January 2013 Archives

Priority Deadline Tomorrow, February 1st!

Just a quick note for all prospective students applying for Summer 2013 or Fall 2013 - the priority deadline is tomorrow! If you'd like to be considered for merit-based aid, your application must be complete, meaning we've received all your recommendations, transcripts, etc. by or on February 1st.

For all Summer 2013 applicants, February 1st is also the final deadline for applications. Those of you applying for Fall 2013 but do not need/want priority aid, the final deadline is March 1, 2013.

To check on the status of your materials and application, please visit this page and click on the "check your application status" link. This will allow you to sign in and view any applications you've begun or submitted and the status of each requirement necessary to complete the application.

If you have any questions or concerns, please call our office at 617-521-2868 or email us at gslisadm@simmons.edu.

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The Big Picture



It has been a year since I started the GSLIS program, and it has taken me this long to understand the value of a degree program.  I am not just talking about the “getting a job” piece – this is a professional program so it goes without saying that the purpose of the degree is to enhance employment options.  There is another value that isn’t well understood.  The degree program doesn’t just teach us skills. It teaches us how to be visionaries.

That might sound a little lofty, even to me, but I came to this realization recently at my job at a public library. I am in a pre-professional job, which is great experience, but ultimately a dead-end position.  (Hope my boss isn’t reading this, but I think this is important to share with you.)  I do a lot of circulation and I am the inter-library loan coordinator.  I answer reference questions, coordinate the use of the library meeting rooms, do an occasional program,  prepare user instruction materials, and maintain some usage statistics.  Sounds fabulous for a library science student, doesn’t it?  I thought so, too, but in my present position, I really don’t get to do much with the BIG PICTURE.  That didn’t seem to matter a year ago.  The problem is that suddenly, the big picture is all I see.

When I started this job, I was thrilled with all this experience, but I am no longer satisfied to make inter-library loans happen – I want to track their usage, and see what that usage can tell us about the strengths and weaknesses in our collection.  I don’t just want to prepare materials to help users access eBooks or online databases;  I want to evaluate the users’ needs and the usefulness of those materials.  I want to create online learning tutorials for the website, and explore new marketing approaches for library programming.  I want to run analytics on our website usage, analyze cardholder statistics and see who uses in-library resources versus online resources.  I want us to be accountable to the taxpayers and revitalize our library to meet the changing needs of the community.   I have a vision of bringing our library into the future.  I want to work on the big picture.

In this first year of graduate school, I have been given the tools to do so many things – create websites, evaluate programs, create databases, do a good reference interview -- but more importantly, I have learned how the tools fit into a larger framework.  I have learned why they matter and how to have the vision that puts them to good use.  So, a degree program leads to job dissatisfaction?  In the interim, perhaps, but ultimately, I feel like the future holds great things.

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Dreaming of a more peaceful time…

Growing up, I used to have a routine before going to bed.  I would say goodnight to my parents, grab a beverage – sparkling water in the summer, hot tea in the winter – grab whatever book I was in the middle of, and spend the last delicious hour of consciousness lost in whatever fantastical world those pages contained.

In between leaving my home for college and being halfway through a graduate program, something changed.

My evenings are no longer filled with the writings of great minds; my dreams are no longer of magic, dragons, and wizards.  There are still plenty of hot beverages, though – but not tea.  Now I find myself guzzling coffee at all hours of the night, attempting to wrangle one more hour’s worth of energy into finishing whatever project I am working on.  And I still read – but instead of characters with beautiful names and tragic back stories  I read the (rather dry) biography of Melville Dewey.  Or the historical conflict between archivists and librarians… or archivists and record keepers… or American archivists versus the rest of the world (jeez, archivists, get it together)!

Rather than peaceful evenings pre-slumber, I am racing the clock to get to a stopping point before I flop down on my bed and pass out in a matter of minutes.  This flopping action includes, but is not limited to,

- forgetting to take off my shoes

- neglecting to take the dog on her nightly walk

- leaving a plethora of dirty dishes in the sink

- setting my alarm for the wrong time

- and once, in an attempt to get back on a more “peaceful” schedule, turning on the burner to boil water for tea and falling asleep with the burner on before the water even boils.  I am lucky that my husband caught that one; I’m not sure even the soothing screech of the teakettle could have awoken me from that slumber.

However, I have to say that I’m not sure this is extraordinary for the life of a graduate student… in fact, it’s fairly par for the course.  And it’s certainly what I signed up for!  I do have to admit, however, that I look forward to the days when I can set aside an hour each night to lose myself in good fantasy fiction, and return to the nights of peaceful slumber filled with spells, potions, and flying carpets.

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Putting Evaluation Into Action

Last week at my internship, my boss overheard me telling a co-worker that I am taking my final core class, Evaluation of Information Services. My boss was intrigued, and suggested that we schedule a meeting sometime next month to look at the evaluations she has done in the past and perhaps start thinking about future evaluations. This is a prime example of GSLIS curriculum in action, and a perfect way to incorporate my coursework into an actual work setting.

But, to be honest, my first reaction was to momentarily freak out. I didn’t have a meltdown or anything, but I felt as though she had asked me to design a prototype for a spaceship. I have only had two classes so far this semester, and I guarantee that my boss knows far more about evaluation than I do. What type of insight could I possibly bring to this meeting?

Once I got over that initial freak out, I calmed down and realized that this is a great opportunity for me. My boss didn’t recommend meeting tomorrow or next week; rather, sometime next month so I have some time to learn and digest the material. This impending meeting will encourage me to contextualize the Evaluation course in terms of my internship, and potentially permit me to put the course material to immediate use. I postponed taking Evaluation until this semester because it is the core course that I thought would interest me the least; however, it seems as though my deferment was fortuitous in that I may have the opportunity to put evaluation into action.

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Reference Questions Via Email

One of the more common topics discussed in Library School is "the reference question." For many of our patrons this still fits in nicely to the librarian stereotypes and what they expect when they enter a library:  the tall foreboding desk with an old maid sitting behind it that you only go to ask questions of as a last resort.

Of course, more often than not, the stereotype is not true but it is still true that the reference desk is a familiar aspect of libraries, and answering questions and providing information is a core part of the librarian's duties. As such, a lot of emphasis is placed on how to navigate a reference interview during library studies.

Many times when a patron asks a question they tend to ask a very general one which might not be exactly what they are searching for. The question, "Do you have any books on butterflies?" might seem like a simple question request but if the librarian simply answers "yes" and delves no further she will not know if the patron needed a children's non-fiction book for a school project or a field guide for a nature hike. Hence the practice of the reference interview in which the librarian asks relevant questions in order to discover what source will best fit the patron's needs.

I work as a librarian in a law office. Although we have a physical space most of our sources are electronic and we field most of our reference questions via email . Although it is convenient for the lawyers to not have to come into the library physically, especially since nine times out of ten the source they want is electronic; it can be confusing for the reference interview process.

First, though email is fast, it is not instantaneous like face to face conversations, especially if the email is buried under the lawyer's other correspondence. The lawyer may think his or her request is being taken care of when in reality there is a clarifying question from the librarian sitting in his or her email box.

A second obstacle I have come across in email reference is one that is found sometimes in physical reference services as well. Sometimes a patron may be asking a question for someone else, generally a parent for a child, and the information is coming second hand, making it difficult to pin down the exact needs. In a law office this seems to be intensified. Many times a lawyer will pass something onto a paralegal or a law student who, after having no luck, will bring the information to a librarian.

Last week I received an email from a paralegal asking for the "code book." When I asked her if she could clarify or give me the full title she responded that she didn't know, the lawyer she was working for had only told her that much. Yet instead of giving me the lawyer's name she said she would ask him and get back to me. This meant I had to wait for the lawyer to reply to her and her to reply to me before any progress could be made on the request. In many ways, face to face would have been quicker because conducting a reference interview over email one question at a time is not very efficient and can be frustrating for both parties.

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The United States of YA




In this week of festive, inaugural, bi-partisan activities I thought I'd let everyone know about a fun list of books lingering out there on the interwebs. This is a list developed by the brilliant minds over at epicreads.com.  A question was posed: What is your favorite young adult book? Name the state in which it takes place. Thus, the United States of YA was born, or at least, the list. Then the blogger made this amazing graphic (see above). The graphic and the list were made readily available for display makers, like me, and I stumbled across them on pinterest.

I thought it would be an easy display. I wouldn't have to do any list making. I could just pull the books and let the graphic speak for itself...WRONG. In the end it took me a WEEK to put up. But let me just say, it was worth it. Check me out.

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Technical Difficulties

There seems to be an assumption that all twenty-somethings are incredibly tech savvy.  I wish I could say I fit this stereotype, but in actuality I have a lot of room for improvement.  I don’t want to suggest that I am living in the stone age (I do have an iPhone and an iPad after all!), but troubleshooting gadget mishaps and searches more complex than Google can be baffling to me.  Truth be told, I was initially attracted to the library field because I thought it would be a way to escape technology.  Could I have been more wrong?  Technology is the backbone of this profession and it is crucial for librarians to keep up with constantly evolving new developments.  Although I am nowhere near where I need to be, I have become more open to experimenting with and embracing new technologies since starting at Simmons.

All new GSLIS students are required to take a self-guided course called the Technology Orientation Requirement (TOR for short) during their first semester.  The course takes you step by step through navigating the Simmons library website, using our online learning platform called Moodle, and creating a Wiki.  The program culminates with the creation of a personal website using HTML.  I have nearly completed the TOR and I have been impressed with how easy it has been so far.  I’ve been having some challenges with the final assignment, but I have found wonderful assistance from the tech lab on campus and plan to attend an HTML workshop early next month.

The professor in my Technology for Information Professionals class has encouraged us to be fearless when dealing with technology and I have finally started to embrace that mentality.  When trying new technology or attempting to problem-solve as I maneuver through new programs and advanced reference sites, I have been trying to take more risks.  Odds are the computer won’t spontaneously combust if I choose the wrong button.  The only way to learn is through trial and error, and adopting a fearless attitude is helping me tackle my technical difficulties with confidence.

My path to becoming a technologically savvy librarian is only just beginning and I have many more steps before I feel confident, but my mentality is changing and I am overcoming my fears- two very important steps!

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16 Great Library Scenes in Film

Check out this article about the author's favorite library moments in film. My favorite line from it is this: "See what happens when you cut back on library staffing? You risk Voldemort taking over."


Libraries | People | leave a comment

A Change for the Better



One year ago, I started the GSLIS program worrying about catching up on technology and the laundry, and filled with both anticipation and anxiety about going back to school.  It seems like a long time ago.

I am not the same person I was last January.  Where there was fear, there is now confidence.

As a future student considering our program, the question you need to ask is, “What happened?”  What transformed me from a forty-something who was afraid to get into the car on that very first day of grad school into a confident and comfortable graduate student who embraces challenges and seeks out new professional experiences?

The Faculty

I have been fortunate to have great faculty who have treated me as a fellow librarian regardless of how many credits or how much experience I had.  Rather than being intimidating authority figures or haughty experts, they are respectful colleagues. They have helped me to grow, acknowledging that we all come to librarianship from different places. They have encouraged me to step far outside my comfort zone, and that gentle nudge, and the success that followed, has changed me. Students have the opportunity to interact with faculty and other professionals inside and outside the classroom.

The Students

In my classes, I am often surrounded by a group of cheerleaders, my peers. We celebrate each other’s successes, share in each other’s struggles, and learn from each other every day.  We bring a diversity of experiences to the program.  In my most recent face-to-face class, introductions revealed one brand new GSLIS student, two “last class” students, and the majority of us who were “about halfway.”  We also had two public librarians, one medical librarian, one school librarian, and quite a few “haven’t worked in a library yet” students. We were male and female, black and white, in our 20s, 30s, and 40s, and commuted anywhere from 10 minutes to 2 ½ hours to be there.  One very nice student brought cookies for the class. Go team!

The Resources

I can’t say enough good things about Beatley library, whether you visit it regularly as a Boston student, or use it remotely as a GSLIS West student.  I loved being there when I took a Boston class, but FedEx to my door when I am not in Boston is a pretty sweet deal, and the online resources are reliable and impressive. Beatley librarians are readily available in person or via chat and email, and they seem genuinely excited to help future librarians grow and learn.

Simmons GSLIS professional reimbursement also pays for my professional memberships and events, conferences and webinars…many of which would be unaffordable to most students.  There are also great discounts through Simmons for computers, software, etc., and the GSLIS tech Lab, Beatley, the GSLIS West Office, and our host library at Mount Holyoke College offer a wide range of computer services, classes, and access to software tools.

So what changed me?

Yes, I got braver, but I had help from GSLIS.  I had considered other LIS programs, but one year later, I am very happy with my choice, and the change in myself, for the better.

Events | 2 comments

"Libraries are still vibrant..."

How can we, as students, help libraries improve for their patrons? What is most important to them?

Read what Americans have to say about libraries in this post on the Christian Science Monitor...


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Practical Versus Passionate

Like many of my fellow GSLIS students, I graduated university with degrees in English and Art History.  After graduation, I was essentially pushed out the door, told to “go forth and acquire employment.”  After looking around, my worst fears were realized: what was I going to do with two degrees and relatively few marketable skills?!

I worked for a while temping; I sent out resume after resume and made phone call after phone call.  It was one day, after my mom called me and recommended that I look into going to graduate school to obtain these marketable skills that are apparently so desirable in the working world, that I started to consider libraries and archives as places of employment.

But once I got to library school, I felt myself being pulled into the same trap.  Fascinating courses called to me – The History of the Book?!  Storytelling?! Organizational/Informational Ethics?! These are ALL courses I want to take.  But, because my time – and more importantly, my money – is limited, I need to decide on one course.  But then I have to decide between taking a course I believe will help me on my quest for THE MARKETABLE SKILL and courses I believe would enrich my life.

Specifically, the courses I am torn between are something technologically based – like XML, which seems to have a plethora of applications in the real world – and something, well, fun, like the Medieval Manuscript from Charlemagne to Gutenberg.  Do I want to take a chance and take an amazing elective that aligns perfectly with both my English and Art History background, or should I pursue the technical skill I know will be useful, and potentially even help me obtain future employment?

This is the problem with trying to predict the future in the time of an economic downturn.  I guess in the end all I can do is cross my fingers and hope that all of my courses will serve me well in the long run.  And, with the amazing professors I have so far had the privilege to work, talk, and sip coffee with, I can honestly say that none of them will steer me wrong – whether by counseling me, or by steering me as a student in their classes.  Let’s hope that the future is kind to us budding librarians!

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We are Not on the Same e-Page

My mother reads more books than anyone I know. She is always reading something, and more often than not she has multiple books going. She legally possesses three library cards from three different libraries, and she actively uses each of them. For the past few years, my father had been talking about getting my mom an e-reader for Christmas, but I always told him that she doesn’t need one because she is at a library multiple times per week. This year (and it is unclear whether this was the result of a lack of other gift ideas or a concerted effort to put my mom at the forefront of book technology), he finally gave her a Nook.

For all the books that my mother reads, I don’t think I’ve ever seen her purchase one. That said, getting a Nook is not going to make her any less of a library user. I will be shocked if she purchases a book on her Nook – she is a library user through and through. Anyway, I was home last weekend and mom asked me to help her set up her Nook with Overdrive so she can borrow books from one of her three libraries. Pssh…piece of cake for a library student, right?

Well, not so much. This is not meant to be a knock on Overdrive or any type of e-reader, but boy was it complicated to get her Nook and Overdrive on the same page. (Or should I say “e-page”?) Working at a library, I’ve heard people say that configuring e-readers and Overdrive is not at all straightforward, but I wasn’t able to empathize until actually trying it myself. I know that libraries and publishers disagree about e-reader use in libraries, and perhaps the complexity of coordinating an e-reader with a library catalog has something to do with that. If this is publishers’ attempt to deter e-book use in libraries, neither I nor my mother will be discouraged, and nor should you. As library e-book use continues to increase, hopefully publishers will get the message. I look forward to the day that publishers and libraries finally get themselves on the same e-page.

Libraries | Technology | leave a comment

The one thing we ignored in our syllabi this week...


It’s the first week of classes! I spent my week looking deep into the future of my semester. Oh what fun projects I will do this year! The possibilities are, pardon the cliché, endless! Oh, the places I will go!

Yet, as I reflected at the end of the week, every class had one commonality that I think doesn’t get talked about enough. Ever hear of the Simmons honor code? If you’ve read a syllabus in the past week you’d remember teachers dutifully reminding their students that plagiarism is taken seriously at this institution. I suppose in light of the recent cheating fiascos across the river you can hardly blame them. However, I remember skimming that part of the syllabi I had the fortune of reading this week, or rather skipping that part. It has occurred to me that this behavior is probably typical and symptomatic of the academic arena we were all raised in: DON’T COPY, DON’T CHEAT, DON’T STEAL...but most importantly, DON’T GET CAUGHT!

I teach an information literacy course for high school freshmen at the moment. I am forever shocked how they loathe citing information, even though creating a bibliography is probably easier now than it has ever been. I remind my students how important it is not to steal others’ work. They argue, “We’re honoring it by using it in our papers.”

“But how will they know about this compliment you’re paying them unless you include their name?!”

The debate continues, much in the same manner every time there is a long research paper due and I, along with other librarians, am facilitating the grueling citation process. I bemoan their cavalier attitude with my colleagues, and yet, what did I JUST do this week?! I casually glanced over the honor code. It may not be the same thing as a works cited page at the end of a paper but it’s in the same family tree.

Therefore, and wherefore, I invite the two eyes that skim this blog to take this opportunity to read the Simmons honor code in the hopes that our seriousness about this matter will become evident to a younger generation that needs powerfully smart role models like us. Librarians should be a beacon for anti-plagiarism hope.  Make it evident in the way you approach your studies this semester!

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First Week at GSLIS!

Hi! My name is Emily and I am a new addition to the blogging team for the January 2013 semester. This is my first semester as a GSLIS student and I am looking forward to sharing my experiences with all our readers.

Many admissions departments hope to attract a diverse group of students by the use of cliches such as ‘every student’s experience is unique’ and ‘there is no such thing as a typical student.’ Simmons GSLIS is no exception, however, if my experience thus far is anything like the average student, these statements are not simple cliches, they are  the reality.  Right from the get go, I have been encouraged to make the most of my experience regardless of any ‘normal’ progression.

True to form, I decided to take a nontraditional route when starting classes. My first experience with a GSLIS class was a weeklong intensive course in Corporate Librarianship (LIS 414) with Professor Jim Matarazzo.  It has been incredibly fascinating to jump right into things with a class consisting primarily of students nearing graduation.  Perhaps it is a reflection of the class being mainly geared towards students finishing their degrees and preparing to enter the workforce, but I was impressed by how hands-on and career-oriented the course was.  Two days were devoted to field trips to tour corporate libraries and meet with the professionals who staff them, while days in the classroom included conference calls and visits with some of Professor Matarazzo’s former students who now work in the field.

As a brand new library student who is unsure which path to take, I’ve loved the emphasis on practical application.  The only way to truly know what work environment I am looking for is to try out many different kinds and this course gave me a great first look into the world of corporate libraries. I’m hoping to have similar hands-on experiences in the rest of my classes this semester and I will be sure to keep you posted!

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Welcome Back!

Happy New Year and welcome back, GSLIS! I hope you all had a fabulous holiday and a relaxing break.

I am still in denial that the spring semester is here. Today reality sunk in and I reluctantly opened some emails from professors and GSLIS staff. I know that once I get into the swing of things, it won’t seem so scary…but right now, I am SO not ready!

I have some big things to look forward to this semester. First of all, tomorrow I am heading out to Boston with two classmates for our first course on the main campus. This is so exciting for me because I love the city and can’t wait to experience the main campus as a student and not just a visitor.

Even more exciting is that I start my new job on Monday the 28th! That’s right, folks, I got the job! I am officially the library assistant for the Health Sciences Library at St.Francis Hospital, and I couldn’t be happier. This is my first official library job and for me it marks the beginning of my career as a librarian.

I am also officially more than halfway through the program. I am on track to graduate in December 2013!

It’s going to be a great year, GSLIS. We have a lot to look forward to as a community. We are welcoming another great group of new students, we will be welcoming a new dean and the program is being tweaked and made even better for those entering in Fall 2013. I’m so glad to be a part of it all and hope you are all as excited as I am for new beginnings.

Boston | Classes | Jobs | Students | leave a comment

Restructuring Public Libraries

I like my blogs to be fun but informative, which usually means avoiding politics. Unfortunately, there is a political situation taking place across the nation that just might influence your decision to go to library school.


I live in rural NH, and more often than not, rural libraries are staffed only by paraprofessionals.  Librarians with Master’s degree are not the norm, but that is changing, for good and bad.

Why a change is good?

In the year I have been at GSLIS, I have learned there is a lot more to being a librarian than one might think when one checks out a book.  Along with a ton of technology skills, there are many things that just make good practice and good library management.  In my experience, paraprofessionals are smart people who use a lot of common sense, but their decisions may or may not be informed by library theory or tried and true methods.

Why a change is bad?

Recently, in St. Johnsbury, VT, the board of trustees fired the entire Athenaeum library staff in a restructuring effort.  At the recent Hug the Athenaeum rally led by Rural Librarians Unite, the public supported the recently fired library staff of this iconic library, under the banner, “The People Make the Library.”  The trustees, in focusing on modern skills, forgot the people part.  Paraprofessionals who have been part of the community where they work know more about the population served than someone from the outside with a degree.  While their decisions are not informed by the latest in library trends, they come from the heart of the community.  Local library paraprofessionals offer something to library service that cannot be learned in school.

So what does this mean to me?

Jobs | Libraries | People | leave a comment

On Starting A New Year, and A New Semester

I cannot believe that Christmas break already came and went.  I spent my time tanning in the Floridian sun, crafting all of my Christmas presents, catching up on some quality sleep time, and enjoying hot beverages… I am especially enjoying the newfound glories of a proper cup of English Breakfast tea, and the new delights of the French Pressed coffee.

As 2012 ended and 2013 begins, I always find that a few New Year’s Resolutions make their way into my habits as a student.  Read: I WILL read all the readings this semester.  I WILL go to office hours if I need help.  I WILL start papers and projects well-enough in advance.  Like many students, procrastination is a good friend of mine, who pops in more often than I’d like to take up way too much of my time with persuasions of nail-painting and dessert-baking instead of paper-writing and presentation-practicing.

Typically, I despise trendy productivity techniques.  But over Christmas, I found myself reading an interesting article about the benefits of the small, self-indulgent pleasures in life, especially in the midst of a busy schedule.  Apparently, painting your nails and baking tasty treats can spur someone to complete tasks more quickly and efficiently.  The article actually encourages small breaks for increased productivity (for the interested, it’s the Pomodoro technique).

So, in conclusion, while I would like to promise you, myself, my teachers, and my mother that I will work harder, more efficiently, and further in advance, all that I can promise you for certain is that my intentions are good.  I will have a guilt trip about not starting my project earlier.  I will probably meltdown over leaving a project until too late.  I will call my best friend in tears about not understanding the assignment for a paper that’s due in half a week.  However, I’d like to think that my suffering is preparation for the real world … and in the meantime, I will have delicious baked treats and beautifully painted nails, and I encourage you all to, as well.  Happy Spring 2013 semester, everyone!

Classes | People | Relaxing | leave a comment

Occupational Preoccupation

I went to work at the library on Saturday dressed as a librarian. Hair pulled back, cardigan, sensible shoes, blah blah blah. (Fortunately, my vision is still ok, so I didn’t top it off with a pair of glasses perched on my nose.) I was a stereotypical librarian.

I hate the stereotype. It drives me nuts. Librarian is one of the only occupations I can think of that has such a preoccupation with its image. I chose Saturday’s outfit because I wanted to wear my new cardigan, not because I was feeling particularly librarian-y that day. I actually felt self-conscious before I left my apartment because I thought I looked too much like a librarian. Isn’t this generation of librarians supposed to defy the stereotype? To rid this and the next generation of librarians of this burden forever?

A few months ago, in an attempt to abate my distaste for the librarian stereotype, I read a book about it. Turns out, that only made it worse. There were all kinds of examples of librarians who were young and ambitious and had tattoos and were doing great library-related things, all without looking like librarians. I think that’s wonderful, but why does it matter what they look like?

Instead of trying to aggressively defy the librarian look, why not just ignore it? I will continue to wear what I feel like wearing to work, regardless of whether it fits the preconceived image of how I “should” look. If I can be a good librarian, it doesn’t matter whether or not I look like a librarian. My plan is to passively shatter the librarian stereotype by just being myself.

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McAllen Public Library Part Two: People and Programs

Last week I had the pleasure of sharing with you some insights from my visit to McAllen Public Library, winner of the 2012 ALA Award for Interior Design. To read the first part of this two part series that talks about the physical building click here.

A library, of course, is not just about the building. The building itself might be marvelous, but if the library is not consistently offering services and resources that its patrons desire it will not remain praiseworthy for long. Fortunately, the director of the McAllen Public Library, Kathleen Horan, is not one to forget this. She is not content to let the library rest on its laurels.

“Because of our culture and the way the news, the fads and trends come at us, everything comes and goes so we can’t afford to sit back and say ‘ok we can rest easy now because  we won this design award,’ because we constantly have to stay valuable,” states Ms. Horan. In her eyes, although the national and international press is welcome, the more valuable praise is that which comes from her local community. Hearing from the patrons themselves about the value of the library is an endorsement of the library’s purpose. “Unless we push that message out and it’s getting to the people and getting to our stakeholders…and they understand how valuable we are, we won’t succeed,” she remarks. After all, they are the ones who write the checks. Ms. Horan stresses that “You can’t wait for a crisis. You can’t wait and then say I’ll post on Facebook: 'Like and re-post this if… ' That’s pretty much too late, you must be constant in proving the library’s worth."

One of the ways that libraries are making themselves valuable to the community today is through technology, something that is sometimes very difficult to keep on top of as the innovations appear at a dizzying rate. The library is automating as many services as possible which allows the librarians to devote more time to those services, such as customer interaction, that cannot and should not be automated. This includes an automated car-side book return that not only talks to the patrons as they drop off their books but sorts them into bins for fiction, non-fiction and children’s.

Libraries | People | Technology | leave a comment

All but the best laid book plans...


A few posts ago you may or may not recall my assertion that what GSLIS students should be doing during their break was to take some time to professionally develop. Well develop I did, but in the exact opposite way I intended. You see, over the break I read prolifically (for me, anyway). I read books I had been dying to take home and snuggle with. I read when I woke up every day. I read after my luxurious mid-morning naps. I read next to my family's Christmas tree with a cup of tea in hand. 'Twas glorious! Now, while this wasn't strictly professional reading. I think it's SO VERY important for librarians, who have very little time for pleasure reading (BIG misconception about the profession in my opinion), to read their hearts out. To read until their eyeballs pop right out of their sockets. Readers advisory is a skill to be honed and the only real way to get anything done on that front is to read and share. This, I have done. This, I feel good about. And NOW I'm going to tell you about what I read.

Butter by Erin Jade Lange

This book is a dark look into the tormented psyche of the American teen. It examines obesity in our society and how what we are craving is so much more than food, but acceptance by our peers. I was disturbed by this book, but could NOT put it down.

The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling

This book was like a punch in the stomach, but in a good way. I was very disappointed in Rowling's wretchedly cruel characters in this book.  But I forgot that J.K. Rowling is a genius and should not be underestimated. The storytelling and caliber of her writing is so compelling that this book had me weeping for these characters and flying through the final chapters just like her previous amazing books.

Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt

This novel follows a character previously featured in the Wednesday Wars, which I LOVED. It's about a boy whose life is bleak, on his best days. His abusive father uproots the family to a new town after getting fired from his job in Long Island. They move upstate to "stupid Merrysville" where slowly but surely things begin to happen to turn a miserable kid into an engaged, helpful, responsible, talented and sensitive young adult. Terrific!

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

I only include this book because I think it's just amazing. I read it every year with my family over the holidays. It should definitely be read aloud. It probably takes us about 2 hours, 3 if we laugh too hard. The book is an epic about a regular, boring old Christmas pageant taken over by the town thugs, the Herdmans. This gang of kids, the meanest kids in fiction, hear about church because they want free cake and suddenly get interested in this fantastical play they've never heard of before: The Christmas pageant. "HEY! Unto you a child is BORN!" SHAZAM!

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

I thought I would save the best for last. I'm probably the last person in the profession to read this book. However, if you haven't read it, it's certainly not too late to squeeze it in before the semester starts next week. John Green tells us about the improbable journey of two souls doomed by cancer, Augustus and Hazel Grace. They are a perfect match in every way, and teach each other much about literature, poetry, video games, philosophy and how the world, surprisingly, isn't a wish granting machine. I took a long time reading it, mainly because I never wanted to let these characters go.

Reader's Advisory | Relaxing | 1 comment

McAllen Public Library Part 1: Building a Community

Outdoor children's area. Monarch mosaic.

You may have heard of the McAllen Public Library. It has been mentioned in such places as the L.A. Times and Time. It is the library that won the 2012 ALA Interior Design Award, the library converted from an abandoned Wal-Mart. But while the media may concentrate on this unique layout, the McAllen Library is so much more than building, amazing as it. While this blog post will focus on some of the marvels of the building itself, it is only the first part. Come back next week to learn more about the amazing programs and people involved in this “big-box” library. For a gallery of photographs click here.

McAllen, TX is the state’s 20th largest city in terms of population. It is home to 133,742 people but it serves many more. For instance, my family lives in Harlingen, TX – about 40 minutes southeast of McAllen, but we regularly drive to McAllen for its dining and shopping options (and the closest Barnes and Nobles!). McAllen, by nature of its location on the American/Mexico border down by the tip of the state, also is a town that sees much interaction with those who may prefer to be invisible, the undocumented immigrant.

On Nolana, one of McAlllen’s main streets, is the main branch of the McAllen Public Library, surrounded by a new Wal-Mart, fast food places, an optometrist, and a pest control shop. Having taken over a spot once chosen by Wal-Mart, the library has been able to assure that it is in the center of the town and accessible by public transportation.

The previous library building was constructed in the 1950s, a time before computers became a daily part of our lives, before teen and children services were separate entities from their adult counterpart. These thoughts and others were taken into account when the municipality decided that it needed a bigger space for its library.

According to current library director, Kathleen Horan, the city was looking at its options to purchase land for a new building when the former Wal-Mart building became available “already built and sturdily built.” A decision was made to keep the current structure, demolishing only the auto care center, and its refurbishment was financed by city bonds.

The new library structure has 123,000 feet compared to the old building which only had 40,000 square feet according the library’s website. And the entire building revolves around the theme of movement.

GSLIS | Libraries | People | 2 comments

A Book by Any Other Name


Yesterday was a busy day at my local library.  A recent phone call from a patron began with, “I can’t believe you have only one copy of this book…”  He wasn’t talking about the copy on our shelves, but about our virtual e-collection that we share with other libraries in our state (New Hampshire).   The discussion turned to an explanation about library costs for eBooks versus what a patron might pay on Amazon for a Kindle download, as well as a referral to other sources of free eBooks (such as Project Gutenberg and Amazon’s Lending Library), and lastly, of course, a brief lesson on how to search only for available titles one can read right now on the state’s downloadable eBook consortium.

This call was followed by a visiting patron, Nook in hand, who needed help to access the downloadable collection. Behind her stood a patron who wanted to download an audiobook to her iPhone…and a young lady of 12 with her new Kindle Fire… and a mom, with a stack of thirty picture books.

A recent webinar I took also filled me in on the Kobo , but I haven’t seen one of those yet.

Copies of our Guide to Free Downloadable eBooks and Audiobooks keep flying off the counter. I guess it was a big year for eReaders!  As my tiny library only serves 5000 residents, I can only imagine what big city librarians are doing to keep up with the different e-formats and different devices.  The stack of picture books was a welcome relief, but in the end, the transactions were the same – helping a reader connect with his book.  It was a good day to be a librarian.

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Time to Face the Music

The holidays are over, which means there’s only one thing left: New Year’s resolutions. It seems like a lot of people are resolute about not making resolutions, while some think of January 1st as a yearly opportunity to set new goals. I generally tend to fall among the resolute "non-resolutioners," but right now I’d say that my 2013 resolution is to listen to more country music. Yesterday I spent forty dollars worth of iTunes gift cards (thanks, Santa!) solely on country tunes, so it seems I’m well on my way.

I was pretty proud of my aspiration to unearth my inner honky-tonk until I realized what my real resolution for 2013 should (and will) be: getting a job. This is arguably more of a necessary life activity and culmination of two years at GSLIS than a new year’s resolution, but I am pretty darn resolute about gaining employment. Suddenly the “Simmons GSLIS anticipated December 2013” line on my résumé seems slightly more imminent. I mean, December is a solid eleven months from now, but it will happen this year. Why am I wasting my time listening to twangy country crooners? I should be applying for jobs!

Just kidding. I’m not freaking out. Not yet. There’s no need to get too far ahead of myself here. I mean, December is a solid eleven months from now, so I have ample time to make myself a more desirable job candidate. If listening to country music is my 2013 resolution, then getting a job is my certified 2013 capital-R Resolution. Hopefully both endeavors will experience equal levels of success.

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