Boston, you're my home

I've lived in Boston my whole life, and sometimes I take the city's cultural attractions and goings-on for granted.  (That could be because I have kids, and their idea of culture is the Grossology exhibit at the Science Museum.)   Meeting my classmates, many of whom have moved to Boston just for this program, reminds me to slow down to appreciate all the area has to offer, even as I wonder when I will finish my reading and class assignments!  So, last week I went to a lecture with a friend, and today I visited Drumlin Farm with my brother and one of my daughters.  Super fun, and I still had time to finish the TOR!

It's important to balance school and fun.  So, in no particular order, here are some of my favorite things to do in the greater Boston area.   Whether you're visiting Simmons, have just moved here for SLIS, or, like me, have lived here for many years, you're bound to enjoy at least one of these adventures.

The Greenway:  The Big Dig, a twenty-year-long construction project to put the Central Artery highway underground, was completed in 2002.  It was, and continues to be, quite controversial here in Boston -- but it resulted in the fabulous Rose F. Kennedy Greenway, a strip of parks where the elevated road once stood.  Spend a happy afternoon walking through the parks, riding the carousel, and watching kids play in the Rings Fountain, near the Aquarium.  (Fountains are on late May through Columbus Day.)

HONK! :  Not to be missed, if you like music, social activism and festivals!  The highlight of this band-filled, celebratory weekend is the Sunday parade from Davis Square to Harvard Square.  We'll be watching from the corner of Orchard and Beech Streets in Cambridge and would love to see SLIS folk there.  (October 10-12, Davis Square, Somerville.)

Mapparium: Housed in the Mary Baker Eddy Library at the Christian Science Center in Boston , the Mapparium is a gorgeous glass globe circa 1935.  Visitors walk inside the globe for a unique perspective.  There's really nothing like it.  Just outside the Mapparium is the Hall of Ideas, which I can't even really explain -- OK, I'll try: letters and words come out of a fountain and travel to the walls to form quotes.  It's easy to spend a very long amount of time in this impressive room.

Family Trees at the Concord Museum: Each holiday season, this Concord, MA museum exhibits dozens of trees with decorations inspired by children's books.  The titles range from familiar to obscure, and characters visit on special days.  The list of books is available online, and I usually check a few out from the library so my kids recognize them when we visit.   While you're in Concord, have a snack at the Main Street Cafe -- yum. 

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Field Study at BPL

I have to do a field study for my Archival Methods and Services (LIS 438) class, which entails visiting a local repository, using it to answer a research question, and then writing a 3-5 page paper about the experience. In the past I've mostly used small, community archives, so for a change of pace, I chose to visit the large and impressive print department of Boston Public Library's Special Collections.

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The entrance to BPL

Before I could visit, I had to come up with a research question. Since I didn't know what collections the department housed, I went online to its website (BPL Special Collections) to get an overview of what it had. Even though only a tiny part of the vast Special Collections has been digitized, BPL still does an exemplary job of listing what it has available for researchers and the general public. But with so much selection, it was a little overwhelming! I ended up picking the Adlow papers, a collection of late 18th and early 19th century documents that belonged to a local lawyer and judge, mostly because it looked interesting and was close to the top of the list, which is alphabetical. I also didn't want to choose a really popular collection, like the Sacco and Vanzetti or the Dickens. This was mostly because I wanted to see how accessible some of the less frequently accessed manuscripts were.

I called the print department and made an appointment to see the papers the following Friday, telling the staff member on the phone I was researching where Suffolk County got the land on which they built a prison in the 1820s, as the Special Collections website said the Adlow papers had documents related to prison construction during that time.

When Friday time came around, I took the T (subway) to the Central branch of BPL in Copley Square. I had been there before on a tour, so I knew where Special Collections was, but if I hadn't, I would have had a difficult time finding it. The department is located on the third (and top) floor after walking through two ornate galleries and a long reading room. Its small lobby is beautiful, lined with leather-bound books dimly lit behind protective glass. It's deceptive because once you go into the department, it's obvious its enormity is concealed behind doors. And there are a few requirements for going through those doors, which I read about online beforehand. Just as the website said, when I checked in at the reception desk, I needed photo ID and my library card. Using these and a card I filled out within a few minutes, the library assistant registered me and sent me to locker room to store my jacket and bag. The only things you can bring into the manuscripts area are loose-leaf paper and a pencil.

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BPL's Central lobby

Armed with my meager supplies, I stepped through the glass doors labeled "Researchers Only". And then I was in a world of books. They were all around me, and they weren't behind glass. Their spines weren't brightly colored with the flashy jackets that grace the shelves in Circulation. Instead, the earth tones of their mostly leather and occasional fabric covers gave the walls they lined a muted brown hue. It seemed like the whole room was some version of that color with the brightness of the orange carpet and pale yellow walls magnified by the glare of the overhead florescent lighting. As I proceeded to the reference librarian's desk, I noticed some oversized books with gold and metal embellished covers. They looked like they were straight out of a medieval library, yet they were just lying there on carts. Across from them I saw an island of card catalogs in the center of the room, and on another wall, a distinguished looking gentleman stared out at me from his stately portrait within an elaborate gilded frame. It felt like I was in Hogwarts in the 1960s. I loved it!

The reference librarian, Kim, was very friendly and helpful. She gave me a finding aid for the papers related to prisons in the Adlow collection, which comprises over 10,000 documents. Within half an hour I had found two documents that looked like bills of sale. I wrote their folder numbers down on call slips, which I gave to Kim, and she called the documents from the stacks.

The whole process was much easier than I thought. The finding aid was well organized and allowed me to locate what I needed, and the staff was remarkably helpful. And even though it took a bit of time to retrieve what I called, when I examined the documents, it was worth it! In my hands I held the answer to my research question, written on delicate yet fibrous paper covered with elegant, sweeping cursive script penned almost two centuries ago. One of the records even had residual wax on it from a seal, though I couldn't tell if it was the judge's seal or the county's. It was red and sticky, and at first I thought it was chewing gum. Touching the tacky surface of the wax, I thought of Judge Adlow. Did he seal this? Was this his handwriting or his clerk's? I felt small thinking about the years separating me and Adlow and everything that had happened during them. My mind entered a dreamy history fuzz as I travel back in time mentally. I had so many questions, and if I had all day, I would have loved to have called more documents to get answers. I was following my questions down rabbit hole after rabbit hole, when suddenly my stomach growled, snapping me out of my haze. I needed to get lunch before a group project meeting on campus in the early afternoon.

I returned the folders of papers to the librarian, and we chatted amiably about the extent to which everything had been cataloged and the card catalogs themselves. She knew I was a Simmons student from information I gave when I made the appointment, and I felt like the cool kid in school, included in the small world of librarianship during our brief conversation. Then, going back through the secure doors, I said goodbye to the assistant at the desk and retrieved my stuff from the locker where I had stored it. It had been a productive and memorable field experience. What a fun assignment!

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Two Hundred Miles, A T Ride, and A Couple of Llamas

My days begin and end with llamas.

"Huh, what?" you ask. "I thought this was a blog about all the joys and challenges of being a SLIS student in Boston! What's this llama nonsense?!? I want my money back!"

Let me explain.

Rest assured: This is definitely a SLIS "student experience" blog, and I'm very much a SLIS student. But as a SLIS West-er who takes the majority of her classes at Mt. Holyoke, most of my days are spent far from One Palace Road -- 99.9 miles, if Google Maps' accuracy can be trusted. The place I call home isn't a Back Bay brownstone, or a walkup apartment in Brookline or the Longwood area. It's an old white farmhouse with green shutters in a Western Massachusetts hill town. The Connecticut River is a stone's throw away. And there's a llama farm next door.

Having llamas as my closest neighbors isn't something I reflect on often. I've pet them a couple times. At least once a day, usually in the morning when I'm headed to work, they look up and stare at me, which I suppose is the four-legged mammalian equivalent of a wave, or "hello." That's pretty much the extent of our relationship.

These days, however, I'm spending my Wednesday evenings in Boston, discussing curriculum standards with my LIS 426 class as a steady symphony of ambulance sirens from the nearby Longwood Medical Area plays in the background. And I can't help but contrast the two different environs of my two disparate lives. Six out of seven days, I'm surrounded by llamas and sweet corn stands, rolling hills and green pastures. On Wednesday afternoons, I leave all these behind as I trek east on Route 2, hop on the T, and become, temporarily, a Bostonian and a student at Simmons' main campus. Making my way through the throngs of joggers, medical residents, and college students, it's hard to believe I was one with the llamas less than 12 hours earlier.

I'm going to be frank: sometimes it's frustrating to be a SLIS West-er. Several times a day, you receive emails about job or internship opportunities, or workshops at the SLIS Tech Lab, or pizza parties and networking events, nearly all of which take place at or near the Boston campus. Depending on your program, you may have to make the two-hour-or-so trip to Boston for one or two classes. You may even experience the onset of an identity crisis. "Can I really call myself a SLIS West student if I take classes in Boston? Help!"

It's still early in my Simmons career, but having experienced life on both SLIS campuses, I think I can safely say SLIS West students have the best of both worlds. Thanks to the Five Colleges and other local institutions, we in the Pioneer Valley, as in Boston, belong to a thriving intellectual community, whose members appreciate librarians and the support they provide in all kinds of learning. We get to take classes in Mt. Holyoke's Williston Library -- the most gorgeous academic library building in the country, for my money. We're surrounded by lush scenery, and a wide variety of flora and fauna (like llamas!). We've got creamie stands and Atkins Farm cider donuts and Yankee Candle just down the road. Boston's only a couple hours away, and we can head there as our time and wallets allow. Honestly, many of us are just too darn content to want to leave.

Each Wednesday, I consider myself particularly lucky. In one 18-hour span, I get to travel 100 miles. I encounter the cows, creamies and sweet corn stands that are mainstays of country life in Western Mass., ride the T with people from all backgrounds, and explore the intellectual development of K-12 students.

And when I get home at midnight, the llamas will be waiting for me. It just doesn't get any better.

SLIS West | leave a comment


The (Not-So) Secret (Rose) Garden

Everyone! I have found The Secret Garden!

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Okay, it's not actually the one in the novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, but it's almost as great. Because not only is it somewhere I've never been before, (spoiler alert: there are a lot of those places) it's also a beautiful and well-maintained rose garden.

In the Back Bay Fens Park (for those of you who aren't native Bostonians--including myself-- the actual park portion of the park is called thus, the Fenway Park is the baseball field...I think.), there is a secluded beautiful rose garden called the James P. Kelleher Rose Garden.

I was told about this beautiful spot by someone I met briefly earlier in the day. I was so thankful to her. It really felt like stepping into one of my favorite childhood gardens.  Seriously look at it.

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(photo credit to Christine Riggle (accessed via flickr) -- I was not thoughtful enough to take anything besides SnapChats when I was there)

Admittedly since I went on Tuesday, and it's September, it wasn't quite as vibrant as this picture shows. Roses bloom on and off from midspring to fall, so there were still plenty of lovely flowers to look at. The garden is still beautiful and serene--my guess would be that it feels that way even in the dead of winter. If you have a few minutes, take a walk through it. You won't regret it.

All the Best - Hayley

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Catching on Coding

We at Simmons have been known to run the spectrum of professions and interests within the information sciences. Whether stemming from personal passion or outside necessity, developing your own sense technological literacy and pushing it to the limits is a huge part of your academic career and an even bigger part of your larger ambitions as an information professional. As we set our sights on post-graduation opportunity, we should start thinking about how we can become not only tech users, but tech creators.

Growing up, coding was synonymous to me with being the forum regular with the coolest post signature - boasting countless animated sparkle fonts, flaming clip art, and the lime green courier font of 1337 h4x0rs of yore. Today, coding means something much bigger - and learning to code became the tether between the tech I use on a daily basis, and me understanding the tech I use on daily basis.

Let's be real for a second - looking at a code document for the first time can look like an insurmountable wall of numerical hell. "what is any of this" "what is anything" "what is life" you may ask yourself, gazing into a void of incoherent acronyms, formulas, and formatting decisions. But don't worry - it won't be that way for long with the following inventory of mighty useful tools to help send you on your coding journey:

  1. Class. You've heard it - but seriously; take as many tech-infused classes as you can during your time in SLIS. Your classmates and helpful professors will have your back as you wade through the terrifying reeds of encoding, content standards, and metadata. Once the semester is over, you will emerge valiant and thank yourself for those sleepless nights.

  2. CodeAcademy. A game-ified learning resource full of [and not to mention free] lessons that will take you all the way from HTML/CSS and Javascript to languages like PHP, Ruby, and Python.

  3. w3schools has long been a fairly authoritative reference source for all things computer-language-related. Need to know the CSS color code for that specific shade of mint green you love? Can't remember exactly how you should structure that if/then statement? w3schools has your back.

  4. Skillcrush Blog. Aspiring designer or developer? Established techie looking to better establish yourself in the field? Primarily geared toward women who code, this blog has the potential to take just about anyone's professional endeavor game up a level.

Learning how to code won't just make your resumé a beacon of awesome for potential employers. You'll become more technologically self sufficient and gain the ability to confidently go forth, taking a more active role in the creation and use of new technologies that you see a need for. After stepping into the world of coding, don't freak out - just move forward and the skills will come.

Technology | leave a comment


Falling Down and Getting Up

Yesterday, I fell off a ladder.

This wasn't some deep metaphorical ladder, but rather the type that one climbs when one is shelving books.This wasn't my first time falling off a ladder or step stool while trying to either shelve books or pull them down, and it probably won't be the last time either. After all, couldn't you argue that life is filled with moments like this; moments when you fall down and moments when you get back up. 
The other day while I was working at the Student Service Center's desk on the 2nd floor of the Palace Road building, a new student came by looking for information about the archives program. They wanted to know what I thought of the program, was it a good place to be if they were still a bit unsure about where exactly they wanted to go with their degree? Was I enjoying the dual degree program or did I regret adding the second Masters? And finally, what can they do to make sure that whenever they graduate Simmons, they will be employable?
As someone still asking herself that last question, I knew that I could at least offer a partial answer: take advantage of living in Boston, a city rich with libraries, archives, historic societies, and museums, and the opportunities that Simmons can offer you. The more work experiences you have, the better you will be when it is time to accept your diploma. I told them that when I first started Simmons one year ago, the only experience I had was working as a student worker in my undergraduate university's library. Even with that under my belt and on my resume, I struggled to find internships or part-time jobs. I wasn't the only person out there looking for those things; my competition was stiff, and just because I had a bit of experience, it didn't seem to be distinguishing me from the rest of the competition. However, I never stopped applying. After one semester at Simmons, my prospects began to improve. The things I learned in LIS 438 (Intro to Archives) turned out to be what my resume needed; it provided me with archive-based skills that I hadn't had prior. By the middle of January, I had a job working in a map gallery at the BPL. By the start of the summer, I had a job working in a legal library. Literally, one thing led to another, and that thing led to something else.
In the end, I told them to be persistent, to apply to all the positions that seemed interesting to them, even the ones that might be in a different area of library science. I never saw myself working in a special library, but I have thus far loved my time at the legal library. I also told them to give it time. It might take a month or even a semester, but the courses they teach at SLIS are there for a reason. Having that one semester internship in an archive or historic society really can make a difference when it comes to applying for similar positions. It did for me and a whole bunch of other students that I know. 
Persistence is the thing that helps me stand up after I've fallen off the ladder. It was also the thing, along with the knowledge and skills gained in my first semester at Simmons, that led me to where I am today. Good things will always happen if you keep trying. You learn how to balance yourself correctly on the ladder so you don't fall; you are accepted into an internship or part-time position that will help you take the next step towards becoming a librarian, an archivist, a cataloger, or metadata specialist. It might not happen today or tomorrow, or this month, but it will as long you don't stop trying.
Getting back up after falling down is always worth it.

Students | leave a comment


Careers for MLIS Grads

Most people who attend a Master's in Library and Information Science program want to work at a library or archive when they finish.  The degree tends to be centered on those types of repositories, but there are also other research-oriented jobs that an M.S. can be excellent preparation for, especially in the current job market.  Here are a few different career tracks that I've seen advertised in the Boston area recently:

  • Prospect Research involves finding potential donors for non-profit organizations.  It can involve a lot of internet and database research, determining not just who is likely to want to give to an organization but also what their donation capacity is.  Because prospect researchers are employed by different types and sizes of organizations, the pay and actual job can vary widely.

I'm going to be doing a prospect research internship this fall, so I'll probably end up writing a couple of blog entries about what it's actually like to do this type of work.

  • Rights and Permissions Research involves doing internet research to identify and locate rights holders usually for arts organizations - museums and galleries.  These jobs require knowledge of copyright laws and juggling requests from inside and outside the organization.
  • Patent Research involves researching inventions to make sure that they are original and that they aren't repeating someone else's patent.  Patent researchers usually work for law firms or the legal departments of large organizations.  According to the Wall Street Journal, they can make between $65,000 and $85,000 annually and the work is steady.  These sorts of jobs do often require technical knowledge and possibly a BA in a technical field.

These aren't the only research jobs, of course!  There are a lot more out there than I can outline in one blog entry.  If you're looking for a job that isn't in an archive or library, and you love research, then there will definitely be something out there for you.

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A Day in the Life

As a first semester MLIS student, I would be the first to tell you that I don't have much experience with archival work.  Aside from volunteering in public libraries and a brief stint as a shelver in college, my only real exposure to archives was researching the Theatre and Performing Arts special collection at my undergrad's university archives.  I had the opportunity to hold a Shakespeare First Folio and other amazing artifacts, and got a little spoiled when it came to the joys of archival discovery.

When I volunteered to work several hours at the Brookline Historical Society for the REPS Day of Service 2014 this past Saturday, I didn't know what to expect.  Google Maps brought me to a little old house with a white picket fence, but thankfully the curators found me lurking in the backyard before I convinced myself that I was trespassing on a private residence.  In a small room in the back of what I learned was the historic Edward Devotion House, I was assigned two boxes from a new collection that they received from a long-standing Brookline family.  Tucked away in the corner, I was able to rummage through Box 15 (Religion) and Box 7 (Sports).

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A photo from the day: I'm tucked away in the back corner with my first box and handy friend, Microsoft Excel. (Photo cred: @danbullman)

I felt as if I were going through my own grandparents' attic, sorting church directories and football game programs from the 1950s, my favorite of which featured a boy in an overlarge football helmet siting next to his patient basset hound.  There were also two scrapbooks of sports clippings from 1938 to 1941, lined with yellowing newspaper articles and black and white action photos.  I wasn't working with letters from King Henry VIII or Charlotte Bronte's manuscripts, but this was even better because these objects belonged to ordinary people, what they cared about, what they kept.  I could easily imagine the members of this family going to football games and keeping score with a blunt pencil, or hanging up a church calendar in their kitchen with all of their fellow parishioners' birthdays listed in neat little type, or pasting their varsity letter onto thin paper with pride.  I wonder if 75 years from now, someone will be sorting through my own papers, come across birthday cards, ticket stubs, and photo books that I've treasured and catch a glimpse of my life in the 2010s.

Thank you so much to Dan Bullman, curators Camile Arbogast and Jesus MacLean at the Brookline Historical Society, and everyone else that was involved in planning the REPS Day of Service!

I hope those of you in New England were able to participate in the REPS Day of Service in participating locations in Newton, Vermont, and Connecticut.  If you are interested in future opportunities to volunteer, I highly recommend following New England Archivists on Facebook and Twitter (@NEarchivists) or seeking out your local archivists association!

Events | leave a comment


The Balancing Act Begins!

Well, my first full week of school is over, and my two biggest accomplishments were getting a student discount (10% at Tags!) and making my kids do my homework.

Kidding.  Kind of.

Going back to school at age 41, with a husband and kids and part-time work, is, in some ways, just like going to school at any age.  I puzzle over how long it will take me to get to school from our home in Somerville (almost an hour!), where to get my ID (the campus card office), what kind of notebooks to use, whether I needed a snack during a 3-hour class (yes!).

There are some major differences, too.  Before I leave for class, I make lunches for my kids and get them ready for school.  I check my phone during breaks to make sure the school hasn't called.  I drag myself to book club one night, and we talk about our parents' health problems (probably not what my 20-something classmates are discussing over dinner).  I balance my freelance work and shifts at a nearby library with one daughter's gymnastics practices, teaching the other to ride a two-wheeler, and being a room parent at their elementary school.  I forget that I need to allocate time -- plenty of time! -- for homework and class assignments.  I wonder how exactly this balancing act will work out.

But back to the accomplishments.  The student discount is really pretty great.  And the at-first overwhelming Organization of Information class has turned out to be both awesome and a family affair -- my kids selected the books for an assignment in LibraryThing, then came up with the tags themselves.  (Will I be able to hand off any other homework to an 8 and 6 year old?) 

I know I'll find a rhythm.  It's only the first week.  My professors seem fabulous, my classmates inspiring.   The Simmons campus is picturesque, the facilities top-notch.  And there are certainly advantages to going back to school in my 40s - I have roots in this community, family support, many years of professional experience and perspective. 

Here's hoping the second week is as positive as the first!

Classes | Students | leave a comment


Dissecting Computers

I blog and I'm in library school, so sometimes people think I know a lot about computers. While I can understand why they would make this assumption, to be perfectly honest, technology really intimidates me.

This goes back to a when I was in the second grade and my family got a new peripheral device and remote control for our cable television. There were so many colorful buttons! I started pushing away at them, trying to find the guide channel. As result, the TV froze and would not turn back on. It took two days to get someone from the cable company to reset everything, and by the time it was all over, I had a fear of touching expensive machines and always tried to get other people to handle technology for me. My first personal computer? My boyfriend set it up. My first iPod? My brother put all of my music on it and on every iPod I've owned since. When I moved away from home for the first time? My boyfriend at the time configured the wireless and router and hooked up the printer.

I really hated depending on other people like that, and I felt like my actions perpetuated negative gender stereotypes about women and machines. But as time went on, the most important point for me was that I couldn't become competitive in information science without first becoming comfortable with technology.

So when I decided to study Archives, a big reason I chose Simmons was for its SLIS Tech Lab. The lab has long hours and a knowledgeable staff to help me and other students troubleshoot or learn the latest or most basic computer stuff--- and they do it with a pleasant attitude and no judgment. You can't beat that!

My first time there was when I was completing the mandatory Technology Orientation Requirement (TOR) over the summer. I was using a text-editing program called Text Wrangler for the TOR's HTML section, and even though I saved my work, when I went back to it, it wasn't formatted properly, and I couldn't restore it. I started to panic. The TOR was due in two days.

When I took my laptop into the lab, the Technology Reference Assistant (TRA) on duty was a little stumped too. He spoke with one of his supervisors, Annie, who suggested I try new editing software. At this point, on the verge of hysteria, I cut her off, telling her I couldn't do that, because I'd lose all my work. She smiled and very patiently explained that she would walk me through installing the new software and show me how to import my work.

Annie was right, of course. After all, she practically designed the TOR herself.  And since that day, I've been really comfortable visiting the Tech Lab for any problem or question I have. I am even going there tomorrow (a SUNDAY), because I am doing a tutorial for a class about an open source self-publishing platform called Omeka. I can't seem to get Omeka to download to my computer, even though according to its website, my computer meets the compatibility requirements.

Many classes use the Tech Lab too. Last Thursday, my Technology for Information Professionals (LIS 488) class used the lab during our second meeting. LIS 488 is one of the most basic technology classes SLIS offers, and like me, many students take it to fulfill their technology core curriculum requirement. Our class will have several more sessions in the lab this coming term, and these will allow us to apply everything we've learned in our lectures and readings in a hands-on way. It's great for kinesthetic people who learn better through doing. On Thursday, for example, after discussing our reading on the parts and structure of a personal computer, the class went to the Tech Lab, split off into teams of two or three, and each team dissected a Dell computer. Armed with screwdrivers and instructions with diagrams, we located all the drives, the motherboard, the CPU, the heat sink, the battery, and much more. After taking a computer apart and putting it back together, I have a newfound confidence around these machines. It's hard to believe I was ever so afraid to break one!

Want to know more about SLIS Tech? Here's a link to their webpage: http://www.simmons.edu/slis/for/current/tech/

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Above: Teammate Taylor removes the cover.

Below: We are in search of the hard drive.

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Classes | leave a comment


Grad School Year Two: Bring it On!

I'd like to start this blog post by first welcoming back my fellow returning grad students and by welcoming those starting their first year in SLIS! I have a good feeling that this semester is going to be a good one, and I wish the same to all of you.
Since the last time I posted something here, I've made the move from Brighton to Roxbury Crossing. Not only am I now living with other students from SLIS and the Children's Literature program, but I am also within fifteen minutes from school. Essentially, I will be at Simmons a lot this year, either at the library, at the Student Services Center desk, or in the tech lab. I even purchased an awesome blanket from the Simmons Bookstore to keep me warm while inside the Palace Road Building. Still deciding if bringing a blanket to class would be a bit too much. What do you think?
Beyond the above, I'm sort of ashamed to admit this but, the reality that my second year of grad had started didn't come when I went to class this week but rather, when I ordered my first pumpkin spice latte of 2014. I've always associated the PSL as a special treat to help get me through midterms in fall, especially if I have to pull a few all nighters. But with its early debut this year, it really brought home the fact that summer is over and that school has started. Of course, the real realization should have struck me when I attend SLIS orientation last week. This year, SLIS really out did itself. Held in the Main Campus Building, master of ceremonies Em Claire Knowles did a fantastic job welcoming in the new class of students while also unveiling the program's new identity of SLIS. Although I will miss GSLIS (Graduate School of Library and Information Science), SLIS (School of Library and Information Science) seems to unite the various graduate programs -and one undergrad program- that make up the Library School in a far better fashion. The ice cream social that was held in the student lounge was also a major success, allowing me and my fellow SSC co-workers a chance to hang out and chat with the new students. Also the weather, which had originally shown rain, was beautiful. 
Now with the week just about over, my schedule is packed with readings and response papers. It feels both strange and familiar to have homework again, and my fingers are crossed that I haven't forgotten how to write a concise reaction paper that compares two primary sources or how to craft a finding aid. After a long summer like this, I always find the first few assignments to be the hardest as I make the transition into academic mode. However, things always get easier once I've re-acquainted myself with skills that have been dormant since early May. Even so, I've been waiting for year two of grad school to start for a while now and can't wait to see what I learn this time around.
Bring it on!

Classes | leave a comment


Dressing for the Interview: Feel Unstoppable, Be Unstoppable

You got the interview - high fives all around. Applying and interviewing for jobs is without doubt a big part eventually becoming the unstoppable librarian, archivist, or information scientist you have set your sights on. After scheduling an interview, you're prepared, you're qualified, but there's another secret level to securing that job that can produce undue stress and unease the day of - what to wear.

It's a couple hours until your interview and you're amid a hellscape of button down shirts and khakis trying to piece together a puzzle which will somehow reveal the perfect interview outfit. The interview that might get you the job. You're interviewing for a job that you see as an important step on your path to becoming an unstoppable librarian, archivist, or information scientist, right? If you want to be unstoppable, feel unstoppable. Sitting down with your interviewer, it's easy to become unsure of yourself, and wearing something which will make you feel more confident during the process can make a huge difference. Equip the threads which will remind yourself that you're there for a reason and that make you feel your best in order to put your best foot forward.LKFitz_dressinginterview.png

Image via Wikimedia Commons

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Ahts Festival

ahts.JPGOne thing I love about Boston is the amazing diversity and frequency of the festivals and events that happen in the city throughout the year.  This is especially good if you're new to town and aren't quite sure what to do with yourself - I know I spent my first fall here learning the city by going to harvest festivals in neighborhoods all over the place, and it's how I learned the T/commuter rail routes.  Fall may be the best time, the quintessential New England time, really, but summer is a busy time for festivals, too, and it's hard to go more than a few blocks in the city without stumbling on tents and music and food trucks.  This happened to me Labor Day weekend, when I went into Boston mostly to visit the Institute of Contemporary Art but also just to poke around Haymarket and enjoy my last free weekend before classes started. ahts02.jpg

The Ahts Festival is proof that no matter what anyone tells you about not being able to hear the accent you've grown up with, Boston people are very aware of their accent, and more than willing to make fun of it when they feel like it.  If you're in Boston next year I fully recommend heading down to Ahts if you get the chance - the highlights this year were the many, many stalls of local artists and NPR's the Moth performed on the big stage.  I ended up buying some amazing crystal jewelry I couldn't really afford but that was too lovely to pass up.  I also left with blistered feet and a pretty deep late-summer sunburn - not a bad way to start the fall at all, if you ask me.  

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From the Harrowing Heights of Pizzacliffe: Naming Your Living Space

Something that we've learned from literary classics is that all great living spaces hold even greater names. Moving onto a graduate program, there is no doubt that you'll be spending a fair deal of time in your new living space between completing all those assignments, scheduling classes, and entertaining the occasional guest. When moving into a new city and onto a new campus, going the extra mile to make that dorm feel closer to home and exude you-ness can make all the difference. One thing is clear - your dorm needs a name.

But what goes into a dorm name? Well, that depends on what flavor you anticipate your dorm having as you move through SLIS.

Depending upon your anticipated trajectory, your dorm name could follow any of the following examples, such as:

Pizzacliffe

Citationview

Napcrest

Endnotewalk

Moving into a new dorm or apartment with the start of a new semester, it's likely that you already have a lot of thinking and preparation to take care of. But with a brand-new living space you've purposefully titled something special, for at least the time that you're there, you're likely feeling more settled already, right? You bet. Ready to coast through your new class schedule, returning countless assignments to your den for triumphant completion and eventual victory? You bet. Ready to absorb all of those readings like some kind of literary PDF wizard from beyond a magical rift? You bet.

For new and returning students to SLIS, go forth, unpack your boxes, and make this semester yours.

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Images:

Source, Wikipedia

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Five Inspirational Librarians from Film and TV

Since the unfortunate passing of Robin Williams, I've come to realize how many of his films in the 1990s defined my childhood. Films like Aladdin, Ms. Doubtfire, Jumanji, Ferngully, Hook, and countless others have and will always hold a special place in my heart. However, in my efforts to both remember Robin Williams for the comedic genius that he was as well as to take a trip down nostalgia way, I got lost somewhere along the way, and what started as a Robin Williams movie marathon turned into an all out nostalgia binge. I'm not exactly sure when I came up with this week's blog post (the last one of the summer if you can believe it?) but its timing could not be any better. What started off as a quest to remember my first real comedic role model slowly morphed into a re-discovery of other characters that inspired me while growing up. And since I'm currently enrolled in a graduate program for library and information science, I thought it would be cool to compile a list of five librarian characters from film and TV that not only sparked my interest in the profession, but also showcased just how awesome being a librarian can be.

1. Marian Paroo from The Music Man: River City's very own 'Marian the Librarian' was really the first time I had ever seen a librarian character in both a film and a musical. Smart, confident, and perhaps the most well-read woman in River City, Marian is clearly very passionate about her love of books and of the library in which she works. Sure, her relationship with conman turned hero, Harold Hill, is a bit unrealistically fast paced, but since it is a musical, I simply overlook that part. At the end of the day, Marian still seemed to be one of the few people in River City who knew how to appreciate good books, even if others considered them to be strange (I'm looking at you Pickalittle Ladies).

2. Wan Shi Tong, aka The Knowledge Spirit from Avatar the Last Airbender: While it is true that I watched the bulk of this series while in high school, that doesn't excuse the fact that a giant, knowledge-seeking owl with a massive library is just simply awesome. Although not technically a librarian, he is a lover of knowledge; his name literally translates to "He who knows ten thousand things". Within his vast library, Wan Shi Tong, who once let humans come and use his library, watches over his collection protectively, fearful of humans who seek to abuse his gathered knowledge and use it towards violence. Although it is a shame that he deems his collection to be too great for the mortal world, it signifies just how highly he values knowledge and his understanding that even those with the best intentions can utilize knowledge for dark purposes. Also, his knowledge seekers/pages are foxes. How cool is that?

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3. Mr. Dewey/the Pagemaster from The Pagemaster: To start things off, Mr. Dewey is played by Christopher Lloyd. That fact alone already ups the awesomeness of this librarian. But that's not all. After Macaulay Culkin's Richard Tyler hits his head on the floor and enters what has to be the coolest animated library ever, he meets the great Pagemaster, who happens to be voiced by Mr. Lloyd as well. The Pagemaster considers himself to be the Keeper of the Books and the Guardian of the Written World. Oddly enough, that rather grand title somewhat roughly fits the job description of a librarian. Hmmm, I wonder if there is a connection between the two???  Even if these two are supposed to be two wholly separate characters, their purpose is still one in the same: to showcase the many adventures and worlds one can find between the pages of a book. These two characters not only showed me as a child the wonders to be had in reading, they also taught me the value of a library card.

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4. Evelyn "Evie" Carnahan from The Mummy: Although I think her actual profession is more along the lines of an archivist, Evie will proudly tell anyone who will listen that she is a librarian. Whether she is an archivist, a librarian, or hybrid of both, Evie not only gets out of the stacks of Cairo's Museum of Antiquities, she also lets her curiosity get the better of her and resurrects the big bad of the series, the mummy himself. Even so, her passion for history has taken her far in life, to both Egypt and later, China. Despite constantly being cast in the position of being a damsel in distress, she gradually becomes more brave over the course of the film series and eventually, can hold her own in battle. Although the first film is really the only one to highlight her profession as a librarian, she is still proves that you can be a librarian but kick butt as well.

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5. Rupert "Ripper" Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Hands down, this is by far the coolest school librarian ever featured in either TV or film. He has saved the world on multiple occasions, vanquished a variety of demons and monsters, rocked an awesome set of tweed suits, and sings, yet still manages to keep his library at Sunnydale High School organized. All joking aside, it's Giles and his eagerness to shift into research librarian mode that helped ensure some of the Buffy gang's earliest victories. While Buffy might be the story of a chosen girl and her constant quest to save the world while going through the drama of life, the show also taught its viewers that sometimes, your greatest asset might just be a musty old book. Even though most characters at one point in the series poked fun at Giles and his library (ok, maybe not Willow), they were still shown appreciating him, his library, and the seemingly endless books he had at his disposal. In a rather strange way, Buffy the Vampire Slayer served as an excellent platform to showcase just how useful a school library and its librarian could really be. Also his reluctance to embrace computer technology in the earliest seasons was both poetic and true.

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And that's it! Can you believe that the summer is just about over? I sure can't. Even so, I'm looking forward to my second year at Simmons and all the amazing things that I am going to learn. I have a feeling that this upcoming semester is going to be a great one!

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Literary Librarians

It's August and summer classes have finally ended, which means I have another two weeks of relative freedom before fall classes start in September.  I've been spending a lot of time catching up on television (I know people told me Orphan Black was good, but it is so good, you guys) and the lengthy list of books I've wanted to read.  People who choose to study the library sciences do tend to be big readers, and the size of my To Read pile definitely means I'm no exception. 

Because I'm graduating in less than six months (!!!), most of my focus is on job hunting and my future career, and I've been spending my time reading about fictional librarians and their work for inspiration.  The problem with fictional librarians is that a lot of the time they seem to be the stereotypical shhhing librarians who hate fun - even the librarian action figure has sensible shoes and "amazing shushing action."  Luckily, there are a load of awesome literary librarians to help balance the picture of the profession.  My top three are all from SF/fantasy:

  • Issac Vainio, from Jim C. Hines' Libriomancer and Codex Born.  I just love the idea of a librarian who can pull objects from the pages of books, even if his life is ridiculously complicated. 
  • Lucien from Neil Gaiman's Sandman comics.  Lucien's library contains every book that ever has, or might, exist.  Enough said.
  • The Librarian from Terry Pratchett's Discworld books. Besides being turned into an orangutan, the Librarian (real name unknown) can also move through L-space.

 A note to the universe: I will happily accept any superpower that comes with my degree, although I would prefer invisibility or flight. 

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New Adventures

This is my last post for GSLIS as I'm graduating in December. I've enjoyed every minute writing for this blog and wish everyone well as they move on to new adventures. As for my journey I will begin this fall as the upper school librarian at Dana Hall school in Wellesley. To read more about my fun escapades check out my blog!
I'm on a school library exchange at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls. Things are amazing here. Librarians are the luckiest people on the planet. Fact.
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August Exploration

In the areas surrounding Simmons' Boston campus, there are countless neighborhoods to be explored. This past weekend, I took a step toward better exploring my own neighborhood of Somerville at the Somerville Flea.

Every Sunday, vendors and visitors gather near Davis Square to engage in an exchange of goods from vintage scarves to bunches of carrots, peaches, and plums. Awash with Etsy-worthy ephemera, a stack of enormous volumes stopped me in my tracks. Unbeknownst to me, they weren't books. They were boxes. And not the kind that butcher books to make them either -  stunning reproductions of War and Peace, Tess of the d'Urbervilles, and other titles. Set on them lining my bookshelves within the hour, I made away with the two enormous false volumes clutched haphazardly in my arms. Arriving home, I soon placed my own copy of Tolstoy's War and Peace into the box boasting the same title in box format; the daunting pagination of the wartime epic finally matched by a cover of suitable size. Tucked away on my bookshelves, the remainder of the afternoon was spent with friends, fresh cider donuts from the Somerville Flea, and a healthy serving of D&D.

It's easy to go months, or even years, living in a neighborhood without reaching into it's local events attractions. Whether you're new to the Boston area or have long laid your roots here; explore, see the sights, and share your recent neighborhood discoveries.

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A Night with Google

Sometimes I am purely baffled at the things I've gotten to do since moving to Boston almost a year ago. Most recently, I found myself at Boston's very own Children's Museum at an event hosted by Google as a means of promoting their online program, Google City Experts. Like Yelp, Google is trying to find a niche for itself within the world of online reviews. Nowadays, if you search for something on Google Maps, a box appears on the left hand side that includes a variety of information such as the address, hours of business, phone number, and website. At the bottom of the box, are reviews for your inquiry. Like Yelp, these reviews were created by users, and can range from being brief to extremely thorough. Write enough of these reviews and Google will eventually consider you to become part of their City Experts program. 
So here is the big question, is it worth it? Well, the event at the museum was hands-down awesome. For the most part, me and the other attendants had free reign of the entire museum. Since this was my first time ever visiting the museum, I admittedly spent quite a bit of time in the Arthur exhibit. It was like stepping back in time to the late 1990s; there was a re-creation of Mr. Ratburn's classroom, Buster's father's airplane, and life size copies of the entire cast. Clearly, I was in nostalgia heaven. Next, my friends and I wandered over to the bubble exhibit, and had a blast trying to make as many bubbles as humanly possible. Other highlights include jumbo sized Jenga, a massive climbing arena, and cake pops in the Google colors. On top of that, I met a Google rep who was wearing the new Google Glass and got to try it on. I'll be honest, I was so terrified of breaking it that I didn't have it on for long but I felt like I had stepped into the future. 
Perhaps the only downer is that to be considered for the program, one has to write fifty reviews and then an additional five reviews a month. It seems like a lot but, the perks just might out-weigh the cons. After-all, how many times do you get to have a fantastic evening 100% on Google's dime?
If you're interested in becoming a Google City Expert, check out the link provided below:

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Museum of Bad Art

Boston, it has been pointed out by myself and others, has a lot of really excellent art museums.  One of my favorites that doesn't get mentioned a whole lot in the usual lists is the Museum of Bad Art, which specializes in pretty much what you'd expect.

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The Museum displays most of its collection online, but also, fittingly enough, exhibits in the basements of two theaters (right outside the bathrooms).  One of the theaters is the Dedham Community Theater, but the other is the Somerville Theater in Davis Square.  The only problem is that you have to buy a movie ticket to get inside, but the Somerville Theater is usually playing something decent, and matinee tickets are only $6.moba_02.jpg

The museum only takes works that were done with the intention of being good; it's not for deliberately terrible works, which is what makes it all the more interesting.  It also doesn't collect anything that is done on black velvet or anything paint-by-numbers, which I think is kind of a shame because that would really be excellent.  Donations are accepted, if you have something you think might meet the standards of awfulness.moba_01.jpg

The exhibitions work around themes; the current theme in the Somerville Theater is religious works.  The Museum does also put up temporary shows of works at various institutions across New England, so there's always a chance that you'll run into one somewhere else.

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