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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?

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Ladies and Gentlemen...the lovely and talented Nicole Giroux

I have come across many fascinating people during my time in the GSLIS program. The majority of these awesome people turn out to be from the dual degree program. So I can't help but want to get inside their brains. Seriously, what's in the water in the Children's Literature department? Is there an awesome ratio they require upon acceptance? They are sharp, creative and fiercely brilliant. Seriously, don't cross a dual degree student. And with that, I present Miss Nicole Giroux from the dual degree Children's Literature program.

nicolegiroux

Q: If you could be a character in any book who would you be?

A: Oh, sure, start with an easy question! This is so torturous to have to choose. I've gotta go with Hermione Granger (do I even need to say what she's from?!). I could certainly use her time turner and magical skills. Besides, she's named after a Shakespearean character and is an intelligent and strong female. What's not to love? Though, I must admit, I totally identify as a Ravenclaw instead of a Gryffindor.

Q: What's been the most exciting part about being in the dual degree program so far?

A: The most exciting part of being in the dual degree program has been being able to approach children's librarianship from two distinct disciplines. It's so wonderful to be able to really dive into children's literature, but it's also great to have the practical side of learning about managing a collection, planning programs, etc. I really feel like I am being so prepared for my future work as a teen librarian. It's also been awesome to meet so many great people! I have good friends in the children's lit and GSLIS programs, and it's nice to be able to connect with others in both fields.

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Digital Preservation Course

This semester I am taking a class called Digital Preservation. I haven’t had much previous experience with coding and such so this class has really taken me out of my comfort zone yet I can see just how useful it can be in not only the current archives field but in libraries as well. I see more and more advertisements for technology librarians; we no longer live in a print-based world in America.

Having mused over these things I began to wonder about the set-up of Simmons' Archives Program. As a dual degree student I am studying both archives, under the broader Library Science program and History as a separate entity. Some schools, like U.T. Austin also place their archives programs under Library Science or in the case of Drexel, under Information Science. However, some institutions place their archives programs under their History programs, like UMass.

I have never been a part of the UMass program but as I delve deeper into these tech classes I can’t help but wonder how you obtain those technical skills in a history-based program. They seem incredibly important to the profession. I have learned how to migrate files, a must for digital archives, how to code simple webpages (always a useful skill) and other similar things. It may be that those skills are endemic in their archive concentration but it seems a shame to also lose the connection to libraries. Although we spend a lot of our time explaining to our friends and families that there is a difference between libraries and archives it is true that many times archives are situated within libraries so I think it is important to know how a library functions.

At Simmons I am blessed to be getting all three perspectives: Archives, Library and History. Even though a dual degree is not for everyone I still believe that for an archives profession the coupling of Archives and Library is much more practical than Archives and History.

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A Blend of History and Archives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ladies and Gentlemen, Hannah Gomez

I met Hannah while dissecting the motherboard of a PC in LIS 488. I think we had the most fun of anyone in the class because we made up names for the parts we didn't know. She is a dual degree Children's Literature/Library Science student here at Simmons, so she's a superhero in my mind. Enjoy meeting Hannah Gomez, with these incredibly serious interview questions that really get to the heart of who GSLIS students really are.

1) If you could be assume a role in a book who would you be?

As I kid I was always jealous of Dinnie in Sharon Creech's Bloomability because she got to go to international school, which seemed so much more exotic and intellectual and independent than plain old school. Now that K-12 school is behind me and that's not an option, I can't think of anyone in a book I really love whose life I'm not already living (hence my liking them).

2) What's been the most exciting part about being in the dual degree program so far?

Sorry, what? I'll get back to you on that when I'm done reading six children's and/or YA novels a week and learning both critical theory and practical, real life applications of it. Really the best part is that I'm finally not considered quirky (or at least not as quirky), because everyone who studies children's literature is a nerd. I have found my people!

3) What does a typical day look like for you?

Oversleep, snooze the alarm between three and seven times, finally get up. Shower, eat, and Internet my morning. Do homework or read a novel (most days I have to read an entire one if I'm going to stay on top of things). Go to work or school, followed by the other one. Come home, Hulu or homework (okay, both), look up and realize it's 2am, crash. Repeat. I think I have been claiming to work out and write a novel, but I'm not sure where those have gone. Any time I consider them, I get a call from Buffy, Liz Lemon, or Mulder and Scully, and then they win.

4) What has been your favorite LIS class so far?

My favorite class has definitely been 422 (Literacy and Services to Underserved Populations: Issues and Responses) with Shelley Quezada. I'm not as interested in the library science part of things (though that's slowly changing as my new job and my love for digital content management and creation start coming out) as I am about the library service, so learning about advocacy, early literacy, outreach, and other types of service really spoke to me. Also, how often in your twenties do you get field trips? We had three!

5) If you could have any super power what would it be and why?

Can I call mermaid abilities a superpower? I love to swim, and I assume that the ability to swim in salt or fresh water and travel fast would be useful, as would what I assume are the whale-like lungs--I could throw away all my inhalers. And then I could go on vacation without having to pay for a plane ticket, because anywhere with a coast would be easy to get to.

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Dorm Living as a Grad Student

Many undergrads cannot wait to get out of the dorms and get their own place, so it almost seems a little backwards to go into the dorms as a grad student…and to stay there for a second year. As all my friends moved into apartments after their first year in GSLIS, I stayed. Not actually by choice, it’s a complicated story but there are some definite good sides.

Take for instance, yesterday. I’m a dual degree GSLIS and History student. I am taking a history class this semester that requires watching one film per week. Lucky for me though I never have to hunt them down, the library has them all on reserve. So I’ve gotten into the routine of making Saturday my “movie-watching day”(And when some of the films are 9 and half hours long it really is an all-day affair).

I grabbed a coffee and a snack from the café on the academic campus and went to go take out the movie. When the movie is on VHS there is a very nice media room to watch it in but I like when it’s on DVD so I can pop it into any computer next to my friend. Of course I realized almost immediately that I had forgotten my headphones… but no worries, Beatley Library to the rescue! Although slightly embarrassed to have to go back down to the cute circulation desk guy so soon, I simply had to go down to check out a pair.

4 hours of a 1960s Russian film later my friend and I decided we had worked hard enough for the day and made a snap decision that we would like to go shopping. We returned our books/movies/headphones and hopped on the bus that stops literally right outside the library. After shopping and eating dinner (at a very cute diner that made me a little homesick) the same bus dropped us off back in front of the dorms.

Of course there are some downsides of living in the dorms, dorm rooms are never palatial but for me the ability to be right on campus for anything that goes on and to be so close to so many things is a great payoff!

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Archivists in Library School

Last week, I briefly mentioned that I decided I no longer wanted to pursue my Masters in History (at this time!), and I will be focusing solely on my Archives Management concentration. I made this decision due to a number of factors, including cost and time constraints, but also a desire to just get out there and work. The reason that the decision wasn’t easy for me to make is because I truly believe that history as a discipline has a lot to contribute to the way that archivists think about archives.

There are a number of articles out there that talk about the intersection of history and LIS departments and the subsequent evolution of archival education in the US. (Joseph M. Turrini published an article titled “From History to Library and Information Science: A Case Study of Archival Education at Wayne State University” in Information & Culture: A Journal of History this summer, which is available through ProjectMUSE.  For our archivists in training, you can find an abbreviated version of his discussion here). Due to increasing technological demands and specialized classes offered by LIS programs, archival education is moving out of history departments.

What have we gained, and what we have lost? Ultimately, I think that depends on your goals and what kind of archive you want to work in. Attending a program rooted in LIS allows us to take classes in web development, XML, archiving and preserving digital media, metadata, and so on. On the other hand, Archives Management is a concentration of an LIS degree; we are also “stuck with” core courses that can weigh more towards libraries than archives, which can feel irrelevant and not directly applicable.

I’m not saying that I learned nothing from Reference/Information Services or Information Organization (which dealt primarily with Dewey, MARC, and LCSH—again, these classes can be applicable to archives), but I also think it’s healthy to be critical of the education we’re receiving. Will there one day be an Archives Management degree that stands on its own? Years from now, how will we be educating future archivists? For me, it’s fun to think about.

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Archiving Hate

Just a word of warning - this post is not going to be very cheery. As I wrote a few weeks ago, my current History class is on Race & Media. We've talked a lot about the subject of lynching and there is some important information that I'd like to pass on.

First of all, I learned that lynching was not just an activity that occurred to slaves before the Civil War. Actually, it proliferated after the Emancipation Proclamation. When African Americans were slaves, sadly enough, because they were someone's property, they were protected more than after they received their so-called freedom. When they belonged to a white farmer, other whites could not harm them without suffering penalties.  But, of course, once they were considered freedmen under the law, white mobs could accuse a black male of any number of crimes and subsequently lynch them. Thus, lynching was most frequent in the early 1900s, especially during Jim Crow laws.

If that isn't disturbing enough for you, here's the kicker: people sent postcards of lynchings. It was a popular affair. You'd gather up the family and travel to see someone hanged, or burned. Then you'd get a picture postcard and send it to your distant relatives in the North or out West. It is possible that the idea of a picnic came from these types of events, although the word originated much before this. Check out the Snopes article on it and see what you think - http://www.snopes.com/language/offense/picnic.asp.

Now, there is an online repository of lynching postcards on a site called Without Sanctuary.

Continue reading Archiving Hate

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Program Change

For the second week in a row, Danielle’s post has provided a great springboard for mine. She discussed how many of her friends/colleagues in the program have been questioning their concentrations in GSLIS. I began my career at Simmons GSLIS as a dual-degree History/Archives student. For a better part of this semester, I had been questioning whether I wanted to continue to pursue my MA in history. After much debate (as outlined below), I’ve concluded that, while I will continue to maintain an archives concentration in the MLS program, I will no longer be pursuing an MA.

There are three main considerations that guided my decision pursue the dual degree:

  1. An MA would make me a more competitive applicant than the MLS alone would.
  2. Archivists make collections available to and work with historians, so being a historian myself would help me be better at my job.
  3. Academia is fun! I like thinking hard and writing and exploring new avenues of thought.

Especially over the past semester, as I’ve learned more about myself and the field I’m going into, I’ve begun to see the flaws in these considerations.

Continue reading Program Change

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