May 2014 Archives

How to be a Public Library Director in 5 Very Packed Days

I got to spend last week talking about one of my favorite things, public libraries, with one of my favorite professors, Mary Wilkins Jordan. During my time at Simmons (so far) I've taken three intensive courses and I must say I love the format. While learning about the many aspects of library management (budgeting, outreach, programming, evaluation, collection development, and advocacy to name a few) in one week was a bit overwhelming at times, it's also a great way to cover a lot of ground quickly and get to the heart of issues. Many people in graduate school, especially at GSLIS, are also working and do not always have a whole semester to devote to classes like LIS 450 Organization and Management of Public Libraries and the week-long intensive format is a great alternative.

The class was structured in five jam-packed days over the course of one week and we covered a lot of ground in a very short time. This is a subject that I'm incredibly passionate about so it was wonderful to be in class with a group of like-minded individuals. We had students such as myself with limited experience in small public libraries as well as people who've never worked in a library and a couple who have been full-time for years. The range of experience mixed with tons of stories and anecdotes from Mary made for a lively and interesting week of class.

Cramming an entire semester's worth of work into a week wasn't a picnic but Mary sets very clear (and realistic) expectations right up front so it was easy to know what to expect. This was a great class for me as I'm wrapping up my time at Simmons because it reminded me what I love about public libraries, as well as some of the challenges, and inspired me to continue to be involved with my local library as I move on to other opportunities. If you're thinking about GSLIS and are worried about scheduling, I strongly urge you to think about intensive courses as an alternative to traditional weekly courses. And, in case I haven't mentioned this before, if given the opportunity, you cannot go wrong taking a class from Mary Wilkins Jordan. In my many years of schooling it's been rare to come across a professor with as much passion and dedication to her field and I cannot recommend her highly enough.

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It Isn't Always Easy Being a Librarian

The experience of throwing out books is perhaps the one part of being a librarian that I do not like. I'm not sure why, but I just find the notion of tossing books away to be kind of sad. Unfortunately for me, this past Friday at my new job working as a library assistant/intern at a law library, my co-workers and I had to toss out a good chunk of the library's collection. Going into the day, I had come in prepared to do some moving, thinking that we were merely going to be moving boxes over to the library's temporary location until the building was finished being renovated. What I did not know was that we would be throwing out books. However, since all these books were outdated and the library could not find any one who would be interested in purchasing them, there was only one solution left. The thing is, in the world of law libraries, things change frequently. Once something is outdated, even if it just under two years old, its most likely going to be useless.

At first, it just felt strange tossing the books into massive recycling bins. I was actually told by my supervisor to just chuck them in, that I didn't need to worry about placing them down gently. Two hours later, a good third of the library's bookshelves were emptied out, an entire dumpster now filled to the brim with law books and other related materials.

"Well that was sure something," I said, my arms extremely sore from all of the heavy lifting and such.

"Yea," a co-worker said, "too bad we have to do this again next week."

I practically fell out of my chair when they said that. We were going to be doing this again?

In school, they prepare us to go out into the world of library and information based institutions and instruct us on how to work with both people and different types of information materials. We learn not only how to properly index and catalog sources, but how to handle them as well. In some classes, we learn the necessary skills to help repair, restore, and preserve materials. What we don't learn (or at least I haven't yet) is to say goodbye when the material is simply no longer needed. To me, books are precious materials. Over the years, I've learned how to treat and handle books with care, to show them the respect that they deserve. Throwing them out into oblivion is not my first instinct when a book is no longer needed, and yet, it is often the only option.

This past Friday, I learned what perhaps others already knew: that being a librarian is not always easy. Even so, in the capacity of a librarian, we often have to get rid of the old to make way for the new. Removing a large amount of books might be a tough reality, but if they removed for the sake of providing necessary improvements to the library, then their removal is at least not in vain. Going into work next week knowing that there are more blue recycling bins waiting to be filled saddens me a bit, but I know that at in the long run, it will all be worth it.

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Visit a New Library

Biblio Burro.jpgI haven't been on a real vacation in over a year, but two weeks ago I unplugged completely and made the drive to Portland, Maine. Portland was everything I wanted it to be and more. I think I really needed to sleep and not look at my email for a stretch.  For anyone who hasn't tried these highly attainable really should. Sleep is luxuriously restorative.  Also, I never fully appreciated how much time I spend on email until I turned off my phone and spent time in the moment in the glorious outdoors. One of my other big takeaways from my mini-break was library tourism. I had never really been aware of this as a conscious act on vacation, but I realize it should be planned into almost any vacation. Check out the local library. See what they do differently. Open your eyes to the way they lay out their space. It's fun to walk into a library that's new to you. You have to experience it from the patron perspective and you can steal some great ideas for your own library. When I say steal I mean borrow, and when I say borrow I mean share in what successful librarians have been doing for centuries. We build off of ideas that are successful. What do you think listservs are for? People share their great ideas and you can grab onto someone's great idea or shelve it for use at a later date.

But getting back to my Portland experience. The Portland Public Library was stunning! From the moment I walked in I was guided past a sunny high ceilinged room filled with café tables and chairs, rows of computers and a circulation/information desk. Beyond that was an area for recent acquisitions (newly released books, audio books and dvds).There was a plethora of shrubbery and greenery and fountain that left the entire space feeling serene. I suppose the moral of this story is. Take some time to visit libraries in your travels. It's inspirational! And when it's not you feel happy that you're taking steps to make your library friendly to the infrequent, but still important library tourist.

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Here and There: Visiting the New York Antiquarian Book Fair

It's no secret; events and conventions are a big part of almost any interest group. Whether it's through the relay of colorful lore, mailing list messages, and social media coverage - conventions and events are an exciting part of life and times at Simmons GSLIS. From presenting new projects to raising questions and dialogues, attending events can be an important step to rooting yourself into your professional field. Unbeknownst to me, I came face to face with my first professional event by complete accident.

This past April, I was in Manhattan walking home from none other than my high school reunion. Passing the Park Avenue Armory, the banners adorning it were unmistakable, reading: New York Antiquarian tumblr_n3ob9xeoAT1qbwvhpo4_500.jpgBook Faire. Heart be still -  I knew I had a couple of hours before evening plans, and I fully intended to spend those hours inside that building, seeing all that was humanly possible between now and then. I picked up student admission and quickly encountered a sea of exhibitors hailing from locations from Austria to Washington state which were spread throughout the convention floor and displayed objects ranging from edgy punk zines to an original Mozart manuscript.  Quickly making my way across the convention floor to make the most of my limited time, I amassed a considerable loot of catalogs and business cards between short conversations with vendors which not only recognized Simmons GSLIS upon mention, but were themselves occasional GSLIS alumnae. As an archives student, seeing the value of priceless manuscripts expressed in monetary terms rather than expressed by their significance and impact as objects was a new and unique experience. Making my way from this whirlwind of rare books and manuscripts, I considered the many lives an object can live through the changing of hands by institutions, vendors, and private collectors - and how information professionals from GSLIS and beyond mediate this process. For current and prospective students interested in learning more about the myriad applications of an education in LIS while familiarizing yourself with influential ideas, figures, and issues in the profession, conventions and events are a compelling way to achieve this.

For more information on regional book fairs, scope out the following links:

Boston Antiquarian Book Fair

New York Antiquarian Book Fair

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Derby Dames

derbydames.pngI am not a sports person.  In Canada we have our hockey, yes, but even people who don't like hockey are allowed to go about their daily lives with a minimum of head shakes and eyebrows raised.  Even hockey, it's understood, is not for everyone.  That's not possible in Boston.  Sports are a religion here.  It's hard for me, an outsider, to say which team inspires the most passion in Bostonians; if hard pressed I would have to guess the Patriots, but the Patriots-Red Sox-Bruins trifecta is everywhere.  Trying to explain that no, you haven't been to Fenway to see the Red Sox play because you're not actually a baseball fan will get you both head shake, the raised eyebrows, and an immediate invitation to come see a game, with the obvious expectation that yes, you too will soon be converted.  (Which is why I will be not only going to a game on Thursday, but participating in some sort of giant flag (?) holding ceremony (??) on the field before the game (!!).  I... don't know.)

I am not a sports person, but one thing I do love to go and see whenever I have the chance is roller derby.  A lot of people aren't really sure what rollerderby02.jpgmodern roller derby is, and let me just say that it has come a long way from the '70s scripted version.  I don't have any particular team or league that I follow; I just love how fast-paced and fun the bouts are to watch.  The great thing about the Boston area is that there are 6 different teams within an hour drive: The Boston Derby Dames league, Southeastern Massachusetts' Mass Attack league, New Hampshire's Roller Derby league, Worcester's Roller Derby league, the Seacoast (NH) roller derby league, and Providence's roller derby league.  This is all an embarrassment of riches for any roller derby fan, and means that there's something going on in this area nearly every weekend.  I spent Saturday evening at a double header at the Derby Dames' home base in Somerville, watching the Boston teams crush both the Mass Attack All-Stars and the Bronx Gridlock.  It was a great day altogether, and I seriously doubt that any day at Fenway would be as much fun.  I suppose I'll find out this week.

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Semester Wrap Up and a Library Gala

My final "real" semester of school has finally wrapped up and it was quite a whirlwind! Had I known how difficult it would be to simultaneously juggle two intense classes and two demanding part time jobs I'm not sure I would've done it. That said, looking back I'm happy I survived and managed to find a reasonable amount of balance along the way. Next Friday I will participate in the GSLIS graduation ceremony and receive an empty diploma as I still have two courses left before I'm officially done. I'm looking forward to listening to our speaker David Weinberger and participating in the ceremony.

The courses I'll be taking over the summer are both week long intensives and should be a lot of fun. First I'll be taking LIS 430 Organization and Management of Public Libraries the last week of May with Professor Mary Wilkins Jordan. I started this class in the fall semester but dropped it (because I signed up for too many classes) and I think it will be a fun and informative week. My very last class at GSLIS, LIS 425 The History of the Book with Professor Martin Antonetti, will take place on the Mt Holyoke campus in Western Mass. Wrapping up my time at Simmons with a course I wanted to take long before I applied to the program feels fitting. Especially after this last semester of two tech heavy and demanding classes, it will be nice to conclude with courses I'm much more excited about.

Sunday afternoon I hit "submit" on my final project of the semester and got dressed up for my library's annual gala fundraiser event. We were fortunate enough to have Andre Dubus III as our speaker, the author of The House of Sand and Fog, among other best sellers. The event had a fantastic turnout and everyone was incredibly impressed with the speaker. Dubus spoke at length about his craft as a writer and what that process means to him. His most memorable comments were about democracy and the value of libraries. He said that democracy is able to continue because of public school teachers, independent bookstores, and public libraries. This comment was met with resounding applause. If my time at GSLIS has taught me nothing else it is the importance of libraries in society as places of free access to information. I may not be going to work in a library straight after graduation but this sentiment certainly rings true. Listening to this speaker, surrounded by many people in my community who also hold the same ideals was a great way to end a difficult but exhilarating semester.

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