NBA All-Stars

NBA in this case is not basketball. It's the National Book Awards which were held last night. I have a lot of interest in the National Book Awards. More specifically, I have a lot of interest in the Young People's Literature category of the National Book Awards.

This year, I am thrilled to share the winner was Brown Girl Dreaming, Jacqueline Woodson's memoir of growing up in the 1960s and 1970s between South Carolina and New York.

This win is particularly exciting if you follow the We Need Diverse Books movement. Basically, the We Need Diverse Books movement is a grassroots campaign to get more diverse books published and out to readers. What are diverse books? According to the WNDB mission statement, "We recognize all diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities."

This year's short list for the National Book Award included some aspect of diversity in every book. That's amazing! Kathleen T. Horning wrote a stellar article about the importance of the National Book Award committee's selection of this year's nominees and how it could change the face of children's literature here. I'd encourage you to read it! It's not very long, but it's a great informative article about the work to get more diverse voices in young people's literature.

Horning ends the article by saying "Want more diverse books? Recognize them with more awards." The National Book Awards have been consistently doing so. Of the last five years, three of the award winners have been people of color and their books featured main characters of color. That's pretty fantastic. If you keep following the award farther back, you'll see that it isn't unusual either. The National Book Awards (at least in their Young People's Literature category) have usually honored diverse books with awards.

So if you think diversity in literature is important, support diverse voices. Check out any of these books from your local library. Or, if you can afford to, buy them from your local bookstore. Keep your eye out for the (hopefully many!) new and great books from writers of diverse backgrounds.

Here are the other short-listed nominees in Young People's Literature:

Threatened by Eliot Schrefer

The Port Chicago 50 by Steve Sheinkin

Noggin by John Corey Whaley

Revolution by Deborah Wiles

And in case you're curious, here are the winners of the other categories:

Fiction: Redeployment by Phil Klay

Nonfiction: Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China by Evan Osnos

Poetry: Faithful and Virtuous Night by Louise Glück

Books | leave a comment


An Evening with SCoSAA

With the final weeks of the fall semester just around the corner, life has been a bit hectic around here. In between the reading, papers, and projects that I need to do for all three of my classes, finding time to relax has become somewhat of an afterthought, at least for me. However, every now and then, an event on campus catches my eye, something that despite how busy I am, I want to try and find time to attend. Well, last week, I found out from a classmate that SCoSSA (the Student Chapter of the Society of American Archivists) was going to be hosting a panel discussion on the topic of community and social justice archives. With guest speakers from Northeastern, Brandeis, and Simmons, the event, which was held last night, would focus on discussing the challenges and considerations connected to community and social records and the responsibilities and decisions of the archives and archivists to handle them. Considering that  1). I only live about ten minutes away from campus, 2). this was a topic that I was genuinely interested in, and 3). there would be free food, I decided that this would be a perfect reason to take a break from my homework and other projects and come down to campus.
As mentioned, the event kicked off with a free meal in the Faculty and Staff Dining Room. Not only was the food delicious (the lasagna in particular was met with acclaim), but it was also a great chance to talk with fellow students and professors alike outside of the classroom. It was nice to actually be on campus and not be worried about writing a paper or finishing up an XML project. Sometimes, I forget about the many wonderful events and opportunities that the student groups in SLIS frequently offer throughout the year. At the same, I also forget that I can come over to campus for something other than class or homework. Yes, those are its main uses, but the campus is also a great place to meet and catch up with friends and often has multiple activities going on; you just need to know where to look. Last year when I lived further away, I would only come to Simmons if I absolutely had to; now I pop over frequently. Not only does the area serve as a nice change of scene for when I get sick of being inside my apartment, but it enables me to feel more connected to the student community that SLIS and Simmons is trying to foster. While this post wasn't meant to be a plug for coming to campus more often, I do suggest it if possible. There are a lot of opportunities and fun events there that are worth checking out. Anyway, back to SCoSAA...
 
After dinner, we all took a quick field trip to room C103 where the actual panel was taking place. For the next hour and a half, we, the audience, learned about social justice and community archives from the perspective of the guest speakers. Of the three speakers, my personal two favorites were the archivists from Northeastern and Brandeis. The archivist from Northeastern, Giordana Mecagni, started off the group by talking about a recently completed project that focused on creating a model of one of the first buildings related to Northeastern University. The model replica of the location, the YMCA, was created through the collaboration of various departments within Northeastern, including the archives. Her discussion of the entire process, which included examining historic blueprints and converting them into digital renderings, was fascinating. The building itself was important not just to Northeastern, but to the local community as well from both a social and historic perspective. The speaker from Brandeis, Maggie McNeely, spoke about the importance of ensuring that the archive is acting the same in both social justice and the community. At Brandeis, the academic curriculum is one that ensures such topics do not go un-addressed. That level of interest not only makes her job more fun, but also ensures that the archive remains a vital part of the university for generations to come.
 
Overall, this was a great event, and I'm happy that I was able to find time to attend. If you are interested in SCoSSA, check out their website: http://gslis.simmons.edu/blogs/scosaa/ and facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SCoSAA for more information. 
 
Well this was fun, but it looks like it's time to get back to work. After all, a month from now, the semester will be over!

Students | leave a comment


Prospect Research Internship (Part 2 of 2)

The end of the semester is swiftly approaching, and I have less than a month left of my prospect research internship at Joslin Diabetes Center.  One thing that I've spent a lot of the last month or so doing was working on getting my meetings done: all interns in the Development Department are required to set up and attend meetings with most members of the Development staff, to get a feel for what their job entails (this is true even, and especially, if your internship doesn't necessarily have anything to do with their work.)  It's a very good way for people who might be considering a career in fundraising or marketing to see what kinds of actual roles there are, and what those roles really do on a day to day basis.  I thought it would be a lot less helpful for me, as someone who is pretty set on a career path and is definitely not interested in looking at other aspects of development.  It was still very interesting, because I got to see firsthand how the research I painstakingly churn out every week is actually used by the gifts officers when they approach prospects, and it's nice to see your work put to good use.

One of the meetings I had was with the department's Director, a VP at Joslin named Rick Price.  (A bigwig, in other words, and not someone who you would suspect of having a lot of time to give to interns, but he makes sure to meet with every single one that goes through the office.)  He gave me a great overview of the department, and how each of the various cogs contribute to the whole, and then we ended up talking about hockey for twenty minutes.  (I'm from Canada!  This is what we do!)  I have two meetings left, and I should finish them up right around the time my internship ends.

Now that I have a little more experience with the work, I'm not sure it's for me - not as a career, anyway.  My first impressions of prospect research weren't wrong - it is like a puzzle that you have to gather the pieces for, but what I didn't see at the beginning is how much of a grind the work of putting those pieces together can be sometimes.  I've definitely gotten faster at researching people and companies, and have learned what websites I can generally trust, and what needs to be fact checked a few more times.  But being faster and better at it doesn't detract from the repetitive nature of it, or the frustrating reality that sometimes you just can't verify things, or find the pieces you need.  (Or that sometimes, after you've done hours of research on a person, the gift officers decline to follow up due to time constraints or other things that are outside of your control.)  Repetitiveness and frustration are the realities of any job, at least on occasion, so that isn't enough to knock it out of my consideration of careers.  It is good to know ahead of time, though, if I do take a job doing this fulltime. 

My last few weeks at Joslin are going to be spent really trying to learn the tools of the trade, as well as picking up tricks that my internship supervisor gives me about research.  And, of course, talking about hockey. 

Internships | leave a comment


Local Bookstore of the Week

Like the good librarian stereotype that I am, I left my two cats to visit David'sTEA (probably while wearing a cardigan) last Saturday when I stumbled upon Commonwealth Books in downtown Boston.  Right off the Freedom Trail, between the Old State House and the Old South Meeting house, this seemingly little bookshop is not little at all!

I had no idea that this bookstore existed until I noticed their covert sign pointing down the narrow alley to the shop's front door.  When I first moved to Boston, I had searched for local bookstores and hadn't seen this particular shop listed in Google Maps or in the many "Best Bookstores in Boston" lists online.  This bookstore might just be another great Boston secret.

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At first glance, Commonwealth Books appears to be just another used book store a la Brattle Book Shop (another great shop near the Boston Common, if you're looking).  But take a few more steps inside their wooden store front and you'll notice an amazing selection of antiquarian items, including rows of old prints, engravings, and maps from New England and beyond.  I could have spent hours rummaging through these prints, and plan to return once finals are over and I'm on the hunt for one-of-a-kind Christmas gifts.  Before visiting in person, you can even take a look at some "rare and unusual items" that the store offers on their website's "gallery."  In addition to these artistic items, Commonwealth Books hosts a large collection of used books relating to art and architecture, with other sizable collections for history, literature, philosophy, and religion titles. 

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As much as I loved thumbing through the prints, I was even more amazed by the amazing selection of rare and antique books.  If you are interested in archives, museums, or just a normal human being who appreciates awesome old stuff, please visit this bookshop and admire the beautiful manuscript leaves for sale in the rare book section (located behind the large main desk).  There is so much to discover at this bookstore, and you might become a little overwhelmed - but not to worry!  Comfy armchairs are littered throughout the store in little book-lined nooks, perfect for reading that first chapter before purchase.

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I was so excited to stumble across this used bookstore and had to share it with you all.  The city that Simmons calls home is so proud of its literary history, designating the first ever Literary District in any United States city just last month.  I hope that, if you are located in or around Boston, that you spend an easy Sunday afternoon visiting Commonwealth Books or any of the other magnificent used book stores in the Boston area.  For our online students far away from Massachusetts, I hope that you continue to support your local independent bookstores and used bookstores as well!

Books | leave a comment


Since I started library school...

I've noticed that since I started library school, people have been posting an increasing number of library-related things on my Facebook page.  

People just like libraries, I guess.  When I was a lawyer, no one posted legal jokes on my Facebook page (actually, Facebook didn't exist when I went to law school).  Still, librarians are way more popular than lawyers, even with the whole librarian "shhhh" reputation.

Anyway, here's a sampling of things friends have posted for me. 

12 Children's Books with Non-Princess Female Protagonists

This type of list is big in the circles I run in, and now that I'm in library school, many of my friends think I've automatically read all of them.  I haven't, and I'm always thrilled to learn of another book that fits in this category. 

The Librarians TV Show

 I don't actually know much about this -- a TV show about superhero librarians?  Sounds good to me!  It premiers on December 7 -- I'll set the DVR now.

What Do You Do, Dear?

My librarian crush.  I wrote a whole post on her a few weeks ago.  SO glad a friend saw this and thought of me!

What have people wanted you to see since you started thinking about becoming a librarian?

People | leave a comment


The Home Stretch

Classes end the first or second week of December (depending on whether or not the class started in the first or second week of September). This generally means that SLIS students are working on a final project for every class right about now. This isn't like undergrad. There is no big final examination. It's intense.

For one class I have to build a working website with five HTML pages and use CSS manipulation, which I'm sure is no big deal for some people, but it's a huge deal for me. For another class (Reference), I have to work with a group of four other people to create a 40-minute tutorial for a medical database called PubMed. I'm gearing up by watching video guides that PubMed currently has posted on its website. The shortest one is an hour, and it covers just one aspect of the site. It's going to be interesting to see how we condense all of this information into a manageable, cogent presentation. I also have a literature review due for my archives class. I didn't even know what a literature review was until two days ago when I started doing research. And I still don't know anything about Chicago Style (which I have to use for it), except that footnotes and endnotes are terrible and a sign that archival literature needs to evolve already and use APA. All the classes have other assignments due in addition to these, but these are the big ones that have me up late at night, hunched over my computer, losing sleep, hair, and tears.

So this is the glamorous life of an LIS graduate student. Really, it's better than this, but I feel like complaining right now, since all of my peers are too busy to distract me. And while I'm complaining I really should add that I'm learning a lot by doing these final projects--way more than I would cramming for some cumulative multiple-choice test. But that's the point. I know I'll be really proud (and relieved) when I've completed everything.

People | leave a comment


Interviews

I've had a few job interviews in the last couple of weeks, and I have another big one coming up soon (so cross your fingers for me, if you would), so it seems like I've been interview prepping for months now. 

I've probably had a hundred or so interviews in my life, so I've got the general idea of them down pat, but every one is different, so there's always (for me) something to be nervous about.  (Being so nervous in important interviews is definitely something I do, to the point where my mind goes blank.  It's an issue.)

The main thing to remember is this: no one likes interviews.  Not the interviewee, who is usually at least somewhat stressed and under pressure, and not the interviewer, who isn't under the same pressure but is still in the awkward position of having to ask questions of someone who is. 

My worst interview ever was with a library in Massachusetts that quizzed me on Library of Congress call numbers and then made me to a skills test on a software I'd never used before (and that wasn't listed in the job ad.)  It did not go well.  In the middle of the interview I wanted to push over the table I was sitting at and run away.  On the one hand, the whole experience was somewhat humiliating, but on the other hand: great cocktail party story.  So not a total loss.

Most of them aren't that bad, of course, and thank goodness for that.  Most places don't throw you intentional curve balls.  The key to good interviewing, at least on the stuff I can control, is practice.  I grab common interview questions from websites like this or this and actually write down my answers.  (I find that writing them down longhand does help me remember them better than just practicing them in my head or even typing them out.)  I read them over until I can remember them easily, and also try to think of certain situations that have really stood out in my past jobs, both good and bad: mistakes I've made or opportunities I've spotted, that I can use for the "Tell me about a time you..." questions you know are coming.    

I also try to come up with 5-10 questions to ask the interviewer about the job or the organization, and write them down to bring with me.  (I definitely don't trust my nerve-ridden Day of Interview Brain to remember them if I don't write them down.)

Once the interview is over I usually feel nothing but relief on my way home, but as soon as I close my eyes that night it becomes Here Is What I Should Have Said theater in my mind for the next two or three hours.  Never fails.  One thing I have learned not to ever do is schedule interviews on back-to-back days, because the HIWISHS theater doesn't usually let me get enough sleep to be overly-coherent the next day.  (That lesson, like most of them, was learned the hard way.)

Let's just all hope that the job interview I have lined up for this week goes well and I'm offered the job - and that I'll have whole years before I even need to think about interviewing again.

Jobs | leave a comment


Sweatpants and lovin' it

I made it through high school without drinking coffee.  Despite all of my friends running to Starbucks after school (but before theatre rehearsal), I only developed an addiction to the little packets of honey.  I thought I was being sneaky, but soon the employees began to notice my pocketing the honey packets and soon I was no longer welcome in the downtown Annapolis Starbucks location.

My refusal to drink coffee only lasted until sophomore year of college, when I was forced to pull an all-nighter and my roommate convinced me to have a cup.  She soon regretted giving me the caffeine, and I ended up bouncing around the room all night, somehow managed to finish my paper, and then passed out hard around 5:30AM.

I was thinking about that first cup of coffee when I purchased my first pair of sweatpants.  I know, I know, I don't know how I've managed to live a full 24 years without outright owning a pair of sweatpants -  I think it was because I didn't want to disappoint Karl Lagerfeld, who stated that "Sweatpants are a sign of defeat. You lost control of your life so you bought some sweatpants."  Now, I wouldn't say that I've been defeated by this first semester of grad school, but I've come pretty darn close.  My new sweatpants have actually made studying a little more pleasant, at least comfort-wise.

I don't know exactly what point I'm trying to make here with this post.  Perhaps some sort of "You can get through it," "Don't let anyone (especially Karl Lagerfeld) keep you from doing what you need to do."  But I hope that, if any of you are struggling as this semester draws to a close, you have some comfy sweatpants to get you through.

(And if you are fans of rap, you can also listen to Childish Gambino's "Sweatpants," which (as far as I can tell) has nothing to do with sweatpants, but will definitely make you feel motivated, even if you might be fibbing a little when you sing along with Donald Glover as he declares that he's "doing me better than you doing you.")

Classes | leave a comment


Librarian Rock Star

This afternoon, at work, I had the most awesome success.  As soon as my shift was over, I called my husband and told him about it.  He was only mildly impressed.  When I picked up my kids at my mother-in-law's, I told her, and she was also somewhat neutral.  Later, I called my mother, who, after a too-long pause, said "oh, that's great!" 

What was so great, you ask?

I helped a patron find exactly what she wanted, with very little information to go on.  I felt like a librarian rock star.  Apparently my nearest and dearest weren't quite as excited about my massive success, but I am still riding high.

Here's what happened.  I was the only person working in the Children's Department, nearing the end of my shift.  A 7-year-old girl came to the desk (I know she was seven, because she told me), and said she wanted to read the same book her friend was reading.  (Her friend wasn't actually at the library.)

That's all I had to go on.

And I found it.  (After some gentle questioning and two wrong tries.)

She was so happy, and so was I. 

This is what being a librarian is all about.

Libraries | leave a comment


A Bit More Fit

This week I activated my Fitbit Zip, which is like a souped up pedometer that tracks steps, distance, and calories burned. I'm trying to walk 10,000 steps a day, but it's been more like 8,000, if I'm being honest--which I am. And it's not like I can lie, because many of my friends have Fitbit too. There is a social feature where we can see how many steps other people in our network have taken, so I'm accountable to other people, not just myself. Everyone's total number of steps is automatically calculated for the week, and we try to see who can take the most. This has lead to a lot good-natured goading. It's great motivation, because I'm pretty competitive, and we're all eager to walk off all the junk food we've eaten now that we're in the second (more intense) half of the Fall term.

So for now 8,000 steps a day is acceptable. After all, it's only my first week, and school, studying, and archives work are usually sedentary activities. Still, it's pretty easy to get more steps into my day walking around Boston. For example, using public transportation, I have to walk a lot. It's half a mile between my apartment and the T stop, so that's a mile I can do without thinking about it. The bus comes in handy here too, like on Thursday when I alighted a few stops early in the pouring rain. --Now that's dedication!

Other times, I have to get more creative. On Monday I walked a lap around the office whenever I got up from my desk at my internship. Everyone thought I had been drinking a lot of coffee. Also, I expect to be having a conversation with my downstairs neighbors any day now, because I keep walking back and forth down the hallway above them at odd hours.  

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Photo courtesy of Wired.com

Overall, this gadget provides a useful way to get a little healthier, and I'm having fun with it. How else am I going to haul those 40 lb. boxes around the archives without looking like I did wind sprints?

People | leave a comment


Looking to the Future

I'm going to be honest.

I have no idea what I want to do when I graduate. And around this time when we're registering for classes and everyone is talking about their future plans, I feel so scared.

I love YA books, and I love libraries. It seemed like a pretty obvious step to do the dual program. But when people try to ask me if I'm going to be a librarian or go into publishing--well, I have no idea. I think I would love to do either. Or both.

I feel like the older I get the more I should know what I want to do with my life. I should be settling down, finding a long-term job and a significant other and a house. (Maybe I just think these things because my sister has already achieved most of these, and my parents keep pushing me to do the same.) But I don't know what I want from my future.

I would love to be a teen librarian. But. I don't love a lot of other things about libraries. Or rather parts where you can work in libraries. I think archives is interesting abstractly but put me in front of one, and I'd rather not. Or reference is really interesting until you give me something hard, and then I just want to give up. I don't like adult books so I'm terrible at Reader's Advisory outside of YA / kids books. And while I like management fine, I'm 24 and I look pretty young (and sometimes act like I'm still six) so it's usually hard for me to garner the respect of older people.

I love books. But I don't know much about publishing. And the more I know about it, the more worried I get. I want to help build a book from the ground up, but I also don't have a whole lot of interest in editing. I want to show off a company's line of books, but I am terrible at sticking to brands. Most of the time I don't even know what publishing company has distributed the book I'm reading. And I can't remember the last time I bought a book because of a publishing company.

 

I know I'm not the only one with doubts. I just wanted to let other people know they weren't alone either. We can get through this together. And if we're the kind of people who takes life as it comes, that's okay too. Not everyone has ten year plans.

Jobs | leave a comment


Boston Winter Survival Guide

This past Sunday morning, my roommate ran into the living room of our apartment, opened the window and stuck her head outside of it. "It's snowing out there!" she proclaimed in disbelief. I stood up and joined her at the window and took a look at all the white, fluffy stuff that was coming down. "Well, considering other years, snow in November isn't such a shocking thing around here. However, this is only the beginning."
For those out there who do not know me, I love snow. One of the reasons I ended up going to an undergraduate university in Massachusetts was because I was guaranteed to have at least more than one snow day. But, my love for snow extends far beyond just the possibility of not having school. I love walking through it, playing in it, taking pictures of it, watching snow collect outside while sitting inside with a warm cup of hot cider. Essentially, if it is a snow based activity (other than shoveling it), chances are high that I've participated in it. But I'm sure that everyone who is reading this must be thinking that I am getting way ahead of myself. We are only five days into November; it is still the season of all things pumpkin! But if Starbucks can start serving gingerbread lattes and peppermint mochas the day after Halloween, then why can't start dreaming about snow? After all, winter is coming.
But pushing my little snow rant aside, for those of you who are still new to Boston, and maybe the northeast entirely, I would take Sunday's snowfall as an indicator of what is to come. If you haven't invested in a pair of sturdy winter boots and a warm winter jacket, you might want to do so sooner than later. Keep in mind, last year we had a few days in the single digits. While that might not happen this year, it would be better to be prepared then not. For those with cars, parking in the city is about the become a whole lot harder. While Boston is pretty good about staying on top of plowing, those snow piles already make a tough parking situation harder. Last year, people on my street put out folding chairs to save their spots. The T might be slower, but it will save you the headache of finding a new space to park.
Now, despite the information above, winter in Boston is actually pretty cool. The trees at the Common are decorated in lights and walking through at night feels like walking through a wonderland. Also, there is an ice-skating rink there which means you won't have to travel all the way to Rockefeller Center to get your skating on. Actually, walking anywhere in Boston is pretty magical in the winter. Faneuil Hall, Newberry Street, Harvard, the list goes on. It might be cold out there, but the city is definitely worth exploring.
Of course, all of this information is a bit premature; we still have Thanksgiving to celebrate. But in my experiences living in Massachusetts, you never know when a winter wonderland might appear.

New England | leave a comment


Bookfest!

Edgar Allen Poe is famous for spewing vitriol about Boston and the literary habits of its inhabitants, pretty much from the moment he left Boston to the day of his death.  (The thing that makes it funny, of course, is that today the only Bostonian monument to Poe is a plaque on the side of a Boloco two blocks from his long-demolished childhood home.  They are, grudgingly, going to install a statue of him eventually.  Lesson: do not crap on a city, because it will always outlive you and have the last laugh.)  It's true that Boston isn't a literary city on par with New York or San Francisco, but it's not a book wasteland, either.  I mean, we have to have something to do in the winter when the internet's out.

So: the Boston Book Festival, or BookFest, is a huge one day celebration of all things bookish.  It takes place in Copley Square and is, get this, entirely free.  You have to have tickets to some of the more popular author readings or panel discussions, but even those are free.  I've volunteered for it for the last few years, and I've had a really amazing time, mostly because I end up working at events that I normally would have no interest in (poetry or sports writing, say) and still get drawn in by the presenters or the writing and writing down titles to check out of the library later.  (My library card always gets a lot of mileage on it in the days after BookFest.)

As a former young adult librarian, seeing the huge turnout crowds for the YA events is always a plus, too - this year's Rick Riordan keynote had people lined up around the building by 9am, even though it didn't start until 11.  All of the YA events at BookFest have been moved to the biggest venues because they always attract hundreds of audience members, which is amazing.  Look!  It's not all tumblr and poorly-spelled texting, you guys, teens are reading, too!  In huge numbers!  And most importantly, they are passionate about what they read.  They love these books.  Hope for the future: restored.  Thank you, BookFest.    

Events | leave a comment


Mid-Semester Status Update

So -- I'm halfway through my first semester at SLIS.  For anyone out there looking for a status update, especially anyone considering becoming an older student with kids at home and work on the side, here's my assessment of things so far.

 Better than Expected

  • The people.  I thought I would be the old lady in all my classes, and not make any friends.  I was partially right -- I am the old lady -- but the rest of the students are by and large kind, interesting, smart, thoughtful people, and it's been a treat getting to know them. 
  • The professors.  Outstanding.  I feel so lucky that I got to take a course with Candy Schwartz before her retirement (note to future students: you still have two years!).  And I love how different professors have lectured in 401, exposing us to their styles and personalities. 
  • The resources.  From the tech lab to career services to the writing center, Simmons offers an incredibly wide range of support to students -- please take advantage of it!

Harder than Expected

  • The work.  Honestly, I was kind of blindsided by this one.  I mean, I went to law school once upon a time, and I thought after that, library school would be a breeze.  While SLIS is definitely not as hard as law school, there is a lot of work -- much more than I expected.  Thankfully, I find this work way more interesting than law!
  • The balancing.  My kids don't care if I have an assignment due -- they still need lunch and laundry and rides to gymnastics.  Fitting my school into only the hours when my kids are at their school is a real challenge.  Planning my course schedule for next semester is frustrating, as only one class I need to take seems to be offered when during elementary school hours.  I often feel like I'm the only one with my particular set of constraints, and I am not excited about the less-convenient schedules to come in future semesters.

But the overall assessment?  Outstanding.  I am so happy that I decided to make this career change and would love to meet others going through similar transitions.

Students | leave a comment


Massachusetts Historical Society Visit

On Thursday night, my Introduction to Archival Methods and Services (LIS 438) class visited the Massachusetts Historical Society. Founded in 1791, the society is an independent research library open to the public that specializes in early American, Massachusetts, and New England historical documents. Before our visit even began, most of our class walked together from Simmons to the historical society, which is a little less than a mile away. It was (finally) one of those classic New England brisk fall evenings outside, and we walked over bright, damp leaves as everyone chatted and observed the omnipresent geese.

When we arrived, Director of Collection Services Brenda Lawson gave a short talk to welcome and orient us. She told our class that she too went on a tour of the historical society with her archives class when she was getting her MSLIS at Simmons over 25 years ago. Then, carrying out a long-running tradition, we broke into three groups and took a two-hour tour. We saw all the essential parts of the repository, like the processing room, the stacks, the reading room, and the reference services area.

My favorite part was seeing the conservation lab, which is deep in the building's basement. It has a very mad science vibe to it. There are illuminated tables to backlight paper being mended, vats of chemicals for aqueous fixes and soaking, and a huge press to flatten manuscripts after they've been repaired. Oona, the conservator, walked us through what her job entails and what a typical day is like for her. She showed us a family letter book with extensive water damage on one of her worktables. In this case, there wasn't anything she could do. Her task for that is to hold the pages open while someone else photographs the book to digitally capture its contents. With this project, even something as simple as turning a page means Oona spends time painstakingly arranging pieces of the thin, crumbling paper until the script is somewhat readable. She also gave us a really strong lecture about tape. Apparently, it's "evil" in any form.

When the tour was over, we thanked everyone at the historical society for staying late and giving us such an edifying experience. They had a large table of cookies and beverages for us, so we all lingered a bit to munch on the Milanos before walking back toward school. That beats a lecture any day!

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The reference room at the Massachusetts Historical Society. Look at the card catalog in front! Photo courtesy of the Society.

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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.  

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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. 

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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.

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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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