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Simmons Wrap Up

When I decided to apply to Simmons for my Master's, I was working as a records management professional in a corporate setting.  I loved certain parts of my job, and I wanted to make sure I would be able to keep a career in records management going - so a Master's seemed like a sound (if possibly unnecessary) investment in my future.  (Corporate records managers haven't really needed a Master's in the way that a librarian would, although in the current climate it is becoming more and more necessary to have some education or certification to make you stand out from the rest of the pack just to get a job in the first place.)

I was worried about how I was going to balance school and working full-time.  I was especially worried that I would end up only being able to take one class per semester, and would be in school for 4+ years - that I might lose momentum, or that there were so many things that might happen to knock me out before I finished the degree. 

It took two full years, but I managed to finish when I hoped I would.  Over the course of my time at Simmons, I have changed my mind three or four times about what I want to focus on once I have the degree.  The thing you don't understand before you start is that it's not just archives or libraries; there are different types of libraries and different types of archives, records management, digital repositories, etc.  Even now there are a lot of classes I really loved and a lot of different career paths I think I would enjoy, and choosing just one is difficult.  I've been interviewing a lot over the past few weeks, and have had one offer so far, so it really is time to make a decision, finally.  No matter what I end up doing, I am extremely excited about the future.

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One thing I have not been very good at while at Simmons (and that I have mentioned here several times before) is networking.  The idea of going up to a stranger in my field and talking about myself pretty much makes me break out in hives, and I know I'm not the only person who reacts that way.  The unfortunate part is that networking, especially in the libraries and archives spheres, is a huge career booster, and the sort of thing that you pretty much need to know how to do, no matter how much you might hate it.

Our NEA mentoring group recently talked about ways to network at our last meeting, and there were some concrete suggestions on ways to do it that I think are a little less unpleasant than having to make awkward small talk with complete strangers.  Here are some of them:

  • Join professional organizations like New England Archivists, Society of American Archivists, the American Library Association, etc.
  • Once you do, join the professional discussion lists, like NEA Discuss, the ALA lists, or SAA lists.  Joining in the discussion on those lists can be intimidating at first, but even just lurking on them can be helpful professionally, since they talk about a lot of topics that can be helpful to early professionals. 
  • Any professional organization has committees relevant to any interest that you can join and contribute to, often virtually.
  • Professional organization board meetings are often open to members, and can be a good place to go and learn about the org's priorities and personalities.

When you do talk to people, professional conferences are a great place to do it - possibly the best place.  Bring business cards to hand out to people, so they have something to remember you by.  Have your elevator speech ready, where you describe who you are (professionally) and what your interests/goals are.   If you do find yourself at a conference, and it has a Day of Service or other activities that get you out of the conference center with a group.

For professionals who aren't complete strangers that you may want to talk to about questions or other archives or library-related issues, there is nothing wrong with emailing them and inviting them out for coffee - the worst thing they can say is no.

There are lots of ways to network; the nice thing is knowing it doesn't always have to be the worst thing in the world.  The more you do it (so I'm told), the easier it gets.   

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I've had a few job interviews in the last couple of weeks, and I have another big one coming up soon (so cross your fingers for me, if you would), so it seems like I've been interview prepping for months now. 

I've probably had a hundred or so interviews in my life, so I've got the general idea of them down pat, but every one is different, so there's always (for me) something to be nervous about.  (Being so nervous in important interviews is definitely something I do, to the point where my mind goes blank.  It's an issue.)

The main thing to remember is this: no one likes interviews.  Not the interviewee, who is usually at least somewhat stressed and under pressure, and not the interviewer, who isn't under the same pressure but is still in the awkward position of having to ask questions of someone who is. 

My worst interview ever was with a library in Massachusetts that quizzed me on Library of Congress call numbers and then made me to a skills test on a software I'd never used before (and that wasn't listed in the job ad.)  It did not go well.  In the middle of the interview I wanted to push over the table I was sitting at and run away.  On the one hand, the whole experience was somewhat humiliating, but on the other hand: great cocktail party story.  So not a total loss.

Most of them aren't that bad, of course, and thank goodness for that.  Most places don't throw you intentional curve balls.  The key to good interviewing, at least on the stuff I can control, is practice.  I grab common interview questions from websites like this or this and actually write down my answers.  (I find that writing them down longhand does help me remember them better than just practicing them in my head or even typing them out.)  I read them over until I can remember them easily, and also try to think of certain situations that have really stood out in my past jobs, both good and bad: mistakes I've made or opportunities I've spotted, that I can use for the "Tell me about a time you..." questions you know are coming.    

I also try to come up with 5-10 questions to ask the interviewer about the job or the organization, and write them down to bring with me.  (I definitely don't trust my nerve-ridden Day of Interview Brain to remember them if I don't write them down.)

Once the interview is over I usually feel nothing but relief on my way home, but as soon as I close my eyes that night it becomes Here Is What I Should Have Said theater in my mind for the next two or three hours.  Never fails.  One thing I have learned not to ever do is schedule interviews on back-to-back days, because the HIWISHS theater doesn't usually let me get enough sleep to be overly-coherent the next day.  (That lesson, like most of them, was learned the hard way.)

Let's just all hope that the job interview I have lined up for this week goes well and I'm offered the job - and that I'll have whole years before I even need to think about interviewing again.

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Looking to the Future

I'm going to be honest.

I have no idea what I want to do when I graduate. And around this time when we're registering for classes and everyone is talking about their future plans, I feel so scared.

I love YA books, and I love libraries. It seemed like a pretty obvious step to do the dual program. But when people try to ask me if I'm going to be a librarian or go into publishing--well, I have no idea. I think I would love to do either. Or both.

I feel like the older I get the more I should know what I want to do with my life. I should be settling down, finding a long-term job and a significant other and a house. (Maybe I just think these things because my sister has already achieved most of these, and my parents keep pushing me to do the same.) But I don't know what I want from my future.

I would love to be a teen librarian. But. I don't love a lot of other things about libraries. Or rather parts where you can work in libraries. I think archives is interesting abstractly but put me in front of one, and I'd rather not. Or reference is really interesting until you give me something hard, and then I just want to give up. I don't like adult books so I'm terrible at Reader's Advisory outside of YA / kids books. And while I like management fine, I'm 24 and I look pretty young (and sometimes act like I'm still six) so it's usually hard for me to garner the respect of older people.

I love books. But I don't know much about publishing. And the more I know about it, the more worried I get. I want to help build a book from the ground up, but I also don't have a whole lot of interest in editing. I want to show off a company's line of books, but I am terrible at sticking to brands. Most of the time I don't even know what publishing company has distributed the book I'm reading. And I can't remember the last time I bought a book because of a publishing company.


I know I'm not the only one with doubts. I just wanted to let other people know they weren't alone either. We can get through this together. And if we're the kind of people who takes life as it comes, that's okay too. Not everyone has ten year plans.

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NEA Mentoring Program

A few months ago the New England Archivists sent around an email to the Simmons email list looking for students or early professionals in the archives field to join a mentoring circle, wherein a few seasoned archivists will give career advice to people just starting out.  It sounded like a great opportunity to meet people and learn a little bit about how the archives field in New England looks from the other side, once people have successfully gotten their careers in motion.  That's something I've been thinking about a lot anyway, as I begin to apply for actual professional jobs. 

A mentoring circle, I thought, would help.  I'm not sure exactly what I expected, but at the very least I thought it couldn't hurt to have a dialogue about what a career in archives really looked like, especially with informal discussion.  I've already proven that I'm no good at conferences, but the small group aspect of this was much more appealing.

We had the first meeting this week, and it was actually fun to talk to people who are at all different points in their student/work lives: me, almost finished my LIS program, someone else who starts her program in January, a handful of people who have finished their LIS programs and are working their first archive-related jobs, and the two seasoned veterans who will be dispensing advice and wisdom, or something like it.  Everyone's perspectives are so different - and the archives that people work in are so different - that I think there will be a lot of boisterous discussion down the road.  The first meeting was mostly introductions and a bit of discussion about technology and what kinds of skills are needed to deal with digital files and multimedia formats - which makes it sound like a class discussion, kind of, but it really wasn't.  This wasn't the typical "you may encounter" theoretical chat, but a strong "I have seen" that is exactly the sort of thing I wanted to hear - and needed to hear, as someone applying for jobs right now.

Our mentoring group, along with the others that formed at the same time, are the test cases to see if mentoring circles are a thing that the NEA wants to continue.  So far, I think it has definitely been a success, and I would urge anyone in school or who has graduated recently to consider joining up the next time they look for participants.  

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Careers for MLIS Grads

Most people who attend a Master's in Library and Information Science program want to work at a library or archive when they finish.  The degree tends to be centered on those types of repositories, but there are also other research-oriented jobs that an M.S. can be excellent preparation for, especially in the current job market.  Here are a few different career tracks that I've seen advertised in the Boston area recently:

  • Prospect Research involves finding potential donors for non-profit organizations.  It can involve a lot of internet and database research, determining not just who is likely to want to give to an organization but also what their donation capacity is.  Because prospect researchers are employed by different types and sizes of organizations, the pay and actual job can vary widely.

I'm going to be doing a prospect research internship this fall, so I'll probably end up writing a couple of blog entries about what it's actually like to do this type of work.

  • Rights and Permissions Research involves doing internet research to identify and locate rights holders usually for arts organizations - museums and galleries.  These jobs require knowledge of copyright laws and juggling requests from inside and outside the organization.
  • Patent Research involves researching inventions to make sure that they are original and that they aren't repeating someone else's patent.  Patent researchers usually work for law firms or the legal departments of large organizations.  According to the Wall Street Journal, they can make between $65,000 and $85,000 annually and the work is steady.  These sorts of jobs do often require technical knowledge and possibly a BA in a technical field.

These aren't the only research jobs, of course!  There are a lot more out there than I can outline in one blog entry.  If you're looking for a job that isn't in an archive or library, and you love research, then there will definitely be something out there for you.

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Dressing for the Interview: Feel Unstoppable, Be Unstoppable

You got the interview - high fives all around. Applying and interviewing for jobs is without doubt a big part eventually becoming the unstoppable librarian, archivist, or information scientist you have set your sights on. After scheduling an interview, you're prepared, you're qualified, but there's another secret level to securing that job that can produce undue stress and unease the day of - what to wear.

It's a couple hours until your interview and you're amid a hellscape of button down shirts and khakis trying to piece together a puzzle which will somehow reveal the perfect interview outfit. The interview that might get you the job. You're interviewing for a job that you see as an important step on your path to becoming an unstoppable librarian, archivist, or information scientist, right? If you want to be unstoppable, feel unstoppable. Sitting down with your interviewer, it's easy to become unsure of yourself, and wearing something which will make you feel more confident during the process can make a huge difference. Equip the threads which will remind yourself that you're there for a reason and that make you feel your best in order to put your best foot forward.LKFitz_dressinginterview.png

Image via Wikimedia Commons

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Job Hunting

I have about six months left until I get my degree, and that is both incredibly exciting and incredibly terrifying.  The point of library school is, of course, to be able to get a job at the end of it, and these days the competition for that job is stiffer than ever - especially in the Boston area.  I'm a little more fortunate than a lot of my peers because I have more than a decade of professional experience under my belt, but that's no guarantee of anything. 

Luckily, the same class that gives me a dose of real world internship experience (LIS502) also gives students a crash course in resume, cover letter and interviewing dos and don'ts, then lets students discuss their own experiences. The discussions are really the meat of it, because we give each other encouragement and tips, everything from interesting job boards to tricks for combatting nervousness and professional dress (I have to admit that I am in my 30s and still can't walk in heels particularly well. It's an issue!).  We're all anxious about finding a job, and sometimes just knowing that you're not alone can be the most comforting thing. 

I'm also a little more fortunate than some of my classmates in that I don't have any strong ties to the Boston area, and am eager to look for jobs in other parts of the US and Canada, and even further afield than that.  I'm not even particularly picky about what kind of job I get.  The thing about library school is that you're exposed to a wealth of information that isn't going to all be relevant in the professional world at the same time.  I love coding and XML, and would be keen on doing something in digitization, but I also love working with teenagers and working in a municipal setting. These things aren't necessarily mutually exclusive, but... they kind of are.  I'm actually thrilled that I have a whole career in front of me to figure out which I like best.  

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Serious Business

Twenty-something and caught between earning that graduate degree and staying sharp in a competitive job market - I know the feeling. When navigating a sea of internships, interviews, and conferences while completing full or part time classes, that extra boost of professionalism and confidence can make a difference. While all of those qualifications featured on your well-rendered resumé speak for themselves, having a business card can help have your bases covered on the perilous and formidable frontier of professional networking.

For a long time, the word business card alone evoked imagined landscapes of beepers and shoulder pads for as far as the eye could see. But sure enough, after seeing peers arrive to events with a business card in tow changed my ideas upon seeing their convenience and functionality in action. When you meet a someone that you'd like to collaborate with in a professional context, writing their number on a nearby receipt or popping them a friend request just won't cut it - and that's where business cards come in.

Okay, we get the point; business cards are a thing - but how do you get business cards? While there are a number of different avenues toward this goal, I'll share how I got mine. At the recommendation of friends, I decided to order a small batch of business cards from the printers over at Faced with over 350 designs to choose from, I selected one which would print my contact information on none other than tiny books - an LIS student's dream come true, right? Finding what to put on your business card can be a difficult step when lacking a concrete job title between multiple internships and job opportunities - to simplify this process, I chose to feature my name, area of study, website, and email address. As one of the many functions of a business card is to express your professional identity, what you put on your card is entirety up to you. After an approximate week, they arrived on my doorstep ready to help stimulate collaboration at an upcoming conference. While business cards aren't for everyone and are by no means a professional necessity, they can serve as a trusted middleman between you, your peers, and establishing yourself in the field of LIS one conversation at a time.tumblr_n58ileHugK1qbwvhpo1_500.jpg

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March Madness

Clever title, right? It's fitting because of everything going on right now, I cannot believe March is almost over already! This semester ends in just about a month and I'll have finished 10 of 12 classes to graduate. In fact, just this week GSLIS made an exciting announcement, August grads (like me) will be able to walk at the May graduation ceremony. Although it will feel weird to receive a (fake) diploma for a degree I haven't technically earned yet, I'm so excited to participate in the graduation ceremony! The one downside of finishing in the summer was that I thought I wouldn't get to walk at graduation, so props to Simmons for changing their policy. It wouldn't feel real to me if I didn't participate in a graduation ceremony to make it official.

March madness doesn't just refer to school and my basketball bracket, last week I accepted a full-time job starting in June! I'll be working for a tech startup company called Green Mountain Digital working on an amazing (and free!) app called Yonder ( focusing on connecting people to the outdoors. Stop what you're doing and go download it now! I'm going to be working with amazing, smart, motivated, innovative people and I'm so looking forward to this new challenge.

Is my job going to be in a library? No, but that's okay. I'll be using much of what I've learned at GSLIS at this new job, and learning so much more about technology, skills that will certainly translate into a library someday. I'll also be finishing my degree during a weeklong intensive course in July, I didn't get this far to bail at the last minute! So why take a job that's seemingly not in my field, a field I've been waxing poetic about for years now? Because now is the time to take a crazy risk. Librarians as a group are not the biggest risk takers and up until now I've fit that mold perfectly. Now is the time to change and try something totally different and super exciting. If I've learned nothing else during my time at GSLIS it's that it's important to do things your own way and to try new opportunities as they present themselves. I'm really looking forward to this next chapter in my life and starting my first "real" (read: full-time) job! My list of books to be read is also looking forward to my homework-free existence. 

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Write. Edit. Repeat.

I started writing this blog just over a year ago, right as I started at GSLIS. When I had been a prospective student I enjoyed reading the posts of current students and was happy to be able to contribute experiences when I became a student. Lately I've been happier than ever that I got involved outside of classes in the form of this blog because my job is requiring a lot of writing.

When I first started writing blog posts that would be posted at the end of the week I would write an outline one day, a first draft the next day and edit a third day before finally submitting. I promise I'm not a perfectionist, very far from it, but writing has always taken me a long time, and in order to prevent typos I need to look at it more than once. While this may sound excessive, I'm ultimately glad I spent so much time editing and reworking my writing last spring while I had more time to devote to it. Not only has it made writing blog posts for GSLIS much more efficient (one write and one or two quick edits) but it has been helpful as my role as a reference assistant has expanded to involve more responsibility than I had thought possible.

My library has recently had a lot of staffing changes and with it has come a large shift in responsibilities. We are still working to figure out how jobs will be divvied up - stay tuned for more details as my role is better defined. But one of my new responsibilities is writing a bi-weekly article in our local newspaper. I'm writing to an audience that is (no offense) a bit bigger than the audience here on the GSLIS blog. Practicing my writing skills here has made it much easier as I work to find time in an already packed schedule to write and edit an eight hundred word article every other week. Yet another example of how GSLIS will take you different places than you'd imagined.

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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! 

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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. 

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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 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! 

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The Desired End

The long Thanksgiving weekend was a wonderful reprieve from classes, although Sunday was a quick snap back to reality when I had to finish a ten page research paper, create a PowerPoint overview of said paper, do an audio voiceover of said PowerPoint and post it to the course webpage, and work on a group project for my other class. Ok, so that description makes it sound a lot worse than it was, and it actually took less time than I expected to get everything done. (Then again, I am an eternal pessimist and figured it would take at least eight hours.) But all told, I am now much closer to graduating, both temporally (nine days!) and academically (two assignments), than I was at this time last week. Wahoo!

I think I've mentioned this before, but GSLIS is meant to be a means to an end, and I feel that I have absolutely reached my desired end. Courses like Corporate Libraries and Business Information Sources and Services helped point me toward that end. Courses like Information Organization and Technology for Information Professionals helped point me away from an end that might involve cataloging or systems administration. There were also courses like Knowledge Management, Archiving and Preserving Digital Media, and Reference and Information Services that didn't necessarily point me toward an end, but introduced valuable skills and concepts. And on top of those were my public library job that pointed me away from a career in public libraries and my research internship that pointed me toward a career in research. When it was happening, it all seemed like a giant hodgepodge of library-related stuff. In retrospect, it all seems to make sense.

If you're coming to GSLIS without a desired end in mind, don't worry - I started the program with the sole hope that I would leave it with a job. What I didn't realize was that I would have a variety of classes, two internships, and a part-time job during my GSLIS tenure that would all magically come together to help shape my desired end. Now here I am, at the end of the program and the beginning of my career. Come to think of it, perhaps GSLIS is actually meant to be a means to a beginning.

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It's Not You, GSLIS, It's Me

I just checked the syllabus for each of my classes to confirm what I have been suspecting but had not bothered to verify. For nearly two years I've known this day would come, and now that it is almost upon me I'm finally aware of its exact date. On December 11, 2013, GSLIS and I will be officially over. Done. Through. Broken up.

In theory, December 11 will be just another Wednesday at work followed by a night class. In reality, it will be my last day spent living with the guilt of cheating on GSLIS with my new (very sexy) job. As I wrote last week, I am ready to separate from GSLIS, but it turns out that our divorce cannot be finalized until December 11. I have no idea how I'll feel when I walk out of class that day, or after the holidays when I find myself spending nights and weekends relaxing without GSLIS constantly pining for my attention. GSLIS is soooo needy, and I've had enough.

Will I miss GSLIS? I don't know. As with any breakup, I'll need to be more removed from the situation before determining my ultimate sentiments. GSLIS and I spent three semesters in a state of undeniable dedication and passion, but lately I've been a bit less committed. I've been phasing myself out by taking blended and online classes, and even started spending 40 hours each week with that sexy new job. In retrospect, I guess I've been ready for this breakup for quite a while now. The split will be amicable and won't surprise anyone, not even GSLIS itself, and I know we will both be better off. I'm ready to move on. It's not you, GSLIS, it's me. There are other people out there for you, I promise. I hope we can still be friends.

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When Can I Start Making Money? A Look at the 2013 Salary Survey

Recently in one of my classes, we did an exercise that was probably the most memorable of all my classes' exercises: we went through the annual salary survey for librarians. In the October 15th edition of the "Library Journal," the salary survey highlights many different statistics from all areas of the field of libraries.  It includes important information about the "status of 2012 graduates," where the annual salary for women in the northeast in this profession is $44,083.  It also breaks down average salaries by school - Simmons is $43,285; starting salaries, salaries by job type, and salaries by gender and race.  

This information was incredibly relevant and interesting to me as an upcoming graduate (May 2014).  Despite the fact that most people have mentioned that "you didn't get into this career to make money," a small part of me is screaming, "but I DID!  I would love to make money!  I have student loans to pay!" and then I look around at my classmates and wonder to myself, "am I the only person who had to take out student loans to pay for my education?! Why is everyone else so calm?!?" I am not expecting to be a millionaire at all in my lifetime, but I would certainly like to keep out of bankruptcy.  Luckily for me, the Salary Survey breaks the average salary down by type of job, and for a Records Manager, the salary was a bit more optimistic - with the average being $47,208; I can definitely work with that.

Another huge positive that came out of this exercise is getting general job advice.  Despite occurring in my Database Management class, the Professor - Professor Leach, who is amazing, I highly recommend taking his classes - gave some excellent advice.  The average student in the northeast with a Simmons GSLIS degree spends four months looking for a job before becoming employed; therefore, it makes sense to start applying for jobs 3 months before graduation (or so).  Additionally, it is always helpful (when applying for full time jobs) to say you have a degree if given a choice between "have degree" and "don't have degree," then, make sure to add on the application that you will be finishing up the degree in [insert date].  

Another helpful piece of advice learned from this exercise is to remain calm and broaden, not narrow, your search when the going gets rough.  I have time and time again, when searching for jobs, become frustrated or given up completely when sending out resume after resume with no response.  It's helpful to know that there will be a light at the end of the tunnel, or at the very least, that I won't be struggling alone (misery loves company, right?).  So to all the people who are graduating this semester, or in the near future - good luck, and definitely take a peek at the salary's well worth your time.

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Guess what? It worked!

I am writing to share some good news. As the end of my degree program nears, I have started looking at jobs that require the MLIS.  I have been fortunate to have worked in a public library and volunteered in a prison library while going to school, giving me lots of valuable paraprofessional experience.  Having spent all this time and money, however, I felt it was time to look at moving on to an entry-level professional position.

If you spend any time on the blogs or on LinkedIn, you don't believe it is possible to take that degree and get a job, but guess what?  The whole "go to school, get a professional degree and join the profession" plan works!

As one of my last classes here at GSLIS, I am taking Literature for the Humanities.  In this advanced reference class, my professor has been nothing but encouraging, so after one of his pep talks, I started looking at the advertisements for reference librarians.  Most want the degree in hand, but I am so close, I figured the worst they could say was "no thanks." I decided to apply for an evening Reference Librarian position at a local university.  This was exciting because the word "Librarian" was in the title - not Library Assistant or Associate or Clerk. This was the real deal.

Before applying, I carefully reviewed in my mind all the bits of resume advice and interviewing tips I have received from the dedicated faculty I have had here.  I reworked the resume, studied the university's website, contacted my references, wrote a really good cover letter, and crossed my fingers. Then the call came for the interview! Woohoo - Step 1!  I was thrilled to learn how many of the library team had Simmons MLIS degrees.  Instant connection! The librarian who interviewed me got her degree from GSLIS just five years ago and now she is in charge of Information Literacy Instruction.   Then I received the request for references.  Woohoo - Step 2!  And then the call came to offer me the position! (Do I sound just a little excited?)

I had my first day of training this past week, and learned about my new job at the reference desk.  I will simultaneously be doing reference in-person, and through chat, email, and phone. While this is only an evening position, I am still very excited to be part of the university's reference team, and am hopeful for future opportunities as they are building a brand new library that will open next summer.  Meanwhile, I am enjoying my new space, learning about their cool 3D printer, and having the chance to participate in collection development.   Most importantly, I have the chance to help so many students both in-person and through long-distance learning technologies. The rest of the library team was warm and friendly and made me feel welcome.

This week I fly solo, and I am nervous but ready!  Thank you to all the amazing GSLIS faculty and peers because in all honesty, I could not have done this without you.

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A GSLIS graduate and former GSLIS Admissions blogger, James Fox, emailed me last week asking if I had used in my job search. Looking at the URL, at first I thought the site would display in another language, then assumed it contained a typo, and finally decided that it was one of those shortened URLs that you sometimes see in Tweets. Having come to that conclusion, I pasted it into my browser and hoped for the best. As it turns out, INALJ is an acronym for "I Need A Library Job," and the site is pretty cool. It compiles job postings from across the United States and Canada (and even some internationally!), success stories of folks who have found library jobs, and links to general library-related blogs and articles. It serves as a virtual community for both employed and unemployed librarians - everybody wins!

It is somewhat surprising that at some (very low) point in my job search I did not, in the midst of a frustrated stream of consciousness moment, type "i need a library job" into Google and discover this site. If that were the case, I would have found the INALJ community in my time of need, and perhaps taken some solace in not being alone in my quest for employment. Plus, it aggregates job opportunities by state, province, or country so you can really get a feel for what's out there. Whether you're actively looking for a job, thinking about getting a job, or applying to GSLIS, INALJ is a great resource for checking out the job scene.

A challenging aspect of finding a library job is knowing where to look, and INALJ seems to have that pretty well covered. It goes without saying that INALJ is not meant as a panacea for all job woes and does not guarantee employment, but the community was established to help the process go a bit more smoothly. I am not affiliated with INALJ, but the site made me realize that someday I might be able to help GSLIS students gain employment. After all, I was an employment-seeking GSLIS student just two months ago!

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Confessions of a New Employee

I started my new job last week, and have already encountered a handful of situations where I thought "I learned about this in one of my classes." It has been encouraging to have that baseline knowledge, yet strange to be learning how to apply it in real life with real sources and real implications. I haven't done anything of consequence yet - just some snooping around in a few databases and reading some internal instructional documents - but I feel like I've already learned a lot. GSLIS has given me a general knowledge foundation, and now my job will teach me the specifics.

Starting a new job is always a challenge, whether it be adjusting to a new schedule, sitting through HR information sessions, interacting with new coworkers, learning new systems, having questions but not knowing who to ask, feeling anxious about all there is to learn, or figuring out appropriate arrival and departure times (I'm still a bit flummoxed by that one). Who knows how long it will be until I hit my stride and become the fully functional research analyst that I am (hopefully) destined to be, but for now it's quite clear that I have a lot to learn. This learning period will likely be somewhat frustrating, as I want to know everything now, so I need to focus on managing my expectations. I have high expectations for myself, but I can't allow those to interfere with learning the basics of this job. I'm hoping that after a few weeks of learning and practice I will have the basics down and can let my expectations run wild.

One of those expectations is for how awesomely decorated my cubicle will be. If that's not something to look forward to, I don't know what is!

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