July 2013 Archives

Live Twitter Chat - This Thursday!

Hi everyone! 

This is just a friendly reminder that the Admissions Office will be hosting their first live Q&A Twitter chat this Thursday, August 1st at 10:00 am EST. Join our conversation on Twubs, http://twubs.com/GSLISchat, or just tweet your questions to #GSLISchat. We'll be ready and waiting to answer all of your questions!

#GSLISchat | leave a comment

Dissemination of Information

I have a week off between the end of my internship and the start of my full-time job! If you are interested in some of the cool things I found while going through the Cambridge Public Library's old vertical file take a look at the Cambridge History Room Wordpress. And what am I doing with my time off? Reading, of course. And drinking Mayan coffee from the Simmons Café....way too good.

But one of the books that I just finished up is True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society by Farhad Manjoo. Among the many interesting points Mr. Manjoo brought up in his book; this passage really struck me...

"It is a common mistake in the digital age. New technology gives us access to vast new stores of data and tolls with which to understand them. On the Web you can find seemingly any number you want: an instantaneous county breakdown of live election results; a census of illegal immigrants in the United States...Through my local library's Web site, I can get thirty-year-old American public opinion surveys regarding SALT II without ever having to leave the house...All of this data is empowering, certainly. It gives us a peek into fields where only experts once dared to tread. It breaks down barriers. It allows us to check on the elite. Yet at the same time, in the absence of expert comment, we find ourselves drowning in a sea of facts divorced of meaning, trying to keep afloat in all the numbers." (p 112)

I think I've addressed this issue before on this blog but I think it's a very pertinent one. As a library student so many people comment on whether librarians are not going to be needed now because of the internet or make remarks like, "You need a Master's for that?" when they don't understand that the massive influx of information makes librarians and disseminators of information even more needed in this present age.

Manjoo's excerpt above comes from a discussion of a mathematician who took the numbers she found about the 2004 presidental election in Florida and used them to further the hypothesis that the election had been rigged. Although her numerical data was correct she had not placed it into the larger context of the political history of the area, a context that refuted her claim. This happens so often nowadays online when people grab at the first piece of information they see or in our fast-paced world don't even bother to take the time to put the correct information into a larger context. These are skills librarians are taught to cultivate and can pass on to their patrons.

Libraries | leave a comment

ALA Conference: Chicago Summer 2013

My fantastic summer of adventures has come to a close. I am home in Vermont settling back into a routine of working full-time for the National Park Service and part-time as a waitress at the local (only) restaurant in town.  I have been home for two weeks already and my brain is still buzzing from my experiences in Chicago attending the American Library Association's Annual Conference.  So many librarians in one place! I had a fabulous time traveling with new friends from GSLIS and catching up with old friends from undergrad during spare moments away from the conference.

Highlights from my trip include:

  • Opening remarks from Freakonomics author Steven D.  Levitt
  • Attending a panel of graphic novel authors and artists who discussed the growing popularity of the graphic novel format
  • Trying my first ever Chicago style hot dog
  • Engaging in a heated discussion about the role of prison libraries at the Intellectual Freedom Roundtable
  • Listening to nominees for the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction praise the role of libraries as important influencers in their lives
  • Meeting Alice Walker (author of The Color Purple) and listening to her read aloud from her latest new books The World Will Follow Joy and A Cushion in the Road
  • Concluding my travels with a week in Northern Michigan on Drummond Island with one of my best friends and her family

I could continue with more highlights but suffice it to say, I thoroughly enjoyed myself and was completely overwhelmed the entire time (except my relaxing days in Michigan).  The conference exhibit hall alone is enough to occupy and overstimulate; I went home with more free books than I would have imagined possible.  Meeting and conversing with librarians from all over the country renewed my confidence that I have found the right future profession.  The only problem I have now is the challenge of figuring out which direction to pursue... will I work in reference or with young adults? in a public library, or for a corporation or law office? I am hopeful that my courses next semester and a possible job opportunity (fingers crossed!) will help narrow my focus as my time at GSLIS continues to fly by.

For now I plan to enjoy the little free time I have in Vermont and continue to tackle my ever growing list of must read books. 

Events | leave a comment

The Royal Job Watch

A few weeks ago, my friend sent me this link and suggested that I apply. Royal Librarian - the job title gives me goose bumps. Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, meet Sarah Barton, librarian of Cambridge. This is definitely my best shot at becoming royalty, yet I would have absolutely no shot. By the Queen's standards, I am hardly an "exceptional scholar and bibliophile," and my only knowledge of British history is that Kate and William were married on April 29, 2011. Plus, my strong affinity for Kate would probably not look great on my résumé. "Other interests: Kate Middleton." Awkward...

Ok, so this job might be a bit out of my league. If nothing else, however, it goes to show that some library jobs are just plain awesome. A library degree plus a strong knowledge of and interest in a specific topic or discipline seems like a one-way ticket to a killer career. Unfortunately, there can only be one Royal Librarian, and I assume that most other "just plain awesome" library jobs are equally as hard to come by. They do exist, though (as proven by this royal job opening); it's just a matter of finding them.

I suppose that if I truly aspire to become a librarian of Cambridge, my best bet is to start submitting applications in Cambridge, MA. That might not be quite as prestigious, but let's be real: moving to London would be a royal pain.

Jobs | leave a comment

I locked myself out of my bathroom...and other tall tales.

So when I say "tall" I mean true. I am sitting in my apartment, cautiously drinking water owing to the fact that I may not be able to relieve myself as I have somehow locked the bathroom from the outside. This all comes at the end of my seven day recovery period. Recovery from what you might ask? Oh, just the removal of the superfluous organ we call the gallbladder.  But didn't you have a ticket to Chicago for the ALA conference? Did you get to go? Why yes! And no I did not get to go to Chicago. The stars and my gastro intestinal system have chosen to align to combust this summer barring me from travel. And so, this is the time I chose to reflect on my life. In this summer of heat and nothing but time to muse in my pain reliever haze I reflect on my time at GSLIS.

As I look back over my year of posting on this blog I realize I came into this program with a lot of good fortune, fabulous tales of the Peace Corps, spelling bees and basically saving a Mediterranean country for libraries and peace.  I seem to have lost my swagger...along with my gallbladder (had to be said).  However, sitting here, reading the latest info link about the accomplishments of GSLIS alums as well as the tech lab workshops I do not despair...too much. True, this has been a summer of trials and tribulations. In times such as these I find it best to speak as Anne Shirley would. True, I will never have puffed sleeves on my dress, or perhaps publish my own book of short library vignettes. Then again, maybe this is Boston's way of breaking me in, forcing me to prove to you, devoted readers, what I do know.

I've been here almost a year and I can say these three things with confidence. If you're a new student, take note.

  1. Moodle will send you updates to every forum you post in unless you click that box that says you don't want to be notified of a new post via email. So, if your class of 30 is required to post once a week make sure you CLICK that box.
  2. Linda Watkins is a brilliant librarian, fiercely solving crimes and boxing the ears of databases. She is game, when it comes all things GSLIS. Use her as a resource!
  3.  Don't lock yourself out of your own bathroom in the middle of the summer in a 90 degree heat wave. Sweating will only get you so far.

GSLIS | People | leave a comment

Live Twitter Chats #GSLISchat

Hi readers!

The Admission Office is excited to announce upcoming live Twitter chat dates. These Twitter chats will basically be live Q&A sessions using the hashtag #GSLISchat. If you're a prospective student, or even an incoming student, and you've got questions about the program or application process, etc., please get on Twitter and ask us your questions! We are holding three live chats in August: 8/1 at 10:00am, 8/12 at 4:30pm, and 8/27 at 12:30pm. For more information see our event schedule: http://www.simmons.edu/gslis/admission/events/

You can simply tweet your questions and include the hashtag #GSLISchat, or you could also join the discussion on Twubs: http://twubs.com/GSLISchat. I'll post some of the questions on here after the event, just in case you missed it! If you have any questions about these chats, please email me at gslisadm@simmons.edu. 

I hope you'll join us on Twitter! Thanks for reading!


#GSLISchat | leave a comment

A Blizzard, Zombies and a Book Sale: Kingston Part 2


I attend a fact-to-face class each Saturday and more often than not, I find myself sharing the latest news from fictitious Kingston.  (In case you missed it, read here about this unique online learning opportunity that is part of my Management class.  Alternate Reality and Library School)

So what have we been up to in Kingston?

First there was the Blizzard in June!  Yes, the temporal instability leads to some crazy weather, and as much as a blizzard sounds good right now in all this heat, such unexpected disasters require good disaster planning by the town's LIS organizations to weather the storm.  All of our libraries prepared amazing disaster plans for the blizzard, but then also for other unforeseen events like hurricanes, fires, floods, and even a prison riot.

And then there was Fourth of July!  Of course, our organizations all needed floats in the parade. My organization, The Kingston Correctional Facility Library prepared a float of librarians wearing prison garb, promoting the freedom to read.  The Franklin Public Library, another organization in town, created a float with their Teen Advisory Board to market their upcoming Zombie Teen Fest.  George Washington and Ben Franklin as Zombies were a sight to see!

Let's not forget our first book drive to help the inmates at the Kingston Correctional Facility Library, sponsored by Rock Organizational Consultants of Kingston and the Rock Insurance Company, "Rock the Tote!"

All of our organizations had a busy couple of weeks preparing grant proposals for exciting new programs for our town's libraries.  This week, there is widespread marketing underway to promote these innovative projects. 

Our point levels continue to rise as we try to save Kingston...but will we reach Titanium level in time?  The summer semester ends soon!  Stay tuned!

Classes | leave a comment

Preserving Morris Dancing

For the last two months I have been enmeshed in a collection about Morris Dancing. Until two months ago, I did not know such a thing existed. So imagine my great surprise Friday night when I ran into multiple Morris Dancer groups performing on the Common in conjunction with Shakespeare on the Common!

I wasn't even supposed to be there at that time but had absentmindedly gotten off at the wrong T stop and ran into the very people my collection documented! As I stood watching, a woman came up to me and said, "Has anyone told you what this is yet?" She seemed used to having to explain it to passersby. "It's Morris Dancing!" I said excitedly and she looked at me as if I were the one jumping in the common with bells tied to my shins. Yes! I do know what it is!

This led me to a wonderful opportunity to not only talk with her about Morris Dancing and how she came to be involved with it but also about how I know what it is and explain what an archivist does. I also got to invite them all to the exhibit at the Cambridge Public Library I had just finished setting up!  The Boston area has so many fun cultural things to see and do and it's so cool to be involved in the documentation and preservation of their history!

Archives | Boston | People | leave a comment

Learning Outside the Classroom

This summer has been hot, rainy, and is going by fast.  And did I mention busy?  Yeah, it's been busy.  This summer, as I've mentioned in a few previous blog posts, I'm doing a records management internship for Biogen Idec, a biopharmaceutical company located in Kendall Square in Cambridge.  And I can already say, just because I'm not taking official classes this summer does not mean the learning has stopped...

I find myself every now and again marveling at how I ended up here.  When I initially applied to library school, I never thought I would have the opportunity to work in a place like Biogen.  It's one of the aspects that we don't cover too much on the archives track -archives includes records management, and records management isn't just for city planning or traditional libraries.  Corporations (especially since the Enron debacle) have been tightening the leash on records management.  And in this case, more regulations just so happens to equal more jobs. 

Two of my lovely new co-workers are actually Simmons alumni, which not only make conversations fun (did you take Candy's course?!), but also gives my co-workers a sense of the angle I am approaching records management as a whole from.  I do think a lot has changed, however; one of my co-workers mentioned that when she did a presentation on being interested in industry, the general consensus was that she was "selling out." 

To be honest, "selling out" was something I grappled with when I started.  I was in library school for the science of it all, not to make obscene amounts of money and be working for "the man."  But after I got a few paychecks, and once I had gotten past the preliminary "here's your login, here's your password, here's your email, read these best practice guidelines" and actually started working with the material, I realized that working for industry - at least in my limited experience - is just as valid as working anywhere else.  My particular industry is highly regulated, as audits can occur at any time from the FDA.  Making sure our records are kept just as detailed and accurate as they need to be ensures that in the case of an FDA (or MHRA in the UK) inspection, the particular drug being inspected will continue to pass and can stay on the market - which, in Biogen's case, ensures that millions of Multiple Sclerosis sufferers can continue to receive their medication. 

I am only about halfway through my internship, and am sure I will have different or stronger opinions when all is said and done.  However, what I can say, is that I am glad this opportunity was presented to me to learn about all of the other applications of this degree outside from the traditional library - and I will definitely take advantage of that knowledge. 

Archives | Internships | Jobs | leave a comment

The Fairbanks House

This summer, in addition to working a full-time job, I'm working as an intern at the Fairbanks House on Fridays and Saturdays. I'm not taking this internship for credit - I decided not to take any classes this summer as I meant to devote more time to beginning my thesis, but I wanted to make sure my archival skills stayed fresh and if I could land an internship, it would look great on my resume. 

Well, not only will this experience look great on my resume, but it is quickly turning into something I look forward to each week. I worried that working longer hours Monday through Thursday and then going to an internship on Friday and Saturday would leave me worn out and wishing for more free summer days. This is definitely not the case. Going to the Fairbanks House does not feel like work - I'm having fun, and I'm finding that perhaps working at a historic house is more along the lines of what I want to do with my career. Why? Well, let me tell you...


The Fairbanks House is the epitome of awesome early American history. It is the oldest timber-framed house in America, and it was built between 1637-1641. As an intern, I have a specific archival project to work on, but I also get to give tours of the house. The curator, Meaghan Siekman, created a manual for each docent (volunteer) and intern with vital information about the house and the archive. I shadowed a few tours, gave a tour with Meaghan's help, and then finally began giving tours of my own. Telling people about the history of this house and the Fairbanks family is something I've become truly passionate about. The family built this house and then lived in it for generations - all the way up until 1904 when the family organization, the Fairbanks Family in America (FFA), bought the house and turned it into a museum. Thus, the items in this house, and the stories that have been passed down through generations, exemplify ordinary family life in America since before the country was founded. As a huge American history nerd, I am in awe of these details, and I hope I inspire that same awe in the visitors on my tours. For more information about the house, visit the website: http://www.fairbankshouse.org/index.html or Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Fairbanks-House/129954507016357.

Besides tour giving, I am also working on the photograph collection at the Fairbanks House. 


This photo is a picture of me, and two other interns (Matt and Donna) working on the collections. Over the years, many people, mostly descendants of the family, have donated items to the museum. However, only recently has the FFA started hiring professionals to be curators instead of family members. So, the archive is still in the beginning stages. Meaghan, the current curator, is reponsible for most of the progress on the archive, but none of the photographs have been inventoried or accessioned yet. Also, there aren't many records to indicate when the archive received materials or from whom. I've recently finished inventorying all of the photographs in the collection (I'd estimate there are about 500) and now I have to figure out an intelligent way to organize them into series in order for future researchers to effecitvely access them. It's an increasingly daunting task, but luckily Meaghan is very hands-on and we frequently discuss the best options for the collection. It's reassuring that she doesn't expect me to date the photographs exactly or determine who the individuals are in the photos (a lot of them are unidentified), but we are making strides to create an accessible collection. I'm excited to see how it turns out.

Internships | leave a comment

Library Lesson Learned IV

As much as I am looking forward to having the perfect library job, I am not quite so naïve to think that such a thing will fall into my lap, especially on my first attempt. In fact, I would argue that no job is perfect - there is always something that renders even one's ideal job just short of utopian. For my current part-time public library job, teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) classes is that something.

Now, before the ESL police come knocking down my door, let me clarify a few things: 1) I fully understand that ESL is a crucial program for an urban library population, 2) I have seen firsthand how much the ESL students appreciate the classes, 3) I think it is fantastic that many ESL programs (including the one at my library) are taught by volunteers, and 4) As a strong candidate for an Introvert of the Year award, talking/teaching for two consecutive hours is not really my thing. It's not you, ESL; it's me.

I dread ESL like a routine visit to the dentist. Every Monday night I hope enough volunteer teachers show up and my services are not needed, but since that rarely ever happens I regularly find myself teaching English. I have been working at the library for ten months now, yet the initial feelings of anxiety and discomfort still haunt me each week I sit down with a group of ESL students.

Despite those initial feelings, ESL (like the dentist) is never that bad. Spending two hours with people from all over the world - Brazil, India, Nepal, El Salvador, Colombia, China, and Haiti, to name a few nationalities - is sometimes frustrating, often interesting, and always rewarding. People come to ESL because they want to improve their lives here in America, and if they walk out the door having learned just one thing, then I did my job. I had no idea that ESL was part of my job description until that first Monday night when volunteers were scarce, but ESL has been a crucial part of my personal and professional development at the library.

Pardon the cliché, but doing things that make one feel uncomfortable or hesitant generally makes for a better person. Over the past ten months, ESL, that dreaded something about my public library job, has forced me to grow and learn about myself in ways that circulation and shelving do not allow. In that sense, it's a blessing that no job is perfect. If I ever think I have the perfect job, I'll know that I am either not being challenged or not trying hard enough.

Jobs | Libraries | leave a comment

Sage Advice

sageadvice.jpgI wish I could join my peers in talking about trips to Europe or ALA in Chicago, but alas, my summer is being spent working and taking two classes. The rain has washed away many of my herb plantings, but at least the cabbage and onion plants seem happy...as do the weeds.  All the warnings that two summer classes would make for an intense experience were true!

In my first semester (Jan 2012), I took Technology for Information Professionals (LIS 488) which was initially intimidating and ultimately empowering for a middle-aged career changer like myself.  I was a regular user of computers at home, but new advances and I were strangers.  In that class, my professor gave us some good advice that I recently shared and used in another class.  He encouraged us to use every presentation as an opportunity to try out a new technology.

This past weekend, I had to give a presentation in one of my summer classes, User Instruction (LIS 408).  I shared this advice with my class as an introduction to the animated cartoon I made and linked in what would otherwise have been a boring PowerPoint. I had never tried animation software before and I spent a lot of time trying out different online offerings for making and using cartoons as a teaching tool. I worried a bit that it might not be well-received.  A cartoon could be fun and engaging, or it could be childish filler.  I hoped mine would be the former.

Phew!  The cartoon illustrated my points and engaged the class.  It all turned out great, although I did see ways I could have improved it.  But the bigger lesson here for me was that risk-taking is good, and my peers provide an emotionally safe environment.  We are all trying out new things, especially in this class where we hope to become better library instructors by trying out new teaching techniques and new technologies, and learning from each other's successes and mistakes.

So, the sage advice: Try something new.  Take risks.  Go out on the proverbial limb and see what happens. Whether it is a fabulous success or a miserable flop, you will learn something.

Classes | leave a comment

Site Visit

I went on my first site visit on Friday. A site visit is a visit to a prospective archives donor to see the size/condition/subject matter of a collection to see if it's appropriate for the archives before accepting the responsibility to move the entire collection.

This visit was half site visit, half social call since the Cambridge History Room had already accepted the collection from this donor and we were only going down to pick up two more boxes she had found. We were to meet the donor at her house in Marshfield, about a 2 hour ride from Cambridge. Once we got off the highway into the little cape towns, it was gorgeous! All those trees! Boston is a lot greener than some cities I've been in but you forget the amount of foliage that lies undisturbed right beyond its borders. We saw old farm houses, little town markets, and even a few horses.

Our directions, written by the donor (who is an author), told us to take such and such a road "winding around several houses," to notice the nursery on our right at one spot, the wharf on our left at another, to go over the causeway and take the "narrow unmade road" past the dead end sign until we reached her house which overlooks the marsh. In fact, at one point we almost drove into the marsh! Descriptive directions are beautiful but sometimes not very practical (all flower covered traffic islands start to look the same).

I'm sure in every archivist's career there are stories of wonderful and horrible donor visits. I'm glad my first one was so lovely. The house was gorgeous! I just kept staring out the windows into the beautiful view of the marsh with the ocean beyond it. She showed us pictures of it during storms when the tide came up to the deck and in the winter when the marsh froze into miniature glaciers.

We were given black currant juice, salad, bread, cheese and fruit, and chatted about Tolkien and other topics. It really was a lovely day.

Internships can sometimes be frustrating, working for no pay. Even if you love the work you are doing, in the back of your mind you wish they were paying you instead of you paying for the class. But sometimes it's good to have a chance to step back and realize all the opportunities you are getting. I really love this profession, Simmons and Boston. As soon as I was done for the day, I called my mother to tell her all that I had done and seen. This was one of those chances that I would never have had otherwise.

Internships | leave a comment