June 2013 Archives

GSLIS Goes to Rome!

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Ciao! I've been absent from blogging for the last few weeks because I have been on a whirlwind tour of Europe. My travels took me to Rome and the surrounding countryside; including day trips to Florence, the Mediterranean Sea, and a day of wine tasting in Orvieto. After the course ended, I extended my visit further east to Slovakia, Austria, and Hungary. I've returned to the states inspired, overwhelmed, and reassured once again about how much I love GSLIS.

This was the first time Simmons has taken GSLIS students to Rome and while the trip was not without its glitches, overall the experience was wonderful. We stayed in a beautiful neighborhood full of cafes, wine bars, and restaurants and had easy access to all of Rome's historic sites. Highlights of the trip included our day trips outside of the city, a fabulous tour of the colosseum, and eating my way through the city of Rome.

Lest I forget, I should also mention that we were in Rome to take a class. My Intellectual Freedom and Censorship course with Professor Laura Saunders was another highlight of my experience. The course was almost entirely discussion based and my classmates engaged in heated debates on many ethical issues. This was truly a course that got us thinking and I would find myself continuing class discussions long after we left the classroom. Being abroad with fellow nerdy library students was really wonderful and I enjoyed interacting with students and professors both in class and in less formal settings.

I've got a few more days at home to catch up and write my final paper before heading off to Chicago to explore a new city and attend the American Library Association's Annual Conference. I'll be sure to report back with fun details in a couple of weeks. Until then, I hope everyone's summer is off to a great start!

Classes | Students | leave a comment


Drawn to Being Withdrawn

I have recently done an unusual amount of reading about solitude while also living a more solitary life than usual - I do not have classes, work less than thirty hours per week, and my significant other is interning in Washington, DC this summer. I am an introvert by nature, so this temporary low-key lifestyle is right up my alley. Any doubts about my chronic introversion were nullified by Susan Cain's Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. I also read The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Peale (as a counterbalance to The Positive Power of Negative Thinking by Julie Norem, which confirmed that I am quite the defensive pessimist, but that is a whole different story) and this speech by William Deresciwicz, both of which touch upon the importance of solitude and reflection in developing one's thoughts and cultivating one's best self. Over the past two weeks I have spent a bulk of my free time reading and writing instead of watching TV and socializing, and it has been rather refreshing. At this rate, I may very well morph into an even more quiet, contemplative, and introspective version of myself by the end of the summer. Sounds like a librarian in training, right?

No, no, NO! I have mentioned in the past how I despise the librarian stereotype, and as I read those books and reflected on my own tendencies, I realized that I do kind of come across as a "typical" librarian. Realistically, though, I am just a typical introvert who happens to be in library school. To my knowledge, there is no correlation or causation (also just finished Freakonomics) between the two, but a Google search for "library introvert" yields many more relevant results than one for "library extrovert." One of the "library introvert" search results is a definition of "introvert" from UrbanDictionary.com (which I have used in the past, but oddly don't recall learning about in my reference class), part of which reads: "Often found in their homes, libraries, quiet parks that not many people know about, or other secluded places, introverts like to think and be alone." That is not a particularly strong endorsement of introverted folks, and also takes a not so subtle shot at libraries (and librarians by association). For me, it's a good old-fashioned double whammy.

Despite my discontent with these negative associations, I'm not sure there's a whole lot I can do about them. I have absolutely no plans to abruptly become a raging extrovert and single-handedly thwart these blasted stereotypes. Akin to how I concluded my initial stereotype-bashing post: If I can be a good librarian, it doesn't matter whether or not I act like a librarian. My plan is to passively shatter the librarian stereotype by just being myself.

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Busy, busy, busy!

You'd think summer would be less stressful....but no. I'm running around like a chicken with its head cut off. New job, new internship, new apartment, new bank account, even a new boyfriend. Breathe in, breathe out.

But my internship is so much fun! I'm in the midst of planning two exhibits, both based on the same collection. Today, I worked on the second one which is going to trace how a children's book is published since we have all the steps represented in the collection. Notes, contracts, illustrations, mock-ups, royalty checks! So cool! But I also got to see some other sides of the archives today. Wednesday is our "late" day. The archive is open from 5-9 instead of the regular earlier time frame so that people who work full-time can have a chance to stop by. That makes it a little more busy than usual. Today we had three patrons in the room at the same time!

That might not sound too amazing, but the manuscript portion of the collection is very small since it is still in its early stages. But all of the sudden someone came in to do research while a potential donor interview was going on and another past donor was self-processing her collection. The potential donor was very interesting...a jack of all trades who had brought his illustrated poetry. In the meantime, the researcher wanted to scan a map from the collection that only could fit into the scanner by fourths. For a few minutes there it was almost like being busy!

Not that the archive is dead, not by any means. My supervisor, being what we call a "lone arranger" has to do all the work herself so there even when there is not a single patron or donor in sight there is always something to do: scanning, processing, cataloguing, budgeting, exhibits, email reference, filling in on the library reference desk, meetings...

Speaking of meetings, today I sat in on a product demo. I don't really know what you would call the product. It was kind of like Tumblr for archives/libraries. It wasn't a digital repository, they don't host the items but they allow you to curate digital items into "modules" that are beautifully displayed in a Pinterest type format of thumbnails that endlessly scroll.

For example:  One preview module they had was on Lincoln. When you clicked on it, the curated digital objects were further broken down by categories such as "Biographies," "Assassination," "Civil War," etc. Within these categories where scanned books, photos, videos, and all types of media. The company's vision is to sell this product to museums/archives/libraries as a means to share their items virtually. It is a beautiful format, much nicer than most digital repository interfaces. If you want to see more about it, it's called Biblioboard.

Oh so much to do and so much to learn! I love being a student!

Internships | Students | leave a comment


Alternate Reality and Library School

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When I started my summer classes, I walked into an alternate reality - literally. I have never been a gamer, but this summer, I am joining my colleagues in LIS 404 Management, LIS 407 Reference, and LIS 450 Management in Public Libraries in an online alternate reality game to Save Kingston, a fictitious town in central Massachusetts that suffers from time and space issues;  It appears and disappears due to the instability of its Library & Information Science (LIS) industry.  A team of talented Simmons GSLIS consultants have been tasked with saving Kingston, by providing their services to the many LIS organizations in this town - Kingston has public libraries, a school library, high school library, corporate library, hospital library, law library, an archive, an art museum, and of course (my personal favorite), a correctional facility library.

This is, by far, the most creatively designed and empowering class I have encountered anywhere.   Our leader in this endeavor is our very own Dr. Mary Wilkins Jordan, who explained her motivation to create this alternate world for her online students this summer:

"I had wanted to do something to help build community in the summer online classes; then I read "Reality is Broken" by Jane McGonigal and thought an ARG would be something fun for us! The main goals are to, of course, learn all the material students would learn in a traditional class. But this format gives participants the opportunity to work on their communication skills in a variety of settings, to practice leadership and planning skills, and to collaborate with a variety of different people for the semester. And it lets everyone have a chance to work creatively - something very important in the LIS field, where things change fast, training may not be abundant (or exist), and professionals need to be able to react quickly to all sorts of situations! And, I love summer school, so wanted to have some fun in class!!"

We have all joined library organizations that interest us and line up with our professional goals, as we tackle the course material relevant to our classes.  I am in the Management group so my tasks relate to theory and ethics, personnel issues, planning and disaster planning, budgeting, fundraising, grant writing, assessment and evaluation, advocacy and marketing, teamwork and conflict resolution, and leadership.  The Reference group and the Public Libraries group have their own tasks related to their course material. Since all of us have relevant tasks for our organizations, we are able to collaborate across organizations and across classes to (hopefully) Save Kingston!  Our class material includes the usual:  readings, lectures, videos, slides, forums, our professor and our peers, but also a unique learning opportunity to have instructor privileges on our Kingston page on Moodle (our online course management system here at GSLIS).  When we graduate, we may all participate in some level of instructional design and having this opportunity to develop useful skills in using this powerful tool is an amazing addition to our librarian toolboxes.

I hope to update you in the future that we succeeded in saving Kingston, but why wait to hear from me? You can follow us on Twitter @SavingKingston

Classes | GSLIS | leave a comment


Privy to Privacy

I haven't heard much, if any, nitty-gritty library lingo since classes ended in April. In my GSLIS experience, it seems that most of the jargon-y, theoretical stuff happens in the classroom while the more practical, practice-oriented application occurs in outside jobs, internships, or volunteer activities. Anyway, a big news story caught my attention last week not only because of its national ramifications, but also its parallels to things I have learned at GSLIS - right down to the jargon.

Throughout the day last Thursday I followed an article on the New York Times website called "U.S is Secretly Collecting Records of Verizon Calls." I will spare you the details of the article (its title alone provides a succinct synopsis), but the main thing that stood out to me about this news story was the amount of library lingo being thrown around.

A senior Obama administration official was quoted as saying that the government was only collecting the metadata about, not the content of, the phone calls. It is one thing to... Wait, hold on a second. Did someone just use the word "metadata" outside of a library setting? "Metadata" has to be one of the most jargon-y of all library words, and there it is on the front of the New York Times website. GSLIS offers an entire course about metadata, and I'm pretty sure that any GSLIS student can corroborate the importance, implications, and utility of metadata. How dare you try to belittle metadata, senior administration official!

Boston.com's coverage of this news story mentioned Jim Harper, a communications and privacy expert at the Cato Institute who questioned the practice of subjecting the call metadata to pattern analyses that might help intercept terrorism. Sounds like data mining to me! Data mining is hardly exclusive to libraries, but is something that has been discussed in my technology, reference, and knowledge management classes at GSLIS. Library databases contain people's personal information and check out (as opposed to buying) habits, both of which could be of great value to a number of for-profit companies. Thankfully, libraries are required to keep that information under wraps, except for the potential enactment of a little thing called...

The Patriot Act, which is why the government could legally obtain those phone records. In order to detect and prevent terrorism, federal agents can "ask a court for an order to obtain business records in national security terrorism cases." The issue (for some people, anyway) with "Verizongate" is that there doesn't seem to be much in terms of probable cause for stalking businesses' phone records. The Patriot Act has come up in GSLIS classes because for national security purposes, the US government can demand that a library turn over its records. This may horrify some people who don't want Obama knowing that they read 50 Shades of Grey, but for many it infringes on their fundamental right to present a library card and anonymously check out what they want.

Libraries face privacy questions every day. The questions may be on a smaller scale than this phone records scandal, but the issues are still significant, especially in this digital age. Regarding the importance of privacy in an increasingly digital world, Al Gore tweeted "Is it just me, or is secret blanket surveillance obscenely outrageous?" To justify the validity of the court orders sanctioned by the Patriot Act, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham said "If we don't do it, we're crazy." I don't know what gives, but I do know this: libraries are a safe haven for many different people for many different reasons, and the Patriot Act shouldn't change that.

Libraries | People | leave a comment


Just a Liberian

I talk about the school library I work for far too much. I think this is mostly because I love my job and its challenges. My students' unreturned laptops haunt my dreams and their evaluations of my teaching darken my doorstep, though I have no doorstep to speak of in a 4th floor apartment. When asked what they would most like to change about their information literacy class, my 9th graders deemed the professor, me, to be the element that needed changing the most. "You need to just chill. You have to remember you're not a real teacher, you're just a liberian." For further clarification, I am not a citizen of Liberia. Nope, that was just a real punk of a student trying to set my teeth on edge. Just a librarian?! Not even a librarian, a LIBERIAN!

It is at this moment that I am choosing to see the up-side of the upcoming summer vacation. My students' resentment of bibliographic instruction and citation styles is reaching maximum capacity. I am losing my patience. Teachers get a lot of flak from the rest of the working population for having many vacations, but the more I see the daily war waged between teachers and students in my school I'm not sure if the person who designed the school calendar wasn't some sort of ambassador for peace. Education should not be warfare. I'm seeing the best of teachers, colleagues who I consider mentors, lose it in the past few weeks. We're all so disappointed. Students are disappointed they can't watch movies in every class or have class outside. Teachers are disappointed their students still have no idea what a print source is. That's right. "Ms. Davidov, what's a print source? Is it an e-book? These are really ridiculous questions you can't possibly expect us to know the answers to." I try to think back to September, and I remember an optimistic, bright-eyed library student honored by the idea of teaching a group of young women how to navigate the increasingly complex world of information. Where is that person? I need to get her back!

Summer vacation is not an armistice; it is the beginning of finding our passions once again. I will be taking time this summer to further my studies in information literacy. I will remember why I love teaching people how to be better researchers. I will hone my teaching techniques to become a better teacher. If my students are right, it's time they got what they asked for, a new teacher. Liberian, I will never be. But teacher AND librarian, I can definitely become.

Jobs | School Libraries | leave a comment


Designing the Ultimate Exhibit

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It's the age old question....how do you design an exhibit on a budget that appeals to both adults and children while educating them about a subject?

Well I'm having my first go at answering it. At my current internship at the Cambridge History Room in the Cambridge Public Library, I am taking the materials and knowledge I have gathered from my processing of the John Langstaff collection and trying to turn it into something that will interest and engage the public. The biggest issue is that most of Langstaff's collection is paperwork (largely unreadable paperwork I might add) and his greatest contribution to the area is in theater and music, both things that are difficult to showcase in the middle of a library on a budget.

But considering that I did a conference presentation on integrating archives in museums via technology, I am not ready to give up yet. I have been able to create QR codes to link to some wonderful video clips of Langstaff and his performances. However, not everyone has a smart phone and unless you have headphones....some patrons might become annoyed that I have linked to music...

There were some small portions of the longer videos I thought were exemplary instances of Langstaff's enthusiastic performances, but realized that the patrons would probably not want to watch the entire nine minute clip for 2 seconds. I decided to try making gifs of these few seconds since it was the movements rather than the audio that was important. I had never made gifs before and I think I was successful for my first attempt but now I wonder if it is worth linking to a 2 second clip.

I'm also trying to see how I can engage children. Langstaff wrote a wonderful selection of children's books and one in particular has lovely woodcuts that would make for good coloring pages but I am not sure the copyright ethics of copying those pages to provide for the children. And...would it just be a waste of paper?

In my utopian vision I would want to do a whole Christmas in July event since most of Langstaff's materials are associated with Christmas and the Winter Solstice but that does not fit into the time or money constraints of this internship. So, I must work with what I've got, but it is quite a lot of material. I hope I can find a creative way to use it. Perhaps I will follow Langstaff's instructions from the collection and make my own shin pads of bells to wear as a Morris dancer. 

Archives | Internships | leave a comment


The Friends of the Library Book Sale

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The majority of my weekend was occupied by the Friends of the Library Book Sale at the library where I work. Most people don't give much thought to library sponsored book sales, other than, "Do I have books to donate?" and "Oh, such great deals to fill (and overfill) my book shelves!"  Like many other public library Friends' groups, our library's Friends raise money for all kinds of programming expenses and museum passes, and we rely heavily on their continued support and generosity, especially in these lean fiscal times.  The most vital piece of the Book Sale that I had, until recently, overlooked was how much this was a community event and what community really means for public libraries.

Here are all the pieces of COMMUNITY that came together to make our Book Sale a great success:

  • Donors - So many members of our community cleaned out their homes and donated great books and movies.
  • Town support - The Firefighters and the Community Church shared their tables with us so we had a great organized space in our beautiful library community room.
  • Boy Scouts - We could not have done it without you!  The town's boy scouts came over the night before to move all the heavy boxes of books into the sale location, and again after the sale to help clean up.
  • Volunteers - Many members of the community showed up to set up tables and organize materials for the sale.  Others helped to man the check-out table and keep things running smoothly the day of the sale.
  • Giving back - My library director has a strong sense of community and made gifts of many items to smaller libraries, and the prison and halfway house where I volunteer.
  • Patrons - I saw regular library patrons and many new faces, of all ages.  A most memorable shopper was about eight years old with a pink purse and a determination to acquire as many Junie B. Jones books as we could find.
  • The Garden Club Plant Swap happened right outside on our lawn at the same time!
  • The Transfer Station - Even my dump run to the "Used Room" with the unsold encyclopedia sets had a sweet sense of community as the transfer station employees helped to unload my car, in the hope that someone will give those encyclopedias a home.

It was a weekend that celebrated the best of a small town community library!

Events | Libraries | leave a comment