January 2014 Archives

Hidden Value in Boring Courses

 I'm about to say something that may shock you. Not all classes in library school are riveting. One in particular is considered by many to be the most boring class they could possibly imagine. This course has only recently been removed from the list of core courses and I'm here to suggest that when you come to GSLIS, you take that boring course. This infamously boring course is LIS 403 Evaluation of Information Services. Perhaps the name is a giveaway for why it might be considered a bit of a snooze. In truth, no it wasn't my favorite class to sit through, for three hours, in the evenings, on Mondays, but I am now applying so much of what I learned to my current library job.

Professor Mary Wilkins Jordan did her best to keep classes lively and interesting, and considering that the subject matter is dry, I'd say she succeeded most of the time. The real value of the class was the semester long assignment to create a research proposal for a theoretical evaluation. Some students worked on hypothetical situations they would like to research in a future place of employment, basically just doing the assignment to get it done. While I'm sure there is value to that, I found designing an evaluation based on my current place of employment to be much more interesting and useful. In fact, we are in the process of actually doing the evaluation I wrote for class! It's been a challenge to edit the initial survey I created from an assignment to something that we will actually be putting out to the community, but I'm so excited to be working on this project.

LIS 403 gave me the tools and the background knowledge to get this survey going. When the project is completed, my library will have done a thorough evaluation for the first time in more years than anyone can remember. Moving into a future where libraries serve a different role and budgets keep getting cut, it will be extremely valuable to have taken the time to ask our community what resources they value most at the library.

What this all really gets back to is the theme of applying the GSLIS education to real world scenarios. Even though LIS 403 Evaluation of Information Services is no longer a required class, I would advise everyone to at least consider it. Like many classes, the real value comes from being able to see how it will help you in the work place. This semester as I take LIS 458 Database Management and LIS 415 Information Organization, I am again reminded that what I'm learning in school is only as valuable as how I'm able to translate it into the real world. Prepping students to enter the workforce is something that Simmons, in my opinion, does incredibly well.

Classes | GSLIS | leave a comment

Corporate Archive

I work in a corporate archive.  When I took LIS438 (Introduction to Archival Methods and Services) last spring, one of the questions someone asked me was what the main difference is between a corporate archive and a historical archive, besides the obvious fact that the corporate archive only hosts documents pertaining to the institution I work for.  The one I can think of, off the top of my head, is that our legal department gets to determine how documents should come to the archive, and what shape they should be in when they get there.  One of the first things I learned while I was doing my first archival internship at the Worcester Historical Museum was just how much I should appreciate the lovely uniformity of the records that I got every day in the corporate archive - everything organized and arranged just so before they even got to me.  

Of course, at the historical archive there was always the excitement of opening a box and having only the vaguest of ideas what might be inside.   We don't get that in the corporate archive.

That's not always true, though.  When one of our sales offices closed last spring, the archive received all of the files from their office at once: over 300 boxes, with dubiously vague labels like "old files."


I sort of fell into my current job by accident.  I certainly never expected to love it as much as I do.  I decided to get my MLIS because I know this is the sort of work I want to keep doing.  I'm not entirely certain, yet, exactly what kind of archive I'd prefer - right now I'm leaning toward a municipal archive of some sort, although I expect it will be more a question of where I can get a job once I graduate. 

This summer I'll probably take LIS502, the Archives Field Study, which will hopefully give me more exposure to non-profit archives.  When I first heard about Simmons' internship requirements during the application process I have to admit I was a little unhappy about it.  I knew it would be hard to work out the internship hours around a fulltime job and classes, and it seemed a little pointless.  Now I think the internships are possibly the most important thing I'll do at Simmons: they give me a real feel for what a job in different sorts of archives will actually be like, and let me test out what we learn in class in a practical way.  One thing that is repeated over and over in our archives classes is that there are few hard and fast rules of archiving.  Every place will do things slightly differently, and it's important to see the differences in practice before students internalize ideas of The One Right Way of Doing Things. 

I'm really looking forward to what I'll learn this semester! 

Internships | Jobs | leave a comment

Confessions of a Kid Lit Fanboy

Let's talk about fandom. Surely, there is somebody out there whom all of you are dying to meet. Yet, you're probably also terrified of meeting this person, for fear of being tongue-tied, boring, or just all around beside yourselves (my grandmother, bless her heart, would use the phrase "tickled"). Well, a strange thing happened here at Simmons this semester: by some cosmic twist of fate, I am now taking a class from one of my heroes, Roger Sutton.

See, Roger doesn't know that I idolize him. He doesn't know that one of my biggest motivations to come to Boston was to someday be his intern (fingers crossed). He doesn't know that, on the first day of orientation last semester, when I found out he'd be teaching this class, my jaw literally dropped and I had to pick it up off the floor. He doesn't know that, that same day, I all-too-energetically ran to meet one of the members of his staff at The Horn Book. At least, I hope he doesn't know these things. And I hope that, by writing them here, I'm not shooting myself in the foot.

The children's book world is small and, as far as I'm told, it is a field dominated by women. Roger Sutton--like Brian Selznick, Gregory Maguire, and my all-time hero, Maurice Sendak--is someone who, by his very existence as a gay man in the field, showed me that, maybe just maybe, there might be a place for me in this small little world. Of course, Roger doesn't know this either. I don't want him to. But what he does know is my name. And that is enough for me. For now.

There's a delicate balance you must strike as a fan. You never want to come on too strong (i.e. "Roger, I WANT TO BE YOU give me a job at your magazine please and thank you!") but you also don't want to feign too much disinterest (i.e. "Yeah, your work's okay. I guess. I read an article once."). I think that what you really have to do is treat your idols as people because, in the end, that's all they really are. That's all anyone really is.

As I left class Tuesday night, I felt as though the fact that I was able to be among the giants in my life--if only for a little while--would make everything else worth it. I may have left my home behind. My boyfriend. My family. But this singular moment, sitting in that classroom and hearing an insider's stories of the publishing world, made everything worth it. No matter what happens in my future, I will know that I will always have Simmons. I will always remember these as the times I sat among giants and, more importantly, belonged.

I can't guarantee that you'll meet your hero at Simmons, but I can guarantee that--if only for a little while--you'll be among giants. As hokey as that may sound, I honestly believe it to be true.

Classes | People | leave a comment

Let's Talk About Being Poor

Let's face it: deciding to pursue my graduate degree in Library and Information Science from a private college isn't the most fiscally responsible decision I've ever made.  When I informed my husband - who was at that time starting his own PhD program and netting around 30k/year for around 90 hours of work a week - that I wanted to get my LIS degree, and that we would ultimately be in the hole more or less 50k, it was...not received with great enthusiasm. 

Coming from Wisconsin, finances are viewed fairly differently there.  30k is more than enough money for a couple to live fairly comfortably; we rented a GORGEOUS lofted one-bedroom, two bathroom, apartment for $900/month.  Then, stupid Carolyn...we moved into a tiny, 500 square-foot 1-bedroom for $2100/month, plus utilities and parking.  That ranks among the all-time stupidest decisions I have ever made.

Ultimately, though, we decided to move into a much more reasonably priced apartment - a 1 bedroom + den for $1650.  Affordable!  That's a word I haven't heard in recent memory.  Let's throw a party and dance in the wind!

Ultimately, though, my husband's and my individual, and joint, decisions to each pursue graduate school has definitely laid a slant to how we view finances.  I am the optimist and the dreamer: as one of my previous supervisors - and one of the wisest people I know - told me, "I wouldn't have even considered you without knowing you were pursuing your MLIS."  Ultimately, that position - both directly and indirectly - landed me my current job, which I absolutely adore, and unlike many "internships," it actually paid really well.  Up until that point I was doubtful about whether getting my degree - with such a high price tag physically, mentally, emotionally - was worth it, but that was a turning point for me. 

My husband is not an optimist.  He is a realist.  He mentions to me frequently, and to my un-amusement, that getting a degree is no guarantee of a job.  That his 7, 8, 9-year PhD is an investment as risky as penny stocks, and there is a good chance we could lose our shirts. 

GREAT!  That's what I like to hear... oh wait, no it's not. 

I think that we need to meet somewhere in the middle.  An MLIS degree and a PhD in Biology, even one from MIT, are no guarantees of employment.  The world will not owe us jobs post-graduation.  But at the same time, with prudent money management, and a good display of the skills that you have gained and are capable of, I think it is both optimistic and realistic to say that they are investments that will pay out - maybe not in the short term, but certainly in the long term. 

But PART TWO of this blog post concerns being frugal.  Being hopeful that my degree will "pay for itself," as it were, doesn't mean that I can get away with spending all sorts of money on myself.  Our groceries don't consist of cheese and prosciutto.  Oh wait, that's not right, they totally do ... but that's one calculated extravagance that I afford myself (I'm from Wisconsin, cheese is basically my blood; sue me). 

We are living in a small, very old apartment, driving a car that's so old it no longer needs to comply with emissions standards, and we cut corners where we can.  We have borrowed money from the bank, from my parents, from my husband's parents.  Friends who come to visit take US out to dinner, and I have never turned down free food (and my husband eats free pizza like, four times a week).  It's all part of the syllabus of being "grad school poor," and it's not fun... but at the end of the day, I can say that it will be so, so worth it. 

GSLIS | Jobs | leave a comment

Learning the World of Computers

As we all know, last Tuesday's snow storm caused Simmons to cancel class that night. As I stayed nice and warm inside, I decided to do the responsible thing and do some reading for class. It was while I was reading through one of my two books for LIS 488 (Technology for Information Professionals) that I realized that I have a lot to learn in regards to computers. Now for those of you who might not know, LIS 488 focuses on the conceptual foundation and context of computing, Internet, and other technologies used within information-based professions. Besides learning the concepts and skills related to various pieces and aspects of technology, we are learning about the inner workings and history of computers. Considering that I grew up in the 1990s and had a front row seat to all the changes that occurred within the world technology, I figured that this course was going to relatively easy. Boy was I wrong. But not for the reasons that you're probably thinking.

I'll be the first to admit that I am not a computer expect. While I can definitely use different operating systems like OS X and Microsoft Windows, my skills are limited to those of an average user. Although I know how to customize the appearance of my Internet browser, I certainly don't know anything about the inner workings of operating systems, let alone the tech specs of my laptop. It is because of this rather large gap in my knowledge related to the world of technology that I find this course to be so enlightening. For example, this past week our readings included a conversation discussing the nature and functions of cloud computing, an overview of the development of computer technology, and an explanation of computer basics (networks, WiFi, connection technologies, etc). As I continue to read more about computer and Internet technologies, the more I am realizing that I have a lot of things left to learn. And it's because of this reason that I am enjoying this class. In today's modern age, so many things involve possessing a knowledge of computers that is more than just computing 101. Having the skills to create HTML pages or use Photoshop could be the deciding factor in regards to getting a position that might require experience with using different computer or Internet technologies.  Sure, sometimes some of the computer jargon is way over my head, but I am enjoying the reading and online discussions nonetheless. I'm looking forward to learning more this semester. Hopefully by the end, I can confidently boast about my mad computer skills to all of my friends.

Classes | Technology | leave a comment

Let's Beat the Winter Blues: Out of the House and Out of the Cold

Hello friends!  I hope you are all safe and sound after this bipolar weather we are having.  I know that the last thing anyone feels like doing at the moment is traveling out, but sometimes you need to brace yourself against the cold, bundle up for sleet/snow/rain/55 degree weather, and go outside.  Let's talk about Making the Most of Winter!

I will be sharing with you a few of my favorite spots to both mentally and physically escape the weather. 

The Museum of Fine Arts


The MFA is truly a must-see for anyone in Boston, whether you're a permanent resident or only spending a weekend in Beantown.  The MFA is a contender for the best museum in the country, and is certainly one of the top ones in the world - it houses extensive collections of American, European, Meso-American, and Byzantine art, to name a few of their collections.  Additionally, there is a featured display that is always worth seeing.  One of my past favorites was a collection of Japanese Samurai artifacts, including armor, katanas, and masks; currently an extensive exhibit of John Singer Sargent Watercolors is on display (but it ends on the 20th, so hurry!).  And it is only a few short blocks away from Simmons; students can gain free entry.  So why not?!

In the same vein as the MFA...

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum


The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is another art museum, but that's about as far as the commonalities go between the MFA and the ISG.  The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum has an incredibly rich history in addition to the history of the amazing art and artifacts that are housed there; one of the biggest art robberies of all time unfortunately occurred at the ISG.  And, due to a stipulation in Isabella's will that nothing could be changed in the museum after her death, the frames of the pictures still hang on the wall as an eerie and heartbreaking reminder of the losses this museum suffered.  In addition to the stories that surround the museum, however, there is also an incredible art collection to see, including the famous Titian's Europa.  And - it's even closer to Simmons than the MFA; this museum is literally right next door! 

And finally,

The Museum of Science


While at first glance the Museum of Science may seem like a museum mainly for children, don't let the whimsical atmosphere fool you.  This museum is more than entertaining for people of all ages - and contains exhibits of all kinds!  On the upcoming docket for exhibits include The Experience of Food; Food, Nature Culture; the live animal care center, and more.  There is also an IMAX theater that is a totally immersive experience into the world of fish, dinosaur bones, and more; additionally, there is an amazing world-renowned planetarium that is absolutely worth a visit, especially if you have not wondered about how small the earth is compared to the rest of space lately.  While the Museum of Science may not seem as "high culture" as the ISG or the MFA, take the word from an internet stranger: if you go, you will not be disappointed! 

These three museums are my top picks to get out of my apartment, but also to get out of the cold.  Coming soon: SPRING! What do you do to escape the winter blues?

Boston | leave a comment

Academic Peace at Last: Finding that Place to Study


For those of you who might not know, I am a commuter student. While I did have the option of living on Simmons campus, I opted to rent an apartment right outside of Boston in the Brookline/Brighton area. I've included the slash since my apartment is located in a place that if I take two steps to the left I'll be in Brookline. Now don't get me wrong, I deeply love living in an apartment; it allows me to feel like I'm one step closer to entering the world of being a working professional without actually entering the professional working world. However, as much as I love living a few T-stops away from the hip and happening place that is Coolidge Corner, there are quite a few luxuries of living on a college campus that I truly miss. While I could create another list featuring the five things I miss the most about a college campus, I will save that for another time. Rather, I think I am going to talk about the one thing that I really miss, something that without, I doubt that I would be enrolled in Simmons today. And that, my friends, is the perfect study space.

Contrary to popular belief, the perfect study space does not have to be the quite floor of your academic library or the confines of your dorm/campus owned apartment. For some of my friends back in Worcester, their preferred studying space was this social and academic space located right beneath our school's library. For others, they enjoyed going down to a local café, getting a hot cup of cocoa and buckling down with books and papers for hours on end.  As for myself, I was the type of student who enjoyed finding a nook in the library that was equal parts quite and social. For the last two years of college, I could be found in my little nook for at least a minimum of six hours a day on a given weekend. Back then however, campus wasn't a thirty-minute commute. I just needed to walk five minutes and BAM! I was in study central.  While last semester I would make the occasional trip to Beatley to get some work done, I spent most of my studying time in my room; not my preferred space, but it would have to do.

However, this semester, the study gods seem to have heard my prayers because I have hit the jackpot in regards to study places. Located right within Coolidge Corner is the newly opened Knight Moves, a board game café that features the type of chill atmosphere that anyone looking for a good balance of the quite but social would love. Although just recently opened, Knight Moves is slowly making a name for itself in Coolidge Corner as a place where one can go for a relaxed atmosphere peppered with touches of steam-punk and either get into that study grove or spend time playing one of the 300 hundred plus games that owner Devon has on hand. 


As someone who has been craving such a space for the last four months, to me, this is truly a godsend. This past Sunday I camped out at a small table with a delicious mocha with my homework for over four hours. Every now and then, Devon would come over and chat with me, telling me more about the business and his goal to provide Coolidge Corner with a place where people can either come to have a cup of coffee and a pastry and hang out casually, or, for $10, come and either play a new board game, or pick up an old favorite for as long as they like. Although the place was buzzing with board game enthusiasts, I found myself in academic zen mode, reading my Reference and Information Service textbook and watching online videos for my Technology for Information Professionals (LIS 488). I not only felt relaxed, but welcomed as well; two things that I'm sure everyone wants when it comes to finding that ideal study space.


If you live in the Brighton or Brookline area and want to experience a café that would fit perfectly in any college town, then you need to come down to Knight Moves this instant. And if you don't live nearby, this is still a fun place to visit during the weekends. Bring your friends, bring your homework, you can even bring your own alcohol; you won't be disappointed. 

Knight Moves is located at 1402 Beacon St. Brookline, MA.



Boston | Relaxing | leave a comment

Inspiration at the Start of Spring Semester 2014

I'm getting the 5th semester itch and I'm starting my semester off all wrong. Anyone know the feeling? I sit on my couch staring at the stack of books that has accumulated in the past few days and I think how good it would be if I actually read them. Then I think about how there is this vast vacuum of time waiting for me and whatever happened to weekends? Oh that's right I'm a grad student and weekends don't exist. I don't know any friend of mine at GSLIS who has what normal people call a weekend. We work hard at usually more than one job. We write papers and read ridiculous amounts of professional literature. We do all this and I don't know about everyone else but sometimes it all feels like nonsense. I'm paddling to stay afloat and I never imagined that would be what my education would look like.

Then, the most amazing thing happened to me: my boss quit. That's right, my boss, the most incredible woman, the most awe inspiring and fearless librarian I have ever known decided to leave her job of 22 years. Why is this inspiring, you ask? Well, first of all, she should have consulted me, as she should on all things life altering, because really this is all ultimately about me. However, the reason my boss has knocked my socks off is because this choice is her deciding to begin again. I don't know what she's going to do. She might knit a hat for every starving child in the world. She might travel to places she's been dreaming about for ages. She might start a whole new career. The inspiration comes from her deciding that she wants to challenge herself and do great things.

Our professors and colleagues tell us all the time how happy librarians are and that's why no one can get a job because no one ever retires. This may be true, but isn't it incredible to think that the field of library science fosters communication and professional growth so much that librarians are happy enough to stay forever or quit to begin anew? Regardless of what you think I call it a reason to get past my 5th semester itch and bust through this wall of procrastination. I have one year more to prepare myself for the greatest job I'll ever have. This is big! So big that it will prepare me for whatever I think needs to come next. Thank you, boss (you know who you are).

Students | leave a comment

Best of the Best: My Favorites of the 100 Books I Read Last Year

I hope everyone has had a nice relaxing holiday season full of fun, food, and family. I for one enjoyed the break from classes but did not have much opportunity to slow down otherwise. As my last post suggested, 2013 was an incredibly busy year for me and 2014 promises much of the same. Of everything I accomplished in the last year, reading 100 books is one of the things I'm most proud of- even if it did take me a few days into the new year to complete.

I read some awesome books this year so I thought now would be a great time to offer my suggestions. I had originally intended to summarize my top five favorite books, but then I went through my list and I had not five, but twenty books I absolutely had to share! Clearly that's too many to summarize in a short blog post. That said, before I give my list of favorites I think it's worth noting the range of genres represented on this list. Trying to read 100 books in a year not only stretched me to read more but it also pushed me to try genres I never thought I'd be interested in.

The truth is truly stranger than fiction, something I learned again and again as I made my way through true tales of life in Savannah, Georgia (Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil), Prison (Orange is the New Black), and working as the food critic for the New York Times (Garlic and Sapphires). I read several graphic novels and came to better understand the style and its ability to convey complex ideas and emotions differently than novels. Mystery has never been a genre I know much about but working in a public library where mysteries are among the most popular books made me realize how much fun they are. So here you are, roughly in the order they were read, my list of the top twenty books I've read in the last year. Got any great suggestions to add? I'd love to hear them! I may not be able to keep up with my list, but in the last year, I feel like I've made a lot of progress.

  1. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
  2. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
  3. At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson
  4. People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
  5. Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  6. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
  7. The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman
  8. The Man Who Ate Everything by Jeffrey Steingarten
  9. The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan
  10. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? By Mindy Kaling
  11. Loving Frank by Nancy Horan
  12. Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by Ruth Reichl
  13.  Orange Is the New Black by Piper Kerman
  14.  Snobs by Julian Fellowes
  15.  Mr. Churchill's Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal
  16.  Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg
  17.  Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon
  18.  The Boleyn King by Laura Andersen
  19.  The Winds of War by Herman Wouk
  20.  Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

Relaxing | leave a comment

Not Your Typical Reference Librarian - Or How I Found My Career

2014 just started - and I already feel like we're in the middle of the year!  This time of the year is always so busy, because you're turning over a new leaf, trying to develop all of these habits - and also attempting to remember to re-vaccinate the dog, to take the car in to be inspected, and so much more.  But the biggest thing that I am excited about for 2014 is that I am now fully employed - in an amazing position that I am so excited about. 

I have spoken in this blog before about the traditional library position, and how I just don't seem to fit that mold.  In several of the classes there is talk about other types of libraries that one could make a career out of, including law libraries and medical libraries.  For me, the records management class consisted primarily of talking about small local-government records management - but all of these subsets really only scratch the surface of the types of jobs that exist.  For me, I seem to have found my niche working in records management in a biopharmaceutical company. 

As I said, I have mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: don't force yourself into a position that you don't love just because you feel it's the only thing out there.  You don't need to do reference if your passion is elsewhere! (Yes, you might have to do reference for a while, but keep looking...you will find that thing you are passionate about.) 

The position that I have as a clinical document technician is one that I never even knew existed until after I worked at this company for some time.  I mean, it makes sense: clinical drug trials are producing documents, and those documents need to be managed... but who knew you could make a career out of it?!  Seriously, there needs to be a newsletter, or public service announcement, or something. 

In conjunction with this new position, I am also doing my 502 internship at Harvard as a research assistant for a super cool exhibition that will be going out in October.  While "research assistant" doesn't seem like the most practical of job titles, let me tell you: I am so excited about this internship.  But I am mostly excited about the way that my two major commitments this semester will interact with one another: will researching in the archives at Harvard help me to better navigate and organize these files at Harvard, and vice versa?  Can I develop a self-driven project from soup to nuts?  How can I work managing these two very large commitments at the same time?  It's slightly overwhelming, but...very exciting.  I am sure that I will be having more insights as the semester progresses, but for the time being I wish you all the best in starting your own semester, and finding your own passions - mainstream or unheard of as they might be! 

Internships | Jobs | leave a comment

New Year, New Semester, Already So Much To Do

Well, the truth can be denied no longer; my second semester at Simmons has officially begun. As of 9am this morning, I became a student once again, putting an end to my month-long academic hiatus. Sure, I will miss the luxury of being able to sleep in past 7am and not have to worry about finishing all my homework before the weekend, but I know that its high time I get back to focusing on my academics. After all, I have a lot to look forward to this semester. For example, I will have not one, but two night classes this year, something that I am both dreading and excited about.  Additionally, I have my first history course to look forward to, representing my first step towards completing my dual degree. But classes at Simmons are not all that I excited about. You see, right before I went home to celebrate the winter holidays, I went into Fenway High for a job interview. While I'll be the first to admit that I did not land the job, I walked away from the experience with something just as good: an internship working in the school's archives. Yes, you read that correctly, a school archive. Now, I've heard of academic libraries featuring archives, but never a school library. The internship starts Thursday so I cannot wait to come back and report on what exactly makes a school archive tick.

But wait, there's more!!!!!!  As of last Friday, I have officially become a contributing member of INALJ.com (I Need A Library Job). What does this mean? Every week, I volunteer a few hours to checking a list of different job databases for career opportunities within the world of LIS. After I have my list, I email it off to my editor who posts it on the site. So far it has been a lot of fun, especially when I come across job opportunities that someday soon, I myself could apply for. If you have never been to INALJ.com, I suggest stopping by, it's definitely worth checking out. There is a lot more there than just job postings.  Keep in mind, INALJ.com doesn't just focus on library jobs in the New England area. What really makes this site a gem is the fact that is has job postings for the US, Canada, and a number of international countries.

All in all, this semester seems like its going to be awesome, hectic, enlightening, and exhausting. Although I know that when push comes to shove, I have it within myself to reach down deep and channel my inner all-star student though at this moment, I can't help but wonder how I am going to juggle all of this without going insane. Well, I guess I'll just have to find out.

Classes | leave a comment

Let Me Tell You a Story


As librarians, storytelling is baked into the scrumptious goodness that is our career. It's not so much inferred that we will all be storytellers with puppets or flannel boards, but anyone who has ever explained a job to a colleague or trainee at work can attest to the regular occurrence of a tale being told: There was this one reference librarian who never looked up from her book...nobody ever asked her a question. Right off the bat you're intrigued and you want to understand what happened to this librarian and what was it that made her so incredibly bitter. Humans are tellers of tales. There is an incredible amount of research verifying that human beings understand concepts and connect to material more effectively when taught through story.

I digress, but my point to you, oh library professional, is that stories make us who we are. I say all this also to underline how amazing I feel after completing LIS 423, Storytelling, with Melanie Kimball. I spent the semester learning about story in its various formats and the many purposes it serves. I witnessed peers grow as tellers and heard some amazing stories about Fin M'Coul, the real little mermaid, Kate Crackernuts and the oh-so-amazing Don Coyote. And then we came to the personal storytelling part of the syllabus. I was not prepared for some of these stories. If you've ever listened to the Moth Radio Hour you can attest to the power of the personal story, a true story told by the person who it happened to.  I was lucky enough to develop such a story under the guidance of Professor Kimball. With her help I crafted a story that was short enough to perform at a story slam.

What's that, you say? Well, Boston is lucky enough to have a local version of personal storytelling competitions, or story slams. MassMouth has been around for almost 5 years and is expanding its mission to bring stories to the people of Boston every day. I encourage anyone who has read this far to check out their website and see a slam as soon as possible. I competed at a slam at Doyle's Pub in Jamaica Plain with many of my classmates cheering me on. It was one of the most memorable nights of my life here in Boston. Even though there were about 75 people there in this cavernous pub it still felt so intimate. I was sharing incredibly deep secrets with a group of strangers and it was fabulous! I move on to the semi-finals in March. Win or lose it's still the best thing I have done in a long while. I encourage every GSLIS student to go to a slam, grab a beverage, listen, enjoy and hopefully make it to the stage to tell one of your stories. Here is mine.

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Service First? A New Kind of Service Model for my Local Library

About a week ago, my older and sister and I returned home to celebrate the winter holidays with my family. As always, within less than twenty-fours of arriving home from Boston, my mom and I piled into the car and made a trip over my town's local library so I could pick up some books to read while I'm home for the break. Although the library had undergone some serious renovations back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, very little has changed in regards to its general services. However, things have apparently changed quite a bit while I have been away. When I walked inside my local library last Saturday, I was horrified to see that the circulation desk was all but gone and in its place were a line of computers and book scanners. After inquiring about the significant changes with a nearby librarian, I learned that the computers and the removal of the circulation desk were all part of the library's new Service First model. While my library's website boasts that amongst other things, the self-checkout system has been regarded as a positive change, I disagree.

From what I saw and experienced, the Service First model is a model that promotes the idea of patrons taking basic library services into their own hands.  While in theory this isn't such a bad idea, since most libraries feature options that allow users to find books on their own without directly needing librarian assistance, I saw some significant flaws in the system. For one thing, when my mother went to check out her books, the librarian at the box that now serves as the circulation desk re-directed her to the computers, insisting that she use the self-checkout system. It wasn't an option, my mom had to use the computers. Before going further, I want to make it clear that I am not against self-checkout. Personally, I think it can be useful but if the system is going be in put in place, it should at least work. Take the Brookline Public Library for example. They feature self-checkout computers that only need to scan your library card to function. Additionally, the circulation desk is sill highly prominent and the staff does not seem to mind which method of checkout a patron uses. Clearly, this is a service model that not only works, but works extremely well. At my local library, a user needs to create a password to use the system rather than simply scanning their cards.  Not surprisingly, this method does not exactly work. I watched a number of other patrons struggle with gaining access to the system, all running into the same problem: the system seemed unable to recognize their passwords. As for me, I couldn't even create a password and when I walked over to the circulation desk, the very same librarian seemed almost angry that she had to help me. Ultimately, my books were checked out the old fashioned way though I was chided for not having created a password for my account. As for my mom, she ended up walking out of the library with a book she forgot she to check out.

Although this Service First model is only its early stages, I personally believe that the model needs some more refinement. However after doing a bit of research, I do understand why my library adopted this new model. Due to a hiring freeze set in place about two years ago, the library has not been able add new members to the staff to meet the needs of the patrons. Without having the appropriate staff numbers to meet patron needs, it makes sense to create a system that allows the users to utilize the resources of the library in a more independent fashion. As I have already said, I am all for a library that wants to promote patron independence. However, it needs to be done correctly. As of now, this is not the case at my local library. For one thing, if a patron doesn't feel comfortable using something like a self-checkout system, they should freely be allowed to use an alternative method. Additionally, all but removing the circulation desk was like removing the heart of the library. When one walks inside now, they no longer see a central hub where they are guaranteed to find assistance. For first time users, this new layout can be somewhat jarring since it is not exactly easy to figure out where to go for help. In LIS 401, we learned about S.R. Ranganathan's five laws of library science, one of which claims that it is the responsibility of the library to save the time of the reader. Promoting the idea that it is crucial for libraries to efficiently meet the needs of library users, this law represents how libraries need to operate in a fashion that is both efficient and user friendly. Personally, I feel like this new Service First model has a long way to go before it can fully fulfill Ranganathan's fourth law. But who knows, perhaps things will only improve from here on out?

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