Student Snippets


My last blog post: Thoughts on education

This one's going to be a bit weird, but you know, so am I. So it's fitting.

There's some mixed info out there, but most agree that the word education comes from the Latin words educare, meaning to bring up and educere, meaning to bring forth. Others say that that Latin educare means to bring out, lead forth. So I think it's safe to say that education, etymologically, is about expansion and growth. Not the colonial concept of expansion and exploration- that of imposing your culture on others, but the expansion of our minds and therefore our very selves, whatever makes us a self.

I was at Amherst Explorations, an event that celebrates Amherst College student successes of the academic year, when one bright student presenter brought up this etymology and the idea of education as bringing out, leading forth; that concept of shifting & expanding the self. I call him bright not only for the obvious usual meaning adjectively: that he is quite smart; but for another reasons as well.  The Amherst College motto is Terras Irradient, "let them enlighten the lands," and this student did shine light on the concept of education for me. Bright indeed.

It was a total epiphany moment for me really, not a new idea epiphany- but one of those wonderful times when a network of ideas you've long had finally fit a bit better together thanks to one new piece of the puzzle. I like librarianship and I chose to move from nursing to this career for many reasons, not one easy to define reason- just as I noted in my first blog post for Student Snippets. But I will say that education in general is a big one of those reasons. It's why I'm working in an academic library right now as well, though certainly education comes from the resources and opportunities that public libraries and special libraries afford as well. Education has had such a big impact on my life. I know learning is a process that we are all undergoing throughout our lives, and that process doesn't require the big e Education in system form, necessarily. But it's the big e Education that I am talking about now. I am a school person. I'm not saying that's more valuable than not being a school person, I'm just explaining me. I like school. I like Education. It has almost always helped me; it has been my way out. I'm not going to say it's been my way up, because again that implies some value to the directions I've taken due to Education. But it has been my way out, and I have wanted out. Out was for me. Out is for me. It doesn't mean that staying In is bad, it's just that Out is for me. I was very lucky where and how I grew up, but I always wanted to explore. I dreamed of just walking and not stopping from the time I was very young, of seeing other places, of learning other things. And it has been Education that has gotten me where I want to go, or at least it has gotten me going even if I have no desire for a destination, but just for the going. I mean, walking got me going too- especially when we're talking about my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail.

But it was doing well in high school that got me Out of my town and into college where I learned so much. Not just about pharmacology (remember I was studying to be a nurse in undergrad), but I learned more about the world. I learned about other perspectives. My world expanded SO much. I was really into anthropology my first year, and my friend always made fun of me because he said I threw out "you know, in some cultures.." in almost every conversation. It was a really wonderful, expansive time. Again, I'm not saying you can't get that type of experience outside of college, outside of Education, but that's a big thing that did it for me.  I learned new ways of thinking and new ways of being. I learned of all the Out out there. Because of college I got a stellar job as a nurse too, traveling around the country and working with all sorts of people as patients and colleagues. I was challenged. I grew. I met people I will never forget. Some patients in particular let me into their world and thus again Out of my own.  

Fast forward 9 or so years and there I was again, back in Education, Out of nursing, Out of any comfort zone. Librarianship is a more radical field than I think most would imagine, and though the practices I have learned in this degree will be incredibly useful, it is the theories and overarching, holistic, expanding concepts I've learned from this program that will have greater effect long-term on me. I know a lot of folks don't like that about grad school. They want practical skills, not so much theory talk. But I'm all about the theory talk, because if I can understand the why of something I can better apply the how, no matter how much the how changes over time. And you'd be surprised how much the theory of how to organize information can affect your worldview, I kid you not. Because in the end everything relates to everything else, right? My world keeps expanding and I keep getting Out and it's only by getting Out of our world that we can look back and see it as one whole planet with boundaries that make it what it is and yet are meaningless. Anyway, here's to you Education. Maybe you're not the way Out for everybody, and maybe everybody doesn't want to be Out. But you sure as heck worked Out well for me.

And most importantly, thank you to my family and friends who supported me and gave me this crazy confidence that everything is going to work out and everything is possible and I can go back and Out and wherever I want to. I did what I did and I go where I go because y'all never made me think I couldn't. I just expected to have the chance for happiness because of you, and then I did.

And so long, SLIS West. Thanks for all the fish.    


PS: One final Terry Pratchett quote/s, this time from Going Postal:

Vetinari: "No sane mortal is truly free, because true freedom is so terrible that only the mad or the divine can face it with open eyes. It overwhelms the soul...What position would you take here, Drumknott?"

Drumknott: "I've always thought, my lord, that what the world really needs are filing boxes which are not so flimsy."

You  said Drumknott, you said it. 


Dig Libs & Graduates

My graduation is approaching and all you devotees to my snippets on this blog (hi Mom!), know that senioritis is really setting in for me. Actually, it has been there all semester pretty much, which is a little crazy since my graduate school experience has only consisted of 5 semesters, counting the summer when I took classes. So 1/5 of my time in grad school has been under the haze of senioritis. Aren't humans funny little things when it comes to anticipation? Anywho, I thought in this blog post I would use that senioritis focus and combine it with something I love to do- scour digital libraries for interesting ephemara, artificats, letters, pics, etc. So here you are blog followers and compatriots! The wonderful world of graduates as seen through collections in digital libraries around the states.

(note: I excluded videos & sounds in collections, but that's also a fun ride if you enthusiasts want to go exploring. Many of the sites cited below also have such materials available on the interwebs).


Who doesn't want to hopscotch after finishing up school?

1910 Amherst College Commencement (photograph by Justin B. Smith, class of 1909), retrieved from the Archives & Special Collections blog of Amherst College


He looks like he's got some plans...

June 1937 Touchstone (student publication at Amherst College that ran from 1936-1950 and was continued by The Sabrina (another student publication), retrieved from the Archives & Special Collections blog of Amherst College


You said it graduate! Let's hear it for the folks, whether their parents or spouses or friends or whatevs, who support us through this time, in all the different ways that they do!


Clark, Junebug. [Students at UNT Fall Commencement], photograph, December 13, 2013;( accessed April 18, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library,; crediting UNT Libraries Special Collections.

pizzollo_4-18c.jpgThis is the front cover to a little song book. I can't wait for the cherubs to come hang with me once I don my graduation cap.

Music Division, The New York Public Library. (1899 - 1899). Pretty Minnie Clare Retrieved from

pizzollo_4-18e.jpgThis is called "3 graduates on the steps of Westbrook highschool, Westbrook," so at least some folks here are likely graduates. I like this one because it's a stereograph (find out more here), and it makes me really thankful that I don't have to wear big heavy dresses outside in the current weather.

The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, The New York Public Library. 3 graduates on steps of Westboro highschool, Westbrook. Retrieved from



Last, but certainly not least, the first page of a Simmons College Commencement Program from 1910. Soon I'll hold the 2017 version in my hands. :-)

Simmons College, "Simmons College commencement program," in Daisie Miller Helyar, Item #103,  (accessed April 18, 2017).


Whole-self Librarianship

I learned passion and enthusiasm from my dad. My dad is a college English professor and his passions include subjects such as Victorian literature, poetry, Shakespeare, and John Milton. He has other passions as well that he indulges outside of the classroom, like birdwatching and playing the guitar. Both his professional and personal interests make up who he is and tend not to honor the distinction between "professional" and "personal." His academic interests follow him home from the office, work their way into casual conversation, and inform his worldview. Likewise, his personal interests flavor his teaching style and influence the way in which he relates to students and colleagues. I have observed my dad in his various capacities and positions within the home, at the workplace and in our church and I can tell you he is the same man all across the board.

I was reminded of the importance of passion at SLIS West on Saturday. First, there was the lunchtime panel on interview skills with Tom Raffensperger, the Dean of Academic Information Services and Library Director at Westfield State University and Jean Canosa-Albano, the Assistant Director of the Springfield City Libraries. Tom spoke several times on being genuine and Jean spoke of core values. One of the essential aspects, it seems, of an outstanding interview is the ability to be genuine, to be passionate, to know both what you love and what you stand for and express it well. Honesty and tact are required as well as some strategy regarding what and how you share. We were urged to remember that an interview goes both ways: both the interviewer and the interviewee are looking for that great fit and so accurate representation will benefit all parties.

In my afternoon class, Tech for Info Professionals, we ended up on a discussion of "whole-self librarianship" (I'm crediting my instructor, Abigail Baines with this term, since I had never heard it before and a precursory Google search did not turn up much). We had been talking about the personal websites we are creating for our final project and discussing the balance of professional/personal content. According to Abby, there are two approaches to this: one with a more rigid separation of personal and professional identities and another that embraces the "whole-self."

We discussed the implications of revealing certain personal details, ideologies, or beliefs in an interview or on a personal website and whether that could indeed hurt you professionally. But then it could be argued, do you want to end up at an institution that does not honor or support your values and individuality? I believe that in many cases (such as my dad), allowing certain beliefs, convictions, personal experiences and hobbies to permeate your professional life actually makes you better at what you do, and able to relate to others on a more meaningful level. And my dad has found an institution that is a very good fit for his personality.

The takeaway for me from all this is to know who you are, what you love, and what you stand for and to weave that into everything you do. What are your core values? Why do you want to be a librarian? What mark do you hope to leave on the profession? Understanding these things is a journey all of its own, and one that may be constantly evolving. Have someone ask you these questions and get some practice answering them. I often find that I don't know if I know something until I have to express it to somebody else. It suddenly becomes clear that either I have no idea what I'm talking about, or that I actually have some pretty strong convictions that I didn't realize I had or weren't fully formed until I said them out loud.




10 things I didn't expect to learn by becoming a librarian (but I did)

1. How to make memes and animated gifs


There's lots of easy ways to make them. My favorite is using Photoshop. DPLA has a list of resources on how to here and they run a boss contest every year with some great results like this one: 




2. How to make book earrings 

Library fashion is the best fashion, y'all. It's so much fun, and it's not all book related. (Though there is a lot of that). 


3. What the semantic web is

I don't know that I'd even heard that term before, and in general, I didn't really get how much of librarianship is about technology and playing well together in the sandbox with every other information provider in the "digital age." I'm not gonna explain the semantic web here, but it and RDF and linked data and all the good stuff that comes with are super interesting and worth finding out more about if you don't know about them yet. Oh, on this note, I don't think I expected to learn some coding either, but I have. Woot.


4. The drama that ensued between families over who "owned" Emily Dickinson's work after she passed away

And other stories that you get to learn when you're describing archival objects every day. It's like a historical People magazine but without context, so you have to pull those stories together in your head. (well, plus in the case of Dickinson and many other materials there's also lots of other research and context out there to help you figure stuff out). 


5. How to pretend like I'm on the Star Trek Enterprise

If you've got access to an academic library's resources, they often have media labs which may even include a greenscreen room. Awesome, right? I did not have access to a greenscreen room at the time, but a blue quilted blanket hanging on my clothesline in the backyard did the trick. Obvi, Picard, Worf, and Wesley are waiting on me as their leader to decide what's next. (oh, by the way, this was for a video- if it was just a picture I wouldn't have really needed the whole greenscreen thing).


(background image from Star Trek TNG episode)


6. What recto and verso mean

Yup, I didn't get this before, and it actually comes up very often for me in cataloging and doing metadata. Also, there's a lot of times people "misuse" it. (I put misuse in quotes because language is meant to be fluid, so I'm not generally very prescriptive when it comes to it).  


So, you've got a piece of paper in your hand right? Okay, now fold it, write some stuff on each page. How many pages do you have? Well, if you wrote on all of them then it's a 4 page thing now, right? But it was one piece of paper with one front (recto) and one back (verso) to begin with, yes? Books are made the same way, the sheet of paper is a leaf but each half is a page. These are concepts I didn't get pre-LIS school, and didn't know I needed to get for librarianship. Can't know you don't know what you don't know, right? 


7. What copyright law is, what it's real purpose is, and where to find stuff that's cool for you to use

Spoiler alert: copyright wasn't actually created just to protect the rights of people publishing stuff. It was and is meant to "promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." (Copyright Clause of the U.S. Constitution.)

The first time I read that, I was like 


(this image c/o giphy & product hunt)

​It's for progress, y'all! 


My first teacher to mention open education resources had already piqued my interest in that area because I don't buy textbooks (unless I am totally in love with them and will use them after class for a long time). I loan them. This seems normal, I am a librarian after all. But that initial interest relating to my tendency to be frugal turned into a lot more; I started thinking about the tenets of librarianship, equity of access, and why I was changing professions. And now I'm all about fair use and all the opens (Open Access, Open Education, Open Data, and so on). It's the same drive I had before I knew what to call this way of thinking about sharing info, I just now know a bit more about how to share ethically and legally. 


And on that note, there's lots of good ways to find things that are licensed so that you can use them like this one: I am a big fan of the Free Music Archive especially. Plus many digital libraries have public domain and CC0 (look up creative commons for more) materials you can use.  


8. How much librarians love cats 

Okay, I know pop culture is big on cats anyway right now, but dang. There are a lot of librarians, especially LIS students it seems, who really freakin' love cats. I like cats, and dogs, and lots of other animals, but I do not reach the level of cat love that seemingly most of my co-students are at. Especially because my hubby is pretty dang allergic to them. 


9. A bit on the history of photography

Similar to learning about the drama over Emily Dickinson's manuscripts, I didn't expect to learn stuff like what daguerreotypes, cyanotypes, glass plate negatives, or stereoscopics are. Or about different film types like 35mm, 4x5 sheet, and 120mm. Or about brownie cameras and why the perspective on some photos is different than what we normally see now (because they shot from the hip, partner). But I did learn about this stuff because I a. needed to be able to describe it for my job or b. because my classmates are awesome and have all different types of backgrounds (including photography). 


10. It's totally cool to still be in to puppets or stuffed animals, or whatevs

I mean, as long as you're professional about it. But I've made video tutorials on using the website for library patrons (geared towards kids with families) and even shot a scholarship entry using puppets and/or stuffed animals (like the kind you play with, not a bear rug). 'Cause it's good to have your things that you care about or that you're good at or that you love that don't necessarily pertain to librarianship at first glance. Whether it's that you like to shoot puppet videos or love arts & crafts or are a runner, you may find opportunities to use that in your work. Arts & crafts day at the library anyone? 


Libraries are full of all types of resources from War & Peace to People magazine, right? So it makes sense that the librarians in them are just as varied and well rounded. 


Until next week friends, 




This week's The Great TP quote: 

"The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it."
― Terry Pratchett, Diggers


Do You Have Time?

Last week, I began a study in the name of science (and academic success)! You see, while counseling with my advisor recently, I was given this handy little factoid that you should expect to spend 10 hours on your coursework for each class, per week (in addition to class time). I had never heard this before! In the following weeks I began to wonder how many hours I was actually spending on my homework. So I decided to pay more attention to my time usage and record hours spent on schoolwork. These are the questions I hoped to answer:

How much time do I spend on schoolwork in a week outside of class?

How difficult is it to achieve the optimal 20 hours?

Are those 20 hours sufficient for completing my assignments?

How is my workflow? How efficiently do I work?

For the purposes of this study, I have not included activities such as reading/responding to school-related email or writing blog posts as part of "homework time." This study is in its early stages and ongoing, but the results have already been illuminating. I've always been one to keep a record of various aspects of my life. I've been keeping journals since forever, and 2016 was the first year I used a paper planner which I love for tracking goals, meals, workouts, and such things. It was a simple matter to begin recording how much time I spent on homework each day.

I have discovered that it really is a challenge to fit in 20 hours, but 17 is fairly realistic. The first full week I got 20 hours but that's only because classes were cancelled (on April Fool's Day, ha!) so I had some extra homework time. This week, I doubt I'll make it to 20, but it seems that 17 hours is sufficient to be prepared for class when it's a "normal" workload week. There will be weeks when a big assignment or presentation is due and I'll probably be busting my booty to squeeze in 20 hours or more.

For me, I find that everything has its trade-off. I'm a stay-at-home mom so it could be argued that I have more control and flexibility in how I incorporate schoolwork into my schedule. The trouble is, everything I'm doing in my life right now is important, and school simply cannot have the top slot. For the large portion of the day when my two young children are awake (about 7am - 8pm) I cannot sit down and give my schoolwork the focus and attention it needs without neglecting my children and household duties to some degree. I made a promise to myself before I started school that I would not let my family bear the burden of my dream to pursue a master's degree. In order to keep that promise, the bulk of my homework is relegated to my small precious window of "discretionary" time (which I used to spend reading, planning, and watching Netflix).

I'm sure all of you understand the struggle of prioritizing and managing your time. Everyone has stuff in their life. Time commitment is obviously a huge consideration when contemplating grad school, and it's hard to get a good idea of what it will actually look like until you're right in the thick of it. I hope some of my observations will help you take a closer look at how you currently use up the hours in your day to determine whether you could fit in school and still be successful. I have tons more to say about this (and a lot more to learn), so stay tuned for future blog posts about goals, productivity, and time management!

GSLIS West | classes

It's the Final Countdown

* 26 days until I finish at SLIS West (our campus has to end a bit earlier than Boston because we use the Mount Holyoke Campus classrooms)

* 26 days until my digital libraries class presents at our graduation party, till I celebrate with SLIS West students and alums for our end of the year celebration, and till I get my special SLIS West tote bag signifying I am an alumna :)

* 29 days until I finish my SLIS Boston class

* 46 days until I walk at commencement in Boston

* 44 days until I figure out what to put on the top of my hat for said commencement (ideas welcome)

* an unknown number of days until it really feels like spring

* 1, 418 days (if I'm calculated correctly) until Amherst College celebrates it's bicentennial (I'm the Bicentennial Project Metadata Librarian, so this is an important countdown for me)

* and, well, I think this should end here- I'm getting a little nervous counting down the days of my life.

My momma did always say "don't wish your life away," and I have totally loved my time at grad school. But, I am pretty stoked about being done soon. This semester has been a tough one- my classes are great, but they require a lot of homework time, and getting this new job (which is awesome and I'm so happy and grateful) means I have a bit less of that time. So, ironically, I find myself occasionally wishing for May 3 to be here (that's my last class day) so that I'll more time. In other words, wishing time to go by so that I have more of it- which is a bit of a self-defeating thing, really. Simultaneously, the prospect of the last day of classes rapidly approaching makes me super nervous because I still have a lot of work to do to get ready for those last presentations!

It's all good, though, a little non-runnin-for-your-life stress is good for me. Plus, I've given up coffee and lots of other things to do an anti-inflammatory diet, so being jacked up about school is serving as an adequate replacement for my normally caffeine-fueled level of energy.

Anywho, enjoy the week everyone! We had to cancel our SLIS West panel on libraries in the New England states on Saturday due to the weather, but this Saturday's panel full of hiring managers talking about what they look for in librarian candidates should be pretty awesome.


This week's The Great TP quote:
""Even our fears make us feel important, because we fear we might not be."
~Terry Pratchett, Nation

Fun | Getting a Job | Jobs | Real World | Students

Less is more: Small scale librarianship

One of the great things that I love about attending SLIS West is the lunchtime events. Many of my blog posts will probably contain thoughts and reflections from the latest SLIS West speaker or presentation, especially since I plan to attend ALL OF THEM. Part of my motivation for this is the free lunch provided. Listen: I think I've had to bring my own lunch only twice this entire semester. This is a great, great thing. The food that they get for these events is excellent. Also, I am like an eager little sponge that just wants to soak up all the library stuff, and this is an easy and convenient way to do it!

So, last Saturday we heard from Andrea Bernard, Library Director at the Tyler Memorial Library in Charlemont, MA and one of 10 I Love My Librarian Award winners in 2016. I just have to quote this section from the story about Andrea's award:

"Andrea Bernard will go out of her way to serve her library patrons. Just ask Stephen Ferguson, her nominator for a 2016 I Love My Librarian Award. Ferguson said he lives alone on a dirt road in the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts. After undergoing major spinal surgery, he was housebound for four months. "Throughout the winter, in all kinds of weather, my librarian, Andrea Bernard, brought me an endless supply of books, driving her personal vehicle after library hours. Because Andrea takes a personal interest in all of her patrons, she knew just what books to bring me."
Ferguson also said Bernard "has renewed his love of libraries."

Not only is Bernard the director of this tiny little rural library, she is the only employee. So actually, Andrea Bernard IS the library. This talk really resonated with me because I have lived in small rural towns my entire life (but not quite as small as Charlemont). I grew up using these small, underfunded public libraries and then worked in the small academic library of the small, private university where I did my undergrad. And here's the thing about working in small towns and small institutions: you wear a lot of hats. You learn to do things for yourself, because you can't pay someone else to do it. You may have to learn about the laws governing the replacement of certain kinds of lightbulbs, and change them yourself. You may have to find creative solutions to problems using the resources you already have. You find yourself doing things you never thought would fall under your job description. But all of this means that you truly have the opportunity to make the job your own. And the other thing about working in a small town: you will get to know everybody. You find yourself catering more to individuals than to the aggregate. And you will quickly see your work making a difference in the lives of the people that you come to love as you serve them. And this is what librarianship is all about, right? Making connections with people and building communities?

I was so inspired by Andrea's talk, and I wanted to write about it because I feel like small institutions have to work so much harder to justify their existence and their validity. Places with the numbers, and the funding, and the name recognition command respect and prestige, but that doesn't make their work any more important than that which goes on in the out-of-the-way corners of the world. So I guess what I want to say is: don't write off an opportunity just because it comes from a tiny place you've never heard of. And listen to what these small-town folks have to say! They are the true diamonds in the rough.

Events | Libraries | People | Real World

Harvard Internship Part 2

Another guest blog by current student, Sarah Nafis. Sarah is in her second year of the dual Archives/History (MS/MA) program. Since moving to Boston, she's exploring the city one restaurant at a time and has learned to embrace the quirks of public transportation.


My internship at Harvard's Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments (CHSI) is still going well. Now that the craziness of getting the new exhibit up and running has passed, we've been able to spend more time on the collection. The physical records aren't in great condition; however, we were lucky enough to find a digital copy of the entire collection. The collection was scanned in the late 1990s and having the digital records will help make the collection more accessible to researchers once we finish all of the processing. I'm more interested in digital preservation and part of my job is working to preserve the digital files. As a result, I haven't done as much work on the physical preservation of the collection. But it's been really interesting seeing how the collection is evaluated and all of the different considerations that are taken into account before creating a preservation plan. An important part of the preservation process is deciding how the records will be stored. After examining the collection, it was decided that the records needed to be rehoused. But before that can happen, we need to maintain the information on the original boxes. It took some investigative work, but we were able to determine that the markings on the original boxes tell the location of the materials prior to being packed and donated to CHSI. We're slowly pulling all of these different pieces (the boxes, records, photographs, and background research) together to gain a better understanding of the collection and to inform how we are going to move forward in creating the finding aid. 


I Am No Charles Schulz

I'm kind of out of words lately. ACRL last week was super fun and awesome, and I highly recommend taking advantage of conferences as much as you can. It's great way to know what other folks are doing across the library land and to get motivation and practical advice for your own role and community. But, I am kind of not functioning at high octane levels right now mind-wise. ACRL and the travel to and from while trying to keep up with my 2 classes (which are awesome but the most work intensive courses I've had my whole grad school time) and settle into my new position at work has left me a little out of articulation energy and wherewithal. So, here's a bad comic I made today to illustrate my current feelings about dealing with Dublin Core- a specific metadata schema- for my digital libraries project with class. 


PS: don't mistake this post for me grumbling about being stressed/overwhelmed or even about me not loving Dublin Core. I am a bit overwhelmed with school right now, but I also constantly realize that I am bananas lucky to have all the opportunities I have- including to go to grad school and do what I love and the luxury of finding school the most stressful thing in my life right now.

Hasta next week y'all,

Events | SLIS | classes | conferences

Why You Should Go to Library School (or more specifically, SLIS West)

A post from our new student blogger, Megan Ondricek.

Since you are here, reader, I can probably safely assume that you are already in grad school or seriously considering it. Maybe you don't need convincing. But if you're like me when I was researching my options, you might be having some questions like, "Is library school/SLIS West for me?" "Will it further my dreams and ambitions?" "Am I going to like it?" Here are some of the happy discoveries I've made so far that have confirmed that coming to SLIS West was the right thing for me to do:

  1. SLIS West is small! The program generally enrolls around 80 students. Your classes will be small, your discussions will be intimate, and you will get to know most of your classmates and make friends quickly.
  2. The setting is quaint and beautiful. Don't get me started on how much I love the Mount Holyoke campus and surrounding environs. This really needs its own blog post.
  3.  Students here come from all ages and stages of life, and bring diverse experiences to the classroom. It's wonderful to interact with your classmates and learn about their past and current lives and come to the realization that any path can lead to grad school, with the right motivation and determination.
  4. Homework could be more properly referred to as "professional development." The assignments are interesting, relevant to your field, and lead to practical knowledge that you will most likely use on the job!
  5. Group work turns out to be something you enjoy! What was once an onerous chore in undergrad has transformed into a real-world practice of professional collaboration. In my limited experience, teamwork has only ever improved my grade on an assignment.

In short, I am loving my grad school experience so far. If someone had explained all these things to me when I was making my decision, I might have wasted less time feeling fearful and uncertain. Best of luck to you all!


Introducing a New Blogger!

Hello everyone! We'd like to introduce one of our new student bloggers, Megan Ondricek. Please read her bio below:

My name is Megan Ondricek and I live in Norwalk, Connecticut with my husband and two children, a four-year old boy and two-year old girl. I'm currently in my first semester of grad school, driving two hours to attend class on Saturdays at SLIS West and so far, I haven't met anyone else who travels farther! My current profession is stay-at-home mom, and past jobs have included library assistant, administrative assistant, and a Smithsonian museum intern. I've lived in Connecticut for about three years now, having lived in southwestern Virginia for the previous fifteen years. I am a small-town girl, outdoor enthusiast, cat-lover, Francophile, art admirer who at one point wanted nothing more than to become a park ranger. Fun fact: I met my husband on the library shuttle eight years ago, and so I guess libraries were always destined to make bold brushstrokes on the canvas of my life. I love school always and forever and I'm not ashamed to say it!


Post Spring Break-a-thon

So long Spring Break, and thanks for all the fish! 

Spring Break was fun. You know: non-stop parties, sunbathing, margaritas, that kind of thing. JUST KIDDING! hahaha. buwahhahahahah! (I could go on but will spare you).

I'm in grad school and per my situation in life that was not my personal spring break experience. It was nice, though, to have a break from classes so that I could catch up on homework and reading for class (so exciting, right?!) and because I just increased my working hours. Why the increase in hours? Well...

I got a professional librarian job! Wohoo! I'm now the Bicentennial Metadata Librarian at Amherst College and thoroughly stoked about it. I get to create metadata and metadata guidelines for digitized collections that are going to be made available in ACDC (rock on! No, actually it stands for Amherst College Digital Repository). I'll especially be working on digital collections that highlight the history of Amherst College and its alumni and students for the upcoming Bicentennial of the college in 2021. So that's fun! It means that I'm going to pull some late evenings and keep having Sundays as The Day of Bountiful Homework Work (Saturdays would be this too, but I have class and work at the school) until the end of the semester when I graduate, but that's a-okay with me.

In other news, we have our Dean's Lunch this coming Saturday at SLIS West, and I always enjoy that event. The Dean of SLIS comes out to the west campus and has lunch with us in between our 2 Saturday class sessions. We get to ask questions, provide input on the program, and all that kind of jam. Plus, lunch is delicious.

Otherwise this week I'll be finishing up a cataloging assignment, and it's ridiculous how much fun I have referencing RDA and getting down to nitty gritty details like:
me: "should this have a space semicolon or just a semicolon immediately following the word?"
other me: "I think a space."
me: "hmm, well can you cite the RDA rule for that?"
other me: "no."
me: "well then, let's go to RDA and investigate! shall we?"
other me: "splendid idea! genius!"

I'm also finishing up a presentation for my digital libraries class on the International Children's Digital Library which has been really fun because that site is just cool and you can read kid's books in a lot of different languages! Digital storytime ideas are abounding. Plus I'm working on metadata for that class and reviewing DCRM (a content standard model- i.e., not the structure of how you describe something, but how and what you should describe about something. RDA is a content standard too.) so that I'm ready to create a best practices document with the rest of the metadata team in my digital libraries class. Lastly, I'm investigating the changes from FRBR to the IFLA LRM, how they might affect RDA, and especially how it might change or improve the way we treat aggregating works. It's okay if that last part doesn't make sense, you learn all this lingo in lib school. Or you don't. It depends on what you're into, friends! That's one nice thing about library grad school versus the nurse practitioner grad school I went to, unless you're in a specific concentration of the program, you can pretty much design your own curriculum and explore what you wish.

Anywho, busy week but good week. Hopefully this nor'easter won't make it to tough to drive to class in Boston on Wednesday night. Everyone stay safe, have a great week, and learn something new!


This week's The Great TP quote (sorry I skipped this last blog post since I didn't want to sully his name by having it anywhere near my bad metadata poetry).
"It is well known that a vital ingredient of success is not knowing that what you're attempting can't be done. A person ignorant of the possibility of failure can be a half-brick in the path of the bicycle of history."
Terry Pratchett, Equal Rites.

Events | Getting a Job | Presentations | Real World | SLIS West | Students

Guest Blog About Internships

We have a special guest blog post this week by current SLIS student, Sarah Nafis.

Sarah is in her second year of the dual Archives/History (MS/MA) program. Since moving to Boston, she's exploring the city one restaurant at a time and has learned to embrace the quirks of public transportation.

Exploring Internship Opportunities

It's hard to believe that it's spring break and the semester is already halfway over. Summer will be here before you know it. This year instead of taking summer classes, I decided look for a summer internship.

One of the great parts of being at SLIS is the exposure to practical, hands-on skills and experiences inside and outside the classroom. Since starting at SLIS, I've already had two internships. My first internship at the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts was part of the Introduction to Archives course (LIS 438). LIS 438 is one of the first courses archives students take and a 60 hour internship is built into the class. Simmons has a wide network of internship sites and students are typically matched with one of their top three choices from the LIS 438 internship database.

It's also possible to find internships on your own that are not taken for credit. There are mulitple ways to learn about internships. Faculty and student organizations will email possible job and internship opportunities. The Jobline is another great resources for students look for internships. And finally, there's your personal and/or professional network. I found my current internship at Harvard's Collection of Historical Scientific instruments (CHSI)  via a co-worker. CHSI has a large collection of physical objects as well as books and archival materials relating to the objects in the collection. My supervisors worked with me to tailor my internship experience around my interests. I'm working with a collection of records for a Boston surveying company to create an online finding aid and exploring digital preservation possibilities. This internship has been a great learning experience, especially because I don't have a background in science or surveying instruments. But now I can use Mino-Blake-type automatic rotary microtome (a tool to cut extremely thin slices of materials for samples) in a sentence. If you're interested in seeing the collection, CHSI currently has two exhibits, Life, Time & Matter: Science in Cambridge and Scale: A Matter of Perspective (opening 3/10/2017). 


Ode To Metadata

We've reached that time in the semester that I refer to as the grind. It's not overwhelming, it's not all time-consuming, but it is a grind. Read, write, exercise (cataloging exercises, not the sweatin' to the oldies kind), repeat. And so, I need a grind break. Therefore, this blog post will be a poem- a bad poem.

Ode to metadata

We learn all about you,
data about data,
and then we learn quickly-
that that don't come near to explaining ya'

You're the label on the can of soup.
The title of a book,
the stuff we need to know to find that
for which we look.

You help us keep stuff separate;
and so, we can lump things together.
Because of you, I run a search,
and find all the books written about leather.

You're the love notes to ourselves,
and to future library fellers.
So that we know how to take care
of the treasures in our cellars.

Without you
I would not know who took this pic,
or if it's of a magic wand
or just a wayward stick.

So here's to you metadata
because I never met a data
I didn't like.


Fun | SLIS | SLIS West

Other Librarianing Fun

Well hello there, blog watchers! It's been a whirlwind of a time for me the last couple of weeks. I'm thankful to have a few big presentations inside and outside of classroom out of the way so I can catch up on some reading (for class- of course, but also for Discworld- of course). Yesterday was sunny and reached up into the high 40s where I am in MA, so I'm feeling pretty good this fine President's Day.

I thought it would be fun to devote this blog post to some things you may not get a lot of in depth experience with in LIS school, but you will get to experience in the wide world of libarianing (with variation of course depending on your specific position). This post was inspired by my SLIS West buddy Jenney when she told our friend "way to embrace the glue and glitter!" after he shared some recent projects he'd done.

Readers' Advisory - okay, you do get time spent on this in school- especially depending on the classes, and certainly in reference which is a required course. But the frequent practice of it in the library in the "real world" setting made me put it here. There is still a need for librarians to love books and to love suggesting them to folks based on their interest, reading level, and whatever else!

Book Displays - Murder on Valentine's is always a fun one

Decorative displays - paper hearts, snowflakes, a Dungeons and Dragons decorative display, oh my!

Seed cataloging - because it's not just books, ebooks, audio cd's, cassette tapes, VHS, Kindles, records, Walkman's, board and card games, CD players, DVDs, headphones, magazines, parks passess, museum passes, kayaks (yup), lifejackets, flashlights, camping kits, kid's outdoor study kits, microscopes, and electricity use testing supplies we have at the library! And no one wants to find out that they're growing fennell when they wanted to grow basil. Oh- so you should also make sure you know how to use all these things too! Yup, even that typewriter you allow patrons access to.

Book repair­ - 'cause, you know, stuff gets used. You know how it is- who wants to put down that page turner just because you have to bathe?

Help people figure out the organization of the shelves - whether it be Dewey, LC classification numbers, or even last name of author or illustrator. Hey, don't judge 'em, I had a tough time as a patron with LCCNs especially at first too- and I still have to sing my alphabet in my head when I'm re-shelving.

Interact with people, all types of people, at all different stages of their life, from different places, with different languages, with different abilities, with different stories. It's easy, right? We're librarians, we love stories, and every person has a story- so just love people too, okay? Be nice. Don't comment on their book selections. Be okay with them talking about PTA or selling their house or being a soldier stationed abroad. We're lucky that people want to talk to us. So, listen.

And on that last note, we had a great speaker at SLIS West this weekend. Rodney Obien, Head of Special Collections & Archives at Keene State College came and spoke with us about the human side of archives. The fact that you're working with materials of lived experience, often meaning that those who created them are no longer living, or that those donating them are at the end of life or end of career or end of well, you just don't know. But, they're often in transition. We talk a lot about theory and working with users/communities. But, you can't teach everything in a class. And every person and every relationship is it's own story, not a case study. It was wonderful hearing from Rodney about this aspect of working in archives, this human relationship side of archives and living and working with the reality that we are all mortal. Memento Mori.

Thanks for reading y'all!

This week's The Great TP quote:
"WORDS IN THE HEART CANNOT BE TAKEN." ― Terry Pratchett, Feet of Clay

Fun | Reader's Advisory | Real World | SLIS | SLIS West

The Interview Process

I'm in my last semester at SLIS West, and that means it's time to start applying for professional jobs! Woohoo! Especially because I'm primarily interested in working in an academic library, I've got to be applying for things pre-graduation whenever possible. Sometimes the academic library hiring process can take a little while, and I'm hoping to have a professional level job immediately after graduation if not before it. Of course, this all depends on jobs available and all that jazz. I have been lucky enough to get a few interview opportunities for professional jobs this semester, and the hiring/application process for academic librarian jobs is quite different compared to what I experienced as a nurse or as a library student. Sometimes it involves 2 interviews- one with just a search committee, and then if you're invited back, a longer interview day with more library staff. Sometimes it's just one interview. Often, for the longer interview day, you're also required to present on a topic assigned by the search committee.

So, yes, I know that having multiple presentations you have to do in every library class can be frustrating, but it also is totally worth it. Public speaking is tough, at least for me, and the only thing that makes it better is having to do it over and over again. So, thank you all you instructors out there who've made me give presentations in front of classes.

The longer interview day also usually consist of a tour, meeting with library departments where they may ask you questions, and a meeting with HR. Each interview day has been a bit different organization wise, of course, but a lot of them had all these main elements. What a difference from my nursing interviews that involved meeting one on one with the nurse manager and then maybe a quick tour! I think it's evidence, though, of the nature of academic librarianship. Libraries seem willing to really invest in their employees and there's a lot of internal (library departments) and external (other academic departments/people) collaboration. I won't lie, these type of interviews have been a bit more stressful for me than the ones from my prior career, but I just remind myself that nervousness and excitement involve nearly identical physiological responses. So, it's all in your frame of mind. So I'm telling myself "hey, you're not nervous, you're excited you rock star you!!!"

Good luck to all as they are applying and interviewing. If you're a SLIS West student- there's also going to be some events coming up in a Spring 2017 Career Series Panel: Nuts & Bolts of Library Resumes and Cover Letters on February 25 and a panel discussion with library directors and managers on April 8. See ya there!

PS: This week's Terry Pratchett quote:

The Library didn't only contain magical books, the ones which are chained to their shelves and are very dangerous. It also contained perfectly ordinary books, printed on commonplace paper in mundane ink. It would be a mistake to think that they weren't also dangerous, just because reading them didn't make fireworks go off in the sky. Reading them sometimes did the more dangerous trick of making fireworks go off in the privacy of the reader's brain.
-TP, Soul Music

Getting a Job | Jobs | Real World | Students

Hands-On Archival Experience

As an online student, I almost felt a twinge of jealousy when I saw that school would be cancelled in Boston on Thursday due to the imminent snow storm. But then I remembered that means I don't have to deal with the snow. Or the ice. Especially the ice--with an armful of books, I'm a walking disaster, and it's a rare moment that I am without an armful of books. Instead, I decided to gear up for internship season--with deadlines looming, I feel as though I am constantly sending emails to professors arranging for references when I'm not reading course material. Now that my Introduction to Archives course has begun, I have also been spending a significant amount of time at my internship location. I currently work at a non-archives job while attending school, so it has felt unbelievably amazing to get my hands on archival materials again. These materials belong to a public library whose archive contains a significant amount of local history materials. I am currently processing the personal papers of one local preservationist who was very active in the community spreading awareness of the unique history and architecture in the city where I live. Looking through her papers has given me an opportunity to get to know my city better, and I am constantly sending local friends images from this collection (with permission, of course!). The collection has also spurred several ideas for potential collaboration between the library and local schools--the individual's papers feature a significant amount of educational material related to local history that could potentially be used to provide students with insight on their city. Additionally, the archive has a lot of primary source material that can be easily duplicated or viewed and used as topics of study in courses covering local history. Suffice to say, nobody can call this collection monotonous--I am constantly pleasantly surprised by some of the things that I've found.  

Archives | Classes | Fun | Internships | New England | Online | SLIS

I Chose Simmons SLIS Online

It's a bit surreal to think that last year around this time, I had just submitted my applications for various library schools around the country. I was still torn between whether I wanted to attend an online or in-person program, but I knew that I wanted a high quality education to enable me to be a contributing and active member of the archival profession. I also wanted to be part of a cohort of students that was thoughtful and engaged in their approach to their education and would take a proactive approach in becoming competent and capable professionals. As you can tell, I chose Simmons. Recent events served to solidify my decision that I made the right choice.

Watching Simmons students take an active role in archiving materials created by the Women's March on Washington only served to cement my decision--this was not a group of individuals pursuing this degree in an apathetic way. These were people who wanted to make a genuine change in the profession, and who I would get to grow with as a cohort and discuss ideas with in class.

As an online student at Simmons, I receive exactly the same experience that I would were my classes in-person. The primary difference is that I can complete courses according to how I learn best, and not be concerned with how I can schedule classes around my job. I find that my ability to participate in discussion is greatly enhanced in an online format. Rather than verbally discussing ideas that are often immature, I have the opportunity to carefully consider my thoughts and increase my understanding of the subject. One consequence is that I can then discuss these ideas with prominent scholars on the faculty at Simmons, and further learn from these dialogues. 

Archives | Online | People | Students

FRBR is dead, long live FRBR!

Okay, this post won't really be about IFLA LRM, the model that will be replacing FRBR LRM/FRBR/FRAD/FRSAD, but I couldn't resist putting a little nod to it as the title of this week's blog post. Those who heard news from ALA Midwinter regarding FRBR and the conceptual model IFLA LRM might think it's funny, and so that title was for you, kids. Though it's not going to be called FRBR anymore, and it certainly is not FRBR- there's a lot of similarities with FRBR in the IFLA LRM- so never fear, peasants. There is still a lord in the land of understanding the bibliographic universe.

Okay, so for you non-cataloging enthusiasts out there, hello! and back to reality and "normal" English we go...
We're in our second week of classes for the semester. I have one (descriptive cataloging, hence the above little intro) on Wednesdays, and one on Saturdays. Both are on topics that I'm super excited about and that are really applicable to my current job as a metadata intern, so I'm pretty stoked this semester. My Saturday class is digital libraries. Both classes, however, also seem a bit like camping, in that they are intense. (in tents, intense, get it?) So, you might see some weird or stressed out blog posts from me this semester. SLIS West had a nice first day of classes last week with LISSA West hosting a yummy lunch in the SLIS West Office. This week I'm reading like a mother goose and I'm working on mapping out the dissected pieces of an information resource. Sound like fun? You should totally go to library school then.

I'll have lots more to write about next week, but that's pretty much all I got right now. Like I said, my hours are filled up with reading when I'm not working, so there's a little glimpse (snippet) at the life of a student, for you. I'm also still trying to spend time working out, meditating, cooking, and advocating for refugees. So, you may get a future post from me about libraries & refugees. and/or libraries & cooking and libraries & exercise and libraries & mindfulness, ha- those would be fun too.

Have a good weekend, all.

PS: I'm going to start ending every blog post with a Terry Pratchett quote, because I am still an avid fiction reader when not reading about cataloging and digital libraries, and mostly because I totally love the Great TP's work. So let's begin with:

"Someone out there was about to find that their worst nightmare was a maddened Librarian. With a badge."
Terry Pratchett, Guards! Guards!

Classes | Conferences | Presentations | SLIS

"SLIS Wester"

PS (presript in this case rather than post): I like the term SLIS Wester. SLIS Westerner would of course be more technically appropriate if you're uptight about prescriptive language. I'm not sure if anyone else uses either of these terms- so if you decide to start going around being like "hey, SLIS Westers, let's go party!" and get only blank stares, don't say I didn't warn you.

Welp, the winter break is coming to a close. I've started my pre-class reading for the course that required it, but mostly this weekend has been about lounging around and working on fun little projects- taking advantage of my last weekend without class or homework for a while. Recently, I had someone ask me about being a SLIS West student compared to being a Simmons Boston student, and I figured- hey! why not make this explanation a blog post too. Now, of course the problem with trying to answer "what is it like to be a SLIS West student?" is that it's like asking someone "what's is it like to be a student?" or to get real broad on ya, "what is it like to be a human?" My perspective and experience is not going to be an accurate representation of all SLIS Westers, cause I'm just me. Nevertheless, I'll speak about what it's like for me.

SLIS West has been a great choice for LIS school for me. I'm in this area with my hubby while he gets his doctorate. We moved around the country for a while based on life goals for each one of us- and coming here and staying here for the time it takes for him to finish school was a joint decision. We'll be in this area (Western Mass) for about 6 years or so most likely- and we bought a house last year. So, up and moving to Boston wasn't really an option. I know a lot of SLIS Westers have careers and children and partners and equally can't really move to Boston for school. Plus, tbh, I've lived in Boston often the last 10 years or so and it's not really my fave place to live. If we were just moving somewhere for my school and SLIS West didn't exist- I probably would have ended up at a different school. I could commute to Boston and be a Simmons Boston student- and indeed I'm taking one in Boston this semester, but having SLIS West as a campus is nice for more than just avoiding that commute and the crazy price of parking in beantown.

There's a nice sense of the SLIS West community out here because there's only 70 or so of us compared to, I don't know, thousands of SLIS students at Simmons Boston. Folks do drive from all over, so it's not always easy to coordinate hang outs- but if I wanted the live-near-campus-and-have-most-my-other-students-near-me feel I wouldn't have picked SLIS West. It is nice, though, that I feel like I know a lot of my fellow students and LIS students are generally pretty swell peeps. We have pretty small class sizes and really get that whole shared & participatory learning experience that I dig. Our professors are mostly adjuncts with full time librarian or archivist jobs at nearby institutions- so they have lots of practical experience and can help you network in the area. We have classes on Mount Holyoke's campus, which is gorgeous. It's kind of an interesting feeling- I mean it's not really our campus, but it also is. I take advantage of this and use their library, campus center, and chapel often (it's great for meditating). We do have borrowing privileges through their library (not for eresources, though) and through Simmons (like all Simmons students). You can't really sign up for MHC library classes and workshops like you could if you were a Boston student with Beatley, but being able to use that library is super nice, and the staff is helpful and friendly. We do have some workshops here hosted by the office or LISSA West too- mostly speakers working in the surrounding area telling us about a typical work week for them. Also, of course we can access all the tutorials and what not online and contact our Simmons librarian via email. We've got a SLIS West office with computers, printers, scanners, and the like. That's where I do a lot of my homework since the course reserves are there. Plus- I'm the office assistant and that's where I do my work work for SLIS West. Of course, I'm a LIS student- so I also study at my public library and other college libraries in the area bc I love libraries.

Overall, the best things for me about SLIS West have been:

1. It's a part time program- so I can have all the internships and jobs I've had and still be able to attend school since classes are primarily on Saturdays and Thursday nights.

2. I can get face-to-face classes without always having to drive to Boston. South Hadley (where classes are) is only 40 mins away from me- and the parking is free. I'm not a big online class person, though I have taken some online courses in this program. Getting to have face to face as an option that's not to far away is pretty splendid.

3. I really like the community- my co-students, SLIS West admin, the faculty coming out to teach us from Boston, and all our awesome SLIS West adjuncts. I also really like the non specifically SLIS West community/area- the surrounding public library network, the 5 colleges, the pretty woods, and the people.

If you're looking for a similar experience to what you may have had in undergrad if you went to a 4 year school and lived on campus- SLIS West probably isn't for you. Everyone commutes. Most folks have work and families. Many students are career changers. You have lots of resources- but it's not exactly the same as living in Boston and being right near the main Simmons campus. It's been wonderful for me and for my current situation in life, though. If you're struggling to decide between Simmons online, Simmons Boston, or Simmons LIS West- feel free to reach out to me and I can surely talk your ear off some more. There's information sessions for all options too, I think- definitely at least for Boston and West. And whatever you end up deciding, you're allowed to change your mind and you can take any Simmons course as a Simmons student (so for instance I'm SLIS West but I'm taking a Boston course and I've taken online in the past too).

Alright, let's get this (final) semester started. Hasta pronto, friends.

Classes | SLIS West | Students