June 2012 Archives

Summer of Sarah

It is nearly July, and a few people have asked me if I have been busy so far this summer. The answer is yes, provided that vacationing qualifies as being busy. May was busy with volunteering and taking the Corporate Libraries course, and June has been busy with trips to Santa Barbara, San Francisco, and a quaint little New Hampshire lake. So yes, technically I have been busy, even though my time has been increasingly spent vacationing rather than working.

I have spent the last three weeks hiking in Santa Barbara, exploring San Francisco, and lounging on an inflatable raft in New Hampshire. It has been glorious, and the gallivanting is set to continue through July with a visit to the Rhode Island shore, a road trip to North and South Carolina, and more inflatable raft time in New Hampshire. While all of this has been, and hopefully will continue to be, wonderful and cultural and relaxing, I must constantly remind myself that this Summer of Sarah is not real life.

Coming to terms with not having a library job became a lot easier once all of my summer plans started falling into place. A trip here, a trip there, and oops!, suddenly there is simply no time for a job. I know that real life does not work this way, but I figure that this is my first (and hopefully last) unemployed summer since eighth grade, so I might as well take advantage of it. Come fall, the GSLIS grind of classes and ideally a library job will be harsh contrasts to the beaches, hikes, rafts, and road trips from the summer. Until then, however, Summer of Sarah is in full effect.

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To Tweet or Not to Tweet?: Using Social Media in the Professional World

The title of this post is pretentious and misleading. I’m sure I’m breaking a cardinal rule of blogging by using a title that’s pretentious and misleading. But please bear with me anyway as, rather than producing the manifesto my title implies, I simply attempt to wrangle in all of the thoughts I’ve had about social media lately.

As the Webmaster of the Simmons College Student Chapter of the Society of American Archivists (SCoSAA), I have taken on the responsibility of maintaining the organization’s social media accounts. As of now, SCoSAA has a Facebook page and a Twitter account. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I need to be doing with these accounts in terms of frequency of updating and content.

Prior to taking on this role, I would sometimes get annoyed with how much discussion there was in library literature and online library communities about how to use social media. I snobbishly thought to myself, “Okay, we get it! Everyone knows how to use social media and we all know it’s important. Can we move on now?” Acting as the social media manager, the online “face,” of a professional organization and the natural sense of self-consciousness that inspires has caused me to realize that my snobbish self was SO wrong.

Yes, I know how to use Facebook and Twitter, functionally speaking. I know where to go to update my status, I know what retweets (RTs) and shares are, and I know how to follow/friend other people. The question is, how do I translate my understanding of social media tasks and understanding from my personal life to this new professional one? Do I update SCoSAA’s statuses as often, less often, or more often than I do my own? Who do I RT, whose Facebook links do I share, and when I do should I add commentary or not? Whom do I follow, and how do I get more people/organizations to follow me?

Libraries | Technology | leave a comment

The Library as a Cool Space

If you've been in Boston the past two days, you know that we have issued in summer with a bang.  Record-setting temperatures of the high 90s (with the humidity making it feel like the low 100s) have made people seek cool spaces, whether outdoors in the shade or by a pool, or indoors, in the air-conditioning.   Having air-conditioning can often be a life or death matter for people at high risk of heat stroke (the elderly, young children, the infirm, the homeless), but not everyone owns an air-conditioner, or has the means to adequately cool their residence (my own apartment currently has seven fans and a portable AC running).  That is why Boston, like many cities, designates places as cooling centers, where people can go and escape from the heat for a few hours.  Suggestions include hanging out in shopping malls, movie theaters, museums, or libraries.

Now, I don't know about you, but if I'm in the first three places, chances are high I'm going to be spending money while staying cool.  Great for the economy, sure, but not so great for my bank account.  That's why I greatly appreciate the fact that many public libraries across the Boston area are designated cooling spaces. You can hang out for hours on end, catch up on your reading, and there's no pressure to spend money.  It's a win-win situation as far as I'm concerned.  It's not a function most of us would necessarily associate with a library, but it's another example of the vital role that our public libraries play in our communities: not only do they provide knowledge and resources free of charge to all eligible citizens, they also provide shelter from the elements for those who need free access the most (in the winter, it is not uncommon for libraries to be heating centers, where people can come in to escape the cold).   So there you have it.  The public library - a literal and figurative cool place to be.

Events | leave a comment

The Library's Changing Role in the Community

I have many career ambitions for my library degree, and to be honest, working in a small, public library is not one of them, but since the opportunity presented itself, here I am.  I suddenly find myself at the circulation desk and preparing movie nights for the adult summer reading program.

My first library job back in 1993 was in a children’s public library, and I absolutely loved it.  If I had had the same opportunities then, I would have become a Children’s Librarian.  I did, in fact, check out Simmons in the early 1990s, but as a single mom who lived far from Boston, it didn’t seem realistic at the time.  Credible distance learning opportunities like West campus, and online/blended classes did not exist.

One of my duties so many years ago was an evening storytime, complete with kids in PJs with teddy bears, usually accompanied by working dads who were having quality time while moms enjoyed an hour or two to themselves after dinner.  We had our regular afterschool moms and kids, too, as the library was the go-to place for school research projects in the pre-Google age.  The library was a place for books and information, a place to learn to read, and do arts and crafts.

It still is, but it has also evolved into a community center. With the onset of technology, our library offers Wi-Fi, iPads, and even loaner Nooks and Kindles! Try one out before you buy…and when you do buy, come to free lessons on how to use it.  Download free books to your new device, courtesy of your library.  Attend book parties, foreign films, and chick flick nights.  The traditional storytimes still exist…but reading here has also gone to the dogs who come in to our attached community room for children to read to them! That same room hosts the local Scout troops, political organizations, and town groups and committees.  Join the knitting group or quilting bee, or how about a yoga class? Search for a job on the public access computers, or listen to a talk by a visiting author…or just chat and read newspapers by the fireplace.

And we still have books, too.  Somehow, when we weren’t looking, the role of public libraries changed from a place that housed books to a place that is home to a community.

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Online Classes

Now that it's the end of June, my classes are certainly keeping me busy. I have just a week and a half left of my history course on Race and Media, and I'm in the full swing of my online course - LIS 440: Archival Access and Use.

Taking an online class certainly requires some adjustment.  Our system, Moodle, is a very easy system to adapt to, but the online environment is a bit different.  For the first time, I feel like I am truly in control of how much I learn. Granted, I was always in control of the amount of information I digested or whether or not I did the readings, etc., but this time no one is lecturing to me and I have to read and record the information in a way that I will learn it on my own. It requires more responsibility and thus far, I'm not that sure how I feel about it.

Continue reading Online Classes

Events | 1 comment

Corporate Librarianship: Selling Out or Buying In?

Goodness gracious was that one-week “Corporate Libraries” course a blur. In five days I

had to do two short papers and two group presentations, so there was no time for “I’ll do

this later.” Maybe that was a sneaky introduction to the “I’m asking you now, but I needed it

yesterday” corporate library culture. Based on what I learned from the course, that theory

doesn’t seem too far-fetched.

[Before I get started, so as not to confuse the “Corporate Libraries” title with the

many different types of libraries we learned about, this course could very well be

renamed “Special (With a Large Emphasis on Corporate) Libraries.” Just doesn’t have a

very nice ring to it.]

Two of the most useful things about the course were the field trips and guest speakers. (I

know I sound like a middle schooler, but bear with me.) Over the course of the week, we

visited three different special libraries and had a number of guest speakers. We also had

in-class lectures, PowerPoint presentations, handouts, and readings, but the visits and

speakers were immeasurably useful in seeing the real deal. Hearing about special libraries

from special librarians (many of whom are GSLIS alums) was much more insightful and

personal than reading a textbook. Similarly, the professor has an arsenal of personal

experience from working as a consultant for dozens of corporate libraries across the world.

In terms of subject expertise, I was overwhelmed (in a good way) by the professor and the

guest speakers.

So, do I want to be a corporate librarian? In Corporate America, the hours, the people, and

the work can be demanding. There is a joke in the library world that librarians who go

corporate are “selling out,” but I don’t necessary see it that way. Our professor told us that

salary is the least important thing for most corporate librarians. Some librarians, it seems,

actually seek a potentially stressful, fast-paced, need-it-now work environment, and I

daresay that I am one of them. I don’t consider a corporate library job as selling out; rather,

as buying in to a non-traditional type of librarianship.

Events | 1 comment

Week 1 at my Summer Internship with the Smithsonian NMAI!

So concludes my first week at the Cultural Resources Center of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian!  I’ll make sure to take some pictures that I can post next week.  I have my own little cubicle in the Repatriation Department and access to all manner of really interesting office files and archives.  At the start of my week, I felt a little overwhelmed at the scope of my project, but the more I dig, the more excited I get!

I’m here through August 11, and by the end of my internship, I am expected to produce a report to the Board of Trustees on the department’s policy and case history.  I am looking at how discussions have evolved around topics concerning human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony, as well as conclusions and debates surrounding cultural affiliation, stewardship, Native American identity and state, federal, and institutional recognition, author, jurisdiction, etc.  As you can see, it’s a huge amount of information I’m trying to extra from Board of Trustees agendas, minutes, transcripts (if they exist!), and correspondence.

I find it fascinating because I’m getting a really detailed look at how the bureaucracy of an institution like the Smithsonian works as well as how policymakers can influence the course of debate and understanding on very important issues.  It helps that I’ve been interested in this subject and have already done a little research on repatriation and cultural stewardship prior to my internship here.  I only hope I can conclude my work here before I have to leave!

Internships | 2 comments

Bringing Back the Music

One of the things I’ve struggled the most with since moving to Boston is the fact that, for the

first time in my life, musical instruments haven’t been immediately accessible to me. Wherever

I’ve lived up until now, I’ve had access to at least a piano, and I usually had my mom’s violin

or my alto saxophone on hand. I took this privilege for granted (and grumbled way too much

about practicing!), and its importance didn’t become clear to me until I found myself feeling

stranded without a musical outlet in my apartment in Boston.

I dealt with this problem temporarily at the beginning of the spring semester when I borrowed

an alto sax and went to a few rehearsals with the Freedom Trail Band, Boston’s LGBT

community band. This group is fantastic. The atmosphere is laid-back--there were no auditions

and I could meet all of the skill-level expectations even as a self-proclaimed “hobby musician.”

Unfortunately, as the semester pummeled forward and my juggling act got more difficult to

manage, I decided I couldn’t commit to being a regular member of the band.

My residence in the musical desert re-started and continued until this past weekend, when a

friend and I walked into a guitar shop on Harvard Ave called Mr. Music. I’d been toying around

with the idea of purchasing a stringed instrument of some kind. After much deliberation and

consultation with my friend, I ended up walking out of Mr. Music with my very own ukulele!

It’s one of the more, er, affordable models, which was a big draw. I’m very happy with my

choice; the ukulele is so much fun! I’ve devoted a great deal of my free time to learning chords,

and thanks to the help of teaching tools on the free Web and the books I got from the Boston

Public Library, I’m already clunking through some songs. I’m starting with “Ring of Fire” by

Johnny Cash and “We Are Young” by Fun. My brain isn’t quite comfortable with all of it yet--

strumming and singing separate rhythms is really hard!--but I practice every day and I know I’ll

get over that hurdle eventually. My goal is to become a big YouTube star like this kid. Be on the

lookout for self-promotion via this blog in a future where I can strum and sing at the same time.

Next time you hear from me I’ll be fully re-immersed in the world of library school as my

summer classes will have started up. Be ready for reports on two core classes: Technology for

Information Professionals and Evaluation of Information Services. Bring it on, GSLIS Summer



The Juggle

Reflecting on Katie’s post, regarding time flying in undergrad and grad school, I attended my daughter’s college graduation this past weekend!  If you are a recent undergrad, I am indeed old enough to be your mother…but even if you are old enough to be MY mother, you are not too old for GSLIS.

I have a wooden sign in my kitchen that reads, “You are never too old to change what you want to be when you grow up.”  This might sound like a trite quote from the mid-life crisis crowd, but the sign has hung in my kitchen since I was “only” 32.

Becoming a part of Simmons GSLIS was a huge lifestyle change, and if you read my earlier blog entries, I certainly had my share of anxieties. If you are part of the older crowd, you know what I mean about the great balancing act, but younger students have to strike their own balance, too. They don’t have it any easier than we do.

Neither of us has more to juggle, we just have DIFFERENT things to juggle.

Continue reading The Juggle

People | Students | 2 comments

Library School Changes the Brain

I recently returned from a trip to see my parents, who have just moved

continents and countries from India to the Netherlands. When I arrived, they had

just received their shipment of possessions from India, and were still in the process

of setting up. My parents are lifelong readers, and for as long as I can remember,

our house has had endless numbers of bookcases overflowing with books,

sometimes several levels deep, and not counting boxes in the garage or basement.

When I got to college, I enrolled in a major program very similar to the one my dad

had done more than thirty years earlier, and to my delight, I was able to use some of

his vintage books. Nobody else had inherited copies of the Communist Manifesto,

the Marx-Engles Reader, or even The Protestant Work Ethic, but I did.

Yet, there was never a set method of organizing the books in any real or

meaningful fashion. This never bothered me before, but it bothered me now. My

librarian brain, fresh from the experiences of cataloging last fall, itched to devise a

more systematic method than simply "fiction and non-fiction," particularly amongst

my father's books. My mind ran wild with possibilities: economics could go in one

area, history in another, subdivided at least by region if not by country. Personal

books would go elsewhere, his beloved travel books were already on a shelf by


So why am I sharing this thrilling anecdote with you all? To show you that

library school changes you.

Libraries | People | leave a comment

Archiving Hate

Just a word of warning - this post is not going to be very cheery. As I wrote a few weeks ago, my current History class is on Race & Media. We've talked a lot about the subject of lynching and there is some important information that I'd like to pass on.

First of all, I learned that lynching was not just an activity that occurred to slaves before the Civil War. Actually, it proliferated after the Emancipation Proclamation. When African Americans were slaves, sadly enough, because they were someone's property, they were protected more than after they received their so-called freedom. When they belonged to a white farmer, other whites could not harm them without suffering penalties.  But, of course, once they were considered freedmen under the law, white mobs could accuse a black male of any number of crimes and subsequently lynch them. Thus, lynching was most frequent in the early 1900s, especially during Jim Crow laws.

If that isn't disturbing enough for you, here's the kicker: people sent postcards of lynchings. It was a popular affair. You'd gather up the family and travel to see someone hanged, or burned. Then you'd get a picture postcard and send it to your distant relatives in the North or out West. It is possible that the idea of a picnic came from these types of events, although the word originated much before this. Check out the Snopes article on it and see what you think - http://www.snopes.com/language/offense/picnic.asp.

Now, there is an online repository of lynching postcards on a site called Without Sanctuary.

Continue reading Archiving Hate

Archives | Dual Degree Programs | 1 comment