February 2012 Archives

Library of the Future

Just as we all come from different backgrounds, we all come from different libraries!  I have had the opportunity to experience very modern libraries and simpler, old-fashioned ones.  Just two years ago, I worked in a rural school district that still had a card catalog and stamped the due date on the library book cards, a nostalgic throwback to my childhood!

At the other extreme, I recently came across a YouTube video of the Monroe County Public Library, in Bloomington, Indiana, which was awarded the Trailblazer through Technology Award in 2011. In its goal to provide “abundant access” and technological literacy to the community, this library is a model for all of us!


Libraries | 3 comments

The Big Move (Part 1)

I want to take some time this week to tell the story of my move to Boston and hopefully offer some advice to anyone who is thinking about attending Simmons College but is a little worried about arranging to come here from somewhere outside of the New England area.  There are definitely special difficulties associated with a situation like this and many questions come up for people who want to move here but don’t know a lot about Boston.  Hopefully this post will address some of your concerns!

I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri and went to undergrad in the same state, and up until this year, I had never had any “big move” kind of experience.  After I decided to attend Simmons, I was faced with a great deal of uncertainty.  When should I move?  How should I move?  Where should I live?  How will I find housing?  How should I get around when I get there?  I’m going to structure the rest of this post by quickly explaining how I addressed these questions with my own move and providing advice/resources for so that you can consider them in regards to your own situation. 

Continue reading The Big Move (Part 1)

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Slaying the Lack(-of-relevant-experience) Ness Monster

Soon after graduating college, I was fortunately offered a job at a small publishing company. Less than four months later, I was unfortunately laid off, thus prompting a five-month bout with unemployment during which I glumly spent my weeks applying to dozens of jobs while trying to rid my brain of the Avenue Q classic "What Do You Do with a B.A. in English?" Finally, as a last resort, I valeted cars for a month before a college friend got me a job doing administrative work at a local hospital. This is not meant to be a "woe is me" tale; rather, an indicator of how difficult it can be to get a job (especially in a tough economy) without relevant experience.

Case in point: My work experience between the ages of 16 and 21 involved the following: preparing vegetables for a woman named Cricket to put in her homemade sushi and spring rolls, manning the register at a grocery store, and driving around town buying items to put on a boat for a non-profit retreat/conference center located on an island six miles off the coast of New Hampshire. While those jobs generated some good stories, they have zero relevance to any full-time profession.

Jobs | 1 comment

The Processing Plan

Open access and fair use and two issues concerning archives and archival materials is an issue that has recurred in my work and research time and again.  Ideally, I believe that information should be freely available for students, researchers, and the average citizen to access and use, but the reality is often much different.  Barriers—whether in terms of economics, time, or organization—rear their ugly heads from all angles.

This week, I’ve been working on processing plans for two separate collections (one for a class and one for an internship), and “access” has been at the back of my mind for each project.  Archivists are the gatekeepers, not just in the sense that we are safeguarding materials, but that we are also responsible for guiding people to materials relevant to their need.  In laying out the foundations for a finding aid, our ultimate search tool, how do I ensure that I am doing my job effectively?

Continue reading The Processing Plan

Internships | Libraries | leave a comment

StoryCorps animated shorts, or "are you taking oral history?"

Had not checked in on StoryCorps for a while... but since 2011 they have started animating some of the oral histories. Great idea. The circle is completed by featuring Studs Terkel, a godfather of the academic oral history tradition (at least in the US) who was one of the inspirations for StoryCorps in the first place.


I am not an offcianado on Studs Terkel by any means, but this bio from his site sums up part of his life work;

On "The Studs Terkel Program," which was heard on Chicago's fine arts radio station WFMT from 1952 to 1997, Terkel interviewed Chicagoans and national and international figures who helped shape the past century. The program included guests who were politicians, writers, activists, labor organizers, performing artists, and architects among others.

Archives | 1 comment

Why Metadata is like Pizza

Meta what? That was my reaction when I read the course description for my Information Organization class and first encountered the word METADATA.  The classic definition seems to be “data about data” which is about as useful as …well, nothing.  There are many better definitions out there, but I don’t want to spoil your fun as you learn about them, so for now, I will call it the stuff that describes a resource…sort of like the stuff that goes on a pizza. When you ask your husband to bring home a pizza (because you have a project due in two days and you are freaking out), you don’t just say, “Honey, please get a pizza.”  You describe the pizza.   Pizza metadata could include thin crust, marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese, feta cheese, pepperoni, red peppers, mushrooms, etc.

Continue reading Why Metadata is like Pizza

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Friends From All Over

It’s pretty standard practice in the Simmons College GSLIS program for professors to have students go around the room and say a bit about themselves on the first day of class.  The questions they ask vary--What interests you about this field?  What program are you in?  What’s something unique about you?--but something that almost always gets asked is simply--Where are you from?

On my very first day of class, I was really excited about this question.  I thought I was going to have the most unique answer in the room.  I thought people would think, “Missouri?!  That’s SO far away!”  Having gone to a Missouri state university for undergrad, I was very used to functioning in an environment lacking diversity in the geographic-area-of-origin department; most of the people I knew were from the St. Louis or Kansas City areas, and anyone who hailed from out-of-state or country definitely received special attention of some kind on the first days of classes.  The fact that I was moving across the country for school meant that I would definitely get some attention for my hometown affiliation…right?

Wrong!  Turns out, people relocate to Boston from all over for the GSLIS program!  Just in that first class, I met people who were from Colorado, Michigan, Washington, Texas, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Rhode Island, and even Alaska. 

Continue reading Friends From All Over

Events | 1 comment

Last summer I visited the Library of Congress, and the “Jefferson’s Library” exhibit blew me away. A pane of glass separated me from Thomas Jefferson’s personal collection – the collection that spurred the advent of the Library of Congress. My inner librarian sang out (albeit quietly) with ecstasy.

As presidents go, I have always been partial to Abe Lincoln. He single-handedly made the top hat iconic. But upon seeing Jefferson’s library, I could feel my allegiance shifting. I cursed myself for visiting Honest Abe earlier that morning, and doubly cursed the Tidal Basin for making the Jefferson Memorial inconveniently remote for pedestrians.

To atone for my Jefferson snub, I read a book called Jefferson’s Books while intermittently stroking the face of a nickel. Among other things, I learned that Jefferson was a connoisseur of books and information to the extent that he could never, ever have enough. In an 1815 transaction that induced much disdain from Jefferson’s political opponents, the U.S. Government purchased his library of 6,700 books for $23,950.1 Cyrus King lamented that Jefferson’s books were “good, bad, and indifferent, old, new, and worthless, in languages which many can not read, and most ought not,” and the Boston Gazette deemed his collection full of “finery and philosophical nonsense.”1 Jefferson, however, claimed that “there is, in fact, no subject to which a member of Congress may not have occasion to refer.”1

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Libraries | 3 comments

Work Experience

If I were applying to an MLIS graduate program today instead of a year ago, there is one major thing I would have done differently:  I would have tried to get more related work experience before starting my classes.  It’s  not as if I feel behind in my classes or am having trouble keeping up, but it would definitely have given me more applicable skills to help me in not only finding an internship, but also working in my 438 internship.

There are a lot of great volunteer experiences available, too.  Unfortunately, many historical societies and repositories run on very limited budgets, and they might not have the funds or the staff to complete all the projects they want (or even need) to complete.  I’m talking specifically about archives, but many local libraries are looking for volunteers, too.  Even the National Archives of the United States has an active call for volunteers open:  http://www.archives.gov/careers/volunteering/

I know from experience that juggling work (to pay for rent and food), your social life, and side projects can be difficult and stressful, but in the end, I bet it’s worth it.

Events | 1 comment

The wonders of LISSA

One of the many nuggets of useful information I received at new student orientation in July 2010 was the way the LISSA officers kept reminding us of the fact that each GSLIS student receives an allotted amount of money for professional development each year.   As long as you fall within the yearly limit, LISSA will reimburse 75% of the cost of any professional development-related activity.  What really stood out to me however, was the fact that the LISSA officers stressed how few people took advantage of this opportunity each year.  To which I say, GSLIS community, what gives?!

The LISSA reimbursement is the ideal tool for the broke graduate student hungry for professional development (which unfortunately costs money).  While I don't want to comment on the specific rules for reimbursement, I do want to illustrate how the reimbursement has enriched me on a personal level.

Last year, as an eager new GSLIS student, I duly signed up for ALA membership, and joined the two associations most relevant to my chosen path: AASL (the American Association of School Librarians) and YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association).   ALA membership isn't the priciest thing out there, but it can definitely put a dent in a limited budget.  LISSA came to the rescue, refunding me 75% of my membership costs.  In return, I got an at-home subscription to the YALSA magazine and the ALA magazine, both filled with great information and articles, and tons of resources from AASL, including technology updates, hot links for education resources, and more. 

Continue reading The wonders of LISSA

Libraries | 1 comment

How "The Outsiders" Happened

The Outsiders cast!

In 1988 Susan Eloise Hinton won the first ever Young Adult/School Library Author Achievement Award for The Outsiders. If you haven't read it [What? You gotta be kidding me?? Chocolate cake for breakfast?? The best.] ...then run don't walk, and grab a copy.

Continue reading How "The Outsiders" Happened

Events | leave a comment

Technology and the Newbie

Deciding to make a mid-life career change from mom/educator to librarian came with many uncertainties.  Was I too old?  Would I be able to catch up on all the technology that I hadn’t used over the last few years?  What are the differences between Blended, Online, and Face-to-face classes and how would I choose?  When would I do the laundry?

I had an opportunity that allowed me to begin as a full-time student so I quit my job as a nanny, started volunteering at my local library, and jumped in.  I live two and a half hours from both Boston and West campuses, so I opted for one online class, and two West campus classes - one blended and one face-to-face.  By trying all three learning approaches, I will figure out early in my student career the pros and cons of each.

The laundry question is still being addressed…but no, I am not too old, and the technology wasn’t quite as scary as I first imagined, but be forewarned, you cannot avoid it.  Being a student means being technology-savvy, and being a librarian means being even more so.

Continue reading Technology and the Newbie

Events | 3 comments

Why I Chose Simmons College GSLIS: Archives Management/History

I’ve been in somewhat of a self-reflective mood lately, which is convenient since it’s time for my first post on the GSLIS Admissions Blog!  With the hustle and bustle of everyday life, I have not had much of an opportunity to step back and think about all that has brought me to Boston and Simmons College.  It’s hard to believe that just a year ago I was in Kirksville, Missouri anxiously waiting to hear back from the handful of library programs I applied to.  I’ll never forget how excited I was the day I got my letter from Simmons College GSLIS.  I’m almost positive this is exactly how I reacted:

Except imagine the inside of an apartment

rather than a beautiful, open field.

Events | leave a comment

Why I Am Here

Since this is my very first post (yay!), let me tell you why I am at Simmons GSLIS. I love libraries. I love what they are, what they stand for, and what they provide for their communities. I have never worked in a library, but pursuing a library degree just felt right. So here I am.

On my first day of class, the professor asked who wants to work in a library after graduation. No one's hand went up. If the professor hadn't called my name from the list at the beginning of class, I would have thought I was mistakenly in the wrong classroom.

In reality, my mistake was thinking about a library degree superficially. Thinking that everyone in GSLIS wants to work in a traditional library setting. When I started here, I thought I wanted to do reference. I have not abandoned that idea, but it has been pushed down the list. I could do something in publishing, digital media, news librarianship, or even wine librarianship. (Yes, that does exist.)

So, when thinking about applying to Simmons GSLIS, do so with an open mind. I have had two professors encourage us to pursue jobs in a non-traditional library setting. If librarians in libraries are good, then librarians in different job fields are great. The skills that I am learning here are applicable on many different levels to many different types of jobs.

For all you aspiring reference librarians out there, don't let me squash your dreams. But be prepared to have your eyes opened to a world of libraries that encompasses more than just libraries themselves.

Events | leave a comment

The Internship Hunt

One fantastic aspect of the GSLIS program at Simmons College is the internship provision:  over the course of your graduate career, Simmons helps to place you with two archival internships.  I have an interview scheduled with the Cambridge Historical Society next week to discuss the possibility of me working on one of their cataloguing projects, which I’m looking forward to!

However, my internship hunt hasn’t ended there.  While I have the option to take classes over the summer, I’ve been looking into a lot of really exciting internship possibilities at places like the Cultural Resources Center of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian AND (this is exciting on an entirely different level) with the Digital Media Assets team at Blizzard Entertainment.

In the application process, I decided to head over to the Career Education Center at Simmons for help with my resume and cover letters. 

Continue reading The Internship Hunt

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SLT Practicum

It's only a month into the new semester, but for those of us in the school library teacher (SLT) program, we're already looking forward to August and September.  Our wonderful advisor, Dr. Fran Zilonis, has already wrapped up meetings with all students planning to undertake a practicum experience in the fall to let us know about deadlines and offer advice in choosing a site.

The practicum experience is the capstone of the SLT program, and is required by the Commonwealth for our teaching licenses upon graduation.   Each SLTP student does two practicum experiences - one at the elementary level (k-5 or k-8), and one at the middle or high school level (6-8 or 9-12).   There are two hundred hours of work required in total, which are done under the supervision of a licensed library teacher at dozens of schools across the greater Boston area (students who attend GSLIS West do their practicum experiences in western Massachusetts, generally).

What this means is that the great scramble to find practicum sites has officially begun. 

Continue reading SLT Practicum

School Libraries | leave a comment

A look at an updated library symbol

Library design consultant Aaron Schmidt has designed this alternate symbol for libraries, rather than the currently used "lone reader" (which while simple and striking, does present a potentially negative, isolationist attitude).

He notes, "There’s still room for solitary reading, sure. But there’s more going on. There are people. Not only do we need to think of our institutions in these terms, we need to convince the public to think of us like this too. Otherwise, more libraries will turn into kiosks."

I like it. I had never clocked that the older symbol represented an L have to admit...

Events | Libraries | 4 comments

my archives internship

I recently had the opportunity to complete an 8 week internship in the William Munroe Special Collections that is housed downstairs in the Concord Free Public Library (left) in Concord, MA. Open to the public btw, but if you have an idea of what you are looking for I recommend you communicate in advance with the energetic and straight-talking curator Leslie Wilson.

Quick note to the uninitiated; Concord and its residents were closely involved with pre- and post-American Revolutionary history (18thC), and was also a seat for the Transcendentalist movement of the 19thC (Thoreau, Emerson et al.), and much more. It is chockablock with history. Has history coming out of its ears...

Continue reading my archives internship

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Library School Dissection

It's only the second week of classes and I feel like this semester is already flying by. I've been making tons of to-do lists and definitely checking them twice. Today, I can submit my choices for my sixty hour internship for LIS 438: Introduction to Archives. I'm pretty sure I've got it narrowed down to Beverly Historical Society, Sudbury Historical Society, and Walden. Hopefully, no matter where I end up, I get the chance to work with archival material and process at least one entire collection. Some of my friends that took the class last semester were less than pleased with their internship sites and I've made sure to do some basic research before submitting my decisions. With any luck, I won't just be scanning documents or shredding paper the entire time, but interns certainly don't always get the glorified jobs.

Besides the internship excitement, I got to dissect a computer in technology class on Monday (LIS 488). It was awesome! I have to admit, I was slightly intimidated by all the wires and the warning to avoid static by continuously touching grounded metal. I'm pretty clumsy and was convinced I'd electrocute myself somehow. But, all went well! And I am now much more comfortable with the basic hardware and construction of computers. Success. Feel free to share some technology horror stories or just awesome discoveries.

Continue reading Library School Dissection

Classes | 2 comments