Recently in GSLIS Category

Perk of Being Here: Learning in the hallways at GSLIS

scrabble.jpgI spent much of the spring interviewing candidates for the library assistant position at the school library where I work. I met a great many qualified candidates. I was impressed by extensive resumes, many filled with a plethora of technical prowess as well as life experience. The ideal candidate is meant to be entering the library profession but not have an MLS. I assumed that most of our qualified candidates would be attending Simmons or starting in the fall. I was mistaken. Most of our savvy candidates were keeping their options open by attending online degree programs through other universities. Their sound reasoning was that these programs were cheaper than many of their campus counterparts and left them free to pursue library jobs wherever they pleased.

This is a completely valid argument. Anyone who goes to Simmons knows the cost all too well. Anyone who has ever looked at the trends in online education knows that it's what's next for GSLIS and most LIS programs. I tried to mine the library literature at Beatley to read some articles about distance learning and was shocked to see how little there was published. Instead, I turned to trusty for insight into online education trends and found some interesting pieces on the future of higher education on the internet. Learning online is a flexible, feasible way to provide education to a great many people who don't live in urban areas. This is all very true.

However, there is something to be said about being here. I say this mainly because I have been working at the Simmons main campus almost every day since the end of June. I thought it would be a ghost town. I thought there would be nothing to do. But between working the reference desk at Beatley and manning the Tech Lab information desk on Palace Road I have learned a great deal. I have not been picking up too many salient lessons in the classroom, sad to say. My curiosity has been piqued by the great many professors and students I have the pleasure of running into on a regular basis. Striking up a conversation about Melvil Dewey with an incoming student in Foundations (LIS 401) or watching someone write out code for a website for Technology for Information Professionals (LIS 488) compels me to synthesize what I have learned in the field and the classroom like nothing else ever has.

Having a discussion with professors about their latest assignment or their upcoming study on pop culture's portrayal of librarians is something that doesn't just happen in an online forum. Twitter, moodle forums, and collaboratory google docs can take students on a structured path to discussion but perhaps what I love most about going to school here is the open nature of scholarship. Everywhere you turn there is an opportunity to sit down and talk about something you're passionate about. Last night, I joined a professor, two alums and a fellow student at a story slam in Cambridge.  Relationships are built here when the amazing Jim Matarazzo passes me a jolly rancher, or when Linda Watkins and I talk blogs and how to make them or when Monica Colon-Aguirre tells me about the fabulous frozen yogurt experience she just had. These interactions may sound inconsequential, but they make my experience on this campus completely worth it.

GSLIS | People | leave a comment

GSLIS Tech Lab. AKA GSLIS Awesomeness

You may have glimpsed its capacious depths in a class evaluation. Or maybe you remember it vividly from orientation. Either way, hopefully your travels have taken you once or twice into the Tech Lab at Palace Road. Having been on the job as a Technology Reference Assistant for a few weeks now I feel bound to tell you that the Tech Lab is far more that a room filled with computers for class evaluations. It is staffed by some of the coolest, smartest and funniest people at GSLIS who work hard to make sure our students are informed about the latest trends in Technology. Guys, this is not a required class but it should be. Knowledge and hilarity oozes out of every crevice of these hard drives. Much of my time here is spent posting to the Tech Lab's Tumblr or watching Lynda tutorials. Did you know that the Tech Lab actually has Google glasses? For serious, they have a LOT of stuff. If you don't like intelligent, hilarious people then come for the amazing gadgets. Annie and Nicole are the dean's fellows and they rock my world. This is one of those extra awesome bonuses that make going to Simmons completely worth it. They, like the amazing people at the library, know many things. I now work at Beatley Library and the Tech Lab and I am learning loads. The most important of which is to surround yourself with interesting people with new ideas. It's the best way to make sure you're learning all the time.nicole_anne_techlab.jpg

GSLIS | People | leave a comment

Storytelling Semi-Finals this Weekend

Semis2014.pngThis is a shameless plug for a certain storyteller (ME) who is competing in the MassMouth Story Slam Semi Finals this Sunday at Ryles Jazz Club in Cambridge at 6:30 pm. I'm telling a story from my days in the Peace Corps, so it should be ...hilarious. A story slam is every bit the event you are conjuring in your imagination: a forum where people from the audience tell personal stories, within a time limit and people cheer for a well told tale. In this particular story slam there will be no judges. The audience decides! So come out to hear some great stories and support a fellow GSLISer. Storytelling is a big part of our society these days thanks to organizations like MassMouth and the Moth. Librarians should stay involved in an arena they championed so many years ago. Let's get back in this game and begin telling our stories!

GSLIS | Students | leave a comment

180 Degree Perception Change

In the fall of 2011, when I first started telling friends and family I was planning to pursue a masters degree in library and information science, the response across the board was something to the effect of "you need a masters degree to be a librarian?" I would reply by saying things along the lines of "well libraries are about a lot more than books" and "technology is so key now, I've got a lot to learn." This all sounds well and good, but at the time I think I was more or less parroting back what I'd read and heard from those already in the field. I knew this was all true, but in the back of my mind a little voice kept asking "is it really about more than books?". This self doubt was justified, especially given that the public image of a librarian is a matronly woman surrounded by books making shushing noises. That said, it didn't take me long at Simmons to realize that, yes, it's about a whole lot more than books.

Now, as I'm starting to wrap up my degree at GSLIS, I cannot imagine working in this field without the skills I've gained from this program. I can see the value of what I'm learning during my time at GSLIS. My own realization of how valuable this degree will be is much less impressive than the change in perception I've observed from those outside the profession.

This past week I had a strange networking experience, one that started because the red line train unexpectedly shut down (problems with the T are a common occurrence in Boston). I wound up splitting a cab with a business man who happened to be going in the same direction and whose patience for waiting on the T was equally short. We got to talking and I mentioned that I'm finishing my degree at Simmons in library science. His response? To paraphrase: "wow, what a cool field to be pursuing, there's so much going on in the world of libraries, and technology is so interesting, and the field is changing, you're so cutting edge!" What a difference a year makes. Instead of commenting that libraries are outdated or making a joke about the necessity of a masters degree, this guy got it! A man who looked to be in his mid-fifties, wearing a suit, who works for a tech startup no less.

I'm not sure if its the fact that I'm in different situations than I was a year ago, talking with people who really get it, or if public perception really has changed, perhaps a combination, but I'm happy about this change. For those of you just starting your journey into this field, know that you're not entering a dying profession, you're not behind the times, instead you're futuristic and awesome and entering a profession that's got a very exciting future! Even if for starters you're just in it for the books.

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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

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

Year in Review

Wow, what a whirlwind 2013 has been! It feels like yesterday I was starting my first class at GSLIS and now I am 2/3 of the way done with my degree. Instead of a usual post, this week I decided to follow the trend of year end blog posts and write a list of everything I've accomplished in 2013.

This year I:

  • Moved back to Boston and started the Simmons GSLIS program
  • Started writing for the Student Snippets blog
  • Experienced the horrible events of the Marathon Bombing with friends, classmates, and fellow Bostonians
  • Travelled to Rome with GSLIS and then visited Slovakia, Austria, and Hungary with an old friend
  • Visited Chicago for the first time and attended the American Library Association's Annual Conference
  • Spent a week in Northern Michigan with one of my best friends and her family
  • Started working as a Reference Assistant at the Norman Williams Public Library
  • Watched the Red Sox win the World Series!!!
  • Commuted between Boston and Vermont for four months without going (too) crazy
  • Started another job working for a local tech startup called Green Mountain Digital
  • Completed 8 out of 12 classes towards my degree (while getting a 4.0 this semester!) and I'm on track to be done by August 2014
  • Finally... I've read 97 books and am on track to finish 100 by the end of the year!

Whew! I'm exhausted just writing this out, its been quite a year. So far, GSLIS has been wonderful and so many doors have opened since I started this program. I can't wait to see what 2014 will bring! I couldn't have done any of this without the support of my friends and family who have dealt with my nonstop library talk and constantly evolving plans. I've really enjoyed chronicling my experiences at GSLIS through this blog and will continue to do so in the new year.

Have a happy and healthy holiday! See you in 2014!

GSLIS | People | leave a comment

Two Years in the Life

On February 1, 2012, I applied to become a contributor to this GSLIS Admissions Blog by writing a post about my first two weeks at GSLIS and cutely calling it "Two Weeks in the Life." I just realized the post was never published; however, given that backstory I think it's fitting that this, my very last post, is about two years in the life - my whole GSLIS experience. Ok, here goes: In short, my GSLIS experience has been a success. Thank you, and goodbye.

Alright I guess I can do better than that, but feel free to peruse my past posts if you really want all of the gory details. It would be silly for me to try to capture two years of classes, assignments, jobs, internships, volunteering, and life into one post. That post would be obscenely long and essentially defeat the purpose of two years of (mostly) weekly blog posts. You know how people say the journey is more important than the destination? Think of this final post as the destination and all the other ones as the journey. (I try to avoid clichés, but that one seems inevitable.)

Looking back, I probably would have forgotten many of my GSLIS-related experiences, thoughts, and sentiments were it not for my blog posts. Even if no one ever bothered to read a single post, this blog has aptly documented my GSLIS journey (lame, but again inevitable). Some posts were forced, some were better than others, and a few were bizarre, but they all in some way or another reflect my two years as a GSLIS student. In fact, my GSLIS experience could be loosely described as such: sometimes forced (required classes that I did not particularly enjoy, assignments I wasn't really into), some things better than others (good and not-so-good classes, good and not-as-good jobs and internships), and some things that were just bizarre (taking a class that lasted one week instead of an entire semester, realizing that I didn't want to work in a library). After all that and much more, two weeks in the life morphed into two years in the life, and yours truly is ready to move on.

In short, my GSLIS experience has been a success. Thank you, and goodbye.

GSLIS | People | leave a comment

Confessions of a Book-Loving Librarian

I have a confession to make, I wanted to become a librarian because I love books. Shocking, I know. If you are new to the profession this may not seem odd, of course librarians love books. However, one of the first things I learned when entering the library world is that books are far from the main focus. In fact, librarians are actively trying to work against the misconception that working in a library means sitting around and reading all day. Alas, part of me wishes that were the case, but in the short time since I began work in a public library I have spent maybe thirty minutes of work time reading.

That said, the larger part of me is glad to have discovered that working in a library involves so much more than helping patrons find books. Although reader's advisory and chatting with patrons about their latest reads are among my favorite parts of working in a small library, I like the tricky reference questions much more. To be successful in this profession, you need an inner drive to keep searching until you find the right/best information, something that can be challenging in the age of Google.

Don't get me wrong, I like Google as much as the next person, okay, probably more than the next person, but I now know that instant search results barely scratch the surface of all the available information. Way back in January, my reference professor told our class "most people can find most of what they need most of the time, our job is to be there for the really tough questions." I love this mentality and really thrive on finding answers that require more thought and investigation than a quick Google search. Along this line, I love being the person that changes someone's stereotype about libraries and librarians. We are about so much more than books.

I used to be hesitant about adopting the latest technology and certainly did not see myself as an ambassador for new resources, but I've changed in the last year. I started at GSLIS just twelve short months ago and I cannot believe how far I have come. I'm now more excited than ever to see where this profession will take me. I'm one assignment away from a well deserved break and then it's back to the grind for one last semester as a full time student!

GSLIS | People | leave a comment

Ladies and Gentlemen, Miss Allison Driscoll

It's that time of year. The end of the semester when I feature one of my favorite classmates from the semester. As usual, I can't resist the intelligent dual degree children's lit and library science people. Allison was in my storytelling class and she blew us all away the first day with her interpretation of Don Coyote and the Burro. Please meet the lovely and talented Allison Driscoll...

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Q: What made you choose the dual degree Children's lit and LIS program?

A: I'd thought for a long time that I'd like to be a librarian, because I could see myself being satisfied doing it for a long time. Still, I held off on applying to any programs because I was hesitant to invest time and money into something if I wasn't 100% positive about it. Then I found out Simmons had a dual-degree program, and I immediately started getting my application together. I've always loved children's lit, and the idea of spending time with others who felt as strongly about it was really the last push I needed. I would say it was one of the best decisions I've made to date!

Q:  What is the biggest challenge when it comes to approaching children's literature and YA literature from two different perspectives?

A: Speaking from a pragmatic standpoint, I've struggled with the divide between children's and YA when doing Readers' Advisory. Discovering a patron's reading level and level of emotional maturity is hard enough, and finding the right book to suit both of those levels gets even trickier when you take into account children's and YA labels. The best advice I've received is to ignore the labels and try to listen above all else to what the patron is telling you he or she wants.

Q: If you could have any job after Simmons what would it be and where would it be?

A: I'm working right now in a youth room at a public library north of Boston and it's the best job I've ever had. After I graduate, I will probably be trying to find a similar position in a new city. To me, the best part of being a librarian is that no two days are the same, and that is especially true when it comes to working with kids. You can never know what to expect when talking to children, and I'm looking forward to a career being surprised by them every day.

Q: What's the best class you've taken at Simmons so far?

A: I could spend hours debating myself over this question! I don't have a real answer, because (with the exception of one or two classes which I will not name) at the end of every semester I've wished that I could take those classes again.

Q: If you had a super power what would it be? Would you use that power for good or evil?

A: Teleportation, definitely. I'd never have to sit in traffic, and I could pop over to other libraries when a patron wanted a book that had been checked out.

GSLIS | People | leave a comment

So close, I can taste it...

This is my last post as a Simmons GSLIS student.  For the last several weeks, I have been saying, "The end is so close, I can taste it," and then I pour a glass of wine and exclaim, "And it tastes like Chardonnay!"  But now that my biggest assignments are submitted, with just some revisions and tasks to finish up in the last week, the taste is becoming bittersweet. It is hard to say good-bye.

I have debated with myself what profound thoughts to leave behind.  Should I write the usual "letter to my younger self" that seems to plague most blogs these days?  Other than a brain crammed with Library and Information Science, what should I share with those just embarking on this adventure?  Here goes.

Prepare to be amazed!  Not by my words but by what you will learn from the faculty and your peers. And more importantly, what you will learn about yourself and what you can do.

I started my GSLIS career in a spring semester with three CORE courses, and only a very part-time job.  I am middle-aged with a family, house, in-laws, mortgage, etc., and I drove 2 ½ hours each way to classes every Saturday.  I thought I would die that first semester.  I thought my brain would explode.  My technology learning curve was huge and I am still in awe that I came up it and exceeded it, and am now the go-to technology person at the public library where I work.  I did not see that coming.

I listened to my older brother and took that first summer off to recharge.  Listening to my older brother was also something I did not see coming...ever in my life!  It was a wise move.  I used the time to explore new interests like prison libraries.

In the fall, I added more work hours, more commuting for classes -- a trek to Boston one day a week and another to South Hadley on the weekends, and instead of harder, life was just a little easier than the first semester.  I fell in love with Reference...which I did see coming.

The spring semester ushered in more work hours, back to a one-day a week class commute, and the additional commitment of volunteering in a prison library.  When I started GSLIS, I did not see myself working in a prison and now I dream about it when I am not there.  This passion, this vocation is something I did not see coming.

Two intense summer courses...and more work hours! My garden was devoured in weeds, but the veggies were still great as they did not seem to mind.  I loved User Instruction and learned so much. I played my first virtual reality game disguised as a Management course, and I fell in love with Management.  I did not see that coming at all.  In fact, when I started GSLIS, I was sure I never wanted to be a director, and now I take management webinars "for fun."  Management training has actually streamlined my life both at work and at home. If only I had done this sooner!

Here I am with my last three classes this semester and my first "professional" job at a university library.  It is time to say a bittersweet good-bye and embark on new adventures.  I don't feel like I know everything, but the most important thing I have learned is that I can learn anything.  When I don't know the answer, I can find it.  All that middle-aged fear of trying new things is only a distant memory. Try everything!  Never pass up an opportunity. These were not the lessons I expected to learn, but they are the ones that changed my life.

You may not know your passion when you start, but you will find it here. 

Classes | GSLIS | leave a comment

Get Me Outta Here!

The end of the semester is quickly approaching, and frankly it cannot get here soon enough. September and October seemed to fly by, but November has been dragging along. I think the combination of starting a job, looking forward to the holidays, and knowing that I am only three assignments away from never having to do schoolwork ever again has me in a bit of a rut. In short, I'm ready to graduate.

When I started at GSLIS, I was a full-fledged student. I wasn't working or interning, so I really threw myself into my studies. These days, I spend far less time doing schoolwork, yet I find myself more and more perturbed by it. Like, why won't my research paper just write itself? Yes, I am complaining, and no, I do not expect any sympathy. Just need to vent a little.

I came into this program with a full head of steam, and now I'm running on fumes. This is not particularly unique or surprising, as I imagine that most GSLIS students experience similar highs and lows in their time here. What is surprising, however, is how ready I am to get outta here. That sounds a bit harsh, but it is the ultimate testament to the GSLIS program - it has completely prepared me to leave it behind.

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Chillin' with my Professors

Friday afternoon I spent thirty minutes with a professor, then went to the office next door and met with another professor. This was the second of my five planned trips to campus this semester, and was a nice change from my mostly virtual class schedule. First I chewed the fat with my de facto advisor, then had a one-on-one introductory meeting with the professor for my online course. The meeting was far from introductory, however, as last fall I had a face-to-face class with that same professor. Our meeting ended up being more of a "how are things going?" rather than "hi, nice to meet you" encounter. I was with professors, who are officially my superiors, but it almost felt like hanging out with friends.

Don't worry, I have no plans to start ditching my friends to spend time with professors, but it was great to spend a bit of time with professors outside of class. It's easy to get lost in a whirlwind of classes and homework and forget that professors are people, not machines programmed to disseminate information and give grades. I have found that it is important to have a relationship with professors, and not in the goody two-shoes, teacher's pet sort of way. As much as I have learned from professors in class, I have also received advice and guidance from them outside of class.

Despite all the discussions, group projects, and online forums that are part of each and every class, I have occasionally felt that I am going through GSLIS alone. But when it comes down to it, professors want the best for every student and are there for support. I have been in professors' offices to ask questions about assignments, talk about internships, seek curriculum and career advice, and just to chat. I would not recommend trying to become besties with all of your professors, but fostering a relationship with one or two is truly invaluable. Don't forget that relationships take work, although it might prove to be some of the most worthwhile work you do at GSLIS.

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Getting Involved

It's September and all around us we are inundated with announcements. Don't forget, tomorrow on the quad, the annual picnic to save the squirrels! Save the date for next Friday's twister mixer! And then there are the events that you really do want to attend.

 All GSLIS students automatically receive LISSA updates, and orientation is a swathe of sign-up sheets that put us on a million list-servs that remind us that there are learning opportunities for GSLIS students and librarians all the time. Weeding out the good events from the bad, rather the ones you're interested in versus the ones you could not care less about, is a chore. It takes time to slug through the many, many emails you receive in your school inbox, your work inbox, and your personal inbox. Pretty soon, you're ready to call the whole thing quits and give up on professional development altogether.

I wouldn't say that I have the whole thing figured out, but I do know that I need to participate in the dialogue that's happening outside the confines of my classroom on Palace Road. Maybe you don't want to hear from ALA every week, but find time in your week to scan the scene for events for library-oriented people such as yourself. You won't regret it once you're there.  So here are a few ways I try to put myself out there. If you are not of the children's librarianship persuasion these might not apply to you, but that certainly does not mean there aren't events happening that pertain to your interest. You just have to look, listen up in class, or ask around.

Kidlit Night:

My colleague from work started an informal gathering of librarians, who work with children and young adults, as well as local YA authors and publishing people about a year ago. They get together once every other month in Cambridge and talk about the latest books on the market, what kids are reading, and other fun stuff. To get the updates about the latest meeting times and locations follow them on twitter or facebook:

Children's Books Boston

Some of the best events I've been to in the Greater Boston area have been author events at book stores or public libraries. Horn Book just created a comprehensive calendar of author events and the like in the children's and YA category. Great fun, if you like to hear an author read their book.


I also recommend InfoLink, the GSLIS newsletter. This is just to find out what's going on at Simmons and who's doing cool new things. We have so many resources right here. Why not take advantage of these fabulously intelligent professors while we can!

Events | GSLIS | leave a comment

Five Things I Have Learned Joining GSLIS

Before I packed up the family car with dad to drive up to Boston for school, my mom decided to impart some advice for me to mull over during the course of my four and half hour long car ride. She said "Keep your mind open, everyday you are going to be learning something new, in and out of school." I've got to give my mom a hand; she doesn't normally offer such thought-provoking advice. However, since I was unable to go back home to Long Island for the Jewish high holidays, I've been thinking about my mom a lot lately, especially what she said to me two weeks ago. So, for my first official blog post for GSLIS, I've created a list of the top five things that I have learned since becoming a member of GSLIS.

*The following is in no particular order and can probably apply to the experiences of students outside of the GSLIS program*

Moodle is your best friend: Although this seems like an obvious one, Moodle is a resource that should not be taken for granted. Not only is this the website where we have to upload our assignments, but course readings, syllabi, power point presentations, and other resources and be found there as well.  Basically, everything you need to succeed at school can be found, to a degree, on Moodle. If you haven't done so already, take a few minutes and explore your Moodle page; who knows what academic goodies you might find.

Love the library; they are there for you. Seriously: For those of you who have had the pleasure to meet Linda Watkins, I think we all can agree that she perfectly encapsulates all the amazing things a library can do when administered by a dedicated staff. While I am sure all students who are part of GSLIS already respect and appreciate the library as an institution of knowledge, I implore you, take advantage of the Beatley Library and its devoted staff. They aren't just there to check out our books.

Bring a sweater if you have class in the Palace Road Building.  You are going to need it: While it has been very nice to sit in a cool room during these obnoxiously hot days we've been having lately, let's just be honest here, those rooms are COLD. Be smart, bring a sweater with you to class, especially if you are like me and get cold very easily. Trust me, having that sweater will really make the difference.

Your GSLIS classmates are the friendliest classmates you probably have ever had: Perhaps this is just a GSLIS thing, but every student in the program is super friendly. Be it in the classroom or on Moodle, there always seems to be an interesting conversation going on, and everyone is invited to join in. It seems that even though we have all come to GSLIS for different reasons, deep down, we all have shared connections one way or another, be it in TV shows, movies and books, hobbies, academic pursuits, or that we simply share the same commuter route. And no, I am not just saying this to promote the program; this is a legit fact and it makes this experience all the more awesome!

The professors are fantastic. Nuff said: Just like the staff members over at Beatley Library, the faculty members in GSLIS are not just here to lecture for three hours; they are here for US. Personally, having an approachable professor is one of those things that is an absolute must for me, How am I supposed to succeed if the professor won't take time to listen and answer my questions? From what I have experienced so far, I can honestly say that that won't be a problem here. Trust me, you can never go wrong when an enthusiastic professor can manage to keep your attention for three hours despite it being 9am.

So that's my list. If you think that there is something that I missed, leave a comment and let me know. I'd love to hear other students' (and not just the new ones) stories about their experiences with GSLIS. 

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Back to the Grind

One week of commuting down and three months to go... Does that sound pessimistic? I really don't mean it to. On the contrary, my week of commuting went better than expected! I used both two hour bus rides to catch up on my leisure reading and had three full days in Boston for classes, schoolwork and catching up on errands (including lunch and a shopping trip to the Copley Plaza with my aunt).

After a full semester in the spring and my trip to Rome over the summer, GSLIS is finally starting to feel like home. I already know at least one student in each of my classes and a couple of my professors as well. As I mentioned in my last post, I have signed up for four courses with the intention of dropping one and this decision is proving more difficult than I had anticipated. I had hoped after the first week of classes I would have a clear idea of which course I should drop. That was not the case, I absolutely loved all four courses and cannot decide.  It's a tribute to the strength of the GSLIS curriculum that I am so torn between my courses. (That said, I wish I had a crystal ball to see if one of these classes is being offered again in the spring.)

I'm giving myself the weekend to weigh the pros and cons of Organization and Management of Public Libraries (LIS 450) and Business Information Sources and Services (LLIS 430) before I choose. One thing is clear, with a 25ish page final assignment in one course and a 20ish page final paper in the other, there is no way I could swing taking all four classes, an idea I had toyed with briefly. Both my core courses, Evaluation of Information Services (LIS 403) and Principles of Management (LIS 404) are off to great starts and will complement my third course, whichever one that ends up being.

In the meantime, I'm back at the reference desk for week two of my fabulous new job. Have a nice weekend everyone!

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Last Semester Blues


I started the GSLIS program in January 2012, and with the completion of my three courses this semester, I will have finished my degree program.  Woohoo!  Well, mostly woohoo.

I think I have the last semester blues.  I know that sounds totally ridiculous.  I will be done with homework, done with long class commutes, done with tuition, and I will have my MLIS, which will hopefully be my ticket to the job of my dreams.  What in the world am I sad about?!

I think I am more afraid than anything. Will it be too easy not to learn new things?  Will I get tired, complacent and frumpy?  Will I turn into deadwood? Will I stay committed to knowing what I need to know to be the best librarian I can be?

I know these fears are unfounded.  I will never stop learning with so many opportunities for continuing education through Simmons and ALA, and other LIS universities like Syracuse (where I am taking a WISE course this semester). I even have my eye on a second Master's degree program.  I have to believe that if I continue to surround myself with inspiring colleagues, I will not get tired in a bad way.  Tired from hard work is fine, but not too tired for new ideas, and I hope never to tire of change.  Already, I have networked with other librarians in my state and fostered professional relationships so opportunities for connections and sharing of ideas and resources outside of grad school are well underway. So, why am I still worried?

My latest concerns remind me of my list of fears when I started the program.  Would I develop the technology skills I needed? Would I be able to balance work, school, and family, etc.? Those fears were unnecessary and symptomatic of a big step outside my comfort zone.  Every chapter of our lives brings new challenges.  My comfort zone is so much wider than it was just two years ago, which is just amazing to me, and yet, finishing my degree and moving on to the real world is another big step. 

I bought a new coffee mug to help me out. It reads, "Life begins at the end of your comfort zone." It is okay to be afraid of that next big step, so long as we take it anyway.

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Database Management

It feels so odd to be back in the swing of the graduate program.  The transition from working full-time to the calendar of a graduate student...well, let's just say there are pros and cons (pro: lots more time to refill prescriptions, go to the post office, make dinner, sleep... cons: well, a moth just flew out of my wallet.  Oh yeah...this is why I need a job).  I actually accidentally have been waking up at 5 am, which is odd because even when I was working I didn't wake up at 5 am.  I guess it's my brain's way of protesting at the schedule switches. 

But time presses forward, and what I really want to talk about are DATABASES.  Databases are awesome wonderful tools that almost everyone on the planet uses daily.  I was recently talking with a friend of mine, who complained that every job she has worked uses Excel spreadsheets, and why did everyone think they were so useful.  Honestly?  It's because they're primitive databases - data storage with lists of attributes and unique identifiers able to be sorted, counted, and broken down in an infinite number of ways.  And while that may not seem useful, like my friend mentioned it is used in practically every career and industry you can think of. 

Which leads me into my next point: database management.  I am taking database management this semester, and I am so excited.  One of my colleagues this past summer is a Simmons alum, and she mentioned that not only could she not speak highly enough of the class and its' professor, but it was chockfull of real-world applications in our industry.  While it's easy enough to get by without taking the class, she said that it gave her an advantage when using and building databases in an industry - understanding how databases operate on a code level gives an expansive knowledge of what is and is not possible, the time commitment it takes to build a database to specifics, and has the added bonus of making you look like you know what you're talking about to the technology department who will ultimately create these databases. 

I am talking a lot about my database management class, but truth be told I haven't even attended a class yet!  Can you tell I'm just a little excited?  I will continue to update posts about this class, as I learn and expand my knowledge about databases.  I hope you have all had a great start to the semester - and that you're as excited about your classes as I am about mine! 

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The Library Lady


All stereotypes come from somewhere. This, we all know to be true. How many of us, though, work with all of our might to confound the stereotype when it comes to being a librarian? I believe that many of us do. We despise the stereotype that all librarians are surly wenches with their hair wound so tight it seems as if it never gets let down. We counter that librarians are a force for positive change in this world of information overload, not the gatekeepers of dusty, musty books. Then I ask you why, why oh why does every librarian I know own a cat?! Now, before I am pegged as the cat-hater in GSLIS let me first just say that I myself just got a kitty at the Animal Rescue League of Boston. Her name is Eva. She jumps on my face. She naps on my tummy and her arch nemesis is a ball of tin foil I rolled off the counter a few nights ago. I am quite the opposite of the naysayer. In fact, I'm loving this particular stereotype. But the question I posed earlier is still festering: Why are we, as a profession, drawn to cats? Why do cats go so well with books and moreover, technology? Every time I turn a page I know Eva is ready to pounce. My ipad is a source of constant fascination for her. And don't even get me started on how she began pulling books off the shelf last night (she picks out King Lear, A Raisin in the Sun, and If You Give a Mouse a Cookie). I'm bumfuzzled! I bring this question up mainly because it's something to ponder as we go through our time here at GSLIS. What about the stereotype of our profession is just plain wrong, and what is just plain FABULOUS! Nothing is ever black and white, and I'm sure one day I will find a librarian without a cat. But until that day arrives just think about it: How will you confound expectations? How will you deliver way more than is expected of you by a patron? How will you embrace some of that stereotype and just dance like a kitty cat!

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Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Graham Herrli

Graham_Herrli.jpgI have fallen into the habit of falling in love with fellow classmates in my past few semesters at GSLIS. I share my crushes through this blog to you, the GSLIS community. I first met my friend Graham in LIS 408, User Instruction. While there were many talented people in the class with lots to contribute, Graham always intrigued me because of his usability perspective on library science issues. Graham is one of those students that blows you away with his passion and genuine interest with the way patrons interact with information. I want more Grahams in my next class, though I suspect he may not be taking storytelling in the fall. Regardless, I am thrilled to present Graham Herrli.

1) What made you choose the GSLIS program and what is your focus while here at Simmons?

I came to GSLIS initially because I was interested in how people interact with information and I thought I might want to become a librarian.  Since arriving, I've found that librarianship isn't for me, but I'm still intrigued by how people interact with information. I spend a lot of my free time reading and reviewing user experience (UX) books and articles. Recently, I've begun a great job as an interaction designer and shifted my focus at Simmons to courses that will support me in this role.  I look forward to taking Visual Communication this fall.

2) What is the greatest technological advantage GSLIS students can have when they graduate?

That depends on what the students intend to do.  For librarians, having the ability to explain technological systems to their patrons could be highly useful.  For archivists, a thorough understanding of XML and XSLT could help them to modernize their finding aids.  For students interested in other branches of information science, sundry other bits of technological knowledge could be most useful to them.  For example, students interested in a career in knowledge management or in content strategy would benefit from a firm understanding of the capabilities and limitations of content management systems, especially the budding idea of "adaptive content": content stored wholly independent of format so that your computer, phone, music player, or...I dunno, fridge?? can pull the content that best fits its particular form, factor and context.

3) Tell us about UXPA@Simmons and the role you play there. Why is usability and the user experience so important for GSLIS students to be aware of?

I'm one of the two new co-chairs of UXPA@Simmons (the Simmons branch of the User Experience Professional Association).  We're still in the process of planning programming for this upcoming year, and I encourage students to contact me with suggestions.  I hope that the club can serve three purposes:

  • to inform students who aren't familiar with UX what the field is all about.  The hyper-abbreviated version is that UX is about making things behave the way people expect them to behave. Notable subfields of UX are:
    • user research--gathering feedback on how people interact with things (i.e. holding a focus group to determine why people might want to buy shoes online)
    • information architecture--making sure that people can find information where they expect to find it (i.e. labeling the shoes section of a website in a way that people looking to buy shoes can find what they're looking for)
    • interaction design--making things behave the way people expect them to (i.e. giving an online shoe shopper clear feedback when he/she clicks on a button that the shoes have been added to a virtual shopping cart)
  • to enable students who are interested in pursuing user experience professionally to gain a sense of current hot topics in the field.  Personally, I'm interested in such topics as:
    • emotional design--making interfaces more than just usable...making them fun and memorable and meaningful.
    • adaptive design--creating designs that work on a variety of devices in a variety of contexts.
    • gamification--finding the game inherent in everything and using this knowledge to make interfaces more enjoyable to use
  • to evangelize for the importance of considering the user in all professions.  Prospective librarians, archivists, and others who don't intend to pursue UX professionally will still benefit from joining UXPA@Simmons because they still work with users and thus still need to find ways to best identify and serve their users (aka "patrons") needs.

4) What's the best class you've taken at Simmons so far?

I most enjoyed (and learned most from) an independent study of mobile usability testing with Professor Rong Tang.  Rong is an expert in the field of usability, and with her, I was able to explore the various ways in which the mobile context differs from the traditional desktop context and to look at how usability testing might be changed to fit this new context. Fun fact: a Pew internet survey from April 2012 found that 42% of Americans age 18-29 use a phone as their primary method of accessing the internet. That means if you don't account for mobile usage, you're alienating a large portion of your potential audience.

5) If you had a super power what would it be? Would you use that power for good or evil?

I would have advanced telekinesis (which is probably cheating).  This telekinesis would allow me to manipulate matter finely on a small scale so that I could regenerate my cells making myself immortal, access the internet through direct mental contact, fly, read minds, freeze time, and all of the other things your run-of-the mill superheroes can do.  As long as I get to write my own story, no need to write in the limitations that make for interesting character development in popular works of sci-fi/fantasy, right? And of course, yes, I would use the power for "good," but everyone assumes they're acting for "good" so that doesn't really say anything. I suppose the good I would do would be to avoid imposing my conception of what is "good" on other people.

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