December 2013 Archives

Year in Review

Wow, what a whirlwind 2013 has been! It feels like yesterday I was starting my first class at GSLIS and now I am 2/3 of the way done with my degree. Instead of a usual post, this week I decided to follow the trend of year end blog posts and write a list of everything I've accomplished in 2013.

This year I:

  • Moved back to Boston and started the Simmons GSLIS program
  • Started writing for the Student Snippets blog
  • Experienced the horrible events of the Marathon Bombing with friends, classmates, and fellow Bostonians
  • Travelled to Rome with GSLIS and then visited Slovakia, Austria, and Hungary with an old friend
  • Visited Chicago for the first time and attended the American Library Association's Annual Conference
  • Spent a week in Northern Michigan with one of my best friends and her family
  • Started working as a Reference Assistant at the Norman Williams Public Library
  • Watched the Red Sox win the World Series!!!
  • Commuted between Boston and Vermont for four months without going (too) crazy
  • Started another job working for a local tech startup called Green Mountain Digital
  • Completed 8 out of 12 classes towards my degree (while getting a 4.0 this semester!) and I'm on track to be done by August 2014
  • Finally... I've read 97 books and am on track to finish 100 by the end of the year!

Whew! I'm exhausted just writing this out, its been quite a year. So far, GSLIS has been wonderful and so many doors have opened since I started this program. I can't wait to see what 2014 will bring! I couldn't have done any of this without the support of my friends and family who have dealt with my nonstop library talk and constantly evolving plans. I've really enjoyed chronicling my experiences at GSLIS through this blog and will continue to do so in the new year.

Have a happy and healthy holiday! See you in 2014!

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Notes from the Field #2

Two years ago, I was fortunate enough to win a scholarship from the Simmons MSLA-SIG (the student interest group of the Massachusetts School Library Association) to attend the American Association of School Librarians conference in Minneapolis.  About a month ago, I attended the most recent session, held in Hartford, and I'm amazed at what a difference being in the field makes.  

As a pre-professional, you're expected to attend conferences to get a taste of what life will be like when you're in the field, and you can learn lots of things, but it is nothing quite like knowing you can go home and implement all these amazing ideas in your own space.  I'm tremendously grateful for the opportunity, and if anyone is thinking about going to Columbus in two years time, do it! It's incredible. 

As a related note, there was a strong GSLIS presence at the poster sessions and in the concurrent sessions - Dr. Zilonis and instructor Chris Swerling gave presentations on how to write grants, instructor and Ph.D candidate Deborah Lang Froggatt of BAA/FHS, graduates/students of the SLT and ITL programs Margaret Schoen, Erin Broderick, Jennifer Reed, and Jessica Lodge all presented, and even Judi Paradis, the head of the MSLA was present.  It's really wonderful to see these people who you've heard of, worked with, learned from and gone to class with doing so well and taking on leadership roles on the national stage. 

Just before Thanksgiving, I also had the opportunity to share my job search experience with current SLT students, along with Alida Hanson (Weston High) and Emily Houston (Cambridge Rindge and Latin).  We shared stories of our different experiences (I got the first and only job I applied for, Emily had to choose between two wonderful offers, and Alida had begun to lose hope), but what really stood out to me is this: how happy we all are. As Emily so eloquently put it, "I worked my tail off, and now I have my dream job. This is the dream."  It is so rare to find people who genuinely love what they are doing - to have three of us, in three different districts and schools positively brimming with joy, gratitude and disbelief that we get paid to do these incredible jobs of ours is something else.  I still can't quite believe it.  This profession is rewarding, challenging, and transforming, and I am honored to be counted amongst its members.  

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Kicking it Old School

Well, it's official: my first semester in GSLIS is now over! All fanfare aside, I'll admit, it does feel somewhat strange to not have any classes to attend or homework to do. I mean, after about fourteen weeks of classes, readings, and other assignments, one does kind of get used to pulling all-nighters while fighting deadlines posted on Moodle. However, now that I have had a week to relax and simply longue around the city of Boston, I've decided that it is high time that I find something else to do other than re-watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. After some careful thinking, I've decided to go back into my childhood and re-read a series that, like all the other people who were kids during the 1990s, made me constantly stare out my window awaiting the arrival of an owl to change my life forever. That's right, I am going to spend my free time this winter break re-reading the Harry Potter series.

As I write this post now, I'm currently halfway through the second book, The Chamber of Secrets, a book I haven't read since the early 2000s. So, after all of these years, how has the series held up thus far? Surprisingly, really, really well. The characters are more than just archetypes (yes, even Harry himself), they are written in a way that makes them feel like I'm revisiting some long lost friends. Another thing that really showcases the strength of the series is the shockingly large amount of foreshadowing that has so far been prevalent throughout the first two books. While I cannot prove that JK Rowling had a clear idea of where the story was going at the time she as writing it, there have been quite a few allusions to plot points and characters that will be important later in the series. Fortunately I'm not the only one who has noticed the bounty of foreshadowing in the series. Two friends of mine back in Long Island have decided to join me on my trip down memory lane, and have been sending me messages about things they've noticed that will be referenced again in the future. I think personally, my favorite part out of everything that I've noticed thus far, is the fact that JK dedicated a few moments in the first two books in which Harry feels like Professor Snape is trying to read his mind. Hmmm, I wonder if this will be an important plot point in a later book? I love stuff like this, and cannot wait to see if there will be more in the later books. Speaking of which, I really cannot wait to read the last three books. 

While I've read the first four books multiple times, books five, six, and seven, came out at a time when reading it as fast as possible was absolutely necessary for the sake of avoiding spoilers. Yea, I have not-so-fond memories of being at summer camp and annoying people were running around spoiling the endings of books five and six. Thankfully, I don't have to worry about trying to read a three hundred plus page book over the course a typical weekend this time around. Talk about a relief.

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Two Years in the Life

On February 1, 2012, I applied to become a contributor to this GSLIS Admissions Blog by writing a post about my first two weeks at GSLIS and cutely calling it "Two Weeks in the Life." I just realized the post was never published; however, given that backstory I think it's fitting that this, my very last post, is about two years in the life - my whole GSLIS experience. Ok, here goes: In short, my GSLIS experience has been a success. Thank you, and goodbye.

Alright I guess I can do better than that, but feel free to peruse my past posts if you really want all of the gory details. It would be silly for me to try to capture two years of classes, assignments, jobs, internships, volunteering, and life into one post. That post would be obscenely long and essentially defeat the purpose of two years of (mostly) weekly blog posts. You know how people say the journey is more important than the destination? Think of this final post as the destination and all the other ones as the journey. (I try to avoid clichés, but that one seems inevitable.)

Looking back, I probably would have forgotten many of my GSLIS-related experiences, thoughts, and sentiments were it not for my blog posts. Even if no one ever bothered to read a single post, this blog has aptly documented my GSLIS journey (lame, but again inevitable). Some posts were forced, some were better than others, and a few were bizarre, but they all in some way or another reflect my two years as a GSLIS student. In fact, my GSLIS experience could be loosely described as such: sometimes forced (required classes that I did not particularly enjoy, assignments I wasn't really into), some things better than others (good and not-so-good classes, good and not-as-good jobs and internships), and some things that were just bizarre (taking a class that lasted one week instead of an entire semester, realizing that I didn't want to work in a library). After all that and much more, two weeks in the life morphed into two years in the life, and yours truly is ready to move on.

In short, my GSLIS experience has been a success. Thank you, and goodbye.

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Confessions of a Book-Loving Librarian

I have a confession to make, I wanted to become a librarian because I love books. Shocking, I know. If you are new to the profession this may not seem odd, of course librarians love books. However, one of the first things I learned when entering the library world is that books are far from the main focus. In fact, librarians are actively trying to work against the misconception that working in a library means sitting around and reading all day. Alas, part of me wishes that were the case, but in the short time since I began work in a public library I have spent maybe thirty minutes of work time reading.

That said, the larger part of me is glad to have discovered that working in a library involves so much more than helping patrons find books. Although reader's advisory and chatting with patrons about their latest reads are among my favorite parts of working in a small library, I like the tricky reference questions much more. To be successful in this profession, you need an inner drive to keep searching until you find the right/best information, something that can be challenging in the age of Google.

Don't get me wrong, I like Google as much as the next person, okay, probably more than the next person, but I now know that instant search results barely scratch the surface of all the available information. Way back in January, my reference professor told our class "most people can find most of what they need most of the time, our job is to be there for the really tough questions." I love this mentality and really thrive on finding answers that require more thought and investigation than a quick Google search. Along this line, I love being the person that changes someone's stereotype about libraries and librarians. We are about so much more than books.

I used to be hesitant about adopting the latest technology and certainly did not see myself as an ambassador for new resources, but I've changed in the last year. I started at GSLIS just twelve short months ago and I cannot believe how far I have come. I'm now more excited than ever to see where this profession will take me. I'm one assignment away from a well deserved break and then it's back to the grind for one last semester as a full time student!

GSLIS | People | leave a comment


Ladies and Gentlemen, Miss Allison Driscoll

It's that time of year. The end of the semester when I feature one of my favorite classmates from the semester. As usual, I can't resist the intelligent dual degree children's lit and library science people. Allison was in my storytelling class and she blew us all away the first day with her interpretation of Don Coyote and the Burro. Please meet the lovely and talented Allison Driscoll...

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Q: What made you choose the dual degree Children's lit and LIS program?

A: I'd thought for a long time that I'd like to be a librarian, because I could see myself being satisfied doing it for a long time. Still, I held off on applying to any programs because I was hesitant to invest time and money into something if I wasn't 100% positive about it. Then I found out Simmons had a dual-degree program, and I immediately started getting my application together. I've always loved children's lit, and the idea of spending time with others who felt as strongly about it was really the last push I needed. I would say it was one of the best decisions I've made to date!

Q:  What is the biggest challenge when it comes to approaching children's literature and YA literature from two different perspectives?

A: Speaking from a pragmatic standpoint, I've struggled with the divide between children's and YA when doing Readers' Advisory. Discovering a patron's reading level and level of emotional maturity is hard enough, and finding the right book to suit both of those levels gets even trickier when you take into account children's and YA labels. The best advice I've received is to ignore the labels and try to listen above all else to what the patron is telling you he or she wants.

Q: If you could have any job after Simmons what would it be and where would it be?

A: I'm working right now in a youth room at a public library north of Boston and it's the best job I've ever had. After I graduate, I will probably be trying to find a similar position in a new city. To me, the best part of being a librarian is that no two days are the same, and that is especially true when it comes to working with kids. You can never know what to expect when talking to children, and I'm looking forward to a career being surprised by them every day.

Q: What's the best class you've taken at Simmons so far?

A: I could spend hours debating myself over this question! I don't have a real answer, because (with the exception of one or two classes which I will not name) at the end of every semester I've wished that I could take those classes again.

Q: If you had a super power what would it be? Would you use that power for good or evil?

A: Teleportation, definitely. I'd never have to sit in traffic, and I could pop over to other libraries when a patron wanted a book that had been checked out.

GSLIS | People | leave a comment


Going Dual Degree

What many people don't know is that back when I was in the middle of applying to Simmons for graduate school, I was originally planning on submitting an application for Simmons's dual degree in archives and history. As someone deeply interested in working within a museum, I figured that having a degree in both history and archives would open to me to more opportunities in the future. Unfortunately, due to some minor miscommunication between a professor and myself, I ended up submitting my application to GSLIS with a concentration in archives. After talking to both my parents and a representative from GSLIS, I decided that I would try GSLIS for a semester and if I felt that it was necessary, I could always apply to the history degree for the following semester. Well, about two or three weeks after starting at Simmons, I knew that something was missing. While I do enjoy being a member of the archives program, I realized rather quickly that the program wasn't giving me everything that I wanted out of it.

It was because of that realization that I decided to take the plunge. I submitted my application to the dual degree program and held my breath. Actually, just to clarify, I submitted my application to the history department. Since I was already accepted into GSLIS, I didn't need to resubmit my application there. Talk about a relief. I wrote a pretty decent personal statement for GSLIS and I doubted that I could write a better one. Writing a personal statement for the history department was hard enough. How do you convince a department that you want to seek a masters degree for a subject you didn't major, minor, or even concentrate in while an undergraduate student? With that question racing through my mind as I sat down in front of my laptop, I decided to write about my passion for history, how nearly every course I took at Clark University seemed to have a strong history component to it. I wrote about my interest in working in a Holocaust museum, how I want to work in an environment where I can be both an educator of history and protector of documents, photographs, and other items through the use of preservation and conservation.

Well, starting next semester, I'll officially be a member of the dual degree program. While it is true that I have just handed myself another serving of academic responsibility, I have to say that I am super excited. I've met a number of Simmons students who are also part of the dual degree program and they only have good things to say about it. What this means for all of you readers out there is that next semester, I'll be talking about my experiences with library science AND history! Won't that be fun?

Dual Degree Programs | leave a comment


So close, I can taste it...

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This is my last post as a Simmons GSLIS student.  For the last several weeks, I have been saying, "The end is so close, I can taste it," and then I pour a glass of wine and exclaim, "And it tastes like Chardonnay!"  But now that my biggest assignments are submitted, with just some revisions and tasks to finish up in the last week, the taste is becoming bittersweet. It is hard to say good-bye.

I have debated with myself what profound thoughts to leave behind.  Should I write the usual "letter to my younger self" that seems to plague most blogs these days?  Other than a brain crammed with Library and Information Science, what should I share with those just embarking on this adventure?  Here goes.

Prepare to be amazed!  Not by my words but by what you will learn from the faculty and your peers. And more importantly, what you will learn about yourself and what you can do.

I started my GSLIS career in a spring semester with three CORE courses, and only a very part-time job.  I am middle-aged with a family, house, in-laws, mortgage, etc., and I drove 2 ½ hours each way to classes every Saturday.  I thought I would die that first semester.  I thought my brain would explode.  My technology learning curve was huge and I am still in awe that I came up it and exceeded it, and am now the go-to technology person at the public library where I work.  I did not see that coming.

I listened to my older brother and took that first summer off to recharge.  Listening to my older brother was also something I did not see coming...ever in my life!  It was a wise move.  I used the time to explore new interests like prison libraries.

In the fall, I added more work hours, more commuting for classes -- a trek to Boston one day a week and another to South Hadley on the weekends, and instead of harder, life was just a little easier than the first semester.  I fell in love with Reference...which I did see coming.

The spring semester ushered in more work hours, back to a one-day a week class commute, and the additional commitment of volunteering in a prison library.  When I started GSLIS, I did not see myself working in a prison and now I dream about it when I am not there.  This passion, this vocation is something I did not see coming.

Two intense summer courses...and more work hours! My garden was devoured in weeds, but the veggies were still great as they did not seem to mind.  I loved User Instruction and learned so much. I played my first virtual reality game disguised as a Management course, and I fell in love with Management.  I did not see that coming at all.  In fact, when I started GSLIS, I was sure I never wanted to be a director, and now I take management webinars "for fun."  Management training has actually streamlined my life both at work and at home. If only I had done this sooner!

Here I am with my last three classes this semester and my first "professional" job at a university library.  It is time to say a bittersweet good-bye and embark on new adventures.  I don't feel like I know everything, but the most important thing I have learned is that I can learn anything.  When I don't know the answer, I can find it.  All that middle-aged fear of trying new things is only a distant memory. Try everything!  Never pass up an opportunity. These were not the lessons I expected to learn, but they are the ones that changed my life.

You may not know your passion when you start, but you will find it here. 

Classes | GSLIS | leave a comment


The Desired End

The long Thanksgiving weekend was a wonderful reprieve from classes, although Sunday was a quick snap back to reality when I had to finish a ten page research paper, create a PowerPoint overview of said paper, do an audio voiceover of said PowerPoint and post it to the course webpage, and work on a group project for my other class. Ok, so that description makes it sound a lot worse than it was, and it actually took less time than I expected to get everything done. (Then again, I am an eternal pessimist and figured it would take at least eight hours.) But all told, I am now much closer to graduating, both temporally (nine days!) and academically (two assignments), than I was at this time last week. Wahoo!

I think I've mentioned this before, but GSLIS is meant to be a means to an end, and I feel that I have absolutely reached my desired end. Courses like Corporate Libraries and Business Information Sources and Services helped point me toward that end. Courses like Information Organization and Technology for Information Professionals helped point me away from an end that might involve cataloging or systems administration. There were also courses like Knowledge Management, Archiving and Preserving Digital Media, and Reference and Information Services that didn't necessarily point me toward an end, but introduced valuable skills and concepts. And on top of those were my public library job that pointed me away from a career in public libraries and my research internship that pointed me toward a career in research. When it was happening, it all seemed like a giant hodgepodge of library-related stuff. In retrospect, it all seems to make sense.

If you're coming to GSLIS without a desired end in mind, don't worry - I started the program with the sole hope that I would leave it with a job. What I didn't realize was that I would have a variety of classes, two internships, and a part-time job during my GSLIS tenure that would all magically come together to help shape my desired end. Now here I am, at the end of the program and the beginning of my career. Come to think of it, perhaps GSLIS is actually meant to be a means to a beginning.

Jobs | leave a comment