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Catching on Coding

We at Simmons have been known to run the spectrum of professions and interests within the information sciences. Whether stemming from personal passion or outside necessity, developing your own sense technological literacy and pushing it to the limits is a huge part of your academic career and an even bigger part of your larger ambitions as an information professional. As we set our sights on post-graduation opportunity, we should start thinking about how we can become not only tech users, but tech creators.

Growing up, coding was synonymous to me with being the forum regular with the coolest post signature - boasting countless animated sparkle fonts, flaming clip art, and the lime green courier font of 1337 h4x0rs of yore. Today, coding means something much bigger - and learning to code became the tether between the tech I use on a daily basis, and me understanding the tech I use on daily basis.

Let's be real for a second - looking at a code document for the first time can look like an insurmountable wall of numerical hell. "what is any of this" "what is anything" "what is life" you may ask yourself, gazing into a void of incoherent acronyms, formulas, and formatting decisions. But don't worry - it won't be that way for long with the following inventory of mighty useful tools to help send you on your coding journey:

  1. Class. You've heard it - but seriously; take as many tech-infused classes as you can during your time in SLIS. Your classmates and helpful professors will have your back as you wade through the terrifying reeds of encoding, content standards, and metadata. Once the semester is over, you will emerge valiant and thank yourself for those sleepless nights.

  2. CodeAcademy. A game-ified learning resource full of [and not to mention free] lessons that will take you all the way from HTML/CSS and Javascript to languages like PHP, Ruby, and Python.

  3. w3schools has long been a fairly authoritative reference source for all things computer-language-related. Need to know the CSS color code for that specific shade of mint green you love? Can't remember exactly how you should structure that if/then statement? w3schools has your back.

  4. Skillcrush Blog. Aspiring designer or developer? Established techie looking to better establish yourself in the field? Primarily geared toward women who code, this blog has the potential to take just about anyone's professional endeavor game up a level.

Learning how to code won't just make your resumé a beacon of awesome for potential employers. You'll become more technologically self sufficient and gain the ability to confidently go forth, taking a more active role in the creation and use of new technologies that you see a need for. After stepping into the world of coding, don't freak out - just move forward and the skills will come.

Technology | leave a comment


I spend way too much of my time every day online.  I am fully aware that it's a problem, but not one that's going away any time soon.  It's gotten even worse lately, as I've been trying to use social media to learn more about archives and archivists, and have been working on networking through Twitter and tumblr (since I'm so terrible at doing it in person.)  I'm not entirely sure about the librarian/archivist community on twitter, but the tumblr community of tumblarians (tumblr+librarians) is vibrant and very friendly.  (I'm libromatic on tumblr, by the way.)  The wonderful thing about tumblr (and Twitter, too) is that if you're shy and nervous about posting a lot when you're not entirely sure you know what you're talking about, reblogging (and retweeting) are completely acceptable ways to share ideas!

If you're not on tumblr already, and you're looking for ways to meet people in the library/archives field, here's how to get started.  After joining the site, find people to follow.  A list of library and librarian tumblrs can be found here; a list of archive and archivist tumblrs can be found here.  I started out following just about everyone, and gradually cut down the list to just the ones I really enjoyed reading.  Library Journal posted a "Tumblarian 101" starter kit that has a lot of good pointers, too.  One thing I love about tumblr is that it is such an image-based site; as librarians we're surrounded by words all the time, so it's a nice change.  (Not that there's anything wrong with text!  But it's definitely a good thing to mix it up once in a while.)

Connecting on social media to people in the field is something almost every professor I've had in GSLIS has mentioned as a great way to make connections - and possibly get a job down the line.  Besides that, it's a wonderful way of sharing knowledge that doesn't cost anything but time.  And, you know, it's also a lot of fun.

Libraries | Technology | leave a comment

A Valentine for my Macbook

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

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

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

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

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

People | Technology | leave a comment

Learning the World of Computers

As we all know, last Tuesday's snow storm caused Simmons to cancel class that night. As I stayed nice and warm inside, I decided to do the responsible thing and do some reading for class. It was while I was reading through one of my two books for LIS 488 (Technology for Information Professionals) that I realized that I have a lot to learn in regards to computers. Now for those of you who might not know, LIS 488 focuses on the conceptual foundation and context of computing, Internet, and other technologies used within information-based professions. Besides learning the concepts and skills related to various pieces and aspects of technology, we are learning about the inner workings and history of computers. Considering that I grew up in the 1990s and had a front row seat to all the changes that occurred within the world technology, I figured that this course was going to relatively easy. Boy was I wrong. But not for the reasons that you're probably thinking.

I'll be the first to admit that I am not a computer expect. While I can definitely use different operating systems like OS X and Microsoft Windows, my skills are limited to those of an average user. Although I know how to customize the appearance of my Internet browser, I certainly don't know anything about the inner workings of operating systems, let alone the tech specs of my laptop. It is because of this rather large gap in my knowledge related to the world of technology that I find this course to be so enlightening. For example, this past week our readings included a conversation discussing the nature and functions of cloud computing, an overview of the development of computer technology, and an explanation of computer basics (networks, WiFi, connection technologies, etc). As I continue to read more about computer and Internet technologies, the more I am realizing that I have a lot of things left to learn. And it's because of this reason that I am enjoying this class. In today's modern age, so many things involve possessing a knowledge of computers that is more than just computing 101. Having the skills to create HTML pages or use Photoshop could be the deciding factor in regards to getting a position that might require experience with using different computer or Internet technologies.  Sure, sometimes some of the computer jargon is way over my head, but I am enjoying the reading and online discussions nonetheless. I'm looking forward to learning more this semester. Hopefully by the end, I can confidently boast about my mad computer skills to all of my friends.

Classes | Technology | leave a comment

Let's Talk About the Cloud

The cloud: depending on who you're talking to, it's

  1. a magical place where dreams are born and an infinite amount of data is stored forever;
  2. an invitation for hackers to steal your identity, your money, your husband, and your cat;
  3. something mysterious that your boss keeps talking about but that you never really understood; or,
  4. those puffy white things in the sky that people started recently referring to in the singular (isn't it cloudS?). 

The cloud has somewhat recently made the foray into the "personal" market.  One of the first that got me personally hooked was Dropbox - they were giving away free space if you signed up with an email account.  (Throughout the years and various promotions we have somehow accrued about 80 Gigabytes of storage for free...Dropbox is awesome.)  On Dropbox, I can access all of the files I upload on virtually any computer in the world once I enter in my dropbox information and install the software (which is the best price - free - by the way). 

After the cloud foray via Dropbox, other companies with pre-existing products started making cloud storage available.  Apple introduced their iCloud, which is a syncing cloud storage for all of the information on your iTunes (including songs, apps, and more).  Amazon followed, making purchases of digital media stream-able via the cloud.  Now, it's hard to find a large software company that doesn't make use of the cloud - and businesses are definitely taking that into account. 

Some research that I did for a job recently concluded that while certain types of media - mylar sleeves, for example - can end up preserving data for a long while, their lifespan is dependent (at best) on circumstance.  The cloud, according to my sources, was the one storage method almost virtually untouched by things like humidity (except for the server storage, and frankly, as a user, that's just not your problem).  Generally, the cloud has a very low rate of going offline due to multiple-site servers - for example, if another hurricane knocks out New York, the servers in San Diego will still be up-and-running. 

One big concern with cloud storage is the access to personal information.  There is a fear that just because the information isn't kept under a physical lock-and-key, it is less safe than the paper records we are all so familiar with.  However, it doesn't matter; your information is likely stored on the internet somewhere if you have been "on the grid" for more than five minutes.  Hospitals, banks, and online stores - like Amazon - all use the internet to access and store personal information.  Has your identity been stolen yet?  I didn't think so.  (Well, actually, mine has, but that was because I used a credit card at an incredibly sketchy Chinese restaurant downtown, but that's another story.  But see?!  My identity has been stolen more times via analog than digitally!)

Overall - cloud storage is just convenient.  It's convenient for me to use for storing almost every kind of document I could imagine.  It's convenient for me to need to haul around a giant hard drive to access my files.  And, it's convenient that I don't need to pay an ungodly sum to store my own documents.  Overall, kids: give clouds a chance.  And if you don't like this particular cloud, well... you still have your analog clouds to fall back on.  

Technology | leave a comment

My iPad is Mad at Me, and Other Fun Technical Things

Last week my iPad and I got into a fight. I'm not sure what I did to upset it but it refused to cooperate. This led to a long (but thankfully free) visit to the Apple store. As it turned out, there was a software issue that wasn't my fault at all, and the Apple Genius even told me he could tell I take great care of my iPad. I was less excited to learn that I have been using the "iCloud" storage function entirely wrong. I added insult to injury when I mentioned I should know better seeing as I'm working towards a degree in Information Science! The Apple Genius laughed and kindly taught me how to use the storage function more efficiently in the future. Although it's never fun admitting that you don't know something I'm glad to have had the whole system explained to me, not only for my own selfish reasons but also so I can explain it to other people who have difficulties.

Despite having some technical mishaps in my personal life, helping patrons with their technical troubles at the public library has proved easier than I expected. Often all a patron needs is another set of eyes or someone to help them remain calm as they navigate unfamiliar websites or use a new program (such as excel) for the first time. I find it easy to relate to patrons' struggles because I tend to have similar frustrations.

I may still not be where I'd like to be with my techie skills (the Apple store won't be hiring me to work as a Genius anytime soon) but I'm miles ahead of where I was last semester. Two of my classes will be having an online class one week this semester and I'm looking forward to the virtual classroom experience. I'm considering taking an online or blended course next semester and this should be a great introduction. Taking a course entirely online still feels a bit daunting since I'm pretty old school but I'm determined to keep an open mind. As always, I'll be sure to report back!

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You Could Technically Be A Better Librarian Than Me

The GSLIS curriculum offers four specialized programs: Archives, Dual Degree Archives/History, Dual Degree LIS/Children's Literature, and School Library Teacher. If none of those "tracks" suit your fancy, then you are considered a generalist and essentially create your own track. Given the sheer number of course offerings, you can cater your classes to get down and dirty with a particular topic of interest.

Given my interest in corporate/special libraries, technology is one aspect of the GSLIS curriculum that I essentially neglected. I took the one required tech class during my first semester, and that was it. GSLIS offers fourteen technology courses, which is more than enough to fill the eight electives that you need to graduate. Technically you could earn a GSLIS degree having only taken three library-specific courses, which would technically make you a better librarian than me. And I'm ok with that.

There are all kinds of IT, systems, information architecture, web development, and other technology-oriented jobs out there, and I've heard that they generally pay quite well. Some of those jobs are in libraries, more probably aren't; but either way, a GSLIS degree with relevant technology coursework and experience would make you a qualified applicant. I have no regrets about my own technologically barren GSLIS track, but it is strange to think that I missed out on a bulk of the "information science" aspect of this "library and information science" degree. So take it from me: when considering GSLIS, it doesn't matter whether you are a luddite or technology enthusiast - you will ultimately find your techy niche somewhere among Simmons' array of technology courses.

Classes | Technology | leave a comment

Apps-olutely none

I know. It's a terrible pun, but here's my question: where are the amazing apps for librarians? Where are the "must-haves"? Where is the list that circulates around blogs by amazingly talented librarians, who stay informed on this topic? So far, I have found nothing.


I was given an ipad this week at work to integrate into the information literacy course I teach. All hate/jealousy mail may be forwarded to  So, I'm playing around on the ipad this morning and I'm surfing the magazines offered on the app store and American Libraries, the official magazine of the ALA, doesn't show up! I also searched YALSA, and found nothing. NOTHING! What gives, people? I know we all love the incessant naggings of the list-serv emails that crowd our inboxes everyday, but frankly, I'd rather access all the latest library buzz and book trends from an app. Isn't it about time a fantastic app was released by the ALA? I'm going to write them a letter, or an email, whatever form of communication from the past they prefer.

The only app I found that seemed remotely cool was the WorldCat app. If you ever desperately need a hard copy of a book, WorldCat will find it for you, tell you where the closest library that owns it is, and how to get there with GPS. Pretty nifty.

So, if anyone out there, besides my mom, is reading and knows of an excellent app useful to the library community please share your knowledge. I'm only beginning to scratch the surface of this topic. Perhaps this post is way off base. I'd so much rather be wrong on this one than right.

Libraries | Technology | 1 comment

We are Not on the Same e-Page

My mother reads more books than anyone I know. She is always reading something, and more often than not she has multiple books going. She legally possesses three library cards from three different libraries, and she actively uses each of them. For the past few years, my father had been talking about getting my mom an e-reader for Christmas, but I always told him that she doesn’t need one because she is at a library multiple times per week. This year (and it is unclear whether this was the result of a lack of other gift ideas or a concerted effort to put my mom at the forefront of book technology), he finally gave her a Nook.

For all the books that my mother reads, I don’t think I’ve ever seen her purchase one. That said, getting a Nook is not going to make her any less of a library user. I will be shocked if she purchases a book on her Nook – she is a library user through and through. Anyway, I was home last weekend and mom asked me to help her set up her Nook with Overdrive so she can borrow books from one of her three libraries. Pssh…piece of cake for a library student, right?

Well, not so much. This is not meant to be a knock on Overdrive or any type of e-reader, but boy was it complicated to get her Nook and Overdrive on the same page. (Or should I say “e-page”?) Working at a library, I’ve heard people say that configuring e-readers and Overdrive is not at all straightforward, but I wasn’t able to empathize until actually trying it myself. I know that libraries and publishers disagree about e-reader use in libraries, and perhaps the complexity of coordinating an e-reader with a library catalog has something to do with that. If this is publishers’ attempt to deter e-book use in libraries, neither I nor my mother will be discouraged, and nor should you. As library e-book use continues to increase, hopefully publishers will get the message. I look forward to the day that publishers and libraries finally get themselves on the same e-page.

Libraries | Technology | leave a comment

McAllen Public Library Part Two: People and Programs

Last week I had the pleasure of sharing with you some insights from my visit to McAllen Public Library, winner of the 2012 ALA Award for Interior Design. To read the first part of this two part series that talks about the physical building click here.

A library, of course, is not just about the building. The building itself might be marvelous, but if the library is not consistently offering services and resources that its patrons desire it will not remain praiseworthy for long. Fortunately, the director of the McAllen Public Library, Kathleen Horan, is not one to forget this. She is not content to let the library rest on its laurels.

“Because of our culture and the way the news, the fads and trends come at us, everything comes and goes so we can’t afford to sit back and say ‘ok we can rest easy now because  we won this design award,’ because we constantly have to stay valuable,” states Ms. Horan. In her eyes, although the national and international press is welcome, the more valuable praise is that which comes from her local community. Hearing from the patrons themselves about the value of the library is an endorsement of the library’s purpose. “Unless we push that message out and it’s getting to the people and getting to our stakeholders…and they understand how valuable we are, we won’t succeed,” she remarks. After all, they are the ones who write the checks. Ms. Horan stresses that “You can’t wait for a crisis. You can’t wait and then say I’ll post on Facebook: 'Like and re-post this if… ' That’s pretty much too late, you must be constant in proving the library’s worth."

One of the ways that libraries are making themselves valuable to the community today is through technology, something that is sometimes very difficult to keep on top of as the innovations appear at a dizzying rate. The library is automating as many services as possible which allows the librarians to devote more time to those services, such as customer interaction, that cannot and should not be automated. This includes an automated car-side book return that not only talks to the patrons as they drop off their books but sorts them into bins for fiction, non-fiction and children’s.

Libraries | People | Technology | leave a comment

A Book by Any Other Name


Yesterday was a busy day at my local library.  A recent phone call from a patron began with, “I can’t believe you have only one copy of this book…”  He wasn’t talking about the copy on our shelves, but about our virtual e-collection that we share with other libraries in our state (New Hampshire).   The discussion turned to an explanation about library costs for eBooks versus what a patron might pay on Amazon for a Kindle download, as well as a referral to other sources of free eBooks (such as Project Gutenberg and Amazon’s Lending Library), and lastly, of course, a brief lesson on how to search only for available titles one can read right now on the state’s downloadable eBook consortium.

This call was followed by a visiting patron, Nook in hand, who needed help to access the downloadable collection. Behind her stood a patron who wanted to download an audiobook to her iPhone…and a young lady of 12 with her new Kindle Fire… and a mom, with a stack of thirty picture books.

A recent webinar I took also filled me in on the Kobo , but I haven’t seen one of those yet.

Copies of our Guide to Free Downloadable eBooks and Audiobooks keep flying off the counter. I guess it was a big year for eReaders!  As my tiny library only serves 5000 residents, I can only imagine what big city librarians are doing to keep up with the different e-formats and different devices.  The stack of picture books was a welcome relief, but in the end, the transactions were the same – helping a reader connect with his book.  It was a good day to be a librarian.

Libraries | Reader's Advisory | Technology | leave a comment

Do we still need libraries?


It still blows my mind that the New York Times still thinks that this is a controversial question, worthy of their op ed section. And yet, every couple of months the topic rears its ugly head. This time, the conversation has four professionals arguing in favor of libraries from many different perspectives. One  of the voices in this pro-library dialogue is Buffy Hamilton, school librarian of Canton, Georgia. I am a huge fan of Buffy's, and her Unquiet blog. She speaks about how libraries are not just about book collection, but about connecting with a community and providing a learning space for that group. Lest you think that this is the only valid opinion posited, there are three more. All are wonderful, and use all those buzz words we hear in class: digital divide, marketspace, technology access and that echoing refrain, "...of the people, by the people and for the people." There are also plenty of comments by the people like you and me. It's a quick, interesting read that will get your engines revved for next semester. Happy New Year!

Libraries | Technology | leave a comment

Do you dare?

daring librarian


While I continue my efforts to make myself a well rounded library student I have started to target blogs. I set up my google homepage through my Simmons mail so that I'm alerted to their newest posts etc. As you well know there are a ton of most excellent blogs run by libraries and librarians alike. I love the bloggish library site I work on at my job. In what other job can I spend a good half hour on a well crafted "Hey girl" post, complete with graphic and cuddle speak from the man we all know and love? Really...only in libraries. God, I love my job!

In this spirit I comb the web for blogs to inform my studies and my work. Multiple times a blog is shows up in other librarians blogs, exciting webinars cite a guest speaker most commonly known as the daring librarian. She defines her commentary on what works in school libraries as "sweet, snarky freshness". She's tech savvy and embraces the massive changes taking place in the field making her commentary incredibly relevant. I appreciate her appreciation of others contributions to the field, her humility and her dry wit. Every post is rife with helpful links and infographics to help you learn. I hope I can be just as daring as the superhero librarian with the cape and sexy glasses when I grow up. Check out one of my favorite posts from her archive. It's about smart tech practices to put in place for the new year. Enjoy it!

School Libraries | Technology | leave a comment


Yes, this is about the field of library science. For serious, it is. I promise. It just takes all those pesky listserv emails to a whole other visually pleasing and not annoying dimension. Don't get me wrong. I'm a huge fan of the idea of sharing and consulting with other professionals in the field when it comes to library questions. But does anyone get tired of the incessant emails? Because I do. Between all the clubs, the Simmons info, the tech lab, and my Moodle classroom forum posts, I'm awash in a sea of email that I must wade through to get to the nuggets of pure gold. As it is officially the holiday season and the end of the semester I am BEAT. I have no patience. All I want is pretty, shiny, sparkling lights and peppermint cocoa and "Buddy the Elf, what's your favorite color?" I want things that make it easier to be inspired.This is how I came to pinterest.

Ok, this isn't how I came to pinterest. There was actually a fabulous presentation in my LIS 488 class about ways to use pinterest in libraries and I was hooked. But doesn't it seem like the perfect medium for the holiday season? For those of you who don't know about the magical place that, go check it out. Type in anything in the search bar on the top left of the page like, let's say, "Elf". You'll get this. If you love the movie elf, like I do, you'll be inspired by the millions of pictures of Buddy inspired projects, quotes, and photographs. This is easily converted to use in the library. I have planned at least half of my upcoming displays at the library I work at through inspiring pics that I found on pinterest. They're all saved (pinned) on a library inspiration bulletin board that I can refer to whenever.

So no, I lied, it doesn't replace the listserv email system, but it sure is a nice break from that monotony. Think of it as catnip, or eggnog,  or SYRUP for librarians just looking for a little cheer this holiday season.

Libraries | Relaxing | Technology | leave a comment

Librarian Olympics and Other Fun

We all know that librarians are awesome at bookish endeavors, but time and again, my professors (and my experience) tell me that the ability to unjam a stapler is an extremely important librarian skill.  This is right up there with troubleshooting the fax machine, clearing the paper jam in the printer, learning the new phone system, and my most recent nightmare….using the new projector and sound system at the library’s movie night.

The problem with all of these minor technical horrors is that one usually must deal with them on the spot, with patrons waiting.  Time is of the essence, and well, to be honest, I am spending all this money on a Master’s degree and I don’t enjoy being stumped by a fancy new remote control.  It’s embarrassing.

What we need is Librarian Olympics!  Imagine a convention hall packed with hundreds of different types of copiers, fax machines, and e-readers and teams of librarians competing to troubleshoot the uncooperative machines in the shortest time…The training sessions alone would turn us all into brilliant mechanical engineers, never again to be beaten by so-called helpful technology.

I will be one of the first to sign up… Meanwhile, we will just have to be satisfied with more traditional librarian sports, like the Book Cart Drill teams. Yes, we know how to have fun.

The Warrior Librarians are one of my favorites:


Libraries | People | Technology | leave a comment

“Library” Cataloging Experience

I thought that cataloging would be my jam. My calling. My future. This assumption, for better or worse, was based on one thing: my iTunes library. Ever since I can remember, I have been militant when it comes to organizing my music. I have carefully constructed playlists by genre (Country, Hip-Hop, Rock, etc.), but I also have some that are not quite so easily categorized, such as “Chill,” “Random,” “Strange,” and “Guitar Hero” (thank you, junior year of college). My basic cataloging method is as follows: For every song in each of my playlists, the “Genre” field in iTunes contains the name of the playlist that the song is in. That way, if a playlist gets accidentally deleted, or I can’t remember whether I put a song in “Strange” or “Chill,” I can easily figure out where it lives. It isn’t sophisticated or foolproof, but it forces me to make deliberate categorizing decisions and gives me peace of mind.

One thing that I love about my iTunes library is that many of the choices that I make are completely arbitrary, but they make sense in my head. And, if I stumble across something that seems misplaced, I can re-categorize it as I see fit. That’s all there is to cataloging, right? Shouldn’t I have been able to test out of the required GSLIS cataloging course? Well, not quite. It didn’t take long for me to discover that in a real library, cataloging doesn’t quite work that way.

It turns out that real library catalogers are also militant, but in the sense that they must follow the rules. Not their rules, the rules. Standards, classification schemes, and guidelines reign supreme. There is little to no flexibility in library cataloging, and nothing is arbitrary. I understand why this is the case – imagine the confusion and inconsistencies that would crop up if all catalogers did their own thing. No two people would catalog my iTunes library the same way, which makes it feel, well, special to me. I have my own standards, classification scheme, and guidelines, darn it.

That said, I’m glad to be learning about the intricacies of library cataloging, although I’m pretty sure that my true cataloging calling doesn’t extend any further than iTunes. But they don’t call it an iTunes library for nothing, right?

Classes | Students | Technology | leave a comment

Librarian Stereotypes

So everyone knows the “Marian the Librarian” stereotypes. The big glasses, the bun, the pencil skirt, and the finger always ready to shush you.  (If you haven’t seen the Music Man, watch this!) Hopefully, those stereotypes are on the out. In fact there is a great Tumblr called This is What a Librarian Looks Like that shows that librarians are anything but that.

One stereotype that seems to persist though at Simmons is that librarians love cats. It has a basis in fact I guess since everyone around me seems obsessed. There are multiple GSLIS professors who use Lol Cats in their powerpoint presentations, my friends spend dinner oohing and aahing over cute animal pictures and even the “Be a Sweetie, Wipe the Seatie” sign in my hall’s bathroom is a kitten…I don’t know, perhaps I have no heart but that is one professional stereotype I do not represent. Cute children? Yes. Puppies? A lot of the time. Cats? Uh, no.

Sorry cats.

However, I have noticed something interesting about all the librarian friends I’ve been making during my Simmons education. There are an awful lot of sci-fi/fantasy fans. Perhaps it simply goes with the nerd territory but I don’t think I have ever seen so many Doctor Who fans outside of ComicCon (or Emerson, which has its own Doctor Who Fan Club). Perfectly ok with me! The grad school dorm is fondly nicknamed “North Castle” and the accompanying welcome handout urged students to think of it as the castle they like best “whether Hogwarts, Devil’s Run or Minas Tirith.”

It’s hard battling stereotypes in every realm and right now librarians are fighting the stereotype that libraries are antiquated when in fact librarians are some of the most tech-savvy people out there. (Or at least that is my experience as the librarian student next to me writes programming code that makes my jaw drop). Simmons College is focused on teaching these skills and it’s a very good thing. (Even though I hate my CSS assignment for this week). The stereotype of being cat-lovers or even Doctor Who fans won’t hurt the profession in the long run but if people consistently think we are out-dated, whether it is true or not, it will harm our chances to be useful to society at large. Simmons is fighting that and I’m glad to be a part of it!


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Instant Gratification

Yes, we live in that kind of culture. Yes, our society demands satisfaction from us RIGHT NOW. I have never been more aware of this need for speed now that I assist 13-year-olds with their research every day of the week. What is it about waiting for answers that makes us so itchy? Has Google gotten THAT good? Have we gotten that lazy? I ask myself these questions as I sit at this reference desk after I've had three different students ask me in a matter of 15 minutes what the difference is between reference and reserves, and why in the world they can't take these books out of the library. I suppose the library does seem antiquated with it's rules about not being able to take certain books out and only being able to take out only so many books/dvds/cds to a generation of young people who get whatever they want whenever they want it on the world wide web. This younger generation doesn't want to be limited. They want EVERYTHING.

In my reference class we've been discussing the importance of the different elements of the reference interview. Our professor stresses how important it is to make eye contact and connect with the patron. I'm 100% behind this idea. I'm all for reaching out, walking with the patron into the stacks, and making sure they have everything they need. I just don't know if the patrons of the future want that. So many of my students/patrons want the quickest of ready reference answers that are good enough. GOOD ENOUGH?! I have a hard time accepting this concept. In fact, I reject this concept until I realize that perhaps they're not looking for "good enough" and then walking away. Well, they are walking away from me, but not from their purpose. They're looking for a starting point to leap off the cliff into the chasm of information that is the world they live in. They're looking for a way in. I think it's hard for librarians of any stripe to give up that element of detective work. Helping a patron find the right resource is an exhilarating rush. The thrill of the chase is what people in our line of work love. But in an age where the reference is going virtual, I believe we can expect our patrons to love us and leave us in what feels like  seconds.

So what do we do? How do we become that efficient for the next generation of information seekers? I have a good idea that could put me on the cover of Time: "Librarian Discovers Way to Make Brain Work Faster!" Stay tuned for that next big idea.

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A Wonderfully Incurable Disease

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If you haven’t heard of Roy Tennant yet, you will. (No, to my knowledge, he is no relation to David Tennant of Doctor Who fame, although one can’t help but think of how library databases are like the Tardis – bigger on the inside! Sounds like a future post.)

Roy Tennant is often quoted for his 2001 statement: “…after all, isn't it true that only librarians like to search? Everyone else likes to find.” ( When I first encountered this reading, it made me laugh knowingly before I delved into the meat of the article about cross-database searching.  (A great article if you have the time, and he writes a lot of interesting stuff.)  You will hear arguments on both sides about how Tenannt’s statement is true or untrue, and in the world of librarian blogging, it has formed a life of its own.

I can only speak for myself.  I love to search and I love to find, but my desire to search is like an addiction, an incurable reference librarian disease.

When anyone I know has a question, I am always the first person to say, “I’ll find out.”  Is it because I want to find, because I want the kudos of bringing the answer? Sure, we all love kudos but my true love is the quest.  This has been my curse since I was a little girl, racing to find the most perfect answer before I raised my hand.  When I was an undergrad (pre-internet days), if I thought the perfect answer was in another library 50 miles away, I’d be on the next train.

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Dorm Living as a Grad Student

Many undergrads cannot wait to get out of the dorms and get their own place, so it almost seems a little backwards to go into the dorms as a grad student…and to stay there for a second year. As all my friends moved into apartments after their first year in GSLIS, I stayed. Not actually by choice, it’s a complicated story but there are some definite good sides.

Take for instance, yesterday. I’m a dual degree GSLIS and History student. I am taking a history class this semester that requires watching one film per week. Lucky for me though I never have to hunt them down, the library has them all on reserve. So I’ve gotten into the routine of making Saturday my “movie-watching day”(And when some of the films are 9 and half hours long it really is an all-day affair).

I grabbed a coffee and a snack from the café on the academic campus and went to go take out the movie. When the movie is on VHS there is a very nice media room to watch it in but I like when it’s on DVD so I can pop it into any computer next to my friend. Of course I realized almost immediately that I had forgotten my headphones… but no worries, Beatley Library to the rescue! Although slightly embarrassed to have to go back down to the cute circulation desk guy so soon, I simply had to go down to check out a pair.

4 hours of a 1960s Russian film later my friend and I decided we had worked hard enough for the day and made a snap decision that we would like to go shopping. We returned our books/movies/headphones and hopped on the bus that stops literally right outside the library. After shopping and eating dinner (at a very cute diner that made me a little homesick) the same bus dropped us off back in front of the dorms.

Of course there are some downsides of living in the dorms, dorm rooms are never palatial but for me the ability to be right on campus for anything that goes on and to be so close to so many things is a great payoff!

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