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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 lissapres@simmons.edu 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.

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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 way...how 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

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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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All About Going Abroad

Having the chance to study abroad is something that I think many students want to strive towards when they begin their career as college students. While a number of my close friends did indeed get to experience the wonders of studying in a foreign country, I unfortunately did not. With the idea that my opportunity to go abroad had finally passed, you can imagine my pleasant surprise when I discovered that GSLIS offered its students a number of study abroad options. Yes you are reading this correctly; you can study abroad in graduate school! Who knew?

For those of you who are curious, GSLIS will be offering two study abroad options this summer, one in Seoul, South Korea, and the other in Paris, France. For two whole weeks, groups of students will have the chance to take LIS classes, experiences the wonders of another culture, and get to explore locations they have only dreamed of! Just to clarify, for each trip, two different course options will be offered. As for the classes themselves, there will be a total of five, two in one week, three in the other. For the remainder of the two weeks, and once the afternoons classes are over, one has the freedom to travel around their respective city either alone, or with a group of other students. As someone who thought they had missed the boat on going abroad, I am super excited to hear that GSLIS is offering their students this opportunity, especially because this summer, GSLIS is going to Paris. Paris, the city of light, delicious food, and a number of beautiful gardens, museums, and other historic and national landmarks. Also, Julia Child spent a considerable amount of time there, and as someone who is downright obsessed with Julia Child, this is clearly the trip for me. Oh, and did I mention that one of the classes going to France will be LIS 470: Visual Communications? For those who don't know, this particular course will study various forms of visual communication and how it relates within the world of LIS and libraries. Topics that will be covered include visual literacy, rare books, prints and printmaking, typography, photography, posters, ephemera, propaganda, digital images, exhibit construction, and other topics driven by student interest. I'm getting excited just typing about it!

However do not start thinking that these are the only options for studying abroad. As a member of the Colleges of the Fenway, Simmons students are able to take advantage of a variety of available study abroad options. If you're interested in seeing a list of all currently available options, please check out the link posted below. Just seeing all the potential options is enough to make one's mouth water with excitement. An additional source that is worth checking out is Simmons' study abroad office, also below:

http://cof.studioabroad.com/index.cfm?FuseAction=Programs.ListAll 

http://www.simmons.edu/offices/provost/study-abroad/ 

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Savor Your Time at GSLIS

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Are we there yet? I keep asking myself this question. When I started at GSLIS, I thought I would be at a great advantage over the full-time students. Here they were rushing through a very full and complex curriculum, while I would be plodding along, taking stock of my interests as I went. This, fundamentally is true. However, with both sides of the coin it seems I shall mix metaphors and say that the grass looks greener on their side! I want so much to be DONE.  I have learned a great deal here and I'm enjoying my classes. But I've finished almost four semesters and the thought of three more is weighing me down.

So, what's the remedy here? Who can I turn to? In this case I turn to everyone and anyone who's worked full-time and gone to graduate school at the same time. Most of the teachers at the high school I work at completely feel my pain. We sit over lunch and ask ourselves, "When does life get easier?"

When we have kids? Nope, I think not.

When we get promoted or fired? Again, I think either option shakes our lives to the core.

 When we move for a new job? Core-shaker if ever there was one.

Why are we such creatures of habit? What is it about the human condition that reaches for a cozy corner with blankets and a good book or a sunny sky over a picnic with a good book? Notice, all my happy spots include blankets and good books. Who's job includes blankets and good books? I can only think of one work scenario where good books and blankets are featured and that's the job I'm working towards. That's where I'm going. I will get there. In an instant gratification society, I am held back by my urge to finish, to move on to the next big thing. Instead, I must remember to smell the roses, enjoy where I am now and most of all remember to open my eyes and ears and soak in all that GSLIS goodness while it lasts.

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Three Reasons Study Groups are Awesome

Study groups are something that I used to avoid when I was an undergraduate student. Back then, I found them to be disorganized and extremely one-sided, with one person usually doing all the work. However, I've had a recent revelation regarding study groups: they are AWESOME. Perhaps its because I am now a mature graduate student or something, but the study group dynamic that I was used to seems to be a thing of the past. Indeed, I have found that having a study group is one of the wisest decisions I've made since starting at Simmons. As much as I would like to think that I am one of those students who can do it all on their own, I am not. With assignments that really challenge you to use everything you've learned in class and then some, its nice to have a group of people who are equally as confused as you are. It seems to create a nice sense of solidarity, if you catch my drift. So, to showcase how awesome and necessary study groups are, I've come up with three logical reasons to share with you.

1. They allow you a chance to vocalize your ideas regarding the assignment: I'm one of those people who likes having others around to bounce ideas off of, especially if I am unsure about what its being asked of me. Being in a study group setting, you get the chance to ask openly ask questions and get to hear other student's interpretations of the assignment. Playing off of what others have to say, I usually find myself gaining new insights regarding the assignment which ultimately leads to clearing up any problem areas.

2. It's a great chance to get to know your classmates: You never know who is going to show up at your study group event, but you can bet they are there for the same reasons you are. Who knew that shared confusion could be such a great ice breaker?

3. You get to eat baked goods!: Bear with me on this one. In my experiences thus far, every time I've had a study group event, one or more people usually bring some kind of snacks. I think this is something that is slowly becoming a tradition since it continues to happen. However, there is something calming about munching on homemade cake or cookies; it starts the study session off on a positive note and seems to encourage some friendly conversation.

So there you have it, three reasons why study groups are awesome. If you haven't tried setting one up, I suggest asking a few classmates; chances are they will probably appreciate the opportunity to work on assignments with other students. I know that I sure did.

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GSLIS Goes to Rome!

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Ciao! I've been absent from blogging for the last few weeks because I have been on a whirlwind tour of Europe. My travels took me to Rome and the surrounding countryside; including day trips to Florence, the Mediterranean Sea, and a day of wine tasting in Orvieto. After the course ended, I extended my visit further east to Slovakia, Austria, and Hungary. I've returned to the states inspired, overwhelmed, and reassured once again about how much I love GSLIS.

This was the first time Simmons has taken GSLIS students to Rome and while the trip was not without its glitches, overall the experience was wonderful. We stayed in a beautiful neighborhood full of cafes, wine bars, and restaurants and had easy access to all of Rome's historic sites. Highlights of the trip included our day trips outside of the city, a fabulous tour of the colosseum, and eating my way through the city of Rome.

Lest I forget, I should also mention that we were in Rome to take a class. My Intellectual Freedom and Censorship course with Professor Laura Saunders was another highlight of my experience. The course was almost entirely discussion based and my classmates engaged in heated debates on many ethical issues. This was truly a course that got us thinking and I would find myself continuing class discussions long after we left the classroom. Being abroad with fellow nerdy library students was really wonderful and I enjoyed interacting with students and professors both in class and in less formal settings.

I've got a few more days at home to catch up and write my final paper before heading off to Chicago to explore a new city and attend the American Library Association's Annual Conference. I'll be sure to report back with fun details in a couple of weeks. Until then, I hope everyone's summer is off to a great start!

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Drawn to Being Withdrawn

I have recently done an unusual amount of reading about solitude while also living a more solitary life than usual - I do not have classes, work less than thirty hours per week, and my significant other is interning in Washington, DC this summer. I am an introvert by nature, so this temporary low-key lifestyle is right up my alley. Any doubts about my chronic introversion were nullified by Susan Cain's Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. I also read The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Peale (as a counterbalance to The Positive Power of Negative Thinking by Julie Norem, which confirmed that I am quite the defensive pessimist, but that is a whole different story) and this speech by William Deresciwicz, both of which touch upon the importance of solitude and reflection in developing one's thoughts and cultivating one's best self. Over the past two weeks I have spent a bulk of my free time reading and writing instead of watching TV and socializing, and it has been rather refreshing. At this rate, I may very well morph into an even more quiet, contemplative, and introspective version of myself by the end of the summer. Sounds like a librarian in training, right?

No, no, NO! I have mentioned in the past how I despise the librarian stereotype, and as I read those books and reflected on my own tendencies, I realized that I do kind of come across as a "typical" librarian. Realistically, though, I am just a typical introvert who happens to be in library school. To my knowledge, there is no correlation or causation (also just finished Freakonomics) between the two, but a Google search for "library introvert" yields many more relevant results than one for "library extrovert." One of the "library introvert" search results is a definition of "introvert" from UrbanDictionary.com (which I have used in the past, but oddly don't recall learning about in my reference class), part of which reads: "Often found in their homes, libraries, quiet parks that not many people know about, or other secluded places, introverts like to think and be alone." That is not a particularly strong endorsement of introverted folks, and also takes a not so subtle shot at libraries (and librarians by association). For me, it's a good old-fashioned double whammy.

Despite my discontent with these negative associations, I'm not sure there's a whole lot I can do about them. I have absolutely no plans to abruptly become a raging extrovert and single-handedly thwart these blasted stereotypes. Akin to how I concluded my initial stereotype-bashing post: If I can be a good librarian, it doesn't matter whether or not I act like a librarian. My plan is to passively shatter the librarian stereotype by just being myself.

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Busy, busy, busy!

You'd think summer would be less stressful....but no. I'm running around like a chicken with its head cut off. New job, new internship, new apartment, new bank account, even a new boyfriend. Breathe in, breathe out.

But my internship is so much fun! I'm in the midst of planning two exhibits, both based on the same collection. Today, I worked on the second one which is going to trace how a children's book is published since we have all the steps represented in the collection. Notes, contracts, illustrations, mock-ups, royalty checks! So cool! But I also got to see some other sides of the archives today. Wednesday is our "late" day. The archive is open from 5-9 instead of the regular earlier time frame so that people who work full-time can have a chance to stop by. That makes it a little more busy than usual. Today we had three patrons in the room at the same time!

That might not sound too amazing, but the manuscript portion of the collection is very small since it is still in its early stages. But all of the sudden someone came in to do research while a potential donor interview was going on and another past donor was self-processing her collection. The potential donor was very interesting...a jack of all trades who had brought his illustrated poetry. In the meantime, the researcher wanted to scan a map from the collection that only could fit into the scanner by fourths. For a few minutes there it was almost like being busy!

Not that the archive is dead, not by any means. My supervisor, being what we call a "lone arranger" has to do all the work herself so there even when there is not a single patron or donor in sight there is always something to do: scanning, processing, cataloguing, budgeting, exhibits, email reference, filling in on the library reference desk, meetings...

Speaking of meetings, today I sat in on a product demo. I don't really know what you would call the product. It was kind of like Tumblr for archives/libraries. It wasn't a digital repository, they don't host the items but they allow you to curate digital items into "modules" that are beautifully displayed in a Pinterest type format of thumbnails that endlessly scroll.

For example:  One preview module they had was on Lincoln. When you clicked on it, the curated digital objects were further broken down by categories such as "Biographies," "Assassination," "Civil War," etc. Within these categories where scanned books, photos, videos, and all types of media. The company's vision is to sell this product to museums/archives/libraries as a means to share their items virtually. It is a beautiful format, much nicer than most digital repository interfaces. If you want to see more about it, it's called Biblioboard.

Oh so much to do and so much to learn! I love being a student!

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Cambridge History Room Internship

This week marked the beginning of my internship. I am working at the Cambridge History Room which is placed inside the Cambridge Public Library.

The plan as it now stands is for me to process the papers of John Langstaff, singer, author and creator of the Cambridge Revels while selecting pieces from the collection that are usuable for an exhibit as well as creating the finding aid.

The boxes I have glanced over so far (there are about 15 in total I think; I need to double check that number though) contain an assortment of sheet music (both printed and hand-written), production notes, correspondence, mock-ups of his children's books and promotional materials. I believe the majority of the "good stuff" was removed and are in the boxes of material the biography author was using, which I have not gone through yet.

I hope to find some photography, etc. that would be useful for an exhibit. I do think there should be something in the collection that would interest the public if not about the Revels, perhaps about his children's books or his BBC children's show.

As I mentioned, there was a biography written by a friend of Langstaff and I was able to get a copy and read it before I opened any of the boxes. This was very helpful. I know it wouldn't be possible in all cases but I'm glad that it was because it allowed me to bring context to the things I was seeing. For instance, I found a map of Canada with a small mark on it which seemed meaningless until I recalled that Langstaff had bought an island in Canada that the family used for vacations.

After just one day, I can say that I am quite enjoying the smaller atmosphere than the Gottleib archive where I did my previous internship. The Gottleib is so big that I was upstairs processing and never even set foot in the reference room. Wednesday night, I was able to watch the archivist interact with a couple from Dallas who had come to the area to do research for the husband's upcoming book. It was great to see how the reference interview was handled and how the archivist provided information not only about the Cambridge History Room's materials that might be helpful, but also other nearby institutions.

I'm really looking forward to the rest of this internship!

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Professional Organizations: A Brief Intro, and How They Relate to You

SAA, SLA, MLA, ALA... in the world of the library and all its' properties, it seems like almost every three letter combination stands for a professional organization.  And, unlike the title suggests, you don't have to be a "professional" to join them! 

Many professional organizations are organized to help budding entrants into their fields.  Because this is my first year into the library science world, I've been researching many of these organizations, trying to evaluate if they will be helpful to me pre-graduation, and what resources they offer.  Here's a quick glance at some of them:

ALA, the American Library Association:  the quintessential professional organization for anyone in the library field, ALA costs only $33/year and supplies its' student members with newsletters, updates on the job market, free round tables, and even online classes!  One of the biggest perks of joining ALA is the conference that is held once a year, usually in June, which brings librarians together to talk about the latest and greatest inventions, problems, and advances in the field. 

SAA, the Society of American Archivists:  almost as well known as the American Library Association, the Society of American Archivists is a must-have for any serious archivist.  At $48 for an annual membership, SAA provides a number of benefits, including a subscription to The American Archivist, specialty section and roundtable memberships, and access to the mentoring program.  (While I have not yet tried out the mentoring program for myself, I have heard great things about it.)

MLA is the Medical Library Association, and is one of many smaller organizations that represent more specialized libraries.  The Medical Library Association also has a newsletter and several other benefits - but what sets this organization apart from others is that it takes a (potential) "mild interest" and turns it into a realistic career.  The medical library field is one of the places where librarians are consistently needed, and MLA actually provides its members on the best way to find a career.  It comes in at $50 a year for an annual student membership. 

SLA, the Special Library Association: this organization is a broader umbrella organization than MLA in that it encompasses all different kinds of "special" libraries - including corporate, medical, academic, and many others.  One of the benefits of an SLA membership is that it comes with built-in enrollment into a few different roundtables of the member's choice, based off the member's interests.  For example, I am signed up for the Biological Data roundtable, which discusses the latest trends in storing and accessing the multitudes of data generated by the field of Biology.  It also places a premium on professional development, and regularly reminds its' members of networking or career opportunities.  This membership weighs in at $40 annually. 

I would highly suggest at least checking out, if not joining, one or many of these highly valuable professional organizations.  They are a perfect glimpse into the current working world of librarians in many different fields, and you will find people willing to help you in any aspect of your career. 

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Book Talking

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Last week was spring break, so I took the week off from blogging. Most of my break was spent catching up on schoolwork and working, but I was able to escape home to Vermont for a couple days of much needed relaxation. One of my favorite parts of my trip home was visiting my local public library and attending a meeting of the "What is on Your Nightstand?" book club.

The premise of this book club is that it is not a book club, at least not in the traditional sense. There is no chosen book for each monthly meeting. Instead, on the second Tuesday of every month, anyone who is free to talk about books is welcome to come to the library and share what they are reading. The librarian running the meeting keeps a list of all the titles discussed and the conversation is always lively and interesting.

Before moving back to Boston to start school in January I was home in Vermont for eight months and had the opportunity to attend almost every monthly meeting during that time. Although there is no set book, there is a core group of women who attend every meeting and we have developed a nice sense of camaraderie. I am the youngest member of the group by a decade or two and I have come to look up to the women in the group as role models. I can only hope to have one day read half the titles discussed in our club.

Regardless of the theme that emerges during the meeting, be it memoirs and biographies, World War II fiction vs. nonfiction, spy stories, or audio books, I always leave feeling invigorated and excited to read more. I love the free form of the meetings,  the fact that all are welcome, and no pressure to have finished a certain book. Although, it has been discussed that just once it might be fun to all read the same book and have a traditional book club discussion. I miss having the monthly book club meetings to look forward to and hope to one day start my own in Boston!

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