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An Evening with SCoSAA

With the final weeks of the fall semester just around the corner, life has been a bit hectic around here. In between the reading, papers, and projects that I need to do for all three of my classes, finding time to relax has become somewhat of an afterthought, at least for me. However, every now and then, an event on campus catches my eye, something that despite how busy I am, I want to try and find time to attend. Well, last week, I found out from a classmate that SCoSSA (the Student Chapter of the Society of American Archivists) was going to be hosting a panel discussion on the topic of community and social justice archives. With guest speakers from Northeastern, Brandeis, and Simmons, the event, which was held last night, would focus on discussing the challenges and considerations connected to community and social records and the responsibilities and decisions of the archives and archivists to handle them. Considering that  1). I only live about ten minutes away from campus, 2). this was a topic that I was genuinely interested in, and 3). there would be free food, I decided that this would be a perfect reason to take a break from my homework and other projects and come down to campus.
As mentioned, the event kicked off with a free meal in the Faculty and Staff Dining Room. Not only was the food delicious (the lasagna in particular was met with acclaim), but it was also a great chance to talk with fellow students and professors alike outside of the classroom. It was nice to actually be on campus and not be worried about writing a paper or finishing up an XML project. Sometimes, I forget about the many wonderful events and opportunities that the student groups in SLIS frequently offer throughout the year. At the same, I also forget that I can come over to campus for something other than class or homework. Yes, those are its main uses, but the campus is also a great place to meet and catch up with friends and often has multiple activities going on; you just need to know where to look. Last year when I lived further away, I would only come to Simmons if I absolutely had to; now I pop over frequently. Not only does the area serve as a nice change of scene for when I get sick of being inside my apartment, but it enables me to feel more connected to the student community that SLIS and Simmons is trying to foster. While this post wasn't meant to be a plug for coming to campus more often, I do suggest it if possible. There are a lot of opportunities and fun events there that are worth checking out. Anyway, back to SCoSAA...
After dinner, we all took a quick field trip to room C103 where the actual panel was taking place. For the next hour and a half, we, the audience, learned about social justice and community archives from the perspective of the guest speakers. Of the three speakers, my personal two favorites were the archivists from Northeastern and Brandeis. The archivist from Northeastern, Giordana Mecagni, started off the group by talking about a recently completed project that focused on creating a model of one of the first buildings related to Northeastern University. The model replica of the location, the YMCA, was created through the collaboration of various departments within Northeastern, including the archives. Her discussion of the entire process, which included examining historic blueprints and converting them into digital renderings, was fascinating. The building itself was important not just to Northeastern, but to the local community as well from both a social and historic perspective. The speaker from Brandeis, Maggie McNeely, spoke about the importance of ensuring that the archive is acting the same in both social justice and the community. At Brandeis, the academic curriculum is one that ensures such topics do not go un-addressed. That level of interest not only makes her job more fun, but also ensures that the archive remains a vital part of the university for generations to come.
Overall, this was a great event, and I'm happy that I was able to find time to attend. If you are interested in SCoSSA, check out their website: and facebook page: for more information. 
Well this was fun, but it looks like it's time to get back to work. After all, a month from now, the semester will be over!

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Mid-Semester Status Update

So -- I'm halfway through my first semester at SLIS.  For anyone out there looking for a status update, especially anyone considering becoming an older student with kids at home and work on the side, here's my assessment of things so far.

 Better than Expected

  • The people.  I thought I would be the old lady in all my classes, and not make any friends.  I was partially right -- I am the old lady -- but the rest of the students are by and large kind, interesting, smart, thoughtful people, and it's been a treat getting to know them. 
  • The professors.  Outstanding.  I feel so lucky that I got to take a course with Candy Schwartz before her retirement (note to future students: you still have two years!).  And I love how different professors have lectured in 401, exposing us to their styles and personalities. 
  • The resources.  From the tech lab to career services to the writing center, Simmons offers an incredibly wide range of support to students -- please take advantage of it!

Harder than Expected

  • The work.  Honestly, I was kind of blindsided by this one.  I mean, I went to law school once upon a time, and I thought after that, library school would be a breeze.  While SLIS is definitely not as hard as law school, there is a lot of work -- much more than I expected.  Thankfully, I find this work way more interesting than law!
  • The balancing.  My kids don't care if I have an assignment due -- they still need lunch and laundry and rides to gymnastics.  Fitting my school into only the hours when my kids are at their school is a real challenge.  Planning my course schedule for next semester is frustrating, as only one class I need to take seems to be offered when during elementary school hours.  I often feel like I'm the only one with my particular set of constraints, and I am not excited about the less-convenient schedules to come in future semesters.

But the overall assessment?  Outstanding.  I am so happy that I decided to make this career change and would love to meet others going through similar transitions.

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Massachusetts Historical Society Visit

On Thursday night, my Introduction to Archival Methods and Services (LIS 438) class visited the Massachusetts Historical Society. Founded in 1791, the society is an independent research library open to the public that specializes in early American, Massachusetts, and New England historical documents. Before our visit even began, most of our class walked together from Simmons to the historical society, which is a little less than a mile away. It was (finally) one of those classic New England brisk fall evenings outside, and we walked over bright, damp leaves as everyone chatted and observed the omnipresent geese.

When we arrived, Director of Collection Services Brenda Lawson gave a short talk to welcome and orient us. She told our class that she too went on a tour of the historical society with her archives class when she was getting her MSLIS at Simmons over 25 years ago. Then, carrying out a long-running tradition, we broke into three groups and took a two-hour tour. We saw all the essential parts of the repository, like the processing room, the stacks, the reading room, and the reference services area.

My favorite part was seeing the conservation lab, which is deep in the building's basement. It has a very mad science vibe to it. There are illuminated tables to backlight paper being mended, vats of chemicals for aqueous fixes and soaking, and a huge press to flatten manuscripts after they've been repaired. Oona, the conservator, walked us through what her job entails and what a typical day is like for her. She showed us a family letter book with extensive water damage on one of her worktables. In this case, there wasn't anything she could do. Her task for that is to hold the pages open while someone else photographs the book to digitally capture its contents. With this project, even something as simple as turning a page means Oona spends time painstakingly arranging pieces of the thin, crumbling paper until the script is somewhat readable. She also gave us a really strong lecture about tape. Apparently, it's "evil" in any form.

When the tour was over, we thanked everyone at the historical society for staying late and giving us such an edifying experience. They had a large table of cookies and beverages for us, so we all lingered a bit to munch on the Milanos before walking back toward school. That beats a lecture any day!


The reference room at the Massachusetts Historical Society. Look at the card catalog in front! Photo courtesy of the Society.

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Losing It

Well, I lost it.

I thought I was doing a pretty great job at keeping it all together.  School, kids, work, check.  House, parents, in-laws, friends with issues, got it.  Crazy scheduling? Husband travelling? Bring it on.

Until I lost my notebook.

My 415 notebook.

My 415 notebook for the class taught by Candy Schwartz, the legendary SLIS professor.

Not good.

I think I lost the notebook sometime last Friday, when I met three classmates to work on a group project.  My kids didn't have school that day, so I brought them with me -- and they were really well behaved, but still, I was a little distracted, trying to focus on the group work but also make sure my children didn't wreak havoc in the Harvard Coop or Cambridge Public Library, the two places the group met.

It seemed to go so well.  But today, when I sat down to finish one of Candy's never-ending-quite-challenging-yet-interesting assignments, I couldn't find my notebook.  I called the library and the Coop, and it wasn't in lost and found at either place.  I searched the car and the living room and behind my desk.  I tried to blame someone, but there was no one to blame and anyway, blaming someone wouldn't get my notebook back.

I admit I cried a little.

I think it's gone.

Eventually, I pulled myself together and worked on the assignment using the PowerPoint slides from class, and I was able to do the work just fine.  Then I emailed my small group and two of my lovely classmates offered to share notes with me (thanks, Vicki and Anna!).  I started to feel that I might survive losing the notebook.

But it's making me rethink the whole "I've got this under control" thing.  Maybe I shouldn't have brought the kids to the group project meeting.  Maybe I should admit that having kids and going to school and working is a balancing act that doesn't always balance out right.  Maybe I should take a few extra minutes to make sure I have my wits -- and my stuff -- about me when I leave a building.  Slow down.  Take a deep breath.  Double check. 

I think I can. 

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Small victories this week

Making an Important Decision

I'm staying in the archives concentration after a little internal debate about whether or not to study something more general. I can't do everything I may love, so I'll do one thing I'm certain I love. I'm really passionate about people accessing and using archives, so I'll find a way to do something with that. Having this decided brings me a little peace of mind, especially for selecting my Spring courses during registration next week.

Getting a Flu Shot

I got a free flu shot on a break between classes in the Main College Building near the Fens Café. I love how Simmons uses its students in nursing school to administer the vaccines. They get to practice their new skills, and everyone else gets to not be in agony this winter. It took literally three minutes from filling out a piece of paper to getting the vaccination in my left arm, which is still a little sore when I try to lift my backpack which weighs a ton. It's like Hermione's enchanted purse in the final Harry Potter book. I can pull anything out of my bag--laptop, books, water bottle, Advil, sweaters, rain gear--anything. Go ahead, you name it, and it's in there.


Simmons School of Nursing and Health Sciences students Julia Goodwin and Lisa Nahill administer flu vaccines near Fens Café on 10/24/14.

Conquering the Nor'easter

There was a nor'easter from Wednesday to Friday. After growing up in Florida with tropical storms during the summer, this didn't seem so bad. Also, many people who know I only recently moved here took pains to point out this nor'easter "wasn't even a nor'easter" because it was "weak" and "wimpy". Well, the weather was bad enough that my Wednesday night class was dismissed an hour early, and that night I arrived home soaked with my clothes drenched and sticking to me.  I realized I didn't have proper rain gear (moving from New Mexico and all). So, on Thursday I hopped over to REI (right around the corner from Simmons) and bought a pair of rain boots. They were worth every penny. I also dug out my sturdy raincoat from my Florida days. Before that, every time I opened my umbrella, the wind turned it inside out, and people on the sidewalk would look at me and shake their heads, as if to say, "Amateur!" Well, that is no more!

Using Beatley at Night

Beatley Library is Simmons' Library. It has everything I need when I do research for classes, and my groups always book study rooms there when we have a project to do together. I'm usually there at least four or five times a week, but this week was different because I went at night. I had project for my reference class due on evaluating print resources in a library. Yes, print. So I'd have to use actual, physical books for this assignment, not articles I called out of a database.

For a busy student, like me, who sometimes has her days booked, it's great that Beatley is open until midnight Sunday through Thursday. This past week I was there after 10 p.m. three nights in a row. I've noticed the atmosphere is different then. More people are seriously studying and meeting deadlines, and it's almost like a quiet sense of motivation and studiousness hovers in the air. I liked our silent community dedication. I'll definitely return soon for some late night work.


You can see the dark of nighttime through the windows opposite the Beatley entrance.

Mastering the T

Also, this week, I have stopped being motion-sick on the T (subway). Hooray! Additionally, I can now stand in a crowded T car and not fall over when it lurches forward and around bends. I think it's like surfing; you need good core muscles. AND I can even listen to music now during my commute without taking my headphones off every three minutes to hear the "next stop announcement". Before that, I would be too anxious that I somehow missed something and would find the car suddenly and immediately stopping at where I need to be.

Attending an Officers' Meeting

I'm the communications officer for the Simmons ALA Student Chapter of the International Relations Round Table (SCIRRT). We had our first officer meeting this week and set goals and planned events for the year. I'm really excited about a lot of these things, like the guest speaker we booked for November who works at a library in Haiti. I can't wait to write more about what the club does as things happen.

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Myths about SLIS and Library School

Myth: I'm going to have a tough time getting a job when I graduate.

Truth: You aren't going to graduate from SLIS and become director of the New York Public Library, but you are going to graduate and find employment. If you are willing to re-locate outside of Boston, you definitely won't have problems finding a job. If you continue to live in Boston or have a specialty (like art or law librarianship), you will still get a job, but you might either have to wait for a few months or work in something that isn't your preferred specialty, until you can find exactly what you want. When people outside of the field joke that no one needs librarians anymore with Google and the Internet, they fail to account for the resurgence in library hiring since the recession and for non-traditional librarian jobs. As I've mentioned in my prior posts, SLIS's Simmons Jobline is constantly being updated with new positions in all of the information sciences at every level (student, pre-professional, and professional). Also, many professors and SLIS student groups send out e-mails about employment opportunities. Plus, there are bulletin boards around the school that are covered in job postings, as well as a number of professional groups that maintain job databases.

I should also take a minute to note that SLIS students are competitive, and this is part of the reason they get jobs after they graduate. People here don't just go to school. Everyone has an internship, volunteer gig, or library/archives job. Many people have more than one of these going on at once, on top of going to school full-time. If you are looking for a program where you can "phone it in" and not do work, this isn't it. At the same time, this hard work is satisfying, fruitful, and greatly increases students' chances of getting hired after they graduate.


Wall of job postings from Professor Jim Matarazzo.

Myth: I have to go into debt to go to library school.

Truth: I really wish I had done more research on this before I came to Simmons. Organizations like the American Library Association (ALA Grants and Scholarships) and the Society of American Archivists (SAA Fellows, Awards, and Scholarships) want to pay you to go to library school. Seriously. You are an especially good candidate for a scholarship if you can commit in advance to a specialty, if you are from a historically underrepresented group or are a person of color, if you have library work experience, or if you have demonstrable skills with technology. Any basic search on the Internet will turn up tons of free money that can go towards school. Also, Hack Library School has some good resources.

Myth: I had a bad GPA in college, so Simmons won't accept me as a student.

Truth: Actually, Simmons is the only top library school that I know of that doesn't just say it's all right to apply with a lower GPA. Some of my classmates who had lower GPAs applied to other schools, and those schools never followed up with so much as "thanks but no thanks", let alone an interview. So you'll have to do an interview and take the GRE, but it's worth the effort.

Myth: I have to know the career I want before I get to Simmons SLIS.

Truth: It helps to have an idea of what kind of career you want in libraries or archives, but school is for exploring your options. You can get internships to help you decide what you like and don't like. And you can switch out of one track and go into another (like form Archives to Technology or General to Digital Stewardship) simply by filling out a form. You don't have to reapply to the school or anything if you get here and end up on a track that is different from the one you put on your application.

Myth: I don't know enough about technology to be competitive in library school.

Truth: I barely knew how to use an external hard drive before I arrived at Simmons. You don't have to know a ton of technology stuff, but knowing the basics will make you more competitive. If you feel like technology isn't your strong suit, that's OK. I recommend using Lynda (free for Simmons students) or Codecademy for programming and markup language tutorials.

Myth: I don't have enough library/archives experience to take the next step.

Truth: A little less than half of my classmates had been employed in libraries or archives before they enrolled at SLIS. That's not scientific or anything. It was just something I noticed. If you want to beef up your résumé before you get to Simmons, try volunteering at a local library or repository. Once you are a student, it's pretty easy to find part-time work at a pre-professional level.

Myth: Boston is too expensive.

Truth: Yes, Boston is expensive. But that doesn't mean it is prohibitively expensive. Prices here are on par with most large urban areas, and there are a number of ways to make your expenses more manageable. For example, you don't have to live in Boston. If you want to pay cheaper rent, live in a suburb or student-friendly part of Boston (e.g. Mission Hill, Brookline, Coolidge Corner, etc.) and commute to the Fenway (where Simmons is) on the T or bus. Bringing your car will make things much more expensive. It will help to make a budget and find out what works for you. Simmons gives its each student a free account with SALT, which is a useful personal finance management tool for students. Also, get yourself some roommates to split the cost of major living expenses. And don't order from Foodler all the time, no matter how tempting and convenient greasy pizza is at 2 a.m.

Myth: I'll live like a nun at Simmons.

All seven SLIS student bloggers are women, and yes, Simmons College was women-only for a long time. However, there are a large number male graduate students at Simmons, many of whom attend SLIS. It is a very diverse program and that diversity extends to gender.

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A Little Help Never Hurt Anybody

It's easy to assume--especially if you've already completed an undergraduate program--that you know all there is to know about writing. Or maybe I should just say that I thought I knew enough about writing to get by in a graduate program since I got my undergraduate degree in English. I could probably decorate the walls of my apartment with all the papers I wrote as an undergraduate. Not to mention the fact that I write for myself on the side. Who needs help writing a measly three page paper?

Well, I do. Actually, I think we all might. For my first two papers in graduate school, both professors commented on my lack of "cohesiveness". Maybe it's the two years I took off, or maybe it's the fact that I write two blogs, or maybe it's that I feel like my brain flows just fine thank you very much, but I struggled with that comment. I put so much thought into those papers! I put so much work into those papers! I didn't want to get that comment again.

I set up an appointment with the Writing Center.

I was dreading it. I didn't quite get my paper as finished as I wanted it. I wanted to do more research on one of my points. I knew that the paper I was bringing to the Writing Center wasn't world class writing. It was tolerable, but I'd barely read over it once. What if they made fun of me for my inability to string words together???

They didn't.

In fact, the Writing Center was an immense help. I was reassured that my writing wasn't terrible--in fact, it was good. And the cohesiveness of my paper was tackled. Suggestions were made. (Okay I know this is all vague and passive voice, but I don't want to give away which wonderful worker helped me! They're all amazing!!)

Hopefully, I won't get a comment on my lack of cohesiveness with this paper. And if I get a different comment? Well, I know where I'm going for help.

Check out the Writing Center here and set up an appointment--maybe even if you don't think you need the help.

All the Best -- Hayley

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ASIS&T Trivia Night

There are so many student groups to get involved with at SLIS. If you have an interest or professional aspiration, chances are good you can find a group connected to it. (A list of student groups and their descriptions can be found here.) All SLIS students pay an activities fee each term. Part of the fee is given to LISSA (Library and Information Science Student Association), of which all students are automatically members. LISSA then disburses this money across all student organizations according to the budget each group has been allotted. This arrangement has many benefits. For one, you don't have to pay dues to any of the SLIS student groups, and since your activity fee goes towards all of them, you are eligible to join any and as many as you'd like. Another fun part of this is that you can attend any event or meeting a student organization is having without having to be part of the group. For example, I'm going on a free guided tour of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) next Saturday through the Special Library Association (SLA), but I'm not a member of SLA. And last night I went to the Association for Information Science and Technology's (ASIS&T's) trivia night in the Collaboratory (a high-tech work space for groups with a flexible floor plan on the third floor of our building).


First ASIS&T trivia round board on large flat screen monitor display in the Collaboratory.

It can be tough to keep track of all the events student groups hold, so LISSA sends out a helpful weekly e-mail with a calendar of them. If you read my first post, you know that technology can be a little intimidating for me, so the idea of joining a club like ASIS&T, which specializes in that, wasn't high on my list of things to do. I actually ended up joining SCIRRT (Student Chapter of the International Relations Round Table of the American Library Association) at the beginning of this month, and I'm now in the upcoming student leader elections running for the chapter's open communications officer position. SCIRRT will become more active once the students elect more leaders for it, but until then, most of clubs that are currently busy already have many of their officer positions filled. ASIS&T is one of those clubs. It was actually just voted student chapter of the year by its national parent organization, due in large part to the fun and informative events it holds at least weekly.

I didn't want to fall so in love with ASIS&T's activities, but I did. Over the summer I went to a "Cards Against Librarianship" game in the student lounge that the club hosted, which was an amusing take on the game Cards Against Humanity, which is essentially a more explicit and lewd version of the card game Apples to Apples. And this semester there are more entertaining ASIS&T programs planned--from game nights to a screening of The Social Network to tasty lunches about the latest software people in our profession are using.

So last night three of my friends and I went to Collaboratory at 5:30 p.m. and were prepared to be competitive in a fierce game of LIS Trivia, Jeopardy style, that ASIS&T had promoted through LISSA and numerous flyers. Shortly after we arrived, we chowed down on the group's nice spread of pizza, wings, and soda--brain food. Then everyone broke into three teams of six, divided according to which of the three tables you happened to be sitting at.

Team 1 had Assistant Dean of Student Services Em Claire Knowles, one student who works full time at a public library circulation desk, four new students, the most members on the General track, and one person on the Student Library Teacher Program track. Team 2 had ASIS&T faculty advisor and SLIS Technology Manager, Adjunct Professor Linnea Johnson, two ASIS&T officers, the most people on the Tech track, and two thirds of the team had been enrolled or working at SLIS for more than a year. Team 3 (my team!) had all archives concentrators except one person, one person who had worked in a middle school library, one person who had worked in acquisitions in an academic library, and two thirds of its members were in their second term.

At first our team was doing really well. At one point we were even ahead by $1000 ... until we reached the Dewey numbers category, and it all went downhill. Fast. Even though most of us had taken LIS 415 (The Organization of Information) and had done some cataloging for the class, no one on our team had ever worked in a library on a regular basis that used Dewey, unlike on the other teams. The school library where teammate Lizzie used to work used another classification system called BISAC, and teammate Sara didn't see many Dewey numbers in acquisitions. The rest of us only had archives experience. Also, none of us had experience with children's literature either. So all those questions about Newbery Medal winners lost us our turns quickly. Really, we should have known to get on different teams when ours was the only one without a faculty member and/or ASIS&T officers. I'm just glad the game wasn't exactly like real Jeopardy, in that we mercifully didn't lose money for incorrect answers and complete guesses.

If you were a fly on the wall in the room that night, you might have overheard priceless lines like:

  • Annie (ASSI&T officer and our Alex Trebek): Team 3, what do have for me?

Team 3 Spokesperson: A whole lotta nothing, Annie.

  • Annie: Okay. The category is Random Library Trivia for 300. Team 3, the names please of the two lion statues flanking the steps of the New York Public Library ...

Team 3 Spokesperson: Uh... Who are Groucho and Marx? No... wait. Doc and Bashful?

  • Annie: Acronyms for 400. The clue is OCLC. Your answer please?

Team 3 Spokesperson: What is the Ohio College Library Catalog?

Annie: Are you sure?

Team 3 Spokesperson: No! It's Ohio College Library Consortium. NO! I mean ... Oops! Sorry. Yeah ... we'll just go with that.

But we fought valiantly and never gave up (partly because we wanted to keep eating pizza). After the second round of trivia, we were in last place and were down by around $1200. Final Jeopardy-style, the last question asked each team to identify the faculty member whose Master's paper uncovered an early social network surrounding Sherlock Holmes's The Hound of the Baskervilles. (Answer: Kathy Wisser.) We bet almost all of our $3,400, and predictably by that point, our team finished with a lousy $200. Later that night at Sara's apartment, most of our team gathered, and we raised our glasses of pumpkin ale in a toast to "fighting the good fight and dying with honor." We may not have won, but I've never had so fun much losing.

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Taking Care of Business: Finding the Right Spot

When it comes to homework, where we work can often determine if we work. Moving to a new city for a new job or academic program can mean setting your roots deep into some academic and professional goals - and sometimes that can mean finding the perfect place to sit down with your laptop and coffee, and get to work.

Let's be real - coursework can grow to become an influential part of our lives. As someone who needs to leave Netflix's sphere of influence in order to put words on a page, I know that going somewhere new, even without the comforting embrace of a wifi connection, can make the difference when trying to wrangle all those assignments. After becoming a regular in Western Massachusetts hotspots during my time as an undergrad battling a sea of footnotes, moving to Cambridge with the start of my grad program meant scoping out places where I could extract myself from my cozy apartment to get things done. Now entering my third semester at SLIS, I'll share my personal list of favorite productivity powerhouses with you.

Iyo Cafejava_fitzpatrick.png
Davis Square, Somerville
Waffle bar where you can both make and dress your own waffle for a reasonable price. Sometimes waffles are the necessary key to tackling that upcoming assignment.
Wifi Situation: 2 Hour voucher provided upon purchase.

Voltage Cafe/Gallery
Kendall, Cambridge
Adorned with a repurposed card catalog cabinet and globe, this gallery cafe combo is equipped with all the necessary tools to get work done - if necessary tools means croissants, espresso, and ample seating.
Wifi Situation: Available, Free

Bloc 11
As the weather cools down, the back room of Bloc 11 is dangerously cozy alongside a fireplace with hot chai in-hand. Remain toasted in the company of one of their incredible baguette bound sandwiches.
Wifi: No dice on free Wifi, buddy. Existent, Paid

Mr. Crepe
Davis Square, Somerville
Nutella crepes and coffee - case closed.
Wifi Situation: All signs point to yes.

Darwin's Lmtd.
Brattle Square, Cambridge
Known primarily as a sandwich shop, the comfy albeit limited seating in the café section of Darwin's is worth the wait. Earl Grey Lattés [otherwise titled a London Fog]? That's a thing here - you can have a tea latté of just about any tea in their selection! Just be sure to arrive before or after lunchtime to ensure available seating.
Wifi Situation: Affirmative, Captain!

Diesel Cafe
Davis Square, Somerville
Between red vinyl seats and a tall glass of thai iced tea, this spacious workspace will have you crunching endnotes in no time.
Wifi Situation: Existent, Paid

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Falling Down and Getting Up

Yesterday, I fell off a ladder.

This wasn't some deep metaphorical ladder, but rather the type that one climbs when one is shelving books.This wasn't my first time falling off a ladder or step stool while trying to either shelve books or pull them down, and it probably won't be the last time either. After all, couldn't you argue that life is filled with moments like this; moments when you fall down and moments when you get back up. 
The other day while I was working at the Student Service Center's desk on the 2nd floor of the Palace Road building, a new student came by looking for information about the archives program. They wanted to know what I thought of the program, was it a good place to be if they were still a bit unsure about where exactly they wanted to go with their degree? Was I enjoying the dual degree program or did I regret adding the second Masters? And finally, what can they do to make sure that whenever they graduate Simmons, they will be employable?
As someone still asking herself that last question, I knew that I could at least offer a partial answer: take advantage of living in Boston, a city rich with libraries, archives, historic societies, and museums, and the opportunities that Simmons can offer you. The more work experiences you have, the better you will be when it is time to accept your diploma. I told them that when I first started Simmons one year ago, the only experience I had was working as a student worker in my undergraduate university's library. Even with that under my belt and on my resume, I struggled to find internships or part-time jobs. I wasn't the only person out there looking for those things; my competition was stiff, and just because I had a bit of experience, it didn't seem to be distinguishing me from the rest of the competition. However, I never stopped applying. After one semester at Simmons, my prospects began to improve. The things I learned in LIS 438 (Intro to Archives) turned out to be what my resume needed; it provided me with archive-based skills that I hadn't had prior. By the middle of January, I had a job working in a map gallery at the BPL. By the start of the summer, I had a job working in a legal library. Literally, one thing led to another, and that thing led to something else.
In the end, I told them to be persistent, to apply to all the positions that seemed interesting to them, even the ones that might be in a different area of library science. I never saw myself working in a special library, but I have thus far loved my time at the legal library. I also told them to give it time. It might take a month or even a semester, but the courses they teach at SLIS are there for a reason. Having that one semester internship in an archive or historic society really can make a difference when it comes to applying for similar positions. It did for me and a whole bunch of other students that I know. 
Persistence is the thing that helps me stand up after I've fallen off the ladder. It was also the thing, along with the knowledge and skills gained in my first semester at Simmons, that led me to where I am today. Good things will always happen if you keep trying. You learn how to balance yourself correctly on the ladder so you don't fall; you are accepted into an internship or part-time position that will help you take the next step towards becoming a librarian, an archivist, a cataloger, or metadata specialist. It might not happen today or tomorrow, or this month, but it will as long you don't stop trying.
Getting back up after falling down is always worth it.

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The Balancing Act Begins!

Well, my first full week of school is over, and my two biggest accomplishments were getting a student discount (10% at Tags!) and making my kids do my homework.

Kidding.  Kind of.

Going back to school at age 41, with a husband and kids and part-time work, is, in some ways, just like going to school at any age.  I puzzle over how long it will take me to get to school from our home in Somerville (almost an hour!), where to get my ID (the campus card office), what kind of notebooks to use, whether I needed a snack during a 3-hour class (yes!).

There are some major differences, too.  Before I leave for class, I make lunches for my kids and get them ready for school.  I check my phone during breaks to make sure the school hasn't called.  I drag myself to book club one night, and we talk about our parents' health problems (probably not what my 20-something classmates are discussing over dinner).  I balance my freelance work and shifts at a nearby library with one daughter's gymnastics practices, teaching the other to ride a two-wheeler, and being a room parent at their elementary school.  I forget that I need to allocate time -- plenty of time! -- for homework and class assignments.  I wonder how exactly this balancing act will work out.

But back to the accomplishments.  The student discount is really pretty great.  And the at-first overwhelming Organization of Information class has turned out to be both awesome and a family affair -- my kids selected the books for an assignment in LibraryThing, then came up with the tags themselves.  (Will I be able to hand off any other homework to an 8 and 6 year old?) 

I know I'll find a rhythm.  It's only the first week.  My professors seem fabulous, my classmates inspiring.   The Simmons campus is picturesque, the facilities top-notch.  And there are certainly advantages to going back to school in my 40s - I have roots in this community, family support, many years of professional experience and perspective. 

Here's hoping the second week is as positive as the first!

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Making Membership Worth It

I voted in my first ALA election today. So, consider this entry my big "I voted" sticker. I'm actually quite proud of myself. No joke. For once, I didn't let those thoughts in my head of "I'm not a real librarian" get to me. Because, if you've read my previous entries, you'll know that I am. We all are here at Simmons.

Anyways, since I didn't really know most of the people on the ballots, I had to skim through everyone's bios to see who I thought were the best candidates for each position. The best part, though, was when I did know someone (go Em Claire!). It kinda got me thinking about the strong likelihood that some of the people I'm in library school with now will someday be on that list. I may someday be on that list. And you never know who's going to remember you, or whom you're going to remember. I'm certainly going to take that to heart.

This extends beyond the Simmons community. I will probably meet a lot of the people who are on the ballots as I attend conferences in the coming years. They also matter. Among other things, they could be potential employers. Sometimes, when you spend so much time at Simmons, it's easy to forget that there are (a) other library schools, and (b) librarians in this world who aren't students or professors. This is certainly the case for me. In fact, I'm excited to graduate next summer so I can have even more world-shattering revelations. I recently realized that I'm qualified enough that people can pay me to do library work now. Let the job search begin!

A word of advice that they tell you at orientation: Join ALA. Listen to them and actually do it. I'm discovering that it's worth it--and not just because you get to vote. It's the smaller things, like being included in e-mails and getting copies of American Libraries Direct sent to you. Like Uncle Sam and the military, ALA wants you. Don't deny the call. It'll only help you achieve your dream.

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LISSA's role in GSLIS

Before I went to the NEA Spring meeting a few weeks ago I was pleasantly surprised to discover that LISSA would reimburse my expenses at the conference up to $300.  This was great news for me, because money is always tight as a grad student.  LISSA has always been one of those elusive organizations on Simmons campus for me - it crops up in conversations a lot, but I've never been involved in it or really known what it was.  One of my fellow students, Joy Rodowicz, is involved with LISSA (and helping to plan this year's Graduate Symposium) and offered to write some pointers about it for everyone, because as a GSLIS student (or potential student), LISSA is a valuable tool to be aware of.

1) How did you get involved with LISSA?

I first got involved with the Library and Information Science Student Association (LISSA) after I finished my first semester here at Simmons. I wanted to find a way that I could be more involved with the GSLIS community and saw my opportunity when elections for several student officer positions were announced.

2) What do you think LISSA provides for GSLIS students?

LISSA is an umbrella student organization that exists to represent and support all students in the GSLIS program. Every active GSLIS student is automatically a member of LISSA. All students may attend meetings, choose to run for office and/or participate in LISSA sponsored events. The following are just some of the ways LISSA works with and for the GSLIS community:

  • Plans GSLIS events such as Beginning and End-of-Semester parties, tours, field trips, and guest speakers;
  • Conducts semester-end class evaluations maintained in binders outside the Student Services office in the Palace Road building;
  • Provides coffee, tea, chocolate and spring water to the Matarazzo Student Lounge (P-212G);
  • Voices student concerns to the faculty and administration through the President and Faculty Representatives;
  • Reimburses student professional development costs up to $300 per year, covering costs such as library-oriented workshop and conference attendance.

3) Why should people think about leadership positions?

Student leadership is an excellent place to start and get involved in professional organizations at the student level. Most of the GSLIS student organizations are related to local or regional chapters of the different professional organizations. Not only is it a good way to network with others in your chosen field, but it provides you with the opportunity to gain confidence in your own abilities as a leader and organizer.

4) What sort of opportunities are there?

The opportunities are really limitless. Every semester positions open up in each of the student organizations. I know that after this semester, there will be openings for several officer positions throughout the different groups, as well as one of the student representatives to the faculty meetings. I would recommend attending the many diverse and exciting activities held around campus and if a particular group interests you... inquire about how you can get involved. In addition, you can always contact the LISSA president, Lindsey Clarke, at for information about vacant positions.

5) What was involved in planning the symposium?

This is the third year GSLIS will be holding its annual Graduate Symposium and the first time we have extended it to include the entire Simmons graduate community. A core group of 10-12 student volunteers made up this year's planning committee. The process began in October when we decided on our theme for this year: Moving Forward: Transforming the Way We Think and then putting out the call for proposals. Once the proposals started coming in we reviewed them and worked out the panel assignments along with plans for catering and technology needs. The final stage of the process was marketing and gathering additional volunteers for the actual event. This year we will also be including poster presentations from the GSLIS After Dark event being held the night before.

6) What are you hoping people (both presenters and attendees) take away from it?

The goal of the symposium is to give students the opportunity to experience peer review and the professional presentation experience in a format that might be less intimidating that a regional or national conference venue. The symposium committee hopes that events like this will continue to foster a sense of community and collaboration where students can share their recent research and demonstrate how they plan to contribute to their respective fields upon graduation.

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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!

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What Happens When I Fly Away?

Is anybody else amazed at how fast this year is flying by? Yes, spring break is upon us and we are all grateful, but speaking as someone who will be graduating in December (heaven help us if I don't) I feel these days slipping away faster than usual. I'm losing track of time. Every email whizzes past my inbox and I begin to crave and fear the future. What happens after graduate school? I imagine big paychecks, tomes that in no way resemble textbooks, and oodles of time to sit down in a garden somewhere.  These are the lies that we tell ourselves. Life will be easier after graduate school. Will it though? Will you receive updates about the latest technologies enhancing our profession? Will you have the opportunity to network on a weekly basis with super smart people? This is all food for thought for you, but mostly for me. I'm aching to leave and begin my life as a fully-fledged librarian. I want my wings soooo badly!  I think the question I continue to ask Linda Braun though, brilliant library technology brain that she is, is how do you keep up? We are not relevant if we lag behind and fester in comfortable ignorance. So, I make it my mission this year to prepare for a time when I won't be hounded by professors on "what's hot and what's not" in the world of library science. There will come a time when our inbox might be less crowded with LISSA mails but that means that we sadly must replace them with emails that keep us vibrant, relevant and essential to our communities and the people we serve. This was supposed to be a whistful entry about the ever-quickening passage of time, but now it seems to be a call to action to get amped and to be prepared. A world without the ample support of GSLIS is almost upon us. 


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There's Nothing Part-Time About My Schedule

As of this semester I'm officially a part-time student, doesn't that sound nice? It implies that I have tons of extra time when I'm not doing schoolwork. The same applies when I mention my part-time job, sounds like I've got all the free time in the world. The picture quickly changes when I start doing the math: one part-time job of about 25 hours a week and another of 10 or more hours and I'm quickly at 35 hours! Add in two classes, one in person and one online, a weekly commute to Boston and all these part-times are suddenly adding up.

You thought being a full-time student was hard? Try being a part-time student. At first this seems like an oxymoron, how would taking fewer classes be more demanding? I'd never thought about this until I became one of the part-timers, and six weeks in I'm finding it incredibly challenging. It's no wonder, just look at my schedule! When you're a full-time student, school is your primary focus, this is no longer the case when you're part-time.

There are a lot of benefits to working while being in this program, such as drawing on work experience when thinking about assignments or participating in class. Seeing how my classes connect to real world scenarios has helped me focus and made me take the time to fully understand course material. There are also challenges that come along with my schedule. My time management skills have improved exponentially, procrastination is no longer an option. In the past I've always been a student with a job on the side, now I remind myself that school needs to remain a priority for these last few months of school, even as my jobs become more demanding.

All that said, I think the fact that I want to focus more on work than school is a sign that I'm moving in the right direction and I'm ready to really start my career. I've been in school for basically my whole life, and I can't wait to be done with homework! Until the day comes when I'm done with GSLIS, I'm looking at you August 2nd, I need to keep focused and learn as much as possible from my last few classes. 

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Ladies and Gentlemen - Nicole Cunha!

Every semester I interview someone so fantastically excellent from the GSLIS program so I can share him or her with the Student Snippets fan base. This semester I have chosen a friend and colleague of mine from Beatley Library at Simmons. Nicole Cunha, a graduate of Simmons College, has been working in the library since her junior year. She is now a dual degree major in Children's Literature and Library Science at GSLIS. She is a constant inspiration to me. She works in almost every department at Beatley and when she's not working, she's here working on all of her homework. She is a rockstar. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Nicole Cunha.

I Want project-credit to Emily Seitz-Cunha.jpg

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

Long story short, my hometown/elementary school librarian told me about Simmons when I was younger; or she at least tried to get me interested in it. If I remember correctly, she had mentioned Simmons to my mum because she recognized my passion for the written word at an early age (and I still have the summer reading program medals to prove it).
I guess you could say I'm here partly to extend the influence she had on me and share my love of books with other malleable minds. On the other hand, I'm here to blend the field of Library Science (and Children's Lit!) with my newest interest : video games and video game design. Using these three things I want to explore how people learn, the various ways to encourage multi-faceted learning and create new models for interactive learning within a library setting.

2) What are some of the best parts of the dual degree program? What have you learned so far?

The best part of the program (both in and outside of class) : the people, and how we play off each other. We help each other work through our thought processes for papers, research for projects and allow each other to geek out about our hobbies and passions. A few that come to mind: Star Trek, picture books, the Muppets and Beauty and the Beast. The staff stress that our classmates are our network, and I agree with them. At the risk of sounding sentimental (if that's even the right word), these scholars, librarians and archivists in training form an amazing support network, intellectually and emotionally!

This being my second semester. I could say I haven't learnt a lot, but that's definitely a lie. Criticism of Children's Literature (CHL 401) was challenging and thought provoking; Information Organization (LIS 415) lead me to trust in my instincts (and certainly appreciate the art that is cataloguing!), and Foundations of Library Science (LIS 401) allowed me to hone in on a couple interests and figure out how to actually apply them to my future profession.

3) How long have you been working at Beatley? Where do you work and what's your favorite job?

Though I'm sure everyone knows that I live at Beatley (almost literally), I've only been working here since my Junior year of undergrad [for proof, check a 2013 yearbook or the portraits along the wall to the MCB]. My favorite job...oh, that's a tough one...everything? ILL/Reserves provides me with back of the house/behind the scene experience; at Circulation I'm able to interact with people across the college and the public all the while developing my customer service skills, and Stacks Maintenance gives me the chance to spend time among the shelves- my natural habitat you might say. Despite not working much with Stacks and Circ anymore, I miss getting recognized by patrons when I'm not on shift. That tells me I'm at least doing something right!

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

Super power, eh? I'm at a toss up between healing (either with herbs or magic like in Charmed) or time travel (preferably Doctor Who or Harry Potter style). I like helping people and lending a hand or ear when needed, but I also would like more time to get everything I need to done. I'm very much like Hermione- in the library (usually doing homework).

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I Need Office Supply Rehab.

Please indulge me as I nerd out for a second about something that I don't think many people nerd out about.  Yes, I played World of Warcraft for years.  Yes, I am really into Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and a plethora of even less well-known fantasy and science fiction-y stuff.  But one of my favorite nerd-outs is so nerdy that no one even talks about it, and I'm not sure if anyone else suffers from this affliction besides myself (and apparently the whole of South Korea).  

Let's nerd out about supplies. 

Seriously, guys.  Is there anything better than the perfect pen, or a fresh notebook, or - the crème de la crème - a desk organizer?

I have spent years hunting for the right school supplies.  My father, bless his heart, finally gave up and sent me his credit card number so I could order my own planner, because in his words "just pick one already and buy it for yourself and consider it a Christmas present."

Everyone is different with what they prefer.  I recently came to terms with the fact that I am an archivist who prefers ballpoint pens - these pens, actually - and virtually nothing else will do.  Notebooks have become much less exciting after the introduction of the world to the perfect notebook - Moleskine, anyone? 

But outside of those things I am constantly and consistently shopping and keeping a list of the perfect supplies, to treat myself with when I am having a crappy day.  Most women eat chocolate; I buy desk supplies.  AND eat chocolate.  Go big or go home. 

Without further ado, my February's DO WANT list:

MochiThings:  is a collection of the cutest desk supplies that South Korea has to offer.  I recently bought this organizer when it was on sale, because honestly the two planners I got for Christmas wasn't enough, and seriously by the flipping cute?!

Additionally, I am freaking out about why no one loves me enough to purchase THIS for me yet.  A wallet that includes my phone...there is virtually nothing else I will need in life.  Just an in-person endorsement, I bought my mother one for Christmas and so far it has been very handy and extremely well-made in person.  Just sayin'. 

If you're more of an amazon person, this Kikkerland Elephant Organizer is a great way to get the papers off your desk.  You can screw it to the wall, or use it freestanding.  On that note, I discovered Kikkerland yesterday and went down the rabbit hole of their super cute supplies.  Someone stop me, dear god...

And finally: as I said, la crème de la crème.  For Christmas from my loving husband I received.  The.  Cutest. Desk. Organizer.  Seriously, I almost regret sharing it with you, dear readers, because you're just going to die and it's out of stock... The Hold Fashioned Storage Chest.  It's big, it's bulky, and boy it's beautiful.  Take a look, and then refresh manically until it comes back in stock...

There you have it: my supply list for February.  And if you are an office supply nerd like me, please share your favorite websites or to-buys!! 

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Inspiration at the Start of Spring Semester 2014

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

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

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

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Study Break

no homework.jpg

I believe Jack Prelutsky speaks for all of us with this poem. I leave it to you on this Saturday of endless study.

Homework! Oh, Homework!

Homework! Oh, homework!
I hate you! You stink!
I wish I could wash you
away in the sink,
if only a bomb
would explode you to bits.
Homework! Oh, homework!
You're giving me fits.

I'd rather take baths
with a man-eating shark,
or wrestle a lion
alone in the dark,
eat spinach and liver,
pet ten porcupines,
than tackle the homework
my teacher assigns.

Homework! Oh, homework!
You're last on my list,
I simply can't see
why you even exist,
if you disappeared
it would tickle me pink.
Homework! Oh, homework!
I hate you! You stink!

Prelutsky, Jack, and James Stevenson. The New Kid on the Block :Poems. 1st ed. New York: Greenwillow Books, 1984. Print.

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