February 2013 Archives

Open Access, and the Story of Why Are We Paying to Access Important Information

Open access is a topic I have been thinking about a lot lately.  And not just the stories of glamorized and easily implementable “open access” that the media picks up and drops two weeks later – open access as a way that information is communicated.  Anyone who has talked to me for more than five minutes knows that I am passionate about the way information is communicated, received, and re-communicated elsewhere – which serves as the basis of open access.

The White House recently addressed the issue of open access in a memo, which stated that the findings and papers that come about as a result of publicly funded research will be made publicly available.  While this is a huge step in the field, I can’t help but think that we are years behind.  How many critical results of research have come and gone without garnering public attention, simply because the public cannot afford the astronomical prices to scientific journals?  This is information that most people are unfamiliar with – mostly because the information is on as close to “lockdown” as possible.  ( http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/02/24/us-usa-whitehouse-information-idUSBRE91N01C20130224)

Physics is one of the fields that is breaking crucial ground in terms of taking steps towards open access.  A relatively new journal, (coincidentally entitled) the New Journal of Physics, is a completely open access journal that has risen through the ranks of pay to access journals to become a prestigious publication that just happens to be open access.  While this step was huge for the field of physics, it remained relatively quiet – my husband, who is a PhD candidate in Biology at MIT, had never heard of the journal.  (By the way, I highly recommend checking out the journal: http://iopscience.iop.org/1367-2630)

It is difficult for an organization, journal, or even an individual to rise through the ranks of paid access, and that doesn’t even touch the difficulties that would come with changing the infrastructure of how research articles and materials are accessed.  It is a problem that is ingrained in the way information is presented to the world – essentially, the mindset that if money can be made off of something, someone will try it.  I, however, will continue to think aloud to myself – and to anyone that will listen – about why it is that we are expected to pay so much to access materials that could be so important to our daily lives.

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My Library School Library

I’ve written about a handful of different libraries in this blog, but I daresay I have neglected one that has been integral to my time at GSLIS: the Beatley Library at Simmons. During my first semester I was neither working nor interning, so I had a lot of downtime outside of class. To combat any and all inclinations to sit around doing nothing, I would go to a desk on the second floor of the library after my morning classes and before my afternoon class to get as much work done as possible. I find that the library is kind of like the gym – sometimes I don’t necessarily want to go, but I am fairly productive once I’m there.

This and last semester, my increased extracurricular activities have reduced the amount of time I spend at Beatley. These days, I am usually only there for two-ish hours on Wednesdays, and I tend to splurge for the comfy chairs on the first floor instead of the studious desks on the second. Beatley is by no means huge, but it is modern and spacious and I have never had an issue finding a seat. The collection has always served my needs, except once when I was looking for the most recent issue of a mildly obscure library journal that I assume just hadn’t arrived yet. Overall, I have been very impressed with Beatley, although it did take a little while to win me over.

My undergrad library was a 1970’s-inspired brick behemoth that made up in desks and study corrals what it lacked in windows. The inside was dim and depended almost exclusively on artificial light, the wooden desks were so well worn (read: archaic) that they were impossible to write on without a book or something between the paper and the desk, and the study spaces were very, very close together. In short, I loved it. I tend to like dark, cozy spaces, and that library was chock full of them. Needless to say, Beatley was a complete shock to my library senses. Naturally lit, spacious, and contemporary – I was initially utterly overwhelmed. Clearly, I still have a soft spot for the big brick behemoth, but it didn’t take long for me to adopt and appreciate Beatley as my library school library.

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Ready for Outdoor Reading

It is snowing. AGAIN. I admit I am getting a little stir crazy. So far this weekend I've done homework in my bed, at my desk, in the tech lab, at my boyfriend's house, at Pete's Coffee (where I was continually interrupted by an adorable five year old next to me) and now I'm back in my room again. But come spring, oh come spring....i love to read outdoors in Boston! I'm the kind of person who if it's too quiet I can't focus. I think it has something to do with growing up with four younger siblings and a dog. So I love reading outside in the city there where there is just the right amount of noise, not enough to be overpowering but enough that I can't zone in on one conversation and get too distracted. So in anticipation of that, my next two posts will display my top ten favorite spots to read outside in Boston. All pictures are mine because I'm also that chick that snaps a cellphone shot every five feet.

Here's the first five of my favorite spots to read: 

1. Mckim Courtyard - Boston Public Library

The Mckim Courtyard nestled inside the Boston Public Library is a wonderful place to read and study. Of course it is also crowded much of the time. However that is easily compensated by the fact it's beautiful and on one side is the entire BPL library at your disposal and on the other is a lovely little cafe. The BPL Wi-Fi is accessible in the courtyard. There are tables in the shade under the arches and many places to sit on the steps.

Continue reading Ready for Outdoor Reading

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Infographics make me smarter

What are infographics and why are they awesome? This customermagnestism.com post is an infographic, you guessed it, about infographics! Wild, I know. Essentially the infographic distills all relevant statistics and facts about a topic into one pretty picture that relaxes the mind. Margaret Rouse says it best when she defines infographics: "Infographics (information graphics) is the display of information in such a way that it can be easily understood at a glance."

You've probably come across a bunch of infographics in your information consumption lifetime. I did, but didn't really know why I was more likely to process the information from an infographic than from say a 30-page journal article my professor wanted me to read for next Thursday. Both are valid forms of conveying information. I just think that after reading 400 pages for classes this week I'm way more likely to read an infographic post sent to me by a colleague than a New York Times article about the exact same topic.

Think about it then next time you get a fascinating article sent to you by a friend or colleague. How can I make this easier to process? How can I turn this into something much more likely to go viral? If you are as inspired as I am by this medium and feel like making your own infographic about how awesome cats are then check out this website: infogr.am  to make your very own infographic and share your thoughts about cats with the world.

P.S. This whole post idea started when I got an email from a colleague at my school. I didn't open the email for a long time because I was really dreading reading another professional article. When I finally opened it I was so pleasantly surprised by the ease with which my brain enjoyed reading about technology in libraries that I knew I had to find out more about these suckers. This infographic came from an edudemic.com post titled How Technology is Shaping the Future of Libraries.

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Transferable Skills

Last week my reference professor asked how many of us had ever worked in a restaurant. At least two thirds of the class raised their hand. The point he was making, quite successfully I might add, was that we already have skills from past work experiences that will help us succeed in this field. Excluding a few hours volunteering for my hometown high school library, I have no firsthand experience in this field. That said, my résumé boasts a long list of service based positions. I have worked as a ranger for the National Park Service, as a customer service representative over the phone, as a server in a local restaurant, and currently as a hostess, and I've realized it’s all the same. Whether you describe your clientele as patrons, guests, customers, clients, or visitors, it really is all the same.

Being kind and helpful is just as important as understanding the needs of a patron regardless of context. My reference class has devoted a lot of time to practicing the proper way to conduct a reference interview with a patron searching for information. At first glance, the process of answering a question from a library patron appears incredibly simple, but of course nothing is ever quite what meets the eye. A librarian who is experienced in conducting a successful reference interview will do so in such a way that the patron does not realize the skill involved. Communication is key when determining the needs of a patron and practice is the only way to improve this skill.

I have found the ability to understand and interpret the needs of a customer is much the same no matter the circumstances. Often the question asked is not really what the patron needs, and learning to find the true meaning behind a poorly articulated question is certainly a skill that requires practice. I consider myself lucky to have so many past work experiences that will lend themselves well to the library profession. People skills are a must in this profession and it is important to work on improving at every possible opportunity.


The Digital Divide Meets Everytown, USA

[caption id="attachment_2049" align="aligncenter" width="282"] From: http://www.digitaldivide.org/category/digital-divide[/caption]

Over and over again, you have heard (or read) about my small town in New Hampshire.  We are the proverbial small New England town, complete with General Store and a gazebo on the Town Common.  We have strong agricultural roots, but we are not a hick town.  97% of our population has education beyond the high school level, with almost 42% having a bachelor’s degree or higher (http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/index.xhtml). While many in town still don’t have high-speed internet access, we have a lot of patrons who come in to use our Wi-Fi.  I really don’t view the Digital Divide as just an access issue, but one of how to benefit from technology and internet access.   Whenever I read about the Digital Divide, I tend to think of it in terms of big cities with wide socioeconomic and educational gaps.  Yes, there is a digital disparity with our older population, but they are quick and eager learners.  To be honest, the Digital Divide hasn’t seemed that relevant to my present situation, until recently.

Enter Roxanne…okay, that is not her name, and to protect her privacy, I will say very little about the real person or her real library need, other than to say a woman about my age (40-something) had a need to use the public access computers for a very important matter in her life, and she had absolutely no idea how to use a mouse, or how to access the internet, never mind fill in an online form….

She was so grateful for our assistance, and my co-worker and I provided a lot of assistance because truthfully, she had no idea what to do.  I felt happy to help her, but also somewhat stunned by the whole transaction.  She had an expired library card, which we discovered when she later asked if she could borrow a movie, and I had never seen her before. After bringing her card up to date, I gave her a tour of our relatively new building and invited her back if she needed any more help.

But I keep wondering about all the Roxannes… I naively assumed that the Digital Divide was a problem to other towns, other libraries.  How do we reach community members who are still unplugged or who fell through the cracks of our education system? We exert most of our marketing efforts through electronic resources like e-newsletters, website, Facebook, etc., but what about Roxanne?  It shouldn’t take a crisis for someone to re-discover the library and what we have to offer. It suddenly struck me that even in well-educated communities, we risk leaving people behind as libraries move forward to offering more and more digital services without offering the needed training to go with it.  This serves as a lesson to me to keep a wider lens focused on my community and to think about what services we can and should provide in the future.  Libraries can bridge the digital gap for their communities, but only if they remember to look deeper into the populations they serve.

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Dr. Disorganization or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb that’s Apparently Gone Off in My Apartment

This winter, Boston has gotten snow – a lot of snow.  Like, an inordinate amount of snow.  And I am from Wisconsin.  What a smart move, to the one place on earth that apparently gets more snow than my hometown.

With that being said, I have spent a lot of time at home lately – because winter makes me feel cozy and antisocial; because I’ve been snowed in; because I’ve been doing all of my work at home, take your pick.  But as I walked through my apartment most recently, taking a break from Describing and Arranging a hypothetical archival collection for a class, I stopped in front of my personal bookshelf.  I found myself wondering how exactly I had managed to arrange all of my personal belongings so that I can find them.  If someone came into my house and wanted to find, say, my old wedding planner – would I be able to locate it?  Would I be able to tell someone else how to locate it?  Where had I put it, and why – was there logic behind my decision, or convenience, or laziness?  (Um…after this experiment, I determined it was usually a combination of laziness, convenience, and aesthetics.  I hope I never have to create a finding aid for my bookshelf.)

This led to a moment of introspection for me as a future archivist, trying to determine how this professional path would influence my personal organization.  Would I want to reorganize my dishes according to date of accumulation?  Is perhaps organizing my books by size not the best way?  Maybe they should be organized by topic.  But then, what topic does “Carolyn’s Day Planner 2011” fall into?! (Cue Small Panic Attack.)

I am sure that by the point that I arrange and describe/organize things professionally, I will be less concerned about my personal belongings.  I imagine I will be so tired of organizing things by the end of the day that all semblance of organization will go out the wayside.  Or maybe not…?

All I know for the moment is that if you walk into my house, I can find any single piece of my belongings, whether on a shelf, in a closet, or packed away in the basement, within ten minutes’ time.  …And the finding aid?  Yeah, it’s in my brain, baby.

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Library Lesson Learned III

Just before the library closed on Tuesday, a boy came to the desk to ask if we had any books about dogs. He wanted non-fiction, so I brought him over to the 636.7-ish area of the children’s section and we found a few books of interest. He told me that his parents said he could get a pet, so he wanted information about dogs, hamsters, guinea pigs, and horses (although he assured me he would not be getting a horse). He chose a few titles and snuck out just before closing time.

I work at a small branch library, and frankly, the 636.7-ish area is nothing to write home about. The selection is limited, and much of what is available is dated. As part of the Minuteman Library Network, we can request items from any of the 42 member libraries; however, in Tuesday’s scenario the boy wanted the books right then and there, so he was limited to what we had on the shelf. In the end, he got his information, although it was not particularly comprehensive or up-to-date.

When I want information about something, I go to the Internet, and then to a book or other specialized source if I need to learn more. But not everyone has that luxury. Even in an information age in which the Internet tends to be the go-to source, some people do not have the access or know-how to tap into the World Wide Web. So, while I was glad that the boy found a few books, I almost felt as though he was missing out. I don’t think that either the hamster or dog species has changed a whole lot since the publication of those books, but I didn’t like the feeling of providing him with subpar sources. Some information is always better than none, and I hope those books help that boy make a more informed decision than he would have without them. (If he returns to the library on horseback, we may need to do some serious collection assessment.)

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Ten Book Related Articles for (Another) Snow Day!

bennett picture

So it’s snowing again here in Boston. It’s probably a good thing, I’m being forced to stay in my room and conquer my conference paper.  But for those of you who aren’t contemplating the use of archives in art museums…here are some interesting articles I’ve come across lately relating to books and/or the library field.

1. Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Books and Authors You Had to Read in High School by Kevin Smokler, Book Riot

Example: Albert Camus was a very happy person. Well, he fooled me.

2. Radio Show: Books  by The Bottom Line

This is a BBC radio show about business. This particular episode from last week focused on the book industry. It includes, as guests, the CEO of Curtis Jones, the CEO of Harper Collins and the Chief Content Officer of Kobo. One of the most interesting things that came out  of this show was the discussion by Harper Collins CEO Victoria Barnsley that perhaps book stores should start charging for browsing!

3. Can Libraries Survive in an Era of Budget Cutbacks? by Miranda Green, The Daily Beast

Kind of a good news, bad news article. Libraries are more in demand than ever, but are have less funds. How can they balance?

4. Infographic: The Top 50 Things Kids Will Miss If They Don’t Have A School Librarian In Their School by Library Media Connection

More than some people realize…

5. How Libraries Thrive as Technology Advances by Jeanniey Mullen, The Huffington Post

I believe the more we get the word out, the better libraries will do, so I’m always stoked to see articles in major news outlets.

6. 5 Reading Gadgets You Need Right Now By Wallace Yovetich, Book Riot

I really wouldn’t mind having a pair of prism glasses…though they might be uncomfortable on top of my regular glasses…

7. Librarians Rally Behind Blogger Sued by Publisher Over Critical Comments by Jake New, The Chronicle of Higher Education

If you haven’t heard about this one yet…well it really gets my goat.  Librarians unite!

8. Novel ideas: The women behind the famous men by Deirdre Donahue, USA Today

I am fascinated by the relationship between F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda, who is included in this list along with books about Lindbergh’s  wife, Anne Morrow Lindbergh (think of how she must have endured the kidnapping of her son) and Ruth Mallory, the wife of the British explorer and Everest climber George Mallory.

9. Instagram: Smithsonian Libraries

Pretty books galore!

10. 9 Very Specific Rules From Real Libraries by John Brandon, Mental Floss

Oh the joys of working with the public!

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One more step toward adulthood (AKA inflaming PPS)


I don't know why I was holding back. Maybe I thought that without an official MLS I wouldn't be allowed in. Perhaps I was I was afraid that pledging my time, money and inbox space to this organization cemented my career choice more than paying $6,500 a semester ever did. Whatever the reason I have been avoiding the ever watchful, and professional eye of the ALA, a lidless eye, wreathed in flame. Wait, no, that's the eye of Sauron. I don't equate the ALA with Mordor. Really, I just fear that being a member of a professional organization is the final step toward adulthood. To a certain extent, I am right. My inbox is overflowing with invites to email lists, print and e-publications, and various webinars about the latest happenings and developments in the field of library science. SCARY, right?! Ok, I'm overreacting. I've always had PPS, Peter Pan syndrome, and growing up on any level really inflames my condition. The boy in tights inside of me wants to cut and fly away.

Then I decided to explore another Neverland, the ALA website. I'm not going to lie to you, this is a place where dreams are born and time is very planned. In learning about the ALA Conference this summer, my heart was all a flutter. These are the people you hear about on NPR but never see in real life! Ping Fu, Khaled Husseini, Jerry Pinkney and...wait for it....BRIAN SELZNICK are all going to be speaking about BOOKS! Who's excited?! Have I done a complete 180? Perhaps I have. Perhaps I can be wooed by the discounted student rates for membership and ticket price to the various conferences offered. Also, a little fairy told me that these membership dues can be refunded by Simmons. For more information and to hear more fun facts from this fairy in disguise read this blog every Wednesday. I promise you wisdom and hilarity.

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So Many Books, So Little Time

I have always prided myself on being well-read. I imagine most people considering a career in the library profession feel similarly. Starting the GSLIS program at Simmons has led me to question whether I really am the great reader I have always claimed to be. Sometimes it feels like all of my classmates are better readers than me.

One of my favorite classes this semester is Young Adult (YA) Literature with Professor Melanie Kimball. I love learning about working with young adults but this course is certainly putting my reading skills to the test. Along with professional development readings targeted towards young adult librarians, we are also required to read two or three YA books per week! So far I have enjoyed the challenge of keeping up with all of the readings but my speed and efficiency are being put to the test.

Although I have moments of insecurity because I do not feel as well-read as some of my classmates, one assignment allowed me to gain some perspective by making me spend time reflecting on everything I have already read. The assignment is called the reading autobiography and we were asked to discuss the role reading has played on our lives. To write this paper, I spent a great deal of time thinking about trends and patterns in my reading habits. Writing this paper allowed me to consider the importance I place on literature and realize what a constant presence the written word has been in my life. I may not have read every book on the list for my YA class but I have tackled my fair share of YA titles. I can’t be the only student in my class to occasionally feel daunted by how many books I have yet to read.

Just this week in class, I wrote down over sixteen titles I had never read. Of those sixteen I added seven to my list of must-reads. So while I arrived at class having crossed two more titles off my list, I left with a longer list than ever! Reading so many YA books over the course of just a few weeks has made me seriously consider the possibility of working with young adults as a career move. Although my list of books seems to increase exponentially I like the challenge of discovering as many new reads as possible across a multitude of genres.

Classes | Reader's Advisory | Students | 1 comment

The Role of Libraries in Emergencies



In my town in NH, we had only 30 inches of snow last weekend.  We were very fortunate and didn’t even lose power.  We were all surprised by this since we lose power so often, but we are a very self-sufficient community and generally well-prepared for emergencies.  Everyone I know in town has a generator including a lot of our patrons.  We remained open most of the day on Friday, and we did a very brisk business of DVDs as well as books for the storm in progress, and when we asked patrons what they would do with five movies if the lights went out, “Start up the generator!” was the typical answer.

We know that many towns did not fare so well in this storm, and so I started to think about the role of libraries when emergencies happen.  We play a much bigger role beyond providing recreational materials for the snowed-in crowd.

  1. Information!  That is what we do, after all, and many patrons who came in or called during the storm wanted to know what we knew about the impending trouble.  What had the Emergency Management Team of the town told us regarding what to expect?  In previous storm situations, we have also used our website as a place to post information for storm preparedness.
  2. Heat, Internet, Water… While most people in my town have generators, there are a few who don’t, but most of us lose internet when the power goes out.  If people in town are without power and the library has those resources up and running, we have a full house.  This is an even more vital service in communities where families don’t have back-up sources of power.
  3. Shelter?  Due to our small size, we don’t generally offer shelter.  That is handled by our elementary school which has much bigger facilities, but the Brownsville Public Library in Texas is hoping to use a FEMA grant to build an emergency shelter that can also double as a permanent planetarium and science center!  Read about their plan! http://www.brownsvilleherald.com/news/local/article_547a820c-56ea-11e2-ac88-0019bb30f31a.html  It sounds brilliant!
  4. The aftermath… After big emergencies like hurricanes, libraries are the go-to place for internet access and help with what steps are next for hard hit communities.  Just as we help patrons access tax forms or other electronic government documents, librarians have an important role in helping people file FEMA and insurance claims, request aid, and even help find missing loved ones. Many communities use their libraries as command central for the American Red Cross or local emergency management in times of need.

So, next time I am wondering if and when we should close the library during a storm, I am also going to be thinking about what we could do if we stayed open.

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The Technological Advance: Moving Forward with Online Programs

Anyone who has stepped into a library, museum, or archives in the last ten years has seen the field’s foray into technology.  But what happens when not only the institutions in the library and information sciences field – but the education that provides the people to eventually staff those institutions – also takes the plunge into embracing technology?

Completely online programs for awarding certificates – or even entire degrees – have rocketed to popularity, even with Simmons.  Within the past year or so, the GSLIS program alone has installed two certificate programs – one for Digital Stewardship and one for Instructional Technology – and one master’s degree in Archives Management.  Through these programs, Simmons has created an entirely online community where students interact with other students and teachers, attend office hours, submit assignments, give presentations, and have discussions.

There is even a completely online orientation, which, in the case of the Archives Management Degree, included a coffee hour where Simmons sent Starbucks gift cards internationally and set up a Skype meeting space.   Then, a professor and a facilitator answered any and all questions the new students had about the potential program.

With all of these advances, the space between the online programs and the face-to-face programs is diminishing – but is this for the better?  It appears that the online students approve, so far; however, only time will tell.

Technology has given so many new dilemmas and problems into the field of library science, but it has opened the doors into a new way to exchange information through the online platform.  This new step that Simmons has taken has placed it on the forefront of a change in how learning occurs, and has experienced great success thus far.

For more information, take a look at the links for the online programs!

Master’s Degree: Online Archives Management Concentration:


Post-Master’s Certificate: Digital Stewardship:


Post-Master’s Certificate: Instructional Technology Licensure:



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Weather You Like It Or Not

Unless you spent the past 72 hours under a colossal snowdrift (which is quite possible), you probably noticed that snow bombarded Boston on Friday and Saturday. The weather gods vacillate between being a faithful friend and formidable foe to New Englanders, invoking elements ranging from oppressive humidity to debilitating blizzards, a nice summer breeze to bone-chilling winter winds, and beautiful spring days to crisp fall nights. I’d say that when it comes to the weather, New Englanders generally adopt one of two mindsets:

1) Bring it on!

2) Make it stop!

Either way, when you sign up for GSLIS, you also sign up for the weather. The conditions are nothing new for some people, while for others they are a total shock to the system. I’ve spent my whole life in New England, yet the weather here never ceases to surprise (and sometimes even amaze) me. I dislike excessively sweating on a summer stroll to the T just as much as bundling up and trudging to the T in the winter, but I tend to forget about those things on an unusually mild winter day or refreshingly cool summer night. The climate variability is character building and oddly alluring – if it weren’t, there wouldn’t be nearly as many proud (sometimes to a fault) New Englanders. Needless to say, the weather should not be the deciding factor in choosing Simmons; however, it will certainly be part of your Simmons experience, weather you like it or not.

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Archives and Popular Media

GandalfMy friend was watching an episode of White Collar the other night. I don’t follow the show so I was only half listening until I heard, “We are going to have to go check out the archives.”

A meme/blog post has been going around recently about movies with library scenes in them and it set me to thinking about how archives are portrayed in popular media. For a lot of people, that’s how they see us, that’s their only interaction with an archives.

If that is the case, we don’t look too good. This particular scene in White Collar had the archivist come out, show them into a room full of card catalogs drawers and filing cabinets, and leave them there. When one of the characters asked, “Wait, which cabinet is 1940?” the archivist called over her shoulder as she walked out, “All of them.”

Now of course this is not true to life (hopefully!) especially since scenes in the archives are usually framed as a race against time, a scene that creates dramatic tension as the characters try to find that one document (which generally has a code or treasure map on it) that will help them in their quest.

Even so I couldn’t help but get annoyed that the fictional archivist not only did not give the pair a finding aid or some sort of index but she was openly rude to the couple. She didn’t need to be, she had no spot in the good vs. evil battle which the plot rested on.  And so the characters sat there, throwing pieces of paper around getting them all out of order etc. until one finally found the right piece of paper, yelled “aha!” and they ran away leaving the mess behind them (No wonder the archivist is so rude).

Now I have to say my favorite archives scene in film is Gandalf researching the One Ring in Fellowship of the Ring.  Mostly because it makes me happy that even the great Wizards who have lived so long must resort to archival research! But if you watch it again….he is eating and drinking in the archives! What?!?

Oh well, its Gandalf…I’ll forgive him…

Archives | People | leave a comment

The Phantom Tollbooth: Fifty-ish Years of Things that Could Be, Rather Than Things that Are

For Christmas this year, my parents gave me the esteemed gift of the 50th Anniversary Edition of my absolute favorite book in the world, The Phantom Tollbooth.  Norton Juster’s personification of a bored boy who travels into a world where words become literal (the “doldrums” are a place you can visit, where nothing gets done and everyone sleeps a lot) and the weird runs rampant is the key to unlocking the imagination of even the most stodgy and uptight reader – or even student, in the midst of papers and projects.

Even though the actual fiftieth anniversary of The Phantom Tollbooth was in 2011, now is as good a time as any to reminisce about the importance of thinking like a child – which is exactly what this book puts me in the mind frame of.  Especially the moral at the end of the story (*spoiler alert*) which is if you believe you can, the impossible is achievable.

This concept of the impossible is one that rattles around in the brains of students quite often, with the concept of sacrifice right behind it (to the tune of forgetting how to sleep at night).  However, in the mindset of The Phantom Tollbooth, I find myself wondering how I might approach the impossible if I had no concept of the impossible – would it still, then, be impossible?  Or is it demoted to the very difficult?  Or, is that my understanding of the overwhelming simply because my archivist’s brain had to arrange and describe these feelings, and impossible seemed the best label?

Stepping back has become a theme for me so far in 2013.  Perspective, among all things, should always be an important part of any circadian cycle.  If you ever find yourself needing some perspective, I suggest picking up this children’s book.  Norton Juster has never led me wrong yet.

PS – For more information, check out this (somewhat dated) article from the New Yorker! http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/10/17/111017fa_fact_gopnik?currentPage=all

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Cream or Cookie?

In case you missed it, here is the Library World’s brief moment in the limelight at the Super Bowl!


What I really want to know is who whispers in the library?! Is this still our image? I work in a public library and we are a noisy, fun place, although we try to offer quiet spaces for those patrons who desire quiet work areas.

And the librarian…What’s with the finger shaking? And the cardigan? At least she didn’t have her hair in a bun…

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Lobbying for Library Cards

On Saturday I spent three hours lobbying for library cards. During the month of February, the Somerville Public Library is competing against the Arlington, Belmont, and Lexington Public Libraries to see which can sign up the most new library cardholders. I donned my “Libraries: Shhhh Happens.” t-shirt (which received many comments and compliments) and stood at the entrance of the Somerville Winter Farmers’ Market trying to attract potential cardholders.

I was surprised by how many people already had a library card, delightfully surprised by how many people are avid library supporters, and happily surprised by how many people said “I’ve been meaning to get one of those!” It was great to see such positive levels of interest and support from a random sample of locals.

It felt equal parts strange and refreshing to be representing the library outside of a library setting. Branding, marketing, and publicizing are all aspects of public libraries that can never be overdone and can always use improvement, and talking to unsuspecting farmers' market dwellers was a great environment for putting the library on people’s radar. We may be back there in a few weeks, hopefully with similar results. I feel that Saturday was a great success, regardless of how many people actually follow through and get their new card. Who would have thought that a few hours at a farmers' market would reaffirm my love for libraries?

Libraries | People | 1 comment

A Blend of History and Archives

As a dual degree student in Archives and History, I have one foot in the LIS (Library and Information Science) world and one in the CAS (College of Arts and Sciences) at Simmons. At times it can be a little frustrating since I’m dealing with two different departments but a lot of the time there is more overlap then I would have imagined.

Currently, I am taking a Public History course. I have never taken one before and I love it. I almost wonder why I never thought of Public History as a career choice before. I have a Bachelor’s in both English and History and saw Archives as the wonderful combination of the two, but as I continue through this dual degree program, Public History seems the perfect combination of Library Science and History to me.

We are currently reading Museums, Monuments and National Parks by Denise D. Meringolo about the evolution of Public History in America. One of the key points of the book, pointed out from the very beginning in the prologue, is that the Park Service of the 1930s was looking for “a new kind of technician.” It was hard to find the perfect person to work in the Park Service said Verne Chatelain, the head historian, because “some were good in the books, but they couldn’t deal with the public.” They were lacking those public interaction skills that one acquires working in a library or archives!

In a way, an archivist is a type of public historian, guiding patrons in their historical education by helping them find the resources they need.

Another thing that is great about the dual degree and this class in particular, is that it allows me to be on the receiving end of the archives. On Wednesday, I am going into the state archives to do research regarding legal trials in colonial Plymouth for a class project. Each student in the class has to complete a public history project that actually has a public history component i.e. it can’t be theoretical. I am working with the 1748 Courthouse and Museum in Plymouth and when I’m finished with the research I actually have to give a public lecture there on my findings. Terrifying and exciting!

Which reminds me, I have to go write a conference paper for the 2nd Annual Simmons Graduate Symposium…Life is busy, busy but oh so fun!

Archives | Boston | Classes | Dual Degree Programs | leave a comment

Library Lovers Month


That's right folks! It is indeed that time of year. Love is in the air! Love for LIBRARIES, that is. I genuinely resent the Hallmark holiday that gets us all hot and bothered. In college I remember taking my friends out for margaritas, mocking the holiday and celebrating my love for them. While margaritas are always an excellent idea and cherishing friends is always at the top of my list I think Library Lovers Month offers a new way to channel my love.

First, take a second to think about the following questions. Why do you love libraries? What have libraries done for you lately? Have libraries changed your life?

Those reading this blog, besides my mother, are most likely interested in the field of library science. And why not? Library science is where it's at people! So I think it's time we remembered to honor those hallowed halls of learning and discovery that brought us to this field of study. Your library deserves a hug of some kind. Here are some ways in which to hug your library so that you don't end up on the street hugging bricks:

- Write your local librarian a thank you note/love note/picture of rainbows and unicorns.

- Return those overdue DVDs and books piling up next to your bed.

- Bring in a plate of butyraceous treats for your local library staff.

- Make a donation to your local library.

- Walk in to your library and boldly state what should be said, "I LOVE YOU LIBRARY OF MINE!"

Whatever you decide, make sure to mention to others that it's Library Lovers Month this February and spread the love. Spread the joy! Spread butter on a delicious scone and offer it to a librarian at Beatley today!

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Happy Birthday, Pride and Prejudice!

This Monday marked the 200th anniversary of the first publication of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  In honor of this milestone, NPR featured a number of stories analyzing the history and popularity of this epic novel over the past two centuries.  My favorite related story was a cartoon depiction of Pride and Prejudice by Jen Sorensen (check it out: http://www.npr.org/2013/01/27/170253360/pride-and-prejudice-turns-200).

While NPR celebrated the continued relevance of this Jane Austen classic in its Arts and Life programs, All Things Considered ran  this story: “New Reading Standards Aim To Prep Kids For College - But At What Cost?” (listen here: http://www.npr.org/2013/01/19/169798643/new-reading-standards-aim-to-prep-kids-for-college-but-at-what-cost?sc=tw&cc=share). The program discussed new attempts to raise reading scores for high school students by exchanging English class curriculum based primarily on literature to a greater focus on nonfiction.

The timing of these two stories seems too ironic to ignore. How can we be celebrating the importance of a piece of classic literature, one that has been enjoyed for two centuries, at the same time as our education system decides to move away from a curriculum based on literature? It is my personal opinion that being exposed to works of fiction from the literary canon is just as important as reading historic documents.  That being said, it appears as if our education system is at a crossroads about how to best prepare the next generation.  If the English curriculum is moving towards a primary focus on nonfiction, where does that leave Jane Austen?

Perhaps more importantly, for the sake of our perspective as future librarians, how does that change the role of the public or school library?  Pride and Prejudice is one of my all-time favorite books, and it is important to me that the next generation of readers is encouraged to read challenging novels like this one even if there is no time for it in the school curriculum.  The place of the library within the community is evolving in so many ways and these two articles remind us how changing trends in education are another influencing factor regarding the role of a librarian.

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