September 2012 Archives

The Practicum Binder

If you've ever known an SLTP candidate, you'll know that these two words have a special power over us.  The practicum binder represents the culmination of all the hours of work we put in at our practicum experiences - the rich experiences we have are condensed down into two, massive, three-ring binders filled with papers.  Yet, it's also really satisfying to see this tangible evidence of all you've worked to achieve.

The practicum binder serves as the official documentation of the evidence submitted to the state by Simmons when we graduate, since our diplomas become our initial licenses.  This way, if the state ever wants to audit the program, we will have the evidence to support what we said we did during our student teaching hours.

The binder is a mammoth undertaking, one that must be completed over the course of the semester, within the 100 hours we are meant to work (most candidates work more, but 100 is the official minimum requirement).   It breaks down into four major components (apart from a summary experience reflection and official paperwork): the practicum log, the major and minor projects, lesson plans, and artifacts.

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What's Online?

I am having a great new experience this semester, by taking classes on both campuses.  As you have all heard me whine just a bit about my lengthy commutes, it is no surprise that a recently minted GSLIS student on the Boston campus asked me, “It’s so far for you…have you tried out the online classes?”  The answer is yes, I have now tried online, face-to-face, and blended, and they all have their advantages, but face-to-face is increasingly becoming my favorite.

What you get online:

  • Interaction and learning opportunities with faculty who are otherwise too far for you…this could just mean a different campus, but it could also mean a different state or university altogether.
  • Access to classes not offered by Simmons but accepted as part of our Simmons GSLIS degree.
  • Interaction with students you might not otherwise meet.
  • The freedom or burden of managing your own time and schedule – I do think this is both a pro and a con.
  • No commute.

What you don’t get online:

  • Morning text messages from your peers asking you to meet up for coffee before class.
  • Extensive peer interaction outside of class – this could be in the library, working on an assignment or just meeting for lunch afterwards.  I consider this to be one of my favorite learning environments.
  • The face-to-face connection with faculty.

In a nutshell, Online means freedom from the constraints of geography.  When they offer a unique learning opportunity, online classes are a great addition to your degree program.

All that said, the “what you don’t get” list is why I am choosing the long commute. 

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Extreme Makeover: Walmart Edition

I would say that inside of nearly everyone’s mind lives an image of what a library looks like. You may picture your local library, a library that you have visited, or a completely imagined state-of-the-art facility that you designed in your brain. If I didn’t know any better, I would assume that this Texas library would fall into the completely imagined category. Turns out it’s real.

I don’t foresee myself in McAllen, Texas anytime soon, but dang do I wish I could set foot in that library. It looks awesome. A library with too much space? Unheard of, until now. I’ve heard of people getting lost in the stacks, but at this place it might be possible to get lost in the children’s room.

And the coolest thing is that the new library building has attracted more than two times the number of patrons that the old one did. It’s amazing how redoing a library space can have such an impact on a community. It looks so bright and palatial and welcoming, like someplace where people want to hang out. I guess this behemoth library just goes to show that everything really is bigger in Texas.

Events | 2 comments


As we at GSLIS welcome autumn and enjoy our first “official” pumpkin spiced lattes and cinnamon-rimmed adult beverages of the season, we also find ourselves already in the thick of Fall Semester 2012. For many of us, including myself, this September we have noticed our 1-year anniversary of moving to Boston to embark upon the journey that is library school pass us by. Realizing this has inspired me to step back and think about how far we’ve all come together since those first days at GSLIS.

The year-ago version of myself looked about the same as I do right now: sitting at her cluttered desk in Allston, typing out something or other on her laptop that could pass as a candidate for a donation to a computer history museum. There’s something quite different about this year’s version of me, however. This year’s version went to campus this morning and said “Hello!” to, give or take, 10 familiar faces. Perhaps, for you that seems like a small number, but for me, saying “Hello!” to a handful of people this morning was a pretty big deal.

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Practicum Experiences

This afternoon, I had the opportunity to attend a Boston Arts Academy pep rally for the whole school at Fenway Park.  Now, I've been to Fenway before, but always surrounded by legions of fans.  Today, however, the park lay entirely empty, save for some groundspeople and a few (slightly confused) tourists, and it was pretty cool.  The reason I got to do this was because I am doing my high school practicum at Boston Arts/Fenway High School, and as a library intern, the librarian wanted me to be introduced to the student body as part of her staff, but it really stood out to me as a hallmark of the experiences we have as practicum students.  Though we are only at our schools for a few short months, and though the time flies by really quickly, the schools and the librarians take great effort to welcome us and make us feel included.  To my mind, this makes the experience that much richer, because it gives you a sense of every aspect of the librarian's role - the emails that must be answered, the parent volunteers who must be coordinated, the book fairs that must be supervised - as well as the teaching side of things.  It's invaluable, because it helps make sure that Simmons graduates will enter the profession with a holistic perception of what the job entails, which in turn lays the foundation for creating strong, vibrant library programs in communities across the state (and the country).  We are very fortunate, as practicum students, to have such welcoming schools to host us and such dedicated librarians who guide us, mentor us, and help us to grow as pre-professionals, and it's what makes the SLT program so strong.

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Stylish Librarians

A fellow student complimented my shoe choice last week. She noted that many of the GSLIS West students were stylish. I thought about it and realized that she was not only right about GSLIS West students, but librarians in general. The times, they are a-changin’ and so are libraries and the image of librarians.

Gone are the days of the “shush”ing librarian.

Gone also, is her pencil skirt and tightly pulled-back hair.

As libraries across the country morph into modern hubs for technology, learning and socializing, librarians are keeping up with hip wardrobes. Of course, within dress-code allowances. I decided to look into this further and found that there are actually entire blogs just about library fashion. One called, “Librarian Wardrobe,” comes with the tag line, “Not always buns and sensible shoes.” The blog features men and women who work in libraries and aren’t afraid to show a little flair now and then. Forget typical work-wear, these folks are wearing bright colors, fun accessories and anything from flats to five-inch heels.

I think librarians (even archivists and historians!) are pretty creative people. And so our wardrobes follow suit (heh...get it?). Even the gentlemen are spicing it up with bow-ties and blazers. We are always asking questions and finding new ways to get the answers. We push the envelope as far as making technology work for us and apparently our appearances are doing the same.

Maybe this seems trivial, but I can’t help wondering who was hip first: the library or the librarian?

Check out these library fashion blogs. You’ll see that not only are we breaking the mold of the stern and sensible librarian, we are also a diverse and creative bunch. Enjoy!

Librarian Wardrobe

Office Style at NYPL by The Wall Street Journal

Librarian-inspired fashion on Pintrest


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Filling the Big Shoes

Last week, I did some marketing of my town library at the local elementary school Back-to-School night. I was lunching with coworkers a few days later, chatting about the event, and someone remarked, “No one likes the new principal.” Someone else replied, “No one ever likes anyone new, and he has very big shoes to fill.  Mr. Brown was so popular and was here for twenty years!”

This struck home when another staff member turned to the guest of honor of our luncheon, our departing daytime librarian who was going off to bigger and better things, and said, “Now, remember, if you don’t like it there, you can always come back!”  This was met with enthusiasm by our little crowd.

Ouch. Since I was the one filling the soon-to-be vacant position and moving from nights to this better day job, with more responsibilities, I felt a little bit like my entire library team had just announced my second-best status and expendability.  Thanks, guys, that makes me feel great.

Lest you all think I am a narcissist for making it all about me, I do recognize that they were displaying support and affection to our departing staff member and probably didn’t mean anything negative by it.  The problem is I do have very big shoes to fill, and I also have some fear of joining the ranks of the new school principal.

Other than my delicate ego, how is this really relevant?  Well, as new librarians, no matter where we get a job, we are likely to have very big shoes to fill. No one teaches us about that.  For how long will we be compared to the old librarian as we struggle to bring our recently learned innovations to the backward library landscape?  Will we be well received?  Or will people sit around the lunch table and say, “No one likes the new librarian?” All we can do is hope they remember that it is never easy to fill big shoes…and someday, those big shoes will belong to us.

Jobs | Libraries | People | 2 comments

Library Lesson Learned

The other day at work I was shelving books when a woman asked if I work there. Eager to be helpful and put my developing library wisdom to use, I said yes. She said that her daughter, who was there with her, had just finished The Trumpet of the Swan and was looking for other books by E.B. White. I asked if she had read Stuart Little or Charlotte’s Web, and she said yes. I think my next utterance was something along the lines of “ok…hmm.” The girl then proceeded to give an effusive summary of The Trumpet of the Swan, hoping that I could come up with another book that she might like. I don’t know much about children’s literature, and suggested that she ask the children’s librarian. Needless to say, my first official readers’ advisory opportunity was a total bust.

In my reference class last semester we talked about readers’ advisory resources, so I know they are out there. But in that moment, with the girl looking longingly at me as I struggled to think of the title of any children’s book, it would have been cumbersome to go to a computer and search for similar books. Instead of recommending a book, I recommended a librarian who is better versed in children’s literature.

People who work in libraries are expected to have answers. I didn’t feel like a failure because I couldn’t recommend a book, but that experience did make me conscious of the unpredictability of librarianship. I am not going into this profession expecting to have all the answers, but I aspire to do whatever it takes to find them, even if that is as simple as asking a co-worker for help.

Libraries | People | 2 comments

Archivists in Library School

Last week, I briefly mentioned that I decided I no longer wanted to pursue my Masters in History (at this time!), and I will be focusing solely on my Archives Management concentration. I made this decision due to a number of factors, including cost and time constraints, but also a desire to just get out there and work. The reason that the decision wasn’t easy for me to make is because I truly believe that history as a discipline has a lot to contribute to the way that archivists think about archives.

There are a number of articles out there that talk about the intersection of history and LIS departments and the subsequent evolution of archival education in the US. (Joseph M. Turrini published an article titled “From History to Library and Information Science: A Case Study of Archival Education at Wayne State University” in Information & Culture: A Journal of History this summer, which is available through ProjectMUSE.  For our archivists in training, you can find an abbreviated version of his discussion here). Due to increasing technological demands and specialized classes offered by LIS programs, archival education is moving out of history departments.

What have we gained, and what we have lost? Ultimately, I think that depends on your goals and what kind of archive you want to work in. Attending a program rooted in LIS allows us to take classes in web development, XML, archiving and preserving digital media, metadata, and so on. On the other hand, Archives Management is a concentration of an LIS degree; we are also “stuck with” core courses that can weigh more towards libraries than archives, which can feel irrelevant and not directly applicable.

I’m not saying that I learned nothing from Reference/Information Services or Information Organization (which dealt primarily with Dewey, MARC, and LCSH—again, these classes can be applicable to archives), but I also think it’s healthy to be critical of the education we’re receiving. Will there one day be an Archives Management degree that stands on its own? Years from now, how will we be educating future archivists? For me, it’s fun to think about.

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A Report on My Summer Classes

I’ve been absent from the blogosphere for quite some time now--it doesn’t feel at all like over a month has gone by, but that seems to be the case! Last you heard from me, I was finishing up my summer semester. I had just a few weeks to recover from that and am already embarking on semester #4. I don’t believe I ever reported to this blog about my summer classes, so I will take the opportunity to do that now!

This past summer I decided to take my final two core courses: LIS 403 (Evaluation of Information Services) and LIS 488 (Technology for Information Professionals). It was, in a word, intense, to complete 6 credit hours-worth of work in 6 weeks. They went by in a blur, but I was able to walk away from them with some useful information and some marketable skills.

In Evaluation, we learned some of the basic theory and technique about conducting action research studies in information environments. The final project consisted of developing a research proposal for a study that would aid in the improvement or development of library/archives programs. My proposal was for a study whose results would aid in the development of a social media marketing plan at Truman State University. We each presented our proposals to the class, and I had fun with it by using Prezi for the first time. If you’re interested, feel free to check out my Prezi to gain some sense of what a research proposal is all about.

I adored my Technology class. As I’ve expressed before, library school has given me a wonderful opportunity to embrace technology in new ways and develop skills I never imagined I would have had any interest in pursuing. We learned the basics of HTML, CSS, and PHP. Each assignment built upon the one before, and our final product was a dynamic Web form. Mine is still sitting here on my Simmons Web space (every GSLIS student has their own personal Web space, which comes in handy for many of the courses!) Again, feel free to check it out!

After a few weeks of time off, I’m back in the thick of it this semester with Database Management, Establishing Archives and Manuscript Programs, and Archiving and Preserving Digital Media. It’s shaping up to be busy, of course, but nothing a library school student can’t handle, I’m sure!

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It's Good to Be Back

School is back in session, and though we're only in the second week of the semester, December seems frighteningly close.  Maybe it's because I'm on a fairly strict deadline of when materials need to be due for my second teaching practicum experience, but there really is not that much time.   But that's not the point of this post. This post is to revel in how nice it is to be back in a school environment, doing my librarian thing.

I have so far spent two days at my practicum site, and I'm already brimming with ideas and glowing with some successes from yesterday.  An 11th grade science class had come in to do preliminary research for their science fair projects.  The librarian I'm working with did a quick overview of Dewey, and then they were off to the stacks.   Some students knew immediately what they were looking for, others grabbed books on science experiments and sat down to review their choices.  But a few students looked puzzled, so I seized the chance to engage in some guiding reference questions and do some impromptu search skill strategies with students.  With one student, that involved brainstorming some keywords for search and where he might go looking, with another, it involved talking through keywords relating to her interests in marine biology.  But a third student was completely stuck.  So I began by asking him which science class he liked the best, which one he was the least likely to fall asleep in.  He thought a moment, then replied chemistry.  One step forward.  Next, I asked him what part of chemistry appealed to him, and he answered experiments.  We had a search term!  Off to the catalog we went, he found some resources, and then took off for the rest of the period.   I was busy with other students, so I didn't check back with him again, but as he left, he caught my eye, smiled and said "thank you, that was EXACTLY what I was looking for" (the resource we'd identified was a binder book of chemistry experiments).  Successful reference interactions are always a special kind of buzz.  You feel accomplished, satisfied, and like your librarian skills are unassailable, like that "A" in Reference wasn't just the result of doing well on assignments.  It's a particular joy when students get bitten by the bug as well, and delight in finding a resource that answers that exact question they've been looking for or didn't even know they were looking for.

It's good to be back.

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GSLIS West Book Swap

Even to those of us not swimming in student loans, money is often on our minds at the start of a new semester. With the cost of tuition, school supplies and transportation, the cost of books added to that can take a toll on our wallets! Most of us here at GSLIS West feel defeated by the outrageous cost of course materials. We buy over-priced, crummy copies of used books on or attempt to rent copies (which honestly doesn't save us that much money). I've known students who go without required texts because of the cost.

This fall, students are solving this problem with the first GSLIS West Book Sale/Swap. The idea is for all of us to come together and trade or sell our used books. Like many students, the text books of past courses are sitting like grave stones on my bookshelf, collecting dust. So today I lugged them to the GSLIS West office and sold two of them to students in need. I made a couple extra bucks, and the other students got a great deal on their course materials.

The sale took place after the final courses of the day. Students had collected their syllabi and determined which texts they will need for the semester. New students needing the texts for core courses were among the shoppers and certainly lucked out since we agreed that no one would sell their books for more than $10.

Not only was this a great way to share materials, it was also a great way to catch up with our classmates. We snacked on leftovers from the first-day breakfast and chatted about our expectations for the semester. It was a great event and I hope it will become GSLIS West tradition.

Some may think it bad of us to not buy from the book shop here in South Hadley, or that we are cheating the publishers out of money by not buying new, but perhaps when we are all successful and rich librarians some day, we'll buy ourselves shiny new copies…or not.

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The Tale of Two Campuses

I started my Simmons GSLIS career on beautiful West campus, at Mount Holyoke College.  It was a long, two and a half hour drive, but other than a few dicey snowstorms, the commute through the meandering hills of NH and Massachusetts was a pleasant one.  I enjoyed many great books on my MP3 player during the commute, and the faculty and students at GSLIS West were (and still are) a brilliant and supportive bunch.

I had two classes that took place on campus and one online…I will blame my online one, with a remarkable Boston professor, for what happened next.

Boston?  I got it in my head to take advantage of ALL Simmons had to offer a library science student.  Was I missing something by being on only one campus? Or is the choice simply one of geography?

I decided to find out.

So, last Saturday I attended my Database Management class on West campus, taught by a library professional and professor from Harvard (who also teaches the class in Boston), and on Monday, I started Reference on the Boston campus with the outstanding professionals at Beatley Library.

I left my house at 5 a.m. for the long commute into Boston – a car, a bus, and the T – knowing it would be longer than the West campus commute. Longer, but worth it.  You might question that logic, but have you been to Simmons’ Beatley library?

The Simmons and Mount Holyoke library staff were so accommodating when I took classes on West campus, free FedEx to my door for any books I requested from Simmons, along with full access to Mount Holyoke’s beautiful library collection.  I will admit, however, that wandering the stacks of the library science section of Beatley gives me chills…the thrill of standing in the place at the other end of the online search.  Okay, so it is not the Bodleian, but I have wanted to attend Simmons Library Science program for nearly 20 years (yes, I am that old), so for me, it was a bit like the Holy Grail.  And it was Boston.

I haven’t spent much time in a city in many years…I live on a dirt road in the woods.  While I hate to sound like one of the Beverly Hillbillies, I was excited to be in the hustle and bustle, grab lunch at the Pru and take a whirl through the MFA, something I had not done in over a decade.

So, do I think that one campus is better than the other? Does one offer more? The answer is no, but what they offer is different.  They offer the same high standards of education, faculty and expectations, but the packaging is different and so is the experience.  I can’t say if I will choose one campus over the other, but I think that I will, instead, choose the class, the professor, the schedule that works for me and take from each place all it has to offer, knowing that the experiences of both locations will enrich my degree and make me a better librarian.

Boston | Classes | GSLIS West | leave a comment

Begin Year Two

I’ve been making a lot of trips back and forth between Boston, D.C., and my hometown in Pennsylvania since the end of my internship at the Smithsonian’s NMAI, and I feel like classes crept up on me out of nowhere. I decided to take three classes this semester (instead of two last year) in the hopes that I can finish my degree a little faster. I’m scheduled to take Access and Use; Records Management, and Establishing Archives and Manuscript Programs, and I’m really looking forward to them.

I decided not to continue working towards my Masters in History, so I’m down to just the Archives Management concentration. I had a really great talk with my advisor, who was able to address all of my concerns and fears. I’m a much different person than I was when I first enrolled at Simmons, and a lot of my goals have changed. I may pursue a Masters in History somewhere further down the line, and I actually have a ton of ideas for my thesis, but I’ll probably be looking for a much more defined history program when I do—and maybe I’ll be working in an academic archive where they’ll offer to waive some of the costs of my classes! (One can hope.)

I’ve been doing a lot of reading into the foundations of archival education and Masters programs recently and how archivists are being trained, and while I don’t have all of my thoughts together on the subject yet, I hope to have something composed to share with you all next week.

Hope the semester's started off on a good foot for you!

Archives | Classes | leave a comment

Don't Fear the Syllabus

One of my biggest issues at the beginning of the semester is that I get myself into a tizzy when the professor goes over the syllabus. I get all worked up about the assignments, even the ones that are due sometime in November. “How am I ever going to have that paper done before Thanksgiving?!” should not be a concern in early September. Thankfully, after the first class I never again need to look at the syllabus as a whole. Instead, it becomes a week-by-week guideline, which just seems so much more manageable.

Once the semester gets going, everything more or less falls into place. Readings get read, papers get written, and assignments get done. Sometimes it’s all a blur, and sometimes I decidedly labor over things that are miniscule in the scheme of things. For example, when posting to online class discussion forums I have been known to incorporate parallel structure, consult a thesaurus, and vacillate between using a semicolon or a dash. (Note: the posts are almost never graded on content and never graded on grammar, just that they are done.)

Despite my borderline neurotic writing quirks and syllabus-fearing tendencies, what I try to keep at the forefront is that I am here to learn. I’m learning about librarianship and preparing for my career, but I’m also learning about time management and preparing for life after school. A syllabus is just a collection of deadlines with which I must comply. It tells me what assignments I need to do, but not when I should work on them, how to do them, or how much time they might take. Maybe that’s why I don’t like the syllabus as a whole – it’s much easier for things to fall into place in a week- instead of semester-long schedule.

(Should it be a semicolon instead of a dash in the last sentence? Ahh!)

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Another Semester Begins...

It's hard to believe the semester's start is already upon us.  Just yesterday, it seems, I was luxuriating in the post-semester haze of sleep and excitement for a full summer that stretched in front of me, gloriously empty.  Well, it didn't quite work out that way (for the better), but I'm back and ready to take on my second round of practicum teaching (HS level), and my VERY LAST GSLIS CLASS EVER! Ahem.  It's the last of the required "core" classes, Evaluation of Information Services, which should hopefully prove interesting as well as giving me my annual exposure to people outside the SLT program.

Yet, even though the semester hasn't officially begun yet, things are already in motion.  The fabulous new officers of the MSLA-SIG group are hard at work, preparing for the back-to-school introductory meeting, I will be on campus in two short hours to share my practicum experience, tips and tricks learned to the newest crop of first-time practicum students, and my own practicum meetings with my cooperating librarian and practicum supervisor are close at hand.

It's also been wonderful hearing of all my GSLIS friends who graduated and got jobs (amongst my personal acquaintances, the rate is 100%, which is both fabulous and indicative of the extremely high quality of Simmons' GSLIS program.  I'd also like to mention that last year, by the end of the summer, 100% of SLT graduates had secured jobs in the field). This last part is especially heartening, because if you've been paying any attention to the library world over the past two-three years, it's been a pretty dismal picture indeed.  The pressure on our libraries (of all shapes, sizes and types) is still very much present - on August 14th, the Huffington Post reported that 58 elementary schools in the District of Columbia would re-open without school libraries.  That's a tragedy.  But it is encouraging to see that slowly but surely in some parts of the country at least (including Massachusetts), hiring is picking up again and schools are recognizing the need for trained school library media specialists.

So, since this entry will be posted on Friday, the second official day of classes, let me be the first to welcome you back! To new students, welcome to Simmons and to Boston, and to prospective students, I hope these blog posts give you an insight into what makes the Simmons GSLIS program so outstanding.

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