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A Feast of "Air and Stories"

Because of Maggie's previous post, I decided to take a chance and go to massmouth's Storytelling Festival last Saturday at the Boston Public Library. Well, maybe "chance" is the wrong word. I have long been a fan of the "idea" of storytelling. I decided to fulfill a dream, perhaps?  

Since I was a child, I have always feasted on stories. I know that I am not alone in this--certainly not in a program like ours. When many of us think of stories, though, we often think of books. Certainly I do. Yet, the raconteurs of my childhood were my father and my grandfather, who delighted in inventing tales that thrilled and terrified. It wasn't until I grew older and learned to read on my own that my stories transformed into printed words narrated by a voice in my head (he's quite good but, unfortunately, you'll never get to hear him). Now I'm trying audiobooks. But nothing quite replaces the physical presence of a storyteller.

Results of a survey released in September of 2013 revealed that the bedtime story is on the decline. Only 13% of the survey's respondents read a story to their children every night, while 75% recalled being read to every night when they were kids. In an age where television can transfix the mind, it seems only natural that book stories might have to fight a little harder for attention. The interaction is quiet, save for a few page turns and the voice(s) in the reader's head (at least in my experience). But storytelling is different. Storytelling is interactive. Storytelling is immersive. Storytelling can transfix, too.

One of my professors, a former youth services librarian, remarked what a shame it is that library science programs don't really require storytelling courses anymore. While I can understand why (tuition costs, numerous other graduation requirements, etc.), it still makes me sad. Oral storytelling seems to have a lasting power that books don't. I still remember these magic words Norah Dooley used in her telling of an Italian folktale at the Festival: "Ari-Ari, Donkey, Donkey, Money, Money!" Admittedly, I remember her story better than many of the books I've read for classes. Even with books I love enough to share with another person, my own telling of it is the one that I remember best. I wonder why that is. I guess there's just something about spoken words that lasts even though they're basically gone once they're uttered.

Massmouth's catchphrase is "Because you have a life, you have a story. Bring it." To that I might add that, if you have a story, tell it. We all need a good story in some way or another. As the quote falsely attributed to C.S. Lewis goes, "We read to know that we are not alone." Maybe we watch to know that we are not alone, too. But we can also listen to know that we are not alone.  And maybe, if we listen, we won't really be alone after all.

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A Valentine for my Macbook

Roses are red
Violets are blue
My dear Macbook
I love you.

For a long time, I was a pen-and-paper kinda gal.  If you read my most recent post about office supply rehab, this should come as no surprise to you.  However, in the last few years of college and all of graduate school I have found myself starting to take more and more notes on the computer.  This can be attributed to the fact that I was an art history major taking a Japanese art class, and my mutilated spellings of "Hiroshige" along with descriptive phrases like "View of Mt Fuji with Plants and bridge No. 2" led me to need to insert the actual piece of art itself, and since then I realized how much more easy it is for me to take notes on a computer. 

It hasn't stopped there.  I have started buying and reading my textbooks on my iPad, which is an absolutely amazing resource when it comes to not having to lug textbooks on the train if I want to refer to them during class.  I have linked my Simmons email up to my regular gmail account and can review important emails and send responses or replies from the train.  Occasionally, I do get a flashback of little Carolyn in fourth grade with her hardcopy of "The Island of the Blue Dolphins" or "Follow the Stars," and I wonder what she would think of all of this current technology. 

I know that a lot of people still prefer to read things in hardcover.  For a lot of books, I am the same way - while I'm reading on my computer I often lose focus and check Facebook or Reddit, and sometimes I yearn for the nostalgia of my paperback "Redwall."  But one of the recurring themes of library school is that you can hold out for as long as you like, but technology is taking over - and we are really stuck in the crosshairs, aren't we.  Sometimes I wonder if it's better to be all-digital, all-analog, or find a combination of the two.  The only thing I am sure of at the moment is that regardless of advances in the field of aviation, there will never be a day when I can't read a paper book during take off...and at the very least that constant is enough to leave the metaphysical questions for another day. 

What do you think, dear readers?  Do you still take notes with a pen and paper, and buy hardcover books?  Or have you entirely made the switch over to the digital world?

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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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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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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!

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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.

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Okay Google Now...

I need to talk about Google.  Most librarians have a love/hate relationship with Google as it is such a useful tool, the ultimate federated search, but also often perceived to be the biggest threat to our job security.

With my last tuition payment this month (cheers all around!), I celebrated by finally joining the smartphone world.  I opted for a Motorola Droid phone as they have good antennas and I live in the boonies, and I expected to love being able to check email and have a really nice camera with me at all times.  I did not expect to fall in love with its excellent voice recognition software and my ability to ask Google whatever I wanted to know. 

I remember when a computer with far less processing ability than my little phone would literally fill a room, so I am enthralled with the power in this little device.  My favorite feature is "Okay Google, now..." which allows me to ask it anything. 

Gasp!  A librarian who is having an affair with Google.... We librarians need to get over ourselves and applaud any efforts that make information more accessible. We don't need to feel threatened as truth is, Google is a great FIRST step in gathering information, and it is awesome for ready reference questions like "Okay Google now...how long is the Golden Gate Bridge?"  We don't need a master's degree to answer that question now, nor did we in the age of print encyclopedias. The world does, however, need all our librarian skills to conduct useful searches on more in-depth topics, whether on freely available internet sources or through subscription databases or through WorldCat, the world's online catalog (which still gives me goose bumps when I think about it.).

I recently joined a faculty member on a busy reference shift at UMass, where students sought our help when their basic Google searches didn't quite give them what they needed. That's right, they came to us.

The daringlibrarian.com recently posted:

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Point taken.  I really don't think we have to worry.

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The (Updated) Tale of a (More) Reformed Networker

I had my first networking revelation a little over a year ago, and my second one happened last Friday at the Special Libraries Association New England Fall conference (which conveniently took place at Simmons). I spent the day listening to presentations, pondering the meaning of special libraries, and, well, networking. For some reason there was a ridiculously long 90-minute lunch break, so I figured I would mill around for a few minutes, grab some food, then sit outside and read a magazine. Well, it turned out that instead of embracing my inner introvert, I found myself breaking bread with three complete strangers (gasp!). Ok, so they were fellow special librarians and conference attendees (calling them strangers is a bit dramatic), but still, this was a major deviation from my plan.

It seems absurd that this lunch conversation was such a big deal for me, but I am pretty proud of myself for being sociable on Friday. My first networking revelation made me realize that networking truly is important, and this one made me realize that hey, I can do this. I will not claim to be an all-star networker, but I'm working on it. GSLIS has provided the classroom and practical experience that have given me the confidence to be a better networker. When I started the program I had no library experience, so I felt not necessarily intimidated, but definitely out of place, when talking about library-related stuff. Boy have I come a long way since then.

Networking begins with shared experiences, and Friday was the first time that I felt that I had enough special library experience to banter with the other attendees. Bantering is absolutely not one of my strengths, which is why this seemingly insignificant lunch conversation was revolutionary for me. Perhaps someday I will come to fully embrace the idea of networking, but until that happens I will continue aspiring toward all-star networking status.

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I might sound like your mother, but...

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I am old enough to be your mother, so it's okay.

I know you are so busy that the thought of giving your time away might seem near impossible.  Like many of you, I have a job, a home, a family, and of course, school. We are all in different stages of our lives, and so some of us have a cat, others a spouse.  Many of us have kids - ranging from the tiny squirming variety to adult children, and everything in between.  We rent apartments, live with our parents and own homes.  We commute minutes and hours, and we are so tired and busy.  I know what you are thinking. "I don't have time to volunteer."

I got my first library job in recent years by volunteering at the library first, and then working my way up as positions became available. I volunteered in a prison library and found my passion to be a correctional librarian.  But I am revisiting this topic (I have mentioned it in previous blogs...) because Tuesday night, I ran into a young man who had, several months ago, asked me about library school.  He is 24, about the same age as many of you, and he had worked a little in his college library, was living at home with his parents, and struggling with what to do.  My advice to him was "Try out some libraries by volunteering in them.  It makes for good resume lines and it gives you a risk-free opportunity to see what you like.  And it might even land you a great job."

So, he did.  First, he volunteered with me at the public library.  Then he moved on to the archive of a local college.  He really liked the college, he told me, and so when a very part-time (4 hours a week!) position came open, he applied and got the job.  They knew him, liked his work, and he knew he wanted to work there.  A short time later, a sudden staff departure opened up a night circulation position for 20 hours a week, and he got that job.  Now he is getting great experience and saving for library school. Win, win.

So, even if you don't listen to your own mother, consider listening to this mother. Try a library on for size and find your passion.

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Five Things I Have Learned Joining GSLIS

Before I packed up the family car with dad to drive up to Boston for school, my mom decided to impart some advice for me to mull over during the course of my four and half hour long car ride. She said "Keep your mind open, everyday you are going to be learning something new, in and out of school." I've got to give my mom a hand; she doesn't normally offer such thought-provoking advice. However, since I was unable to go back home to Long Island for the Jewish high holidays, I've been thinking about my mom a lot lately, especially what she said to me two weeks ago. So, for my first official blog post for GSLIS, I've created a list of the top five things that I have learned since becoming a member of GSLIS.

*The following is in no particular order and can probably apply to the experiences of students outside of the GSLIS program*

Moodle is your best friend: Although this seems like an obvious one, Moodle is a resource that should not be taken for granted. Not only is this the website where we have to upload our assignments, but course readings, syllabi, power point presentations, and other resources and be found there as well.  Basically, everything you need to succeed at school can be found, to a degree, on Moodle. If you haven't done so already, take a few minutes and explore your Moodle page; who knows what academic goodies you might find.

Love the library; they are there for you. Seriously: For those of you who have had the pleasure to meet Linda Watkins, I think we all can agree that she perfectly encapsulates all the amazing things a library can do when administered by a dedicated staff. While I am sure all students who are part of GSLIS already respect and appreciate the library as an institution of knowledge, I implore you, take advantage of the Beatley Library and its devoted staff. They aren't just there to check out our books.

Bring a sweater if you have class in the Palace Road Building.  You are going to need it: While it has been very nice to sit in a cool room during these obnoxiously hot days we've been having lately, let's just be honest here, those rooms are COLD. Be smart, bring a sweater with you to class, especially if you are like me and get cold very easily. Trust me, having that sweater will really make the difference.

Your GSLIS classmates are the friendliest classmates you probably have ever had: Perhaps this is just a GSLIS thing, but every student in the program is super friendly. Be it in the classroom or on Moodle, there always seems to be an interesting conversation going on, and everyone is invited to join in. It seems that even though we have all come to GSLIS for different reasons, deep down, we all have shared connections one way or another, be it in TV shows, movies and books, hobbies, academic pursuits, or that we simply share the same commuter route. And no, I am not just saying this to promote the program; this is a legit fact and it makes this experience all the more awesome!

The professors are fantastic. Nuff said: Just like the staff members over at Beatley Library, the faculty members in GSLIS are not just here to lecture for three hours; they are here for US. Personally, having an approachable professor is one of those things that is an absolute must for me, How am I supposed to succeed if the professor won't take time to listen and answer my questions? From what I have experienced so far, I can honestly say that that won't be a problem here. Trust me, you can never go wrong when an enthusiastic professor can manage to keep your attention for three hours despite it being 9am.

So that's my list. If you think that there is something that I missed, leave a comment and let me know. I'd love to hear other students' (and not just the new ones) stories about their experiences with GSLIS. 

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Teaching in the Library

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I want to talk about librarians as teachers, and I don't mean librarians in schools.  I mean librarians everywhere.

I have encountered many academic librarians who talk about teachable moments at the reference desk.  I have had many teachable moments in the public library, too, and in the prison library.  Teachable moments come in different varieties, just like patrons.  Some of my recent "students" include: 

  • An older gentleman who reminisces about the old card catalog and hasn't a clue how to search and find on the OPAC.
  • A ten year old girl who wants to know if we have more books "like this," as she holds up her latest read.
  • A teenage boy who is watching Under the Dome on TV and wants to know if we have King's novel on CD...and while he is here, what other Stephen King books do we have?
  • An inmate who wants the next book in a Science fiction series.
  • A middle-aged woman who has gone back to school and wants to learn how to use our databases.
  • A homeschooling mom who needs some guidance on choosing appropriate history curriculum materials.
  • A new colleague who needs to learn how to navigate our website from the administrator side.
  • A retired professor who needs to know if I can get an obscure title on inter-library loan.

All these requests were teachable moments, times when instruction in information literacy had the power to connect a reader with his book at that moment but also in the future.  Taking the time to give instruction, not just answers, is the greatest gift we give our patrons.  Even if you don't plan to work in a school or an academic library, you may find yourself doing instruction at the point of need or creating web tutorials or suddenly giving eReader classes.  I can't say enough about the benefits of the User Instruction class I took over the summer.  I thought I knew how to teach my patrons, but now, using what I learned, I can feel the energy as my patrons become empowered.  Excitement in the library!  Who knew?

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Last Semester Blues

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I started the GSLIS program in January 2012, and with the completion of my three courses this semester, I will have finished my degree program.  Woohoo!  Well, mostly woohoo.

I think I have the last semester blues.  I know that sounds totally ridiculous.  I will be done with homework, done with long class commutes, done with tuition, and I will have my MLIS, which will hopefully be my ticket to the job of my dreams.  What in the world am I sad about?!

I think I am more afraid than anything. Will it be too easy not to learn new things?  Will I get tired, complacent and frumpy?  Will I turn into deadwood? Will I stay committed to knowing what I need to know to be the best librarian I can be?

I know these fears are unfounded.  I will never stop learning with so many opportunities for continuing education through Simmons and ALA, and other LIS universities like Syracuse (where I am taking a WISE course this semester). I even have my eye on a second Master's degree program.  I have to believe that if I continue to surround myself with inspiring colleagues, I will not get tired in a bad way.  Tired from hard work is fine, but not too tired for new ideas, and I hope never to tire of change.  Already, I have networked with other librarians in my state and fostered professional relationships so opportunities for connections and sharing of ideas and resources outside of grad school are well underway. So, why am I still worried?

My latest concerns remind me of my list of fears when I started the program.  Would I develop the technology skills I needed? Would I be able to balance work, school, and family, etc.? Those fears were unnecessary and symptomatic of a big step outside my comfort zone.  Every chapter of our lives brings new challenges.  My comfort zone is so much wider than it was just two years ago, which is just amazing to me, and yet, finishing my degree and moving on to the real world is another big step. 

I bought a new coffee mug to help me out. It reads, "Life begins at the end of your comfort zone." It is okay to be afraid of that next big step, so long as we take it anyway.

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The Library Lady

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All stereotypes come from somewhere. This, we all know to be true. How many of us, though, work with all of our might to confound the stereotype when it comes to being a librarian? I believe that many of us do. We despise the stereotype that all librarians are surly wenches with their hair wound so tight it seems as if it never gets let down. We counter that librarians are a force for positive change in this world of information overload, not the gatekeepers of dusty, musty books. Then I ask you why, why oh why does every librarian I know own a cat?! Now, before I am pegged as the cat-hater in GSLIS let me first just say that I myself just got a kitty at the Animal Rescue League of Boston. Her name is Eva. She jumps on my face. She naps on my tummy and her arch nemesis is a ball of tin foil I rolled off the counter a few nights ago. I am quite the opposite of the naysayer. In fact, I'm loving this particular stereotype. But the question I posed earlier is still festering: Why are we, as a profession, drawn to cats? Why do cats go so well with books and moreover, technology? Every time I turn a page I know Eva is ready to pounce. My ipad is a source of constant fascination for her. And don't even get me started on how she began pulling books off the shelf last night (she picks out King Lear, A Raisin in the Sun, and If You Give a Mouse a Cookie). I'm bumfuzzled! I bring this question up mainly because it's something to ponder as we go through our time here at GSLIS. What about the stereotype of our profession is just plain wrong, and what is just plain FABULOUS! Nothing is ever black and white, and I'm sure one day I will find a librarian without a cat. But until that day arrives just think about it: How will you confound expectations? How will you deliver way more than is expected of you by a patron? How will you embrace some of that stereotype and just dance like a kitty cat!

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Winter is Coming

I watched the first episode of Game of Thrones on June 22 as an escape from the afternoon heat in Washington, DC. Fast-forward 24 hours, and I had watched five more. The only thing stopping me from completing the entire ten-episode season by dinnertime on June 23 was my flight back to Boston. I hurried home from the airport and immediately went to my library's webpage to request Seasons One and Two on DVD. When I saw that there were 100-something holds on 90-something copies of each season (my library is part of a network of libraries in the greater Boston area, hence the large numbers), I added myself to both hold lists and vowed to start reading George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, the book series upon which the Game of Thrones television show is based.

It didn't take long to become so immersed in the books that I forgot about the queue for the DVDs. The novels initially intimidated me, as there are currently five (with two more forthcoming) that are each over 800 pages long and weigh as much as three pounds. I considered getting them on my Kindle, but while reading the first book in print I was often flipping back to earlier chapters (there are several plotlines) or forward to the appendices containing detailed family trees (there are many characters), so I decided to stick with print. That way, my brain could better process everything that was happening and my arms would get a modest workout.

Last Tuesday I hit the Game of Thrones jackpot, as the fifth book and (finally) Season One DVD arrived at the library with my name on them. That very night I watched the first three episodes, and was cursing the fact that I had evening commitments for the remainder of the week and would be out of town all weekend. But after waiting over six weeks for the DVD, waiting six days between episodes seems manageable. Plus, I have the fifth book to provide my daily fix while commuting. In short, Game of Thrones has kind of taken over my summer.

I would not have characterized Game of Thrones as a mild addiction until I realized that I had read the first four books, totaling over 3,200 pages, in six weeks and felt like a lottery winner when I snagged the Season One DVD off the hold shelf. My biggest concern, however, is what to do while I await the next installments. The sixth book is rumored to be published sometime in 2014 and Season Three comes to DVD on February 18, and my goal is to be first on the library hold list for both. I have considered reading the first five books again to really etch them into memory, but I think my arms might need a bit of a break. Moreover, winter is coming, along with classes, homework, and job applications - all distractions from my addiction, but likely not enough to fully silence the sweet melody of A Song of Ice and Fire that has been playing on repeat in my head.

People | Relaxing | leave a comment


Exploring Your Neighborhood

For the first time in seven years, I am so happy that this coming September 1, my husband and I will not be moving.  I will be excluded from the uHaul hassle, the security deposits, the shady landlords, and dealing with the fact that dishwashers are still a sought-after commodity despite our foray into the twenty-first century. 

In the past year, knowing that we wouldn't be moving in September, we have made our little apartment a true home (rental-style) - temporarily replacing the dim lighting fixtures, accruing beautiful (if eclectic) art and photographs, even adopting a puppy for our pet-friendly pad!  But one of the things that we have admittedly slacked on is learning our area.

When my husband randomly plugged our address into Walkscore.com and a 97 popped up, his friend asked what great coffee shops, bars, parks, and restaurants were in the area to inflate our score so much - sadly, we had no idea.  It wasn't until very recently that we actually made exploring our area a priority - and we have discovered essentially paradise.  There is a craft shop two blocks away, to meet all of my crafting needs; there is a liquor shop/convenience store around the corner; there is a bar literally across the street from our apartment, becoming our own MacLaren's (from How I Met Your Mother).  While Kendall Square is known as "technology square," I have to say that the accompanying East Cambridge neighborhood is amazing - and definitely worth a visit. 

And, here are a few of the places that I have recently discovered, should you happen to be in the area: Lizzy's (a bar whose fan base practically rioted when they closed briefly due to liquor permit complications), Courthouse Sea Food (a fish market, where you can buy a pound of sashimi-grade salmon for $15 bucks) or the restaurant of the same name next door (with $5 burger and fries), Poultry Fresh Killed (Boston's best butcher with a dubious name),  and Cafe Kafofo (makes the best iced coffee I have ever had).  Just sayin'.

Boston | People | leave a comment


Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Graham Herrli

Graham_Herrli.jpgI have fallen into the habit of falling in love with fellow classmates in my past few semesters at GSLIS. I share my crushes through this blog to you, the GSLIS community. I first met my friend Graham in LIS 408, User Instruction. While there were many talented people in the class with lots to contribute, Graham always intrigued me because of his usability perspective on library science issues. Graham is one of those students that blows you away with his passion and genuine interest with the way patrons interact with information. I want more Grahams in my next class, though I suspect he may not be taking storytelling in the fall. Regardless, I am thrilled to present Graham Herrli.

1) What made you choose the GSLIS program and what is your focus while here at Simmons?

I came to GSLIS initially because I was interested in how people interact with information and I thought I might want to become a librarian.  Since arriving, I've found that librarianship isn't for me, but I'm still intrigued by how people interact with information. I spend a lot of my free time reading and reviewing user experience (UX) books and articles. Recently, I've begun a great job as an interaction designer and shifted my focus at Simmons to courses that will support me in this role.  I look forward to taking Visual Communication this fall.

2) What is the greatest technological advantage GSLIS students can have when they graduate?

That depends on what the students intend to do.  For librarians, having the ability to explain technological systems to their patrons could be highly useful.  For archivists, a thorough understanding of XML and XSLT could help them to modernize their finding aids.  For students interested in other branches of information science, sundry other bits of technological knowledge could be most useful to them.  For example, students interested in a career in knowledge management or in content strategy would benefit from a firm understanding of the capabilities and limitations of content management systems, especially the budding idea of "adaptive content": content stored wholly independent of format so that your computer, phone, music player, or...I dunno, fridge?? can pull the content that best fits its particular form, factor and context.

3) Tell us about UXPA@Simmons and the role you play there. Why is usability and the user experience so important for GSLIS students to be aware of?

I'm one of the two new co-chairs of UXPA@Simmons (the Simmons branch of the User Experience Professional Association).  We're still in the process of planning programming for this upcoming year, and I encourage students to contact me with suggestions.  I hope that the club can serve three purposes:

  • to inform students who aren't familiar with UX what the field is all about.  The hyper-abbreviated version is that UX is about making things behave the way people expect them to behave. Notable subfields of UX are:
    • user research--gathering feedback on how people interact with things (i.e. holding a focus group to determine why people might want to buy shoes online)
    • information architecture--making sure that people can find information where they expect to find it (i.e. labeling the shoes section of a website in a way that people looking to buy shoes can find what they're looking for)
    • interaction design--making things behave the way people expect them to (i.e. giving an online shoe shopper clear feedback when he/she clicks on a button that the shoes have been added to a virtual shopping cart)
  • to enable students who are interested in pursuing user experience professionally to gain a sense of current hot topics in the field.  Personally, I'm interested in such topics as:
    • emotional design--making interfaces more than just usable...making them fun and memorable and meaningful.
    • adaptive design--creating designs that work on a variety of devices in a variety of contexts.
    • gamification--finding the game inherent in everything and using this knowledge to make interfaces more enjoyable to use
  • to evangelize for the importance of considering the user in all professions.  Prospective librarians, archivists, and others who don't intend to pursue UX professionally will still benefit from joining UXPA@Simmons because they still work with users and thus still need to find ways to best identify and serve their users (aka "patrons") needs.

4) What's the best class you've taken at Simmons so far?

I most enjoyed (and learned most from) an independent study of mobile usability testing with Professor Rong Tang.  Rong is an expert in the field of usability, and with her, I was able to explore the various ways in which the mobile context differs from the traditional desktop context and to look at how usability testing might be changed to fit this new context. Fun fact: a Pew internet survey from April 2012 found that 42% of Americans age 18-29 use a phone as their primary method of accessing the internet. That means if you don't account for mobile usage, you're alienating a large portion of your potential audience.

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

I would have advanced telekinesis (which is probably cheating).  This telekinesis would allow me to manipulate matter finely on a small scale so that I could regenerate my cells making myself immortal, access the internet through direct mental contact, fly, read minds, freeze time, and all of the other things your run-of-the mill superheroes can do.  As long as I get to write my own story, no need to write in the limitations that make for interesting character development in popular works of sci-fi/fantasy, right? And of course, yes, I would use the power for "good," but everyone assumes they're acting for "good" so that doesn't really say anything. I suppose the good I would do would be to avoid imposing my conception of what is "good" on other people.

GSLIS | People | leave a comment


Petition to Proceed into the Library World

Most people know what it's like to have an email inbox that is constantly full of crap. Listservs, gimmicks, promotions, mass emails that may or may not pertain to you but you should probably read anyway just in case...you know. I do my best to keep my inbox as crap-free as possible, which necessitates a fair amount of deleting things based solely on their subject line. Who knows how many emails I delete that I shouldn't, but I do my best to diligently discard blatant crap emails while still opening anything that is, or might be, relevant. Last week, my usual subject line deletion system was jarred by an email from the GSLIS Student Services Center with the subject: PETITION TO GRADUATE form - 2013-2014.

This petition clearly pertains to me as I enter my final semester; thus, the email was granted the esteemed privilege of being opened and read. I expected the petition form to be long-winded and daunting, asking me to list every GSLIS credit that I took with which professor on which days and at what time. Instead, it was a very basic form that is intended to tell Simmons that yea, I'm ready to face the library world. After printing my name in my very best penmanship and confirming that I am indeed on the general (as opposed to archives or school library teacher) track, I made my merry way to the Student Services Center on campus and handed it over, and that was it. I have officially petitioned to graduate from GSLIS.

(Please hold your applause.)

Unless I completely mess up my last semester, or someone belatedly informs me that I have not met the core course requirements or that I actually failed that second semester class that I thought I aced, I will graduate in December. This is not breaking news, as I have spent the past two years telling people that I will graduate in December 2013, but completing and submitting that unassuming graduation petition was my first reality check. It was certainly an easy reality check, as the ones that follow are bound to include, but are not limited to: thinking about jobs, talking about jobs, searching for jobs, applying for jobs, interviewing (hopefully!) for jobs, being rejected from jobs, and (hopefully, fingers crossed, please please PLEASE have this happen by the time classes end) actually getting a job.

Come December, after a fall full of reality checks, I hope to look back on this post and wonder what the heck I was so worried about (and I ask that you continue to hold your applause until that very moment). In the meantime, I should start being more careful about purging my inbox - I can't afford for any potential opportunities to end up in the trash.

Classes | Jobs | People | leave a comment


I locked myself out of my bathroom...and other tall tales.

So when I say "tall" I mean true. I am sitting in my apartment, cautiously drinking water owing to the fact that I may not be able to relieve myself as I have somehow locked the bathroom from the outside. This all comes at the end of my seven day recovery period. Recovery from what you might ask? Oh, just the removal of the superfluous organ we call the gallbladder.  But didn't you have a ticket to Chicago for the ALA conference? Did you get to go? Why yes! And no I did not get to go to Chicago. The stars and my gastro intestinal system have chosen to align to combust this summer barring me from travel. And so, this is the time I chose to reflect on my life. In this summer of heat and nothing but time to muse in my pain reliever haze I reflect on my time at GSLIS.

As I look back over my year of posting on this blog I realize I came into this program with a lot of good fortune, fabulous tales of the Peace Corps, spelling bees and basically saving a Mediterranean country for libraries and peace.  I seem to have lost my swagger...along with my gallbladder (had to be said).  However, sitting here, reading the latest info link about the accomplishments of GSLIS alums as well as the tech lab workshops I do not despair...too much. True, this has been a summer of trials and tribulations. In times such as these I find it best to speak as Anne Shirley would. True, I will never have puffed sleeves on my dress, or perhaps publish my own book of short library vignettes. Then again, maybe this is Boston's way of breaking me in, forcing me to prove to you, devoted readers, what I do know.

I've been here almost a year and I can say these three things with confidence. If you're a new student, take note.

  1. Moodle will send you updates to every forum you post in unless you click that box that says you don't want to be notified of a new post via email. So, if your class of 30 is required to post once a week make sure you CLICK that box.
  2. Linda Watkins is a brilliant librarian, fiercely solving crimes and boxing the ears of databases. She is game, when it comes all things GSLIS. Use her as a resource!
  3.  Don't lock yourself out of your own bathroom in the middle of the summer in a 90 degree heat wave. Sweating will only get you so far.

GSLIS | People | leave a comment


Preserving Morris Dancing

Morris_dancing.jpg
For the last two months I have been enmeshed in a collection about Morris Dancing. Until two months ago, I did not know such a thing existed. So imagine my great surprise Friday night when I ran into multiple Morris Dancer groups performing on the Common in conjunction with Shakespeare on the Common!

I wasn't even supposed to be there at that time but had absentmindedly gotten off at the wrong T stop and ran into the very people my collection documented! As I stood watching, a woman came up to me and said, "Has anyone told you what this is yet?" She seemed used to having to explain it to passersby. "It's Morris Dancing!" I said excitedly and she looked at me as if I were the one jumping in the common with bells tied to my shins. Yes! I do know what it is!

This led me to a wonderful opportunity to not only talk with her about Morris Dancing and how she came to be involved with it but also about how I know what it is and explain what an archivist does. I also got to invite them all to the exhibit at the Cambridge Public Library I had just finished setting up!  The Boston area has so many fun cultural things to see and do and it's so cool to be involved in the documentation and preservation of their history!

Archives | Boston | People | leave a comment


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