Relax

We have six weeks of school left.

Not even six weeks! Because of Thanksgiving, we more or less have five weeks of school left!

I'm at the point in the semester where all my group projects are looming in November, and I have three research papers to do, and I still have to figure out what the heck a pathfinder even is, but for some reason I'm not that stressed out about it.

I think a huge part of the reason why I'm not stressed out is because for me reading is a de-stressing activity. So even when I have to read novels for homework, my brain can't disassociate from the de-stressing. I love reading. So I love doing my homework.

I almost forgot to write this blog post because I got too engrossed in Beverly Cleary's Fifteen. Even though I had some issues with the text, the mere act of reading it made me calm.

So in this high stress time, remember what makes you calm. Maybe it's taking a break and just sipping on some tea or coffee. Maybe it's taking the hour to watch How to Get Away with Murder (is anyone else obsessed??). Maybe it's having froyo at Meyers Cafe with some classmates. Just remember to take some time to de-stress. There's no point in getting an all A degree, if you leave school a nervous wreck. Take care of yourself.

All the Best - Hayley 

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NEA Mentoring Program

A few months ago the New England Archivists sent around an email to the Simmons email list looking for students or early professionals in the archives field to join a mentoring circle, wherein a few seasoned archivists will give career advice to people just starting out.  It sounded like a great opportunity to meet people and learn a little bit about how the archives field in New England looks from the other side, once people have successfully gotten their careers in motion.  That's something I've been thinking about a lot anyway, as I begin to apply for actual professional jobs. 

A mentoring circle, I thought, would help.  I'm not sure exactly what I expected, but at the very least I thought it couldn't hurt to have a dialogue about what a career in archives really looked like, especially with informal discussion.  I've already proven that I'm no good at conferences, but the small group aspect of this was much more appealing.

We had the first meeting this week, and it was actually fun to talk to people who are at all different points in their student/work lives: me, almost finished my LIS program, someone else who starts her program in January, a handful of people who have finished their LIS programs and are working their first archive-related jobs, and the two seasoned veterans who will be dispensing advice and wisdom, or something like it.  Everyone's perspectives are so different - and the archives that people work in are so different - that I think there will be a lot of boisterous discussion down the road.  The first meeting was mostly introductions and a bit of discussion about technology and what kinds of skills are needed to deal with digital files and multimedia formats - which makes it sound like a class discussion, kind of, but it really wasn't.  This wasn't the typical "you may encounter" theoretical chat, but a strong "I have seen" that is exactly the sort of thing I wanted to hear - and needed to hear, as someone applying for jobs right now.

Our mentoring group, along with the others that formed at the same time, are the test cases to see if mentoring circles are a thing that the NEA wants to continue.  So far, I think it has definitely been a success, and I would urge anyone in school or who has graduated recently to consider joining up the next time they look for participants.  

Jobs | leave a comment


Losing It

Well, I lost it.

I thought I was doing a pretty great job at keeping it all together.  School, kids, work, check.  House, parents, in-laws, friends with issues, got it.  Crazy scheduling? Husband travelling? Bring it on.

Until I lost my notebook.

My 415 notebook.

My 415 notebook for the class taught by Candy Schwartz, the legendary SLIS professor.

Not good.

I think I lost the notebook sometime last Friday, when I met three classmates to work on a group project.  My kids didn't have school that day, so I brought them with me -- and they were really well behaved, but still, I was a little distracted, trying to focus on the group work but also make sure my children didn't wreak havoc in the Harvard Coop or Cambridge Public Library, the two places the group met.

It seemed to go so well.  But today, when I sat down to finish one of Candy's never-ending-quite-challenging-yet-interesting assignments, I couldn't find my notebook.  I called the library and the Coop, and it wasn't in lost and found at either place.  I searched the car and the living room and behind my desk.  I tried to blame someone, but there was no one to blame and anyway, blaming someone wouldn't get my notebook back.

I admit I cried a little.

I think it's gone.

Eventually, I pulled myself together and worked on the assignment using the PowerPoint slides from class, and I was able to do the work just fine.  Then I emailed my small group and two of my lovely classmates offered to share notes with me (thanks, Vicki and Anna!).  I started to feel that I might survive losing the notebook.

But it's making me rethink the whole "I've got this under control" thing.  Maybe I shouldn't have brought the kids to the group project meeting.  Maybe I should admit that having kids and going to school and working is a balancing act that doesn't always balance out right.  Maybe I should take a few extra minutes to make sure I have my wits -- and my stuff -- about me when I leave a building.  Slow down.  Take a deep breath.  Double check. 

I think I can. 

Students | leave a comment


Small victories this week

Making an Important Decision

I'm staying in the archives concentration after a little internal debate about whether or not to study something more general. I can't do everything I may love, so I'll do one thing I'm certain I love. I'm really passionate about people accessing and using archives, so I'll find a way to do something with that. Having this decided brings me a little peace of mind, especially for selecting my Spring courses during registration next week.

Getting a Flu Shot

I got a free flu shot on a break between classes in the Main College Building near the Fens Café. I love how Simmons uses its students in nursing school to administer the vaccines. They get to practice their new skills, and everyone else gets to not be in agony this winter. It took literally three minutes from filling out a piece of paper to getting the vaccination in my left arm, which is still a little sore when I try to lift my backpack which weighs a ton. It's like Hermione's enchanted purse in the final Harry Potter book. I can pull anything out of my bag--laptop, books, water bottle, Advil, sweaters, rain gear--anything. Go ahead, you name it, and it's in there.

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Simmons School of Nursing and Health Sciences students Julia Goodwin and Lisa Nahill administer flu vaccines near Fens Café on 10/24/14.

Conquering the Nor'easter

There was a nor'easter from Wednesday to Friday. After growing up in Florida with tropical storms during the summer, this didn't seem so bad. Also, many people who know I only recently moved here took pains to point out this nor'easter "wasn't even a nor'easter" because it was "weak" and "wimpy". Well, the weather was bad enough that my Wednesday night class was dismissed an hour early, and that night I arrived home soaked with my clothes drenched and sticking to me.  I realized I didn't have proper rain gear (moving from New Mexico and all). So, on Thursday I hopped over to REI (right around the corner from Simmons) and bought a pair of rain boots. They were worth every penny. I also dug out my sturdy raincoat from my Florida days. Before that, every time I opened my umbrella, the wind turned it inside out, and people on the sidewalk would look at me and shake their heads, as if to say, "Amateur!" Well, that is no more!

Using Beatley at Night

Beatley Library is Simmons' Library. It has everything I need when I do research for classes, and my groups always book study rooms there when we have a project to do together. I'm usually there at least four or five times a week, but this week was different because I went at night. I had project for my reference class due on evaluating print resources in a library. Yes, print. So I'd have to use actual, physical books for this assignment, not articles I called out of a database.

For a busy student, like me, who sometimes has her days booked, it's great that Beatley is open until midnight Sunday through Thursday. This past week I was there after 10 p.m. three nights in a row. I've noticed the atmosphere is different then. More people are seriously studying and meeting deadlines, and it's almost like a quiet sense of motivation and studiousness hovers in the air. I liked our silent community dedication. I'll definitely return soon for some late night work.

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You can see the dark of nighttime through the windows opposite the Beatley entrance.

Mastering the T

Also, this week, I have stopped being motion-sick on the T (subway). Hooray! Additionally, I can now stand in a crowded T car and not fall over when it lurches forward and around bends. I think it's like surfing; you need good core muscles. AND I can even listen to music now during my commute without taking my headphones off every three minutes to hear the "next stop announcement". Before that, I would be too anxious that I somehow missed something and would find the car suddenly and immediately stopping at where I need to be.

Attending an Officers' Meeting

I'm the communications officer for the Simmons ALA Student Chapter of the International Relations Round Table (SCIRRT). We had our first officer meeting this week and set goals and planned events for the year. I'm really excited about a lot of these things, like the guest speaker we booked for November who works at a library in Haiti. I can't wait to write more about what the club does as things happen.

Students | leave a comment


Want to spend more time writing this November?

Many people who like to read also like to write. I definitely belong in this group. In fact, every November, I am one of those crazy people who participate in NaNoWriMo.

What is NaNoWriMo you might be asking? NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. It takes place every November, and it is when people decide to tackle their writing projects. Typically, NaNoWriMoers write 50,000 words in the 30 days of November. That's 1,667 words a day. Okay, so maybe I shouldn't say typically. That's usually what the goal word count is, but I, for one, have only met it once in the five years I've done it. 1,667 words a day doesn't seem overly hard until you get behind a couple days.

I'll let you know how I do this year. Until then, if you're interested in trying the challenge, head on over to Nanowrimo.org and get started. Let me know in the comments if you're participating! I always love to have friends to spur me on towards the goal.

All the Best - Hayley

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BAHFest

What do you think when you read the words, 'Bad Ad Hoc Hypothesis Festival?' If you think that the event is going to be as ridiculously fun as it sounds, then you are correct.
Sponsored by the online comic strip "Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal" BAHFest is a celebration of science and how amazingly awesome it can be. The rules of the contest are simple: come up with an outlandish theory and then prove it with science. What makes BAHFest amazing is that even the most ridiculous theory is backed up with absolute science. All the data and formulas are real even if they are being applied to something crazy like trying to prove that smugness is hereditary. 
As someone who isn't exactly amazing at science, I was worried that I would not be able to enjoy the presentations. However, all six presentations were hilarious, and different. The winner (I won't spoil who) 100% deserved the 3D printed statue of Darwin looking doubtful. 
Although this is only the second year that BAHFest has been held, it was clear from the long lines waiting to get in the event, which was held on MIT's campus, that there will certainly be another next year. For those interested in learning more about BAHFest, check out its website. Although the event is over, they recorded the entire thing which means everyone can enjoy the fun of BAHFest 2014!
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Events | leave a comment


Head of the Charles

I love fall here in New England.  We've covered that topic pretty well, I think, but I don't think I can really stress it enough, now that the foliage is changing in earnest and color is everywhere.  I think I love it so much, and I appreciate it so much, because it's nothing that I'm used to and it seems like a minor miracle to me every single year.  So it was with actual, real shock that I heard someone on the radio talking about watching the boats on the Charles and how it was the only part of autumn in New England that she liked.

Well.  First of all I had no idea what she was even talking about, so I had to do some research.  You know every movie that has ever been set in Boston, how there is at least one scene with crews doing their crew boat thing on the Charles?  Apparently it's a huge deal - and I never even expected that, because in all the time I've lived in the Boston area, I've never seen anything other than sailboats and windsurfers on the Charles.  I guess I must have been living kind of a sheltered life.  The Head of the Charles is the biggest regatta in the world, and is the penultimate rowing event for college rowing teams and the people who line the shore on both sides of the river to watch.  There were a lot of those people on Saturday, since the weather was cool and partly sunny and not bad spectating weather for autumn at all.  It is pretty fun to watch, too, even if you're like me and don't actually care much who wins (and some people in the crowd cared very, very much, as Boston people tend to do for every sort of sporting event, which I find both baffling and endearing).

Mostly I spent the time worrying that the rowers (who were all, as far as I could see, wearing shorts) were cold, and trying to peer over people (I am 5'3''; peering over people is generally not possible.)  It was festive and fun, and I came away feeling that the woman I heard on the radio is not alone in thinking Head of the Charles is the best part of autumn in New England.  For me, it was interesting for a couple of hours, and then I wandered off to go find some coffee.  Dunkin, not Starbucks.  Apparently I'm becoming a little bit of a Boston person after all.  

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The Librarians - Coming to a television near you!

Often librarians in pop culture are reduced to over-sexualized stereotypes in low tops and glasses, so I can't help but be excited about librarian portrayals that don't fall into this category.   Throw in some corny fantasy and I am completely lost.  Therefore, I feel compelled to tell you about "The Librarians" just in case you aren't aware.

 First, let me promise that I am in no way employed or endorsed by TNT (though quick shout out to TNT: if you are looking for an archivist come May 2016, please let me know).  I just completely love television, librarians, and librarians on television, and "The Librarians" looks like my next favorite mini-series.  Last week, TNT released a trailer for their upcoming "The Librarians" mini-series.  I was a little hesitant at first, as my memories of the one "Librarian" syndicated movie I saw was not great.  The one moment that I do remember is Noah Wyle, the information professional in question, struggling to identify what indigenous language an Amazonian tribe was speaking in hopes of figuring out his location, only to smile and say something along the lines of, "I was over-thinking it.  They're just speaking Portuguese!"

"The Librarians," however, looks great.  The show continues in the original franchise's mythology: that there exists a library that houses all of the magical items of the world: Excalibur, the Holy Grail, Poseidon's trident, and the Shroud of Turin to name of few.  These librarians must protect and recover these powerful relics, and will most likely do so while indulging in very silly antics and engaging with kooky characters.  Noah Wyle returns, starring alongside John Larroquette Rebecca Romijn, and... basically I'm counting down the days until December 7th.

While this show will likely have nothing to do with librarianship, or contemporary libraries, or reality as a whole, I still can't shake my excitement.  Maybe we MLIS students can all take a break in December, before exams and final papers and projects are due, and escape into the ridiculousness that "The Librarians" has promised.  Anyone have a big living room?

P.S. I hope someone is proud that I resisted the pun "CHECK OUT 'The Librarians!'"  Or does including this bad joke in the post script still count?  Shoot.

Libraries | leave a comment


What Everyone Is Talking About

The schedule of Spring 2015 classes came out this week, and for a while, it was all anyone could talk about. I still walk through the halls and overhear conversations about it. Generally, people are excited or stressed about it. It's exciting because we can look ahead and see ourselves moving forward in the program, but with all of our options at SLIS, that can simultaneously be a bit anxiety provoking.

I've stayed really close with three other people with whom I had classes over the summer. We all started during that term and were all archives concentrators with the same SLIS academic advisor. Also, we were in class 12 hours a week together and worked collaboratively on many group projects, which is a good way to get to know one another. (Summer schedule is 6 hours a week for six weeks per class with a maximum of 6 total credits, instead of the usual 3 hours a week for 12-13 weeks per class with a maximum of 9 total credits.) Now, after two classes last term, we still have a few classes together this fall, and we usually go out for drinks once a week. Things are different from over the summer. Lizzie switched out of archives and is on the general track now, concentrating on cataloging and classification. Nick is still in archives, but is strongly considering switching to the technology track to concentrate on information architecture. Sara is still in archives though, and she's concentrating on preservation. And I'm still in archives too, but I'm considering going into the general track and focusing on metadata. We are pretty typical, in that it is not unusual to get to SLIS and discover a passion in a certain area of information science that you didn't know you had.

All of these thoughts about changing directions came to the forefront this week, because all of us will be finished with the core requirements for the general degree after the Fall, and we find ourselves having to pick classes for Spring. That means Spring classes will bring either electives or more requirement for archives, which is a track that isn't very flexible. (More information about SLIS curriculum can be found here.)

In many ways this rigidity is comforting for me. I'm in the best archives program in the country, and I don't have to think a lot about what classes to take to make me successful in that field. SLIS took the guesswork out of it for me--for all of us. That lack of freedom can also be claustrophobic. My friends and I have many times shared mutual feelings of fear that we won't be able to discover or explore our other passions if we stay with archives. My roommate Laura, also in the program, says it's the same no matter what concentration you're in. She thinks it's a "grass is always greener" scenario, and right now she's choosing between youth services in the general track or the school library teacher program (SLTP).

These are difficult choices, and at some point in the next week, we're all going to have to make a formal decision. The good thing is that we have one another for support and our academic advisors to help us decide each of our best options. Whatever happens, it's going to feel good (exciting even) to have a clear plan and a firm path.

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Explore

This week has been fantastic for adventuring. October is drawing to a middle, but the weather is still lovely, and with having Monday off from school, I felt like this was a mini-break in the middle of a busy semester.

So, of course, I did a little bit of exploring.

This last Saturday, I went to Maine with my roommate. We wanted to see a few lighthouses, so we figured we'd take the scenic 1A highway up to Portland. According to GoogleMaps, Portland is usually just under 2 hours away by interstate. We figured it'd take us an extra half-hour to forty-five minutes.

Ummmm. No.

Being from Montana, we were still going by Montana highways, which while you will hit more towns by taking the highway, you do still have plenty of stretches going 65 mph. It tooks us four hours to get to Portland. It was a lovely drive, but we didn't have much time to check out Portland while we were there. In fact, we pretty much walked up their Arts District street, tried to go into the Portland Art Museum which was closing in half an hour, and then ate Thai food and went home. It was a great time though.

Yesterday, we decided to adventure a little closer to our home. My roommate is a big fan of mini-golf, so we checked out Castle Creek Adventureland. We had a great time mini-golfing and enjoying one of the last high-temperature days this year.

I'm continuously amazed at how much there is to see and do around Boston. I can't wait to continue exploring this part of the world.

All the Best - Hayley 

New England | leave a comment


Prospect Research Internship - Part 1

Right now my plan is to write about my Prospect Research internship twice - once now, when I'm a few weeks in and feel like I can talk about it semi-intelligently, and once in late November or early December as it's winding down, when I'll be able to speak about it as a whole experience.  That's the plan - if it doesn't happen that way it's probably because I ended up with lots of things to blog about at the end of the semester and had to sacrifice it - not a terrible prospect, because it means I was doing other cool stuff!

I am spending this semester doing a part-time Prospect Research internship at Joslin Diabetes Center, which is only a short hike from Simmons over in the Longwood Medical area.  (I was actually familiar with Joslin before my internship interview mainly because I'd almost been run off the road into their lobby on my way to class once; never let anyone tell you that aggressive driving is not a thing in Massachusetts, because the whole Masshole thing is only kind of a joke.)

Prospect research, briefly, is identifying potential donors to Joslin, determining how much they are likely to want to donate, and maintaining an up-to-date database of all current donors with as much information as we can find about them.  In other words, research, research, research.  Prospect research falls under the development department umbrella, and most of the research requests we get come from fundraisers. 

Joslin's prospect research internship is especially interesting, I think, because they only have one full-time researcher.  I know Dana-Farber and other big organizations have a whole phalanx of people in research, which means everyone's jobs are very specific and probably a lot more repetitive.  For my internship, I research individuals as well as corporations, foundations, and specific grants.  In order to identify potential donors we read newspapers, magazines and annual reports (just to name a few sources) to figure out who is out there, who is giving where, and whether they might want to also give to Joslin.  We generally look for companies and individuals who are based in New England or have given to New England non-profits before (lots of organizations only give locally, and we want to know that upfront), have an interest in diabetes or broader health care, and have the resources to make a donation.   

Once I have a person or company in mind, I create a report on them using a template Joslin has - just general information (name, address, business, education, etc.) and a list of prior donations they've made in the healthcare field, so we have an idea of what their giving looks like. 

We also go through our list of current donors and update them every few years.  Did they change jobs?  Get married?  Move?  It's all relevant information, and none of it is too personal. It is pretty amazing what you can find out about people, though, just from public records.  My first day I ran a search on myself in the Lexis-Nexis database and came up with all kinds of information: old email addresses and phone numbers from high school, every place I've ever lived in the US (about 15 addresses total... oops), links to old roommates and voter registration information.  Lots of it was accurate, but there were some mistakes, too, mainly in assuming that everyone I've lived with was a relative (why?) and wrong work information.  Part of the job of a prospect researcher is to hunt down those mistakes before they end up in a report on a fundraiser's desk, which is why we cross reference and double check everything.  It can be a little repetitive and tedious, but what I love is the puzzle aspect of it, trying to use clues to track down pieces of a person's life. 

I'm hoping that in the next few months I can complete some really interesting projects and decide if prospect research is something I could actually do for a living.

Internships | leave a comment


#LibrariansReadComics

Ever since I picked up my first comic book, the possibility of one day visiting Comic Con was the goal.  Middle School Alex would probably be rather disappointed in her current day counterpart with regard to my nerd cred: I didn't keep up with anime, graphic novels, and superhero trivia and knowledge and I do not yet own an authentic Storm costume (though I did put together a pretty great replica using yellow duct tape and black exercise clothes).  Several of my purist friends have complained that Comic Con is no longer only about comics, that "Hollywood took over" and "the con" has been spoiled.  I can understand how these insertions could disappoint hardcore comics fans, but I was happy to learn that ALA is one of those sneaky non-comics booths that is now participating.

The relationship between libraries and comics is an ever evolving one.  The previously mentioned Middle School Alex would scour the one small graphic novel section of my public library for the next installment, which would almost never be available and would take about a month via interlibrary loan.  These dismally small comics and graphic novel collections are a product of that mentality that comics "are not real books," which one would know is completely untrue if they would take the time to read most popular manga, comic book, or graphic novel on the shelves today.  But ALA's sponsorship and participation at New York Comic Con is a sign that all libraries should encourage the addition of comics and graphic novels into their collections.  Stan Lee was a speaker at the 2014 ALA Annual Conference earlier this year and cartoonists, comic book illustrators, and writers happily attend ALA conferences... and even prefer ALA events to comic conventions:

I hope that ALA's support of comic books and graphic novels continues to inspire libraries to increase their holdings for patrons interested in unconventional reading.  Please let me know if you were able to attend New York Comic Con this weekend and if you stopped by ALA's booth.

Meanwhile, I'll continue waiting for my hold on Brian K. Vaughan's "Saga" Volume 3.  A few more months and one of those four circulating copies for all 24 branches of the Boston Public Library should be mine!

Books | leave a comment


"Bring Them Back": How a Parody Helped Me Learn More About Disability

I was going to write about how draining the last week was for me, but then I realized that no one wants to hear about the minutiae of my life, especially when the draining parts don't actually have to do with library school.  The library school part of last week was, as always, lovely.

(What?  You're wondering why my week was so draining?  blah blah mammogram blah blah unrelated health issue blah blah friend's more serious health issue blah blah husband out of town for four days leaving me with kids and work and my school but not their school, thanks teacher-professional-day-weekend-Columbus Day blah blah. I'm in my 40s, with two kids, in graduate school -- it's going to be like this a lot, so I'd better get used to it.)

Anyway.  Since  I spent the past week basically keeping my head above water, I'll use this space to introduce you to one of my favorite librarians.  I don't actually know her in real life, but her blog is tremendous.  She's Mary Evelyn Smith, a school librarian in Ohio.  I learned of her last spring, when "Bring Them Back," her parody of "Let it Go" from Frozen about returning library books before the school year ended, made the rounds on Facebook.  It's awesome, and I totally suggest you give it a listen -- you'll laugh.

But I like Mary Evelyn for so many reasons beside her gift as a lyricist.   She's a talented writer.  She loves her job as a librarian.  She has interesting things to say about books and the kids she works with.  She has a flair for clothing and home decor.  And she has an adorable son who has Spina Bifida.  Reading about him has opened my eyes to so many aspects of parenting a child with a disability, and given me lots to think about the way I teach my own kids about disabilities.  I think aspiring librarians of all types (or, really, anyone) can learn a lot from her.  Mary Evelyn tackles issues big and small with humor, insight and information.  Check her out.

People | leave a comment


Myths about SLIS and Library School

Myth: I'm going to have a tough time getting a job when I graduate.

Truth: You aren't going to graduate from SLIS and become director of the New York Public Library, but you are going to graduate and find employment. If you are willing to re-locate outside of Boston, you definitely won't have problems finding a job. If you continue to live in Boston or have a specialty (like art or law librarianship), you will still get a job, but you might either have to wait for a few months or work in something that isn't your preferred specialty, until you can find exactly what you want. When people outside of the field joke that no one needs librarians anymore with Google and the Internet, they fail to account for the resurgence in library hiring since the recession and for non-traditional librarian jobs. As I've mentioned in my prior posts, SLIS's Simmons Jobline is constantly being updated with new positions in all of the information sciences at every level (student, pre-professional, and professional). Also, many professors and SLIS student groups send out e-mails about employment opportunities. Plus, there are bulletin boards around the school that are covered in job postings, as well as a number of professional groups that maintain job databases.

I should also take a minute to note that SLIS students are competitive, and this is part of the reason they get jobs after they graduate. People here don't just go to school. Everyone has an internship, volunteer gig, or library/archives job. Many people have more than one of these going on at once, on top of going to school full-time. If you are looking for a program where you can "phone it in" and not do work, this isn't it. At the same time, this hard work is satisfying, fruitful, and greatly increases students' chances of getting hired after they graduate.

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Wall of job postings from Professor Jim Matarazzo.

Myth: I have to go into debt to go to library school.

Truth: I really wish I had done more research on this before I came to Simmons. Organizations like the American Library Association (ALA Grants and Scholarships) and the Society of American Archivists (SAA Fellows, Awards, and Scholarships) want to pay you to go to library school. Seriously. You are an especially good candidate for a scholarship if you can commit in advance to a specialty, if you are from a historically underrepresented group or are a person of color, if you have library work experience, or if you have demonstrable skills with technology. Any basic search on the Internet will turn up tons of free money that can go towards school. Also, Hack Library School has some good resources.

Myth: I had a bad GPA in college, so Simmons won't accept me as a student.

Truth: Actually, Simmons is the only top library school that I know of that doesn't just say it's all right to apply with a lower GPA. Some of my classmates who had lower GPAs applied to other schools, and those schools never followed up with so much as "thanks but no thanks", let alone an interview. So you'll have to do an interview and take the GRE, but it's worth the effort.

Myth: I have to know the career I want before I get to Simmons SLIS.

Truth: It helps to have an idea of what kind of career you want in libraries or archives, but school is for exploring your options. You can get internships to help you decide what you like and don't like. And you can switch out of one track and go into another (like form Archives to Technology or General to Digital Stewardship) simply by filling out a form. You don't have to reapply to the school or anything if you get here and end up on a track that is different from the one you put on your application.

Myth: I don't know enough about technology to be competitive in library school.

Truth: I barely knew how to use an external hard drive before I arrived at Simmons. You don't have to know a ton of technology stuff, but knowing the basics will make you more competitive. If you feel like technology isn't your strong suit, that's OK. I recommend using Lynda (free for Simmons students) or Codecademy for programming and markup language tutorials.

Myth: I don't have enough library/archives experience to take the next step.

Truth: A little less than half of my classmates had been employed in libraries or archives before they enrolled at SLIS. That's not scientific or anything. It was just something I noticed. If you want to beef up your résumé before you get to Simmons, try volunteering at a local library or repository. Once you are a student, it's pretty easy to find part-time work at a pre-professional level.

Myth: Boston is too expensive.

Truth: Yes, Boston is expensive. But that doesn't mean it is prohibitively expensive. Prices here are on par with most large urban areas, and there are a number of ways to make your expenses more manageable. For example, you don't have to live in Boston. If you want to pay cheaper rent, live in a suburb or student-friendly part of Boston (e.g. Mission Hill, Brookline, Coolidge Corner, etc.) and commute to the Fenway (where Simmons is) on the T or bus. Bringing your car will make things much more expensive. It will help to make a budget and find out what works for you. Simmons gives its each student a free account with SALT, which is a useful personal finance management tool for students. Also, get yourself some roommates to split the cost of major living expenses. And don't order from Foodler all the time, no matter how tempting and convenient greasy pizza is at 2 a.m.

Myth: I'll live like a nun at Simmons.

All seven SLIS student bloggers are women, and yes, Simmons College was women-only for a long time. However, there are a large number male graduate students at Simmons, many of whom attend SLIS. It is a very diverse program and that diversity extends to gender.

Students | leave a comment


Printing, Pronto!

We've all been that person. You know, the one who completes an assignment minutes before it's due, not giving a second thought to printing until the very last minute.

I was that person Wednesday night.

I spent the last hour-and-a-half before class riding the T and furiously typing the first draft of my lesson plan due for LIS 426 that night. When I arrived at Simmons at 5:30, I'd more or less finished the assignment, but only had a half hour to get that Google Drive document into paper form. Naturally, I went to Beatley Library to accomplish this task.

I see plenty of 11th hour printing woes in my job. Helping someone print their document is equal parts instruction in how to navigate the nuances of printing protocol, and therapy ("Don't worry! You can do this! You will get this printed in time for your class that begins in three minutes!"). In an ideal world, we would allow ourselves ample time to complete an assignment and print. But the way our lives are structured leaves us little time to do either. And while no one goes to library school with visions of fixing paper jams dancing in their heads, helping people print is actually something I enjoy. Life is difficult enough without having to deal with a large, mercurial, multi-functional device that doesn't always scan, copy, or print on demand. I like to think getting the printer to cooperate, and showing people how easy it (usually) is to print, goes a long way in making their day a little less hectic.

Anyway, back to Beatley Library, Wednesday, 5:36 p.m. Before arriving at Simmons, I read about the Campus Print system (campusprint.simmons.edu). It's pretty straightforward. With your Simmons username and password, you log into Campus Print, upload your document, and take your Simmons ID card to the nearest printer to release your job.

Problem was, my lesson plan wasn't uploading when I clicked "upload." Where I'm normally in the position of assisting others with their printing quandaries, I was now in need of help in figuring out how one prints at Simmons. So I did what so many before me have done. I went to the circulation desk.

Fortunately, there was a kind student worker, who showed me that it's often easiest to just click and drag the document you want to print, in order to put it in the Campus Print queue. Presto, change-o, I walked out of the library with a paper, and 12 minutes to spare before class! (That's a first.)

Libraries | leave a comment


Thoughts about Perception

Lately I've been thinking a lot about perception and subjectivity. Those are both ideas that we come across a lot in the fields of Library Science and Children's Literature. As librarians, we're supposed to set our own feelings aside and rely on what the patron is telling us. For example, if someone is asking for a "scary book," we should get more of a sense of what they're looking for by asking what they've read recently that's like what they want or other factors they're looking for like a certain kind of protagonist. Reader's Advisory is, I think, a lot about putting personal preference aside. I'm not a huge fan of Stephen King (much to my father's disappointment), but if someone was looking for a book that was scary and set in a cemetery with an adult male protagonist, I might suggest Pet Sematary.

When looking at books from the perspective of my Children's Literature courses, I can use my own perception of the book. Reading a book is ultimately a subjective experience. No matter what critical theorists might say, reading is an intensely personal experience. I might share similar opinions on books with people, but I can never know what it's like for them to read it. I guess I've just been thinking about the world from other points of views--the old "walk a mile in someone else's shoes" adage.

Over all, I think I'm just trying to keep in mind that everyone has their own thoughts and feelings. I know that this is something that kids have a hard time learning, but I think adults start to forget. We get so wrapped up in our own lives and problems that we forget about the people around us. I want to remember that other people have thoughts and feelings and will disagree with me. That's okay.

All the Best - Hayley

Books | Children's Literature | leave a comment


It's Pumpkin Time!

A long time ago, in a state not too far away, my elementary school arranged a special surprise for its fourth, fifth, and sixth grade classes. It was October 2001, and to lift the spirits of the students still reeling from 9/11, the school board somehow managed to secure one pumpkin for each student (this was not a particularly large elementary school) and brought in someone to teach us how to 'carve' Jack O'Lanterns. Over the course of three days, each class was given an hour, a small pumpkin, and some paint while a master pumpkin carver showed everyone how to carve a spooktacular Jack O'Lantern. Pictures were taken, jokes were made, and a pumpkin contest was held to decide which student painted the best pumpkin. Although the annual Christmas Classroom Door contest was usually regarded as the best school-wide event, that year, nothing could compare to my elementary school's pumpkin fest.

And I missed the whole thing.
Indeed, that year, my normally decent immune system betrayed me and on the day that my fifth grade class was scheduled to have their session with the pumpkin carver, I was home sick in bed. I never did get to paint a pumpkin, or even see what carving a pumpkin looks like. I never got pumpkin guts thrown at me (apparently that happened as well) or got to feel and see what the inside of a pumpkin looks like once it has been hollowed out. 
But last night, more then twelve years after missing out on what was called by my fifth grade teacher "the best wasted hour in academic history", my inner ten-year-old was granted a second chance. A while back, two of my three other roommates mentioned that they were thinking about buying pumpkins and wanted to know if I wanted one as well. When I asked what they were going to do with them, they smiled and said "Carve them of course!" I said yes without fully realizing what that exactly would entail.
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For those out there who, like me, know next to nothing about pumpkin carving, there is a process you have to follow. First, you have to clean the pumpkin, remove all and any dirt. Next, you have to remove the top of the pumpkin, but that needs to be done carefully. After all, a pumpkin would look silly if it was missing its top. Next comes the "fun" part, scooping out all the pulp and seeds as well as hollowing out the side that you will be carving. It was messy, time consuming, and 100% worth the effort. Once your pumpkin has been emptied and hollowed, you have to outline your design. This is something that should be selected in advance because as it turns out, making up a design on the fly is somewhat tricky. Once your pumpkin is marked up in pen, then the carving can finally begin! For the next hour and a half I slowly carved a face into my pumpkin, taking my time to make sure I didn't make any costly mistakes. Though toothpicks were on hand to offer any emergency support if needed, my design was thankfully not something that I could easily mess up. 
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Finally, almost three hours after we started, we placed our pumpkins out on the back porch, placed tea-lights inside and stepped back to admire our hard work. For a first timer, I was actually rather impressed that I hadn't managed to somehow split the entire thing into two. My pumpkin actually looked respectable, especially when placed next to the other two. For those wondering, my pumpkin is the one in middle!
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"So was it worth the wait?"
Absolutely! 

Relaxing | leave a comment


Fall Festivals

connorsfarm03.jpgNew England is known for being a bit quirky in its weather, and one of the things that really gave me pause about moving to Boston from Vancouver was the cold and snowy winters.  To be fair, Boston is relatively cold and there usually are some spectacular snowstorms, but it's not quite on the level of the Prairies or American Mid-West in either of those categories.  (Which is a good thing!  I know there are people who love the cold and think skiboarding and shoesnowing are great fun, but luckily you can usually spot them coming a mile away and steer clear of them before their delusions can get you.)   

The thing that outweighed the cold and pushed me to come here anyway was the promise of amazing autumns.  We don't really get autumn on the West coast - not like here, with the vibrant foliage and pumpkin patches and fall festivals popping up everywhere.  Autumn in Vancouver means dropping temperatures, more rain and fierce wind storms, none of which are as fun or picturesque as a corn maze or pick-your-own apple orchard.  

In other words: fall in New England is awesome.  I have spent a lot of October weekends of the past few years visiting various farms within an hour of Boston and doing the whole bit: hay rides, apple picking, corn mazes, pig races, etc.  It's not all traditional farmy stuff, either: there are farms that have paintball in the corn mazes and pumpkin cannons that shoot pumpkins 100 feet to splatter on broken down cars and trucks.  So seriously something for everyone.         100_1030.jpg

I still hate winter, and by the end of November am usually grumpy with dread, but the autumn does make up for it.  At this time of year it's easy for me to say that the autumn more than makes up for it; if you ask me in January you might get a rather different answer.  I know that lots of places in the world are lovely at this time of year, and I really hope that once I finish my degree and get my professional job I'll end up in one of them.  If anyone knows a place that's lovely in fall and has no snow ever, please, please tell me what it is.  That is perfection.

Boston | leave a comment


John Singer Sargent is my jam, but so are weekend SLIS events!

As an online student working full time in the Greater Boston area, it is very difficult to participate in the multitude of SLIS social gatherings. Whether it is a lecture, a coffee meet-up, or happy hour, these events always seem to take place right in the middle of the standard work day. I understand that the majority of students at Simmons are full-time but I wish that there were more events during the weekends or week nights (I'm sure there is a trivia night somewhere in Fenway!) that might accommodate us 9-to-5-ers.

Last week, as I pessimistically scanned the events "This week @ SLIS!" courtesy of LISSA, I noticed an advertisement for a free guided tour at the Art of the Americas collection of the MFA (Museum of Fine Arts) on Sunday, October 5th. The event's description made me frantic: "ONLY 3 TICKETS LEFT!" I almost dropped my phone as I dove for my computer, opened up Eventbrite, and claimed my ticket. I spent the entire week in anticipation, and not only because I absolutely love a good walking tour. Finally, I'll be able to meet other SLIS students... in real life!

I ended up being about 15 minutes early because of said anticipation, but that worked out for the best. Another student was there just as early, and the secret service-esque MFA guard refused to let us in until our group leader was present. Soon enough I met several of her friends, and we ended up taking the tour together and experiencing some Thaitation afterward. Before meeting these fellow first-year-first-semester students, my online SLIS experience had primarily consisted of me sitting alone, staring at a computer screen or reading a text book, and submitting activities and writing mandatory comments on Moodle discussion forums which the other online students often do not monitor or respond to. I do not work with any librarians or information professionals, and my family and friends (while largely pro-library) are not keen to discuss metadata or the history of libraries in the United States with me. It felt so good to meet other students in the program, discuss classes and professors, and otherwise hang out with people with similar interests and outlooks. We even discussed the possibility that all MLIS professionals are "doomed to be librarians," but that story is for another blog post.

So please, let's have some events outside of the 9-to-5 block! I hope that the student groups at SLIS continue to advertise social events on weekends and week nights so that other online students in the Boston area can attend and meet their wonderful classmates!

fog warning.jpg"The Fog Warning
Don't leave us out at sea! More night and weekend events, please!

Events | leave a comment


Real World - The Library

When I decided to apply to SLIS, I wanted to make sure that I actually liked working in a library.  I was about to turn my family's life upside down, leaving fairly calm and flexible freelance work that allowed me to always pick the kids up at school, for classes, assignments and, ultimately, set hours working in a library.  What if I hated it?  I applied for several positions and, since July, I've been working as a clerk in the Children's Department at the Goodnow Library in Sudbury, MA.   I absolutely, completely love it, and am thrilled to be in school putting this career change into motion.

After only a few weeks of classes, I'm making so many connections between what we learn in school and what I do in the library.  Pulling books for Interlibrary Loan?  It's all based on what we're learning in 415!  Answering questions from very different types of patrons?  We talked about that in 401!  The librarians at Goodnow are great resources, too, full of advice about course selection and job paths.

SLIS encourages students to get work experience -- paid, internship, volunteer -- while in school, and I agree 100%.  Over my 20-year professional career, I've benefitted more than I can say from internships.  An internship after college turned into a paying job, and later, in law school, I discovered I hated the kind of law I thought I wanted to practice, and was lucky to get an internship that led me into a different type of practice.  Being in school is definitely the time to try different things and make sure you actually like what you think you like.

For more information, check out SLIS Jobline and the SLIS Career Information website.

Internships | leave a comment


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