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Hanging out with JFK

Did you know that just a short bus ride away from the JFK T stop on the red line is the JFK Presidential Library and Museum? Did you also know that the papers and writings of Ernest Hemmingway are also stored there?

No?

Well, neither did I. That was, at least, until I went on a field trip with my Preservation Management class last Thursday. Yea, that's right, I went on a FIELD TRIP! Ms. Frizzle from The Magic School Bus would have been super proud of my class.

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Not only did we get to learn about the responsibilities and skills required to be an archivist and deputy curator to a Presidential Library, but we also learned about the JFK Library's disaster plan and how it was tested during an actual disaster that happened last year. For those who don't know, the library had a fire last April and though smoke, water, and firefighter damage was great, the library and museum did not lose a single item. Now that's what I call impressive. Considering that my course, Preservation Management, has been all about learning how to handle and treat archival and library materials and keep them safe from the dangers from decay, mold, damage, and other environmental conditions, this was an excellent example of how a great disaster plan and potential risk awareness and assessment can ensure that even when a disaster occurs, precautions have been make to help reduce the potential damage. As for the museum part of the Presidential library, it is a fantastic walk through history. The photos, items, and re-creations of famous locations associated with JFK truly creates a one-of-a-kind experience. Words cannot describe how cool this museum is, including their special exhibit on the Cuban Missile Crisis. If you can, definitely check it out. And while you're there, poke your head into the Hemmingway exhibit. Stepping inside, you feel as if you are standing in Hemmingway's living room, surrounded by books, statues, and the very paintings that inspired some of his stories. As for the story as to why one of America's greatest writers is housed at the JFK Presidential Library, it's quite the tale. Just try not to step on the lion.

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(Not) A Lazy Summer

When I look out my window, I find it hard to believe that less than three months ago, there was still snow on the ground. Not only that, but it felt like the winter of 2013/2014 was never going to vacate the Boston area. And yet, here we are; the sun is out in full force and people are starting to gather in any air conditioned space that they can find. However, considering just how unbearably cold the first half of the year was, I won't be complaining about the heat anytime soon. But if the city gets hit with another heat wave like it did last July, well, let's just say that you will most likely be able to find me sitting at a table inside JP Licks.
Speaking of summer, this one will be my first ever as a resident of Boston! But just like my last few summers back home in Long Island, I will be spending the bulk of this summer tucked away inside, either at work at the BPL or in a law library on Atlantic Av. Oh, and at Simmons as well. Yea, that's right, SIMMONS! 
Call me crazy, but I'm the type of person who likes to have things to do. While it's true that I now have two jobs to occupy my time, I still felt that there was something else that I could be doing this summer. And since I mastered knitting and crocheting over the last two summers, I decided to try going back to school. After experiencing a long break last summer between graduating undergrad and starting Simmons wherein I felt like my mind essentially turned to mush, I thought that maybe a summer class stretched over the course of the summer would be perfect for me. What did I ended up signing up for instead? A two week intensive archives class! Instead of having class one or two days a week over the course of maybe six weeks, I'm taking one class over the course of six days that meets for seven hours a pop. So much for a lazy summer. 
Well, on the bright side of things, if I can get through this, I can certainly get through anything.

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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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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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What's Next?

4748804337_ff51d52736_z.jpgI am graduating in December. This is painfully evident to me as many of my friends are graduating this spring. I watch them as they introduce themselves at the job fair in their smart pant suits. I linger over their announcements on the last day of class: This IS my last class at GSLIS. I jump for joy when they reveal in triumph: I GOT A JOB!

This is what's next this week: parties, life without homework, and the jobs on the horizon.  But what about after that? What happens after the cheering is over, the reading for fun begins and the day-to-day routines of library jobs set in?  This is inevitably what is addressed, or should be addressed, in any last class rant by a professor of substance. My two professors, both crazy intelligent beings, Amy Pattee and Linda Braun, spent their last moments with us pronouncing those fateful words: THIS IS NOT THE END! They're right, it is only the beginning. I pass their words of wisdom on to you, dear readers, as this semester comes to a lovely close.

Linda Braun, who taught me about the vast potential of social media, said that in order to succeed as librarians we must continue to invest in reading about the latest trends in technology. This does not mean we should exclusively be subscribing to list-servs or rss feeds about technology in libraries, but simply what's new and exciting on the web, hardware and other various new tech trends. How are people interacting with the world through technology. As we become more informed, the more we will be able to link these new trends to potential in libraries. As I said, the woman is a genius. Did I say that? Well if I didn't: GENIUS.

Amy Pattee, who opened my eyes to a world beyond dystopian young adult literature, reminded me to keep my finger on the pulse of the publishing world. It is our job as librarians to understand what is happening in literature and that can't just mean ordering the New York Times Best sellers (that's a great place to start, but there are other sources). Find a voice of a librarian that resonates with you on twitter or on a blog and keep up with what they have to say. Find a community that fits your needs and sign up for that list-serv or join that round table at ALA and join the conversation.

Happy end of the semester to all and to all a good night!

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Where Did the Time Go?

I've looked at my calendar more times than I can count in the last few days. Surely the date can't be right; wasn't it January just the other day? Although it says that today is the second to last day of April, I'm about 95% certain that my laptop's calendar is wrong. Shouldn't the last few days of April be warm? I'm pretty sure that the weather outside is more like something I'd find in late February, or early March at best. No, this all has to be one massive, over the top hoax; any moment now Ashton is going to pop and inform me that I've been punked.
Any moment now...still waiting....Ashton?
 
Alright fine, I'll face the facts, the semester is literally days from being over which means that somehow,  I've just completed my first year at Simmons. Of course I'm over the moon excited by this fact; I have just one small twenty-five paper standing in between me and summer break. And yet, it seems like just yesterday I was leaving for spring break. Seriously, I knew that time flies when you are having fun but this is outrageous. But then again, I guess that this semester, just like the one before it, was just one awesome experience after another. Yea, the homework at times somewhat decreased the fun factor, but still, for the most part, I've learned a lot and have come a long way since last September. Who knew that grad school would go by so quickly? I feel like when I was a senior in college all over again. One moment my dad and I are lugging my stuff into my senior year dorm, the next, I'm walking across the stage to accept my diploma. The situation is a bit different, but the same principle still applies. In all seriousness, I really thought that grad school would be something that would feel like eternity to get through. But I just finished the first of a two year program and I feel like I've been living in the city for all of five minutes!
 
So now what do I do? Well, I have about four months of relaxation up ahead to enjoy though don't think that means I won't be doing anything fun. I'll still be working at the BPL (yay!), I'll have a plethora of opportunities to get outside the city with my older sister and do some hiking (yay!), I'm thinking about doing some volunteering at a local library or historic site (yay!), the fourth of July (yay!), and a summer course (yay?). That's right; for two weeks, I'll be enrolled in the summer session of Preservation Management. It's definitely going to be one of the most intense courses I've taken thus far, but I'm excited for the challenge. Of course, I'll be writing all about it, so don't worry; I'll be sure to include as much information as I can. And of course, I'll be writing about all the other things I plan to do this summer (expect a lot of recipes) and you can follow along here!
 
I think the next four months are going to be very interesting.

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Beginning of the End

That's not entirely true, I've got so much work to plow through between now and the end of spring semester that at times I feel like I'll never be done. However, Wednesday afternoon I signed up for my last ever classes at GSLIS. True to form, I'm taking the road less travelled and finishing up my GSLIS career with two weeklong intensive courses over the summer, including one that I think is intended for archive students. My final semester as a masters student will be done in short intensive bursts. I'll spend the last week of May taking LIS 450: Organization and Management of Public Libraries, a class I'd planned to take in the fall semester but timing hadn't worked out. The second course will meet for two three day periods during the month of July, LIS 425: History of the Book. I'm most looking forward to LIS 425, in fact, it's the class that made me originally decide I wanted to go to school to become a librarian.

I remember very distinctly the day I was looking at the Simmons GSLIS curriculum from my desk, at a job I absolutely detested, and seeing that part of library school could involve taking a class called "History of the Book." That sold me right then and there. What could be better, and more nerdy (in the best possible way), than devoting a whole class to books; how they've evolved as physical objects and what they've meant to society over time. When I saw that this course was being offered over the summer it seemed serendipitous that the last class I take with GSLIS would be the one that made me initially decide to pursue library school.

In total, of the twelve courses I will have taken at Simmons, seven were regular in-person courses meeting once a week on Simmons' Boston campus, one was entirely online, and four were weeklong intensive courses. Of the intensive courses, two met/will meet in Boston, one met in Rome, and the last will meet at GSLIS West at Mount Holyoke. Excluding the blended course format, one that's mainly online but meets in person a few times over the semester, I've managed to experience just about all the Simmons has to offer. This wide range of courses and formats has made me really think about how I learn best and has forced me to become a more independent learner.

As of now, the online class is proving most challenging, as I suspected it would, and the weeklong courses have tended to be most enjoyable. In some ways I can't wait to be done with GSLIS, in others, I can't believe I'm almost done! It may not be quite the beginning of the end, but the end is certainly just around the corner.

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Monday with Julia Child

This past Monday I ventured over to the Schlesinger Library, which is part of Harvard University's Radcliffe Institute for Advance Study. Although I was making this trip for research purposes, I won't deny my excitement about getting to handle the papers and letters of THE Julia Child! To begin with, this was the woman who not only taught America how to cook, but she was part of a food revolution that helped pull America out of its bizarre obsession with disgusting Jello-molds and pre-packaged foods. Going beyond that, this woman is somewhat of a role model to me. Like her, I went through most of my relatively short life not totally sure of what I wanted to do. Just like her, I tried different things, each fun but never quite providing me with the level of fulfillment of satisfaction that I was searching for. But then, I discovered how much I loved baking, and a passion began to grow. Sure, I didn't have the same degree of a food epiphany that Ms. Child had when she had her first meal in France (which for those of you who don't know, consisted of oysters and sole meunière) but the same principle applies. For me, my food revelation occurred during Thanksgiving 2011, the Thanksgiving that I decided I was fed up with my mom always doing the baking and that I wanted to try my hand at it. Of course I had had done some baking before, who hasn't popped open a box of brownie mix in the past? But this time, something was different. As I prepared the recipe, I found myself enjoying the kitchen science that I was performing. I was literally taking separate things, combining them, and creating something new. Not just new, but delicious as well. From then on, I became obsessed with food.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because this passion of mine is what led me to the Schlesinger Library Monday morning. You see, in the history course that I am taking for the dual degree, I need to write a 20+ page paper on any topic I want as long as it occurred in the post WWII era. After some careful thinking (okay, maybe more like frantic), I came up with a topic that I knew I could do justice. For the paper, which will most likely be later incorporated into my history thesis, I will be writing about American food culture in the 1950s and 1960s and its reflections of gender roles. Since my inspiration of the idea came from a discussion I had started in class related to Julia, I knew that I wanted her to be a part of my paper. Her cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking came out at a time when American food culture was in desperate need of a change. Not only was her cookbook directed at the average American cook, it also encouraged them to break their habit of using pre-packaged, pre-made junk. Additionally, her cookbook is gender blind. I've skimmed through my copy and I could not find one instance where Julia or her co-authors make it explicit that this cookbook is for women or men only. The impact of her cookbook and her cooking show, The French Chef, impacted Americans greatly, all of which is documented in the many boxes of fan letters, personal correspondences between Julia and friends, and other documents that the Schlesinger Library has in its collection. For me, holding a letter written by Julia for her dear friend Avis De Voto that discussed various recipes for sauces felt like I was holding a piece of culinary history. Talk about fulfilling a fan girl's dream!

If you are like me and are somewhat Julia Child-crazy, then you too should plan a visit to the Schlesinger Library. They do have a variety of other collections that are worth exploring as well, including a quite large historic cookbook collection (something that I will be examining in the very near future). The Schlesinger Library is located about ten minutes from the Harvard T stop so you could totally pop in for a visit the next time that you are in the area. If you need a cafe suggestion, I strongly suggest stopping by Crema Cafe, which can be found along the way. It can be a little bit crazy in there, but the coffee and pastries are worth it. Who knows, maybe you too will have a food epiphany just like Julia?

Bon Appetite!

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The Agony and Ecstasy of Group Work

One of the main differences between undergrad and graduate school that I would probably have appreciated knowing about ahead of time was how different the workload tended to be.  Instead of lots of small assignments, you usually only get 3 or 4 big projects per class per semester.  I hate to tell you this, but most of them involve group work.

I have to admit that I didn't know that going in.  For some people it doesn't seem like a big deal - group work?  So what?  For others, though, myself included, knowing that my entire academic life at Simmons was going to depend on groups of peers working together was enough to make my heart sink. 

The first time I heard about the approaching group work storm, I was sitting at a table with five or six other new GSLIS students at the Orientation Day last spring, and we were shooting questions about GSLIS classes and professors at someone who was about to graduate.  I swear that when he mentioned group work, every single person at that table groaned.  I'm pretty sure all of us were picturing the same thing: the group where we're the only one doing any work, or no one's schedules work together, so coordinating efforts is a Herculean task, or someone else's efforts are so much less than they should be that their part of the project drags the entire grade down... there are a ton of terrifying possibilities, most of which we'd all experienced in college or our professional lives more than once.   

Of course, there are advantages to working in groups on big projects, and when everyone works together beautifully it can be an amazing experience, but that's the gold ring, the one in a million chance.  Mostly, everyone's experiences had been pretty awful, and it was with dawning horror that we confirmed that yes, group work was going to be a part of every class, that group work is just how grad school tends to work, not just at GSLIS or at Simmons, but more or less universally. 

It was a pretty chilling revelation for all of us. 

Now that I have more than a year of classes under my belt, I can say with some confidence: it's really not that bad.  I really isn't!  In all of my classes I've only had one group work experience that was even close to the sort of horror show scenario I was expecting at the beginning, and even then it was made clear at the outset that our individual contributions would be what determined our grades, not the overall group performance.  The professors at GSLIS do, in fact, understand why people hate group work so much, and have created ways to minimize the awful parts of it. With that out of the way, there's more time to experience the good parts of working in a group - having other people to bounce ideas off of, being able to divide work based on individual strengths and weaknesses, and all the rest of it. 

I'm not sure I'll ever look forward to group work, but it's not something traumatic anymore.  For that, I am extremely grateful.

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Construction Paper Revelations

Before the first day of The Picturebook, Professor Megan Lambert sent us an email requesting that we bring the following items to class: a stack of construction paper, a pair of scissors, and a glue stick. If you're anything like me, these magical three are the things you bring to craft nights because you can't sew or embroider or knit or [insert equally awesome skill here]. They're the essentials. They're the things that make you feel like an artist even when people say you aren't. Therefore, you can imagine my delight when I realized that the activity planned for class was nothing other than starting the project that would be creating our very own picturebooks. In grad school. Awesome, right?

When I found out, I told everyone. As I rejoiced and Instagramed my process over the next few weeks, I realized that the people I was telling were making certain assumptions about the level of difficulty of my program. I can imagine why they would. Picturebooks, normally 32 pages, tend to have simple text and colorful illustrations. They tend to be reviewed in magazines as "charming" or "cute." When pitted against a 500-page novel, perhaps the literary merit of a picturebook goes to the wayside. But let me fill you in on a little secret: Making picturebooks is hard.

The assignment itself seemed so simple at first. We were to condense a fairy tale into five scenes and design artwork for each page (as well as front and back covers). The catch was that we could only use construction paper, three colors plus white, and our artwork was to be a bit more abstract. During our most recent class, we presented our picturebooks. Naturally, the results were as varied as the people in the program:

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Mine is the sixth from the left side. And, now that I have turned it in and distanced myself from the assignment, I must say that I have gained a new respect for those who create picturebooks. This is not to say that I didn't have it before. As an aspiring minimalist, I have long admired the art form's conciseness and tight integration of the verbal and the visual. That said, I think the fact that I have now created a picturebook--that all students who study children's literature at Simmons will have created picturebooks before they leave--speaks to our ability to critique them. Sometimes it can be really easy to judge a book on the shelf. In fact, ridiculously easy. But I think that we forget sometimes that someone made that book. That someone maybe even cut out construction paper mock-ups once upon a time before it became that finished product you might be holding now.

My picturebook would probably never be published. It's not even technically a full book. But as I saw it up there, among the others from my class, it felt like I had made one. A real one. All the effort that went into it was plain as day: pencil markings, curled edges of pages, and the like. I'm certainly no Lane Smith, but it's okay because I don't have to be. It just means that not everyone can make a quality picturebook. The best ones, simple as though they might seem, are really works of art.

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Hidden Value in Boring Courses

 I'm about to say something that may shock you. Not all classes in library school are riveting. One in particular is considered by many to be the most boring class they could possibly imagine. This course has only recently been removed from the list of core courses and I'm here to suggest that when you come to GSLIS, you take that boring course. This infamously boring course is LIS 403 Evaluation of Information Services. Perhaps the name is a giveaway for why it might be considered a bit of a snooze. In truth, no it wasn't my favorite class to sit through, for three hours, in the evenings, on Mondays, but I am now applying so much of what I learned to my current library job.

Professor Mary Wilkins Jordan did her best to keep classes lively and interesting, and considering that the subject matter is dry, I'd say she succeeded most of the time. The real value of the class was the semester long assignment to create a research proposal for a theoretical evaluation. Some students worked on hypothetical situations they would like to research in a future place of employment, basically just doing the assignment to get it done. While I'm sure there is value to that, I found designing an evaluation based on my current place of employment to be much more interesting and useful. In fact, we are in the process of actually doing the evaluation I wrote for class! It's been a challenge to edit the initial survey I created from an assignment to something that we will actually be putting out to the community, but I'm so excited to be working on this project.

LIS 403 gave me the tools and the background knowledge to get this survey going. When the project is completed, my library will have done a thorough evaluation for the first time in more years than anyone can remember. Moving into a future where libraries serve a different role and budgets keep getting cut, it will be extremely valuable to have taken the time to ask our community what resources they value most at the library.

What this all really gets back to is the theme of applying the GSLIS education to real world scenarios. Even though LIS 403 Evaluation of Information Services is no longer a required class, I would advise everyone to at least consider it. Like many classes, the real value comes from being able to see how it will help you in the work place. This semester as I take LIS 458 Database Management and LIS 415 Information Organization, I am again reminded that what I'm learning in school is only as valuable as how I'm able to translate it into the real world. Prepping students to enter the workforce is something that Simmons, in my opinion, does incredibly well.

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Confessions of a Kid Lit Fanboy

Let's talk about fandom. Surely, there is somebody out there whom all of you are dying to meet. Yet, you're probably also terrified of meeting this person, for fear of being tongue-tied, boring, or just all around beside yourselves (my grandmother, bless her heart, would use the phrase "tickled"). Well, a strange thing happened here at Simmons this semester: by some cosmic twist of fate, I am now taking a class from one of my heroes, Roger Sutton.

See, Roger doesn't know that I idolize him. He doesn't know that one of my biggest motivations to come to Boston was to someday be his intern (fingers crossed). He doesn't know that, on the first day of orientation last semester, when I found out he'd be teaching this class, my jaw literally dropped and I had to pick it up off the floor. He doesn't know that, that same day, I all-too-energetically ran to meet one of the members of his staff at The Horn Book. At least, I hope he doesn't know these things. And I hope that, by writing them here, I'm not shooting myself in the foot.

The children's book world is small and, as far as I'm told, it is a field dominated by women. Roger Sutton--like Brian Selznick, Gregory Maguire, and my all-time hero, Maurice Sendak--is someone who, by his very existence as a gay man in the field, showed me that, maybe just maybe, there might be a place for me in this small little world. Of course, Roger doesn't know this either. I don't want him to. But what he does know is my name. And that is enough for me. For now.

There's a delicate balance you must strike as a fan. You never want to come on too strong (i.e. "Roger, I WANT TO BE YOU give me a job at your magazine please and thank you!") but you also don't want to feign too much disinterest (i.e. "Yeah, your work's okay. I guess. I read an article once."). I think that what you really have to do is treat your idols as people because, in the end, that's all they really are. That's all anyone really is.

As I left class Tuesday night, I felt as though the fact that I was able to be among the giants in my life--if only for a little while--would make everything else worth it. I may have left my home behind. My boyfriend. My family. But this singular moment, sitting in that classroom and hearing an insider's stories of the publishing world, made everything worth it. No matter what happens in my future, I will know that I will always have Simmons. I will always remember these as the times I sat among giants and, more importantly, belonged.

I can't guarantee that you'll meet your hero at Simmons, but I can guarantee that--if only for a little while--you'll be among giants. As hokey as that may sound, I honestly believe it to be true.

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Learning the World of Computers

As we all know, last Tuesday's snow storm caused Simmons to cancel class that night. As I stayed nice and warm inside, I decided to do the responsible thing and do some reading for class. It was while I was reading through one of my two books for LIS 488 (Technology for Information Professionals) that I realized that I have a lot to learn in regards to computers. Now for those of you who might not know, LIS 488 focuses on the conceptual foundation and context of computing, Internet, and other technologies used within information-based professions. Besides learning the concepts and skills related to various pieces and aspects of technology, we are learning about the inner workings and history of computers. Considering that I grew up in the 1990s and had a front row seat to all the changes that occurred within the world technology, I figured that this course was going to relatively easy. Boy was I wrong. But not for the reasons that you're probably thinking.

I'll be the first to admit that I am not a computer expect. While I can definitely use different operating systems like OS X and Microsoft Windows, my skills are limited to those of an average user. Although I know how to customize the appearance of my Internet browser, I certainly don't know anything about the inner workings of operating systems, let alone the tech specs of my laptop. It is because of this rather large gap in my knowledge related to the world of technology that I find this course to be so enlightening. For example, this past week our readings included a conversation discussing the nature and functions of cloud computing, an overview of the development of computer technology, and an explanation of computer basics (networks, WiFi, connection technologies, etc). As I continue to read more about computer and Internet technologies, the more I am realizing that I have a lot of things left to learn. And it's because of this reason that I am enjoying this class. In today's modern age, so many things involve possessing a knowledge of computers that is more than just computing 101. Having the skills to create HTML pages or use Photoshop could be the deciding factor in regards to getting a position that might require experience with using different computer or Internet technologies.  Sure, sometimes some of the computer jargon is way over my head, but I am enjoying the reading and online discussions nonetheless. I'm looking forward to learning more this semester. Hopefully by the end, I can confidently boast about my mad computer skills to all of my friends.

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New Year, New Semester, Already So Much To Do

Well, the truth can be denied no longer; my second semester at Simmons has officially begun. As of 9am this morning, I became a student once again, putting an end to my month-long academic hiatus. Sure, I will miss the luxury of being able to sleep in past 7am and not have to worry about finishing all my homework before the weekend, but I know that its high time I get back to focusing on my academics. After all, I have a lot to look forward to this semester. For example, I will have not one, but two night classes this year, something that I am both dreading and excited about.  Additionally, I have my first history course to look forward to, representing my first step towards completing my dual degree. But classes at Simmons are not all that I excited about. You see, right before I went home to celebrate the winter holidays, I went into Fenway High for a job interview. While I'll be the first to admit that I did not land the job, I walked away from the experience with something just as good: an internship working in the school's archives. Yes, you read that correctly, a school archive. Now, I've heard of academic libraries featuring archives, but never a school library. The internship starts Thursday so I cannot wait to come back and report on what exactly makes a school archive tick.

But wait, there's more!!!!!!  As of last Friday, I have officially become a contributing member of INALJ.com (I Need A Library Job). What does this mean? Every week, I volunteer a few hours to checking a list of different job databases for career opportunities within the world of LIS. After I have my list, I email it off to my editor who posts it on the site. So far it has been a lot of fun, especially when I come across job opportunities that someday soon, I myself could apply for. If you have never been to INALJ.com, I suggest stopping by, it's definitely worth checking out. There is a lot more there than just job postings.  Keep in mind, INALJ.com doesn't just focus on library jobs in the New England area. What really makes this site a gem is the fact that is has job postings for the US, Canada, and a number of international countries.

All in all, this semester seems like its going to be awesome, hectic, enlightening, and exhausting. Although I know that when push comes to shove, I have it within myself to reach down deep and channel my inner all-star student though at this moment, I can't help but wonder how I am going to juggle all of this without going insane. Well, I guess I'll just have to find out.

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Let Me Tell You a Story

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As librarians, storytelling is baked into the scrumptious goodness that is our career. It's not so much inferred that we will all be storytellers with puppets or flannel boards, but anyone who has ever explained a job to a colleague or trainee at work can attest to the regular occurrence of a tale being told: There was this one reference librarian who never looked up from her book...nobody ever asked her a question. Right off the bat you're intrigued and you want to understand what happened to this librarian and what was it that made her so incredibly bitter. Humans are tellers of tales. There is an incredible amount of research verifying that human beings understand concepts and connect to material more effectively when taught through story.

I digress, but my point to you, oh library professional, is that stories make us who we are. I say all this also to underline how amazing I feel after completing LIS 423, Storytelling, with Melanie Kimball. I spent the semester learning about story in its various formats and the many purposes it serves. I witnessed peers grow as tellers and heard some amazing stories about Fin M'Coul, the real little mermaid, Kate Crackernuts and the oh-so-amazing Don Coyote. And then we came to the personal storytelling part of the syllabus. I was not prepared for some of these stories. If you've ever listened to the Moth Radio Hour you can attest to the power of the personal story, a true story told by the person who it happened to.  I was lucky enough to develop such a story under the guidance of Professor Kimball. With her help I crafted a story that was short enough to perform at a story slam.

What's that, you say? Well, Boston is lucky enough to have a local version of personal storytelling competitions, or story slams. MassMouth has been around for almost 5 years and is expanding its mission to bring stories to the people of Boston every day. I encourage anyone who has read this far to check out their website and see a slam as soon as possible. I competed at a slam at Doyle's Pub in Jamaica Plain with many of my classmates cheering me on. It was one of the most memorable nights of my life here in Boston. Even though there were about 75 people there in this cavernous pub it still felt so intimate. I was sharing incredibly deep secrets with a group of strangers and it was fabulous! I move on to the semi-finals in March. Win or lose it's still the best thing I have done in a long while. I encourage every GSLIS student to go to a slam, grab a beverage, listen, enjoy and hopefully make it to the stage to tell one of your stories. Here is mine.

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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. 

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Call Numbers: Why they are Awesome

For those of you who don't know, when one enters the Simmons GSLIS program, there are a number of core classes that they must complete. Besides an introductory course, LIS 401, there is another core course that they suggest we take in our first semester, LIS 415, Information Organization. Within LIS 415, we learn about the processes behind information organizations, which includes topics like classification, descriptive metadata, and resource types. Whenever I'm asked by my non-library friends to describe this class, I summarize it by saying that, essentially, we are learning all the behind the scene processes that make a library function that way it does. Amongst the variety of things that help ensure that a library isn't one massive chaotic mess, librarians use call numbers to make sure that every book has a place on a given shelf. If you have ever gone to a library to find a book, then I am sure that you are acquainted with call numbers. Without them, it would be like trying to find one specific needle in a stack of a million needles.

Fortunately for us, most, if not all libraries, have some form of call number system. Some libraries use Dewey, others use Library of Congress; a few even use their own personal classification system but at the end of the day, they all do the same thing: they help us find the thing that we are looking for. Now until I took LIS 415, I never gave call numbers a second thought. However, after spending a weekend creating Dewey and Library of Congress call numbers for an assignment, I think they deserve a bit more credit.  Seriously, think about it this way: imagine trying to find a book on cooking French cuisine but you do not have any idea where to start. There is no master plan depicting where cookbooks are shelved and the books aren't organized by author. How in the world are you going to find it? Perhaps through the power of patience and careful reading, you would eventually find it; do enough shelf reading and you can find anything. Thankfully, we don't have to resort to such measures. Thankfully, there are classification systems that provide us with maps to our designated destination.

So the next time you are in a library and trying to find a book, take a moment think about how wonderful it is that we have a string of numbers and letters to act as our guide.

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Bring Your Classes to You!

I get a lot of sass from classmates when I talk about my work. Yes, I happen to work at the greatest library on the planet. Yes, my boss is the most incredible mentor and knitter in the continental U.S. Yes, I am rather lucky to be surrounded by a library with unlimited resources. No, you cannot have my job. Still, it has been a year of ogling the wondrous resources at my disposal and I have begun to ask myself: What I am bringing to this incredible community ? Tentatively I have begun to propose small programs and evaluations to my director. And do you know what happened? She was thrilled! Now, I am NOT saying I am God's gift to programming in the library. However, I have begun to use my projects and papers from Simmons as springboards for ideas to bring to my director. Why is that, you might ask?

Simply put, it is because every professor I have ever taken a class with at Simmons has only ever assigned practical assignments to use in the real world of library excellence. They want this education to be marketable when I start look for jobs. I say three cheers for the GSLIS faculty. Huzzah for Rex Krajewski who helped me become familiar with the reference interview and working productively with patrons in LIS 407. Hooray for Naresh Agarwal who enabled everyone in the class to educate each other about the many online additions easily added to a library's website in LIS 488. Three cheers for Melanie Kimball who empowered me to reach out to reluctant teen readers through booktalking in LIS 412. Hip hip for Mary Wilkins Jordan who inspired me to create my own evaluation of my school's bibliographic instruction class. Yay for Vivienne Piroli who taught me the benefits of teaching information literacy as the guide on the side as opposed to the sage on the stage in LIS 408. A round of applause for Danny Joudrey and Kyong Eun Oh for opening my eyes in LIS 415 so when I'm teaching my students how to use the catalog I'm showing them every relevant part of a record. And a standing ovation for Melanie Kimball for reminding me why I came to library school in the first place in LIS 423. I have begun a storytelling program in my library. I have also been asked to tell stories in foreign language classes and Middle Eastern studies classes.

Every single one of these teachers pushed me to apply my knowledge outside the classroom. I did this and failed many times. However, I also succeeded a couple of times too. Success and failure inside and outside the classroom is incredibly important. It's frightening: failing. But I promise it will only get better.

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The Mid-Semester Blues


There is something about this time of year when everyone's creative juices seem to be flowing - except for mine.  It's right after Halloween, recovering from making costumes (my husband and I were the 11
th Doctor [Who] and the TARDIS, respectively!), but it's too early to start thinking about Christmas gifts (although that hasn't stopped me...).  I'm finding it harder to get out of bed in the morning without a pumpkin spice latte to wake me up; what's the point of doing laundry, yet ANOTHER load of dishes?  

I'm even lacking the motivation to start writing the papers that are inevitably due; normally, writing papers comes fairly easily for me, but this time around it was like pulling teeth.   Actually... I might prefer getting teeth pulled.  

With the mid-semester slump, it's hard to find the energy to keep going, to take the train an hour to campus each day, but luckily family, holiday cheer, and amazing food is right around the corner.  Soft snowfalls, happy holiday music, gifts, crafts, and parties will be here before I know it.  My database project will come together, my code will work, my presentations will happen, and time will pass eventually (hopefully?!).  

How do you guys pass the time when you're in a mid-semester slump?  Do you have any tips or tricks for motivating yourself when you're in the middle of a semester?  

 

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Savor Your Time at GSLIS

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Are we there yet? I keep asking myself this question. When I started at GSLIS, I thought I would be at a great advantage over the full-time students. Here they were rushing through a very full and complex curriculum, while I would be plodding along, taking stock of my interests as I went. This, fundamentally is true. However, with both sides of the coin it seems I shall mix metaphors and say that the grass looks greener on their side! I want so much to be DONE.  I have learned a great deal here and I'm enjoying my classes. But I've finished almost four semesters and the thought of three more is weighing me down.

So, what's the remedy here? Who can I turn to? In this case I turn to everyone and anyone who's worked full-time and gone to graduate school at the same time. Most of the teachers at the high school I work at completely feel my pain. We sit over lunch and ask ourselves, "When does life get easier?"

When we have kids? Nope, I think not.

When we get promoted or fired? Again, I think either option shakes our lives to the core.

 When we move for a new job? Core-shaker if ever there was one.

Why are we such creatures of habit? What is it about the human condition that reaches for a cozy corner with blankets and a good book or a sunny sky over a picnic with a good book? Notice, all my happy spots include blankets and good books. Who's job includes blankets and good books? I can only think of one work scenario where good books and blankets are featured and that's the job I'm working towards. That's where I'm going. I will get there. In an instant gratification society, I am held back by my urge to finish, to move on to the next big thing. Instead, I must remember to smell the roses, enjoy where I am now and most of all remember to open my eyes and ears and soak in all that GSLIS goodness while it lasts.

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