would crop up if all catalogers did their own thing. No two people would catalog my iTunes library the same way, which makes it feel, well, special to me. I have my own standards, classification scheme, and guidelines, darn it.

That said, I’m glad to be learning about the intricacies of library cataloging, although I’m pretty sure that my true cataloging calling doesn’t extend any further than iTunes. But they don’t call it an iTunes library for nothing, right?

Classes | Students | Technology | leave a comment


Librarian Stereotypes

So everyone knows the “Marian the Librarian” stereotypes. The big glasses, the bun, the pencil skirt, and the finger always ready to shush you.  (If you haven’t seen the Music Man, watch this!) Hopefully, those stereotypes are on the out. In fact there is a great Tumblr called This is What a Librarian Looks Like that shows that librarians are anything but that.

One stereotype that seems to persist though at Simmons is that librarians love cats. It has a basis in fact I guess since everyone around me seems obsessed. There are multiple GSLIS professors who use Lol Cats in their powerpoint presentations, my friends spend dinner oohing and aahing over cute animal pictures and even the “Be a Sweetie, Wipe the Seatie” sign in my hall’s bathroom is a kitten…I don’t know, perhaps I have no heart but that is one professional stereotype I do not represent. Cute children? Yes. Puppies? A lot of the time. Cats? Uh, no.

Sorry cats.

However, I have noticed something interesting about all the librarian friends I’ve been making during my Simmons education. There are an awful lot of sci-fi/fantasy fans. Perhaps it simply goes with the nerd territory but I don’t think I have ever seen so many Doctor Who fans outside of ComicCon (or Emerson, which has its own Doctor Who Fan Club). Perfectly ok with me! The grad school dorm is fondly nicknamed “North Castle” and the accompanying welcome handout urged students to think of it as the castle they like best “whether Hogwarts, Devil’s Run or Minas Tirith.”

It’s hard battling stereotypes in every realm and right now librarians are fighting the stereotype that libraries are antiquated when in fact librarians are some of the most tech-savvy people out there. (Or at least that is my experience as the librarian student next to me writes programming code that makes my jaw drop). Simmons College is focused on teaching these skills and it’s a very good thing. (Even though I hate my CSS assignment for this week). The stereotype of being cat-lovers or even Doctor Who fans won’t hurt the profession in the long run but if people consistently think we are out-dated, whether it is true or not, it will harm our chances to be useful to society at large. Simmons is fighting that and I’m glad to be a part of it!

 

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GOOOO Team!

To be a GSLIS student is to be a team player. Group work, as I am finding out, is an essential part of this program. In my undergrad years I was a theater major so I guess I was working on group project, or plays, all the time but I never thought about it that way. Lately, as I wind down one group project and start up two more, it truly has been tickling my fancy, this whole idea of a paper or project's success or failure linked with someone else's. I think it pushes us to do better, forces us to swim harder because we're buoyed to one another and it's sink or swim together. Being the eternal optimist that I am, I am constantly dreading the evaluation at the end where my fellow teammates will rip me to shreds and tell the professor I was one very bad person to work with and I should be shunned to the dungeons of Moodle to await trial by Zotero (seriously, don't those programs sound like fairytale locations...anyone?).

But as I start to embrace Google drive and learn more about my group members on Skype conferences I begin to really enjoy the medium. Who likes working alone all the time? I think many of us are drawn to the library profession because we like to help others find what they are looking for. This naturally makes us adept at group work. My reference professor tells us stories about some of his extra fun exchanges at the reference desk, and the one commonality all his anecdotes have is his constant refrain, "Let's work on this together." This is a team project for him. With the patron, the information about the subject, and the librarian with the know-how and navigation sense, the sky's the limit in terms of accomplishment. With a group of librarians-in-waiting working on something together I can't help but think: Oh the places they'll go.

 

Students | leave a comment


What Does a Library Lesson Look Like?

It's a question I get asked over and over again, by strangers and by those closest to me.  My friends and family know that I love what I'm doing, some of them know I get to do cool tech things like play with Glogster, or Prezi, or VoiceThread, and iPads, but they don't really know what happens during a library lesson.  The short answer is, of course, not very helpful: many things.  Our core goals as school librarians are to foster a love of reading (naturally), but in today's "information overload" age, our job is also to teach students key information literacy skills while meeting state curricular standards.

"What does that mean?" I hear you asking. Well, to give you an example, the past two weeks I've worked with several high school classes in my practicum to help them with different research projects.  Part of this process has involved teaching a refresher on how to use the OPAC to find books relating to their topics.  Part of it has been website evaluation - a recap of website extensions and a reminder to always check who is publishing the information you are using so that you can gauge their potential biases. Or I've been teaching them how to do advanced searches in the databases, or navigate the library's new collection of e-books.  At my elementary practicum, my lessons included a unit on nursery rhymes, poetry, Greek mythology, and global Cinderella stories. Information literacy is a vital skill for success in today's world, because these are skills students will use not just in school, but in college and throughout their lives as well.

Librarians are also involved in educating students about cyberbullying, a responsibility laid out in the Massachusetts state law relating to bullying.  We teach students how to use technology, software that enhances their learning, and how to think critically.  We design graphic organizers to help them learn effective note-taking techniques and information organization.  In the younger grades especially, we are closely involved in building key early literacy skills by exposure to books and language, both in library lessons and by giving students access to books through checkout, which is vital especially when they don't necessarily have access to them at home.

This is a very enriching, engaging, meaningful profession, and the Simmons program trains you to be an excellent librarian, one who is given the skills, training, and experience to create and implement a curriculum that will benefit your students.  As I draw to the end of my time here at GSLIS, I realize what a great choice I made by coming here.

People | School Libraries | Students | leave a comment


Yoga - You Won't Regret It

For those of us who, like me, are buried in the depths of this program we can truly understand the need to keep our mental and physical health at the forefront. I do feel strongly that we deserve to reward ourselves for all of our hard work. But sometimes we reward ourselves in the wrong way. For example, I tend to treat myself with spending money and eating delicious food, which is a bad choice for my wallet and my waistline. I should be making better choices; after all, I’m paying for a gym membership that I never use and I have a bike collecting dust in the closet.

This week however, I discovered what has been missing from my life all this time: Yoga. My first ever yoga class was on Monday and I am completely hooked! Not only did it feel so good to stretch, but I could feel my muscles working and I could feel my breathing becoming even. At the end of the class, we spent about 15 minutes doing guided relaxation, laying on our backs in the dark. It was incredible.

Throughout the class, if we did a pose or stretch that was particularly challenging, we always took time after that to rest and the instructor repeated, “let go of the work you just did and reward yourself with rest.” This mantra seems simple, but I think it is so important to any of us who work, go to school, take care of a family, etc. You work hard and you deserve to let go of that work and relax and reward yourself.

Even though I’ve only been to one class, I can already say that I would recommend yoga to anyone, especially those of us in this program. I know how stressful it can be and I cannot stress enough the importance of not over-working yourself. Look around your area and find a yoga class. You wont regret it!

People | Relaxing | Students | leave a comment


My first rental car and an earthquake...My own series of unfortunate events!

I don’t have to work or attend class on Tuesdays so it is normally my day to hunker down and get a lot of homework done. Well, I am writing this Tuesday night and have nothing to show for my day but a beloved smashed car, a shiny red rental car in my garage, and a Facebook posting about our earthquake.

To back up, I gave up my homework day this week to attend inter-library loan training by our New Hampshire State Library (as I live and work in NH). The ILL system for New Hampshire uses the NHU-PAC (The New Hampshire Union Public Access Catalog) and the system is a bit dated and not intuitive…but it works!  The holdings of over 375 libraries in the state are represented in the NHU-PAC.  Our small libraries thrive on our ability to share our resources and provide patrons with materials from partner libraries all over the state, delivered daily our state library van service.

Training is offered periodically and today, I attended a day of training being held at a large, beautiful NH library. Coming from a small library, I was excited to view the library as well as learn how to use the NHU-PAC more efficiently.  Unfortunately, my training was interrupted by one of our host librarians, asking me to move my car for their landscape company.  I was parked in a regular parking place but they apparently had a trailer that needed to get by…but the driver decided not to wait and I was greeted by him with, “You don’t have to move it now because I already hit it.”  What he described as a “small hole” was worthy of a tow truck.  Needless to say, I missed some of the training and the great plans I had for the day disappeared.

Knock on wood, I have never had an accident and this was the first such event of my middle-aged life…including my very first rental car.  After hearing that I had been driving the same car for the last nine years (my beloved Subaru Baja), the very nice rental agent kindly demonstrated all the features of this new shiny red car since, “Things have changed in the last nine years.”

I will admit to pouring a glass of wine soon after my arrival home from what had become a very long day.  As my husband and I were preparing dinner, the house rumbled and shook.  We looked at each other and said, “Was that an earthquake?”  (As you undoubtedly know, there was indeed an earthquake!)

Maybe I have fallen down a rabbit hole into a Lemony Snicket novel.

Boston | Events | Libraries | leave a comment


1-12 of 36

As promised, whether you like it or not, here is a retrospective account of my courses from last semester:

Mondays, 9am-noon – LIS 415; Reference and Information Services

A core class, one that everyone must take. The idea behind the class is that nearly every job that requires an LIS degree involves working with information, so this class teaches how and where to find it. We learned about hundreds (literally, hundreds) of information sources and their function. Homework assignments involved finding the answers to obscure questions without using Google, Wikipedia, or anything else on the free web. (Daunting, but useful.) We also learned the basics of reference and customer service etiquette. This and LIS 415 are probably the most library-ish core courses that you will take.

Tuesdays, 9am-noon – LIS 488; Technology for Information Professionals

A core class, one that everyone must take. The idea behind the class is that technology has permeated just about every aspect of LIS and, for that matter, the free world. As information professionals, librarians are expected to have a functional working knowledge of technology. We learned the fundamentals of creating and editing webpages, managing databases, and scripting languages…basically the basics about the stuff that goes on behind the (computer) screens. If you don’t consider yourself to be particularly tech-savvy, never fear, it’s not that bad. And if you are totally techy, this is just a taste of the many tech courses that GSLIS has to offer.

Thursdays, 1-4pm – LIS 444; Archiving and Preserving Digital Media

I’ll be honest: I signed up for this course because I thought it sounded cool. I have no aspirations to do anything involving archives, so I was glad to find that the class was not heavily laden in archival principles. Basically, it amounted to learning how to keep digital files accessible as technology and storage media continue to change. That love note that you wrote in third grade and stealthily saved on one of those massive floppy disks? If you found that disk today, you’d have a hard time accessing that note. This class makes you think about how to prevent those (and other, potentially more serious) types of losses in the future.

Tuesday, May 29 – Saturday, June 2, 9:30am-5:30pm – LIS 414; Corporate Libraries

Instead of reinventing a post, I’ll point you to one of my older entries.

The hilarious thing about having done these last two posts is that four days ago, GSLIS announced that the curriculum will change for students entering the program in Fall 2013. Hopefully no one got super excited about the 404 or 488 courses…

Classes | GSLIS | Students | leave a comment


Conferences, Conferences, Conferences!

I just hit submit on my registration for the NEA (New England Archivist) Fall Meeting that is going to take place at Simmons! Ok, call me a nerd but I love conferences. What’s even better is getting to go to them for free by volunteering. A lot of conferences are looking for student volunteers to help run things like the registration desk and in exchange you get to go to the sessions after your shift is over. And since its Boston, a lot of conferences in a lot of topic areas come here. If it’s free, I’ll sit on just about anything. The more information, the better!

This summer I volunteered on the registration desk for the AALL (American Association of Law Librarians) conference. I had a two hour shift and the best part was my friend signed up for the same time and we were late in the day so it wasn’t very busy. In exchange for telling several women (I’m not joking, this came up at least three times) where they could buy (specifically) a Diet Coke and talking to my friend for two hours, I got to attend all the opening sessions, eat a free meal, get some vendor goodies and listen to a Congressman speak. Not too shabby. Not to mention that the night before the conference I attended a social at the Harvard Club (a place I’d probably not ever get into otherwise) and networked with some pretty interesting people. (Oh and did I mention the free liquor!) :)

Needless to say it was a good experience so I’ve been keeping my eyes open for others.

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Instant Gratification

Yes, we live in that kind of culture. Yes, our society demands satisfaction from us RIGHT NOW. I have never been more aware of this need for speed now that I assist 13-year-olds with their research every day of the week. What is it about waiting for answers that makes us so itchy? Has Google gotten THAT good? Have we gotten that lazy? I ask myself these questions as I sit at this reference desk after I've had three different students ask me in a matter of 15 minutes what the difference is between reference and reserves, and why in the world they can't take these books out of the library. I suppose the library does seem antiquated with it's rules about not being able to take certain books out and only being able to take out only so many books/dvds/cds to a generation of young people who get whatever they want whenever they want it on the world wide web. This younger generation doesn't want to be limited. They want access...to EVERYTHING.

In my reference class we've been discussing the importance of the different elements of the reference interview. Our professor stresses how important it is to make eye contact and connect with the patron. I'm 100% behind this idea. I'm all for reaching out, walking with the patron into the stacks, and making sure they have everything they need. I just don't know if the patrons of the future want that. So many of my students/patrons want the quickest of ready reference answers that are good enough. GOOD ENOUGH?! I have a hard time accepting this concept. In fact, I reject this concept until I realize that perhaps they're not looking for "good enough" and then walking away. Well, they are walking away from me, but not from their purpose. They're looking for a starting point to leap off the cliff into the chasm of information that is the world they live in. They're looking for a way in. I think it's hard for librarians of any stripe to give up that element of detective work. Helping a patron find the right resource is an exhilarating rush. The thrill of the chase is what people in our line of work love. But in an age where the reference is going virtual, I believe we can expect our patrons to love us and leave us in what feels like  seconds.

So what do we do? How do we become that efficient for the next generation of information seekers? I have a good idea that could put me on the cover of Time: "Librarian Discovers Way to Make Brain Work Faster!" Stay tuned for that next big idea.

People | Technology | leave a comment


Destination: Library School

Inspired by some of my fellow bloggers entries last week, I thought I would share with all of you how I came to library sciences.  One of the things I love about library school is that the students come from a whole variety of backgrounds.  Some have worked in libraries for years, others, like myself, had never done any kind of formal work in a library before entering. There's no course pre-requisites, no track you have to have been on since age 8.  You just have to tell us why you want to be here, and chances are, that passion will be enough to get your foot in the door.  And once you're in school, you can focus on racking up all that valuable internship and volunteer experience that will help you land a job afterwards.

So let me start by being honest.  Before I applied to the school library program here at Simmons, I had no idea that such a thing existed. Yes, you read that right: I had no idea my future profession was something you could get a degree in until about two months before I applied, but as soon as I read about it online, I knew I had found the perfect degree for me.  I'd had previous experience teaching in Taiwan for a year as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant, and I loved it.  The year had its ups and downs to be sure, but on the whole, it was a life-changing experience.  The kids were cute as buttons, I forged some incredible relationships, and I came away satisfied with the knowledge that I had directly impacted the lives of my students.  The logical choice would have been to go and get an M.Ed and become a teacher, but though I gave the idea serious consideration, it just didn't feel right.

Continue reading Destination: Library School

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Family Questions

This weekend I am attending a fancy family gathering to celebrate my grandfather’s 75th birthday. So in addition to worrying about what I am going to wear, I am also trying to prepare myself to be inundated with questions about what I am doing with my life. And like any other LIS student, I need to find the perfect answer which can be very difficult.

First of all, most people don’t know what “Library and Information Science” means, so I sort of water it down to “Library School.” Here come the looks of concern and confusion, followed by the commentary:

“You need a master’s degree to be a librarian?”

“But libraries are being replaced by the internet!”

“How will you find a job?”

I have my head in my hands just anticipating it. I don’t know what’s worse, these questions, or being asked why I am not married, when I plan to get married, and when I’m going to have children.

What I try to do is assure my family that no, I am not going to school to learn how to put books on a shelf. Libraries aren’t going anywhere, they are just changing and my education is preparing me for a dynamic career where I will be ready and willing to embrace the changes. I also try to talk about the emphasis this program has on technology and where it is taking libraries in the future.

These responses are usually enough, but I do have trouble convincing some. When it comes down to it, I stand firm in my choice to attend Simmons GSLIS and I do my best to exude that confidence and pride.

I am curious to hear others’ stories. How do you answer all of the inevitable questions from family and friends? Share your stories!

Jobs | Libraries | People | leave a comment


A Wonderfully Incurable Disease

[caption id="attachment_1633" align="alignleft" width="202"] http://tinyurl.com/3yz2u63[/caption]

If you haven’t heard of Roy Tennant yet, you will. (No, to my knowledge, he is no relation to David Tennant of Doctor Who fame, although one can’t help but think of how library databases are like the Tardis – bigger on the inside! Sounds like a future post.)

Roy Tennant is often quoted for his 2001 statement: “…after all, isn't it true that only librarians like to search? Everyone else likes to find.” (http://www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA170458.html) When I first encountered this reading, it made me laugh knowingly before I delved into the meat of the article about cross-database searching.  (A great article if you have the time, and he writes a lot of interesting stuff.)  You will hear arguments on both sides about how Tenannt’s statement is true or untrue, and in the world of librarian blogging, it has formed a life of its own.

I can only speak for myself.  I love to search and I love to find, but my desire to search is like an addiction, an incurable reference librarian disease.

When anyone I know has a question, I am always the first person to say, “I’ll find out.”  Is it because I want to find, because I want the kudos of bringing the answer? Sure, we all love kudos but my true love is the quest.  This has been my curse since I was a little girl, racing to find the most perfect answer before I raised my hand.  When I was an undergrad (pre-internet days), if I thought the perfect answer was in another library 50 miles away, I’d be on the next train.

Libraries | People | Technology | leave a comment


13-21 of 36

I’ve been spending so much time lately writing about the work I’ve been doing for my classes and the random things that have nothing to do with my classes that I have neglected to talk about, well, my classes. And aren’t classes the reason that I’m here? And why you’re considering coming here? So, without further ado, let me tell you about my classes!

Mondays, 9am-noon – LIS 404; Principles of Management

A core class, one that everyone must take. The idea behind the class is that people who obtain an LIS degree may very well end up in a management position within a library, so the course is about different management approaches and how those approaches might be applicable for different people in different library settings. Going into GSLIS, I never considered myself as a potential manager (frankly, I am much better at being told what to do rather than delegating), but this course has opened my eyes to the fact that someday I may be bossing people around. And I mean that in the most friendly, fun-loving-boss way possible…

Thursdays, 9am-noon – LIS 465; Knowledge Management

Knowledge management. Huh? Well, I know, it seems vague. And, as far as I can tell, a concrete definition does not exist. The idea behind the concept of “knowledge management” is that knowledge should be regarded as an asset within an organization, and it must be managed and maintained as such. I am taking this course because I am interested in corporate/special libraries, and knowledge management often serves as a competitive advantage in those settings. Within the realm of knowledge management, there are many different models and frameworks and ideas that can be applied to…wait what, I’m losing you? No seriously, I swear, it really is interesting. Definitely my favorite class this semester.

Fridays, 9am-noon – LIS 415; Information Organization

A core class, another one that everyone must take. The idea behind this class is that all items in libraries are cataloged, so all librarians should learn how to catalog. The course just skims the surface of the cataloging world, and if you become totally hooked there are additional electives you can take to become a champion cataloger. So far, we have learned about the history and current standards of cataloging. Last week, we learned how to catalog an actual book! Sounds, like, totally librarian-ish, but how else would anyone ever find anything in a library?

So those three courses account for credits 13-21 of the 36 credits that it will take for me to graduate. Stay tuned next week for a retrospective account of credits 1-12 from last semester!

Events | leave a comment


Dorm Living as a Grad Student

Many undergrads cannot wait to get out of the dorms and get their own place, so it almost seems a little backwards to go into the dorms as a grad student…and to stay there for a second year. As all my friends moved into apartments after their first year in GSLIS, I stayed. Not actually by choice, it’s a complicated story but there are some definite good sides.

Take for instance, yesterday. I’m a dual degree GSLIS and History student. I am taking a history class this semester that requires watching one film per week. Lucky for me though I never have to hunt them down, the library has them all on reserve. So I’ve gotten into the routine of making Saturday my “movie-watching day”(And when some of the films are 9 and half hours long it really is an all-day affair).

I grabbed a coffee and a snack from the café on the academic campus and went to go take out the movie. When the movie is on VHS there is a very nice media room to watch it in but I like when it’s on DVD so I can pop it into any computer next to my friend. Of course I realized almost immediately that I had forgotten my headphones… but no worries, Beatley Library to the rescue! Although slightly embarrassed to have to go back down to the cute circulation desk guy so soon, I simply had to go down to check out a pair.

4 hours of a 1960s Russian film later my friend and I decided we had worked hard enough for the day and made a snap decision that we would like to go shopping. We returned our books/movies/headphones and hopped on the bus that stops literally right outside the library. After shopping and eating dinner (at a very cute diner that made me a little homesick) the same bus dropped us off back in front of the dorms.

Of course there are some downsides of living in the dorms, dorm rooms are never palatial but for me the ability to be right on campus for anything that goes on and to be so close to so many things is a great payoff!

Dual Degree Programs | Libraries | Technology | leave a comment


Happiness, already rampant at a library near you!

Does anybody else feel incredibly lucky? Seriously, does anybody out there feel like they've hit the profession jackpot? I do. I mean, it's been quite a year for me in general. I finished 3 years of serving in the Peace Corps, married the love of my life who I met in the Peace Corps (yeah, those statistics are real), started a new job at a school library, and began my first two classes at GSLIS. I really don't know how next year could compare by any small stretch of the imagination unless I sprout wings and fly to Neverland. However, I don't think it's only me that feels this way.

I've spent the last three weeks getting to know my first year peers in my core courses and they couldn't more jazzed about what they do. I remember all of our introductions on the first day of class and everyone's talking about how they came to love libraries. You know what I'm talking about. Everyone has a story about how they came to the library. It's always one that makes you smile and nod, because you've been there too! Maybe not in exactly the same way, because let's face it, no one comes in to Narnia through the same wardrobe. But after talking to GSLIS students in the moodle forums, listening to how people are so excited about helping people meet their information needs, discussing the latest technology trends and how they're being applied to libraries today I can't help but feel pumped, amped, and quite elated that I've found a place where people appreciate the C.S. Lewis reference. No wonder librarians have to die in order for a position to open up. They never retire, because they're too darn content at work!

This is my first post and I wanted to introduce myself. I feel like anyone reading this post will think I'm a ray of sunshine and light, which of course, is not always the case. I think it's the "happiness is contagious idea" philosophy, and I just happen to be in libraries a lot more, surrounded by interesting, inquisitive minds, and that makes me happy.

GSLIS West | Libraries | People | leave a comment


Friends

[caption id="attachment_1609" align="alignleft" width="300"] Michelle (far right), myself (middle), and our friend Carly this summer.[/caption]

I never thought I’d go to library school. I wasn’t even sure I’d get a master’s degree at all. So you can imagine how amazed I am at the fact that not only am I here, but I am here with one of my oldest and best friends, Michelle Fredette.

Shelly and I met on the bus to kindergarten. She had chubby cheeks and a love of The Beatles. Even then I could tell she was smart. This was only confirmed through elementary, middle and high school. Shelly took honors classes, played sports, was in the band and was eventually accepted to the English program at UMASS Amherst.

I on the other hand was sort of a slacker. I was an average student, and was also in the band, but other than that I had little ambition. When I finished high school I wasn’t even sure I wanted to go to college. I ended up enrolling at local community college, taking only pre-requisites. Eventually I found my niche which was English, just like Michelle. I became suddenly ambitious and transferred to a four year school.

During our college years, Michelle and I lost touch a bit, aside from a few letters or Facebook interactions. But when we both had graduated and were back in our home town living with our parents, we started a book club together and met frequently. We both wondered about graduate school and had heard of library science but didn’t really know what exactly it involved. When I heard that Simmons had a program in South Hadley, we both signed up for an info session and, well, the rest is history.

So not only have I become passionate about librarianship and my future, but I have been able to do it with one of my oldest and dearest friends at my side. Together we have built some great friendships with other GSLIS students, and we are constantly studying together and supporting each other. We also still find time to socialize and have dinner regularly without doing any school work! I know the future holds bright things for Michelle. She is thriving in the GSLIS program, just as she does at all things she sets out to accomplish. I know it’s cheesy, but I am so proud to call such a smart, independent and ambitions woman my friend!

People | Students | 1 comment


The Teacher Connection

Working in a public library (and a small one, at that), I deal with varied patrons with varied needs.  In any given day, we have toddlers arriving for storytime, teens coming in to use the iPads, middle-aged job seekers, homeschooling parents seeking educational resources, seniors looking for help with technology, boy scouts borrowing our telescope, and anyone and everyone seeking a good read or new movie to take home. Interestingly, I don’t see many teachers.

Enter the Teacher Tea, a.k.a. The Library’s Educator Open House.

This afternoon, I am joining my colleagues at the public library in re-introducing our public library’s wealth of resources to our local teachers.  Truth is, most of our teachers turn to their school librarian for resources and some, who commute here from other towns, don’t realize all we have to offer.

While my colleagues will be introducing our downloadable audiobooks, library programming, and reminding all teachers that working in town entitles them to a free library card with no checkout limits, my job is to demonstrate the eReaders we have available for checkout (both a Kindle and a Nook) as well as our many EBSCO databases such as Novelist and Searchasaurus, which are remotely accessible with a patron’s library log-in.  (And we will all be enjoying tea and cookies.)

I am not in the School Library program at Simmons, but I hope all you future School Librarians remember to connect with your public libraries…and I hope all you future Public Librarians remember to connect with your school libraries.  Together, we are a great team for our teachers, our children, and the future of our communities.

Libraries | School Libraries | leave a comment


Field trips aren’t just for kids!

[caption id="attachment_1603" align="alignleft" width="300"] The Smith College Museum of Art in Northampton, MA[/caption]

One thing I love about GSLIS professors is they are always making sure that we aren’t just sitting in a classroom trying to absorb information. They really want us to get real experience and therefore they encourage us to visit libraries, talk with librarians and meet our future colleagues. These are often the best learning experiences!

Last weekend my Literature of the Humanities class was held at the Hillyer Art Library at the Smith College Museum of Art. Not only is Smith located in one of the coolest towns in the state (Northampton), but it also has an amazing campus with beautiful buildings and a great library. We met with Barbara Polowy, art librarian at Hillyer. She did an informative library instruction session on how to locate art resources in order to answer art-related reference questions and she even baked us cookies!

In addition to this mini-trip, several of the core courses here at GSLIS require students to visit and/or observe all types of libraries. I have been to a lot of the local campuses in Western Mass and this semester I will visit even more! I have an appointment in the works to observe the reference desk at WestfieldState University’s Ely Library and my Lit of the Humanities class will be taking a trip to UMASS Amherst’s Renaissance Center. I’m really excited to add to my list of libraries I have visited. Not only is it great to get a feel of the layout and procedures of local libraries, but its also great networking. I’m sure I’ll be applying to many of these libraries soon!

Classes | Libraries | People | 1 comment


Preaching to the Comforter

Is there anything more ridiculous than giving a ten-minute PowerPoint presentation to your empty bedroom? Having spent 55 minutes doing just that last night, I think I was more uncomfortable talking to an empty room than I will be when doing the actual presentation. Then I got to thinking, why was this my first time educating my down comforter? I can think of five presentations that I gave last semester, and not once did I elect to practice beforehand. How did I pull that off?

On my first go-through, my ten-minute presentation took nearly twenty minutes due to stopping to iron out what I wanted to say. There was definitely swearing involved. If I hadn’t practiced, would my real presentation have gone like that? Then I discovered that it is quite easy to get sidetracked when speaking aloud to no one. I watched people out the window. Where is my neighbor going? I spun around in my desk chair. I filed my right thumbnail. I noticed some blemishes on the wall. I spun some more. Talking all the while.

All in all, I spent several hours making the slides and nearly an hour practicing…for a ten-minute presentation. I don’t regret the time spent, but it does seem excessive, especially considering that I’ve given past presentations without any spoken preparation. I have to say, though, that after doing multiple run-throughs I don’t think I can go back to the “just walk into class and see how it goes” approach. I’ll feel better after it’s over, but in the meantime, it feels good to be prepared.

And you know what? This will be the first of two ten-minute presentations I have this week. My comforter is going to be the smartest blanket in town.

Classes | People | Students | leave a comment