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Just in time for the holidays - Volunteering at PBP

I love volunteering, but I never know what exactly I can do.  I know I'm not qualified to be building anything, or cooking anything in mass quantities.   But recently, a fellow classmate advertised the opportunity to volunteer at the Prison Book Program, a local organization in Quincy, Massachusetts easily accessible on the Red Line.  I jumped at the chance, and spent several hours there last Thursday.

Located in the basement of the historic United First Parish Church (where John Adams, Abigail Adams, and John Quincy Adams are buried), the Prison Book Program sends out hundreds if not thousands of books to prisoners in United States penitentiaries and correctional facilities.  According to their website, PBP does what it does because they believe that "books are crucial to the political, spiritual, and educational development of all people... In a time of cuts in educational programs for prisons, we serve a vital purpose."


All of the books and packing materials are donated to this organization, but the cost of shipping is expensive.  Among the PBP's new and used books, they send prisoners across the country anything from dictionaries to novels, language learning books to basic legal information for prisoners via their "Legal Primer" document.  The library includes fiction and non-fiction regarding a diverse range of historical, religious, political, cultural, and LGBT-related subjects.  Volunteers do their best to match up handwritten requests from prisoners (and the requirements from the prisons) to items in their library, but because the organizations depend on donations, often the specific kind of book is not available.  For example, while I was wrapping up packages, I noticed that the book included did not directly correspond with the prisoner's letter.  He had asked for a book on Lakota culture, but a visit to the PBP library showed that the book selectors had chosen as best they could - the Native American literature and non-fiction sections did not offer such a specific resource.

Other than sending books, the PBP's mission specifically notes that they want to provide "a quality volunteer experience that introduces citizens to issues surrounding the American prison system and the role of education in reforming it."   They frequently host volunteer nights like the one I attended on the 20th of November, and have regular volunteer hours which can be found on their website here.  There is so much to be done, so if you can open a letter, wrap up a package, apply sticker stamps, or excel at book selection, you will easily find something helpful to do at the Prison Book Program.  They also have special opportunities for librarians and book store employees that are dedicated to better organizing their donations library.

If you are looking for a way to give back this holiday season, consider volunteering at the Prison Book Program or donating money or new or gently used books to their library.  You can find more information about their mission, their volunteer opportunities, and discover testimonials from prisoners who have benefitted from this organization on their website PrisonBookProgram.Org.  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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Since I started library school...

I've noticed that since I started library school, people have been posting an increasing number of library-related things on my Facebook page.  

People just like libraries, I guess.  When I was a lawyer, no one posted legal jokes on my Facebook page (actually, Facebook didn't exist when I went to law school).  Still, librarians are way more popular than lawyers, even with the whole librarian "shhhh" reputation.

Anyway, here's a sampling of things friends have posted for me. 

12 Children's Books with Non-Princess Female Protagonists

This type of list is big in the circles I run in, and now that I'm in library school, many of my friends think I've automatically read all of them.  I haven't, and I'm always thrilled to learn of another book that fits in this category. 

The Librarians TV Show

 I don't actually know much about this -- a TV show about superhero librarians?  Sounds good to me!  It premiers on December 7 -- I'll set the DVR now.

What Do You Do, Dear?

My librarian crush.  I wrote a whole post on her a few weeks ago.  SO glad a friend saw this and thought of me!

What have people wanted you to see since you started thinking about becoming a librarian?

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The Home Stretch

Classes end the first or second week of December (depending on whether or not the class started in the first or second week of September). This generally means that SLIS students are working on a final project for every class right about now. This isn't like undergrad. There is no big final examination. It's intense.

For one class I have to build a working website with five HTML pages and use CSS manipulation, which I'm sure is no big deal for some people, but it's a huge deal for me. For another class (Reference), I have to work with a group of four other people to create a 40-minute tutorial for a medical database called PubMed. I'm gearing up by watching video guides that PubMed currently has posted on its website. The shortest one is an hour, and it covers just one aspect of the site. It's going to be interesting to see how we condense all of this information into a manageable, cogent presentation. I also have a literature review due for my archives class. I didn't even know what a literature review was until two days ago when I started doing research. And I still don't know anything about Chicago Style (which I have to use for it), except that footnotes and endnotes are terrible and a sign that archival literature needs to evolve already and use APA. All the classes have other assignments due in addition to these, but these are the big ones that have me up late at night, hunched over my computer, losing sleep, hair, and tears.

So this is the glamorous life of an LIS graduate student. Really, it's better than this, but I feel like complaining right now, since all of my peers are too busy to distract me. And while I'm complaining I really should add that I'm learning a lot by doing these final projects--way more than I would cramming for some cumulative multiple-choice test. But that's the point. I know I'll be really proud (and relieved) when I've completed everything.

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A Bit More Fit

This week I activated my Fitbit Zip, which is like a souped up pedometer that tracks steps, distance, and calories burned. I'm trying to walk 10,000 steps a day, but it's been more like 8,000, if I'm being honest--which I am. And it's not like I can lie, because many of my friends have Fitbit too. There is a social feature where we can see how many steps other people in our network have taken, so I'm accountable to other people, not just myself. Everyone's total number of steps is automatically calculated for the week, and we try to see who can take the most. This has lead to a lot good-natured goading. It's great motivation, because I'm pretty competitive, and we're all eager to walk off all the junk food we've eaten now that we're in the second (more intense) half of the Fall term.

So for now 8,000 steps a day is acceptable. After all, it's only my first week, and school, studying, and archives work are usually sedentary activities. Still, it's pretty easy to get more steps into my day walking around Boston. For example, using public transportation, I have to walk a lot. It's half a mile between my apartment and the T stop, so that's a mile I can do without thinking about it. The bus comes in handy here too, like on Thursday when I alighted a few stops early in the pouring rain. --Now that's dedication!

Other times, I have to get more creative. On Monday I walked a lap around the office whenever I got up from my desk at my internship. Everyone thought I had been drinking a lot of coffee. Also, I expect to be having a conversation with my downstairs neighbors any day now, because I keep walking back and forth down the hallway above them at odd hours.  


Photo courtesy of

Overall, this gadget provides a useful way to get a little healthier, and I'm having fun with it. How else am I going to haul those 40 lb. boxes around the archives without looking like I did wind sprints?

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"Bring Them Back": How a Parody Helped Me Learn More About Disability

I was going to write about how draining the last week was for me, but then I realized that no one wants to hear about the minutiae of my life, especially when the draining parts don't actually have to do with library school.  The library school part of last week was, as always, lovely.

(What?  You're wondering why my week was so draining?  blah blah mammogram blah blah unrelated health issue blah blah friend's more serious health issue blah blah husband out of town for four days leaving me with kids and work and my school but not their school, thanks teacher-professional-day-weekend-Columbus Day blah blah. I'm in my 40s, with two kids, in graduate school -- it's going to be like this a lot, so I'd better get used to it.)

Anyway.  Since  I spent the past week basically keeping my head above water, I'll use this space to introduce you to one of my favorite librarians.  I don't actually know her in real life, but her blog is tremendous.  She's Mary Evelyn Smith, a school librarian in Ohio.  I learned of her last spring, when "Bring Them Back," her parody of "Let it Go" from Frozen about returning library books before the school year ended, made the rounds on Facebook.  It's awesome, and I totally suggest you give it a listen -- you'll laugh.

But I like Mary Evelyn for so many reasons beside her gift as a lyricist.   She's a talented writer.  She loves her job as a librarian.  She has interesting things to say about books and the kids she works with.  She has a flair for clothing and home decor.  And she has an adorable son who has Spina Bifida.  Reading about him has opened my eyes to so many aspects of parenting a child with a disability, and given me lots to think about the way I teach my own kids about disabilities.  I think aspiring librarians of all types (or, really, anyone) can learn a lot from her.  Mary Evelyn tackles issues big and small with humor, insight and information.  Check her out.

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Hello Fall!

Although it only feels like it was just yesterday that summer was upon us (AKA this past weekend), the changing of the leaves and the cooler temperatures are sending a signal to all of us Bostonians that Autumn is here. And I cannot for the life of me figure out how September went by so quickly! Am I the only one who is shocked by how quickly the month of September went by? I swear, just a few weeks ago I was moving into my new apartment. Now, the leaves are not only changing, but falling off the trees and I'm bundled up in my Northface!!!!
But I digress. Despite my apparent shock and slight hint of denial, I actually love October. Next to December, this is my favorite month. Why? Well, other then the obvious reason of Halloween, October means pumpkin season! And cold nights with a big cup of hot cocoa. And let's not forget massive leaf piles! Essentially, all the things I loved as a kid and still continue to love today. Of course, October is about more than just mugs of hot chocolate and pumpkin chocolate cookies, it is also the month that, at least for me, school becomes real. October is the month where homework picks up, projects begin, and paper topics are chosen. September is the month of transition for me, October is when everything settles down. However, just because my academic responsibilities have doubled or tripled, that doesn't mean that fun cannot be had.
I'll confess, sometimes I am impressed at how I managed to find time to bake something deliciously sweet despite having at least 100 pages of reading and two papers to write. And yet, I do it, and the results are always worth it. To help usher in the season of Fall and the month of October, I'm sharing an autumn twist on the conventional brownie. Instead of cocoa, this recipe calls for pumpkin puree and pumpkin spice. For those of you who don't have pumpkin spice on hand, its actually very easy to make from scratch. All you need is nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. Measurements are easy to come across if you Google 'Homemade Pumpkin Spice' and can be adjusted if you only need a small amount and don't want any leftovers. But if you love pumpkin and chocolate together, then you probably will want to hold onto your leftovers. In fact, the recipe only calls for half a can of pumpkin puree almost as if it is begging you to make the recipe again just so you can use all of the puree up. Either way, this makes a delicious autumn treat and it is definitely a recipe worth trying.
I've included a picture taken by the blogger (I forgot to take one myself) just to tempt you.

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Librarians as Information Radicals

Everyone knows the persistent stereotype of the shhhing librarians, enemies of noise and fun.  As I noted a month ago, there's even a shhhing librarian action figure.  The reality, of course, is very different - as no doubt anyone who is attending or even seriously considering library school knows, and that's not even the half of it.  At least in some circles - circles in the know - librarians are painted as ninjas protecting the privacy rights of their patrons

And they're not wrong. 

The ALA has supported patron privacy rights since 1939, affirming that confidentiality is crucial to freedom of inquiry in the Library Bill of Rights.  It's definitely true that if patrons believe that libraries share their information queries with any agency that asks, they won't make the queries in the first place.  Libraries often view privacy rights as basic human rights, and base their privacy policies on the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Of course, having the basic ideas in place is one thing, but actually acting on them when the FBI or NSA asks for patron information is something else altogether.  Cases like the Connecticut Four prove that such information is being asked for - and that librarians are fighting back at least some of the time.   Many libraries are choosing to protect privacy by not collecting the information in the first place - by adopting systems that automatically delete patron's borrowing records after items have been returned and installing TOR on public terminals to allow patrons to browse the internet with true anonymity. 

Pretty far from the shhhhing librarian, right?

TOR is still a new thing to see used in libraries, and I think it will be interesting to see what new ideas emerge from libraries in the next few years, as they fight on the front lines of the privacy battle.  Frankly, I'd rather be a ninja than a shusher any day.

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Literary Librarians

It's August and summer classes have finally ended, which means I have another two weeks of relative freedom before fall classes start in September.  I've been spending a lot of time catching up on television (I know people told me Orphan Black was good, but it is so good, you guys) and the lengthy list of books I've wanted to read.  People who choose to study the library sciences do tend to be big readers, and the size of my To Read pile definitely means I'm no exception. 

Because I'm graduating in less than six months (!!!), most of my focus is on job hunting and my future career, and I've been spending my time reading about fictional librarians and their work for inspiration.  The problem with fictional librarians is that a lot of the time they seem to be the stereotypical shhhing librarians who hate fun - even the librarian action figure has sensible shoes and "amazing shushing action."  Luckily, there are a load of awesome literary librarians to help balance the picture of the profession.  My top three are all from SF/fantasy:

  • Issac Vainio, from Jim C. Hines' Libriomancer and Codex Born.  I just love the idea of a librarian who can pull objects from the pages of books, even if his life is ridiculously complicated. 
  • Lucien from Neil Gaiman's Sandman comics.  Lucien's library contains every book that ever has, or might, exist.  Enough said.
  • The Librarian from Terry Pratchett's Discworld books. Besides being turned into an orangutan, the Librarian (real name unknown) can also move through L-space.

 A note to the universe: I will happily accept any superpower that comes with my degree, although I would prefer invisibility or flight. 

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New Adventures

This is my last post for GSLIS as I'm graduating in December. I've enjoyed every minute writing for this blog and wish everyone well as they move on to new adventures. As for my journey I will begin this fall as the upper school librarian at Dana Hall school in Wellesley. To read more about my fun escapades check out my blog!
I'm on a school library exchange at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls. Things are amazing here. Librarians are the luckiest people on the planet. Fact.

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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.

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This is What a Librarian Looks Like

It's not news that popular aesthetics of librarianship are steeped in stereotype. Between visions of bibliographic babes with starched collars, pulled back hair, and horn rimmed glasses - librarians break these archetypes on a daily basis every time they get of bed in the morning to reveal looks as diverse as our professional responsibilities.

The blog This is What a Librarian Looks Like has accepted the mission of displaying the real face of librarianship across the globe. On their about page, blog creators Bobbi Newman and Erin Downey Howerton write "Think you know what a librarian looks like?  Go beyond the bun and challenge old, outdated librarian stereotypes. In the spirit of This is What a Scientist Looks Like, we bring you the ultimate complement to Library Day in the Life: This is What a Librarian Looks Like." Through photographs and personal blurbs submitted by librarians from Norway to Oregon, this blog reveals a face of librarianship that spans across different ages, genders, and national boundaries. In development for over two years, This is What a Librarian Looks Like shows no signs of slowing down. If you're interested in seeing your own look represented in this project, visit the link below:

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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

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A Feast of "Air and Stories"

Because of Maggie's previous post, I decided to take a chance and go to massmouth's Storytelling Festival last Saturday at the Boston Public Library. Well, maybe "chance" is the wrong word. I have long been a fan of the "idea" of storytelling. I decided to fulfill a dream, perhaps?  

Since I was a child, I have always feasted on stories. I know that I am not alone in this--certainly not in a program like ours. When many of us think of stories, though, we often think of books. Certainly I do. Yet, the raconteurs of my childhood were my father and my grandfather, who delighted in inventing tales that thrilled and terrified. It wasn't until I grew older and learned to read on my own that my stories transformed into printed words narrated by a voice in my head (he's quite good but, unfortunately, you'll never get to hear him). Now I'm trying audiobooks. But nothing quite replaces the physical presence of a storyteller.

Results of a survey released in September of 2013 revealed that the bedtime story is on the decline. Only 13% of the survey's respondents read a story to their children every night, while 75% recalled being read to every night when they were kids. In an age where television can transfix the mind, it seems only natural that book stories might have to fight a little harder for attention. The interaction is quiet, save for a few page turns and the voice(s) in the reader's head (at least in my experience). But storytelling is different. Storytelling is interactive. Storytelling is immersive. Storytelling can transfix, too.

One of my professors, a former youth services librarian, remarked what a shame it is that library science programs don't really require storytelling courses anymore. While I can understand why (tuition costs, numerous other graduation requirements, etc.), it still makes me sad. Oral storytelling seems to have a lasting power that books don't. I still remember these magic words Norah Dooley used in her telling of an Italian folktale at the Festival: "Ari-Ari, Donkey, Donkey, Money, Money!" Admittedly, I remember her story better than many of the books I've read for classes. Even with books I love enough to share with another person, my own telling of it is the one that I remember best. I wonder why that is. I guess there's just something about spoken words that lasts even though they're basically gone once they're uttered.

Massmouth's catchphrase is "Because you have a life, you have a story. Bring it." To that I might add that, if you have a story, tell it. We all need a good story in some way or another. As the quote falsely attributed to C.S. Lewis goes, "We read to know that we are not alone." Maybe we watch to know that we are not alone, too. But we can also listen to know that we are not alone.  And maybe, if we listen, we won't really be alone after all.

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A Valentine for my Macbook

Roses are red
Violets are blue
My dear Macbook
I love you.

For a long time, I was a pen-and-paper kinda gal.  If you read my most recent post about office supply rehab, this should come as no surprise to you.  However, in the last few years of college and all of graduate school I have found myself starting to take more and more notes on the computer.  This can be attributed to the fact that I was an art history major taking a Japanese art class, and my mutilated spellings of "Hiroshige" along with descriptive phrases like "View of Mt Fuji with Plants and bridge No. 2" led me to need to insert the actual piece of art itself, and since then I realized how much more easy it is for me to take notes on a computer. 

It hasn't stopped there.  I have started buying and reading my textbooks on my iPad, which is an absolutely amazing resource when it comes to not having to lug textbooks on the train if I want to refer to them during class.  I have linked my Simmons email up to my regular gmail account and can review important emails and send responses or replies from the train.  Occasionally, I do get a flashback of little Carolyn in fourth grade with her hardcopy of "The Island of the Blue Dolphins" or "Follow the Stars," and I wonder what she would think of all of this current technology. 

I know that a lot of people still prefer to read things in hardcover.  For a lot of books, I am the same way - while I'm reading on my computer I often lose focus and check Facebook or Reddit, and sometimes I yearn for the nostalgia of my paperback "Redwall."  But one of the recurring themes of library school is that you can hold out for as long as you like, but technology is taking over - and we are really stuck in the crosshairs, aren't we.  Sometimes I wonder if it's better to be all-digital, all-analog, or find a combination of the two.  The only thing I am sure of at the moment is that regardless of advances in the field of aviation, there will never be a day when I can't read a paper book during take off...and at the very least that constant is enough to leave the metaphysical questions for another day. 

What do you think, dear readers?  Do you still take notes with a pen and paper, and buy hardcover books?  Or have you entirely made the switch over to the digital world?

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Confessions of a Kid Lit Fanboy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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Okay Google Now...

I need to talk about Google.  Most librarians have a love/hate relationship with Google as it is such a useful tool, the ultimate federated search, but also often perceived to be the biggest threat to our job security.

With my last tuition payment this month (cheers all around!), I celebrated by finally joining the smartphone world.  I opted for a Motorola Droid phone as they have good antennas and I live in the boonies, and I expected to love being able to check email and have a really nice camera with me at all times.  I did not expect to fall in love with its excellent voice recognition software and my ability to ask Google whatever I wanted to know. 

I remember when a computer with far less processing ability than my little phone would literally fill a room, so I am enthralled with the power in this little device.  My favorite feature is "Okay Google, now..." which allows me to ask it anything. 

Gasp!  A librarian who is having an affair with Google.... We librarians need to get over ourselves and applaud any efforts that make information more accessible. We don't need to feel threatened as truth is, Google is a great FIRST step in gathering information, and it is awesome for ready reference questions like "Okay Google long is the Golden Gate Bridge?"  We don't need a master's degree to answer that question now, nor did we in the age of print encyclopedias. The world does, however, need all our librarian skills to conduct useful searches on more in-depth topics, whether on freely available internet sources or through subscription databases or through WorldCat, the world's online catalog (which still gives me goose bumps when I think about it.).

I recently joined a faculty member on a busy reference shift at UMass, where students sought our help when their basic Google searches didn't quite give them what they needed. That's right, they came to us.

The recently posted:

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Point taken.  I really don't think we have to worry.

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