Student Snippets


Here a Library

This may not come as a surprise to you, dear readers, but ever since I started at SLIS I have gotten really, really into all things library-related. Who would have thought? I've been most enthralled by the idea that there are so many different types of libraries that exist. My own experience with libraries before coming into the program was primarily through public and academic institutions, so it's exciting to see how much else is out there. I'll give you a few examples...

I was visiting a good friend of mine in North Carolina last week during spring break, and we passed a sign on the highway pointing to the Billy Graham Library. A quick search told me this particular library, a blend of religion and history thematically, was designed to look like a dairy barn mirroring Graham's upbringing on a farm near Charlotte. We later drove through the University of North Carolina School of Arts campus in Winston-Salem where I caught a glimpse of the gorgeous Semans Library. Yes, this is an academic library, but the modern architecture was stunning and made the building very inviting. It was all glass panels and sleek metal lines, and I have no doubt it would be a nice place to study and probably just exist, in general. Finally, I had the privilege of interviewing a law librarian at a local firm not too long ago. I was pleasantly surprised upon walking in that the library is the first thing you see, and I also got a glimpse into a branch of librarianship that isn't so well-known or widely discussed.

This is a real short list, but I think y'all get the idea. The longer I'm here, the more I'm exploring and seeing and being exposed to. For me, that's half the fun of it all!


Library Science Realization

I'm only halfway through my first semester of library school and I'm loving every minute of it.  However, making the decision to go to library school wasn't an immediate realization for me. 

When I was in undergrad, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life- I just knew I didn't want to work in the medical field or be an engineer.  I chose my major and minor, communications and English, because I thought they would pair well with my love of reading and writing.  It was not until I met with a career counselor during my second year at UNC Chapel Hill that I started to consider pursuing an advanced library science degree.  Most of the people in my major were planning on getting their MBA, getting a law degree, or working in social media and all of those careers did not really sound appealing to me.  I knew I could do those jobs, but my goal was to be happy in whatever career I ended up pursuing.  During the meeting, the counselor asked me about my interests, and I described to her my love of books and writing, how I enjoyed research and information, and that I spent most of my free time reading.  Based on my response, she encouraged me to research a library science degree, which I had never considered before.  To be completely honest, I had never heard of a library science degree before that meeting.  But the more I read about the library and information science profession, the more it made sense for me to pursue it.  Most of my free time in college was spent in the library and as much as I love to write, I have always enjoyed researching a project far more.  I realized that being a librarian would be the career that would make me the happiest in life, and in order to achieve that dream, I needed to go to grad school. 

I'm so happy at Simmons and I'm really glad I had that meeting with the career counselor at UNC Chapel Hill because otherwise, I have a feeling that I never would have ended up in library science, or it would have taken me a few years to finally come to the realization that this is where I needed to be. 


Why I Chose Simmons

I came across Simmons when reading a snippet on Kristin Cashore's blog. She mentioned she got her M.A. at the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons College and I thought, "Any school that incubated and turned out this type of creative author has to have something special going for it."  I was currently an undergrad at Texas State University and put Simmon's in my "Some Day" folder I have filed away in the back of my head.

 Fast forward five years and I am half way through my LIS degree at University of North Texas.  I took a children's literature class and during my first research paper I knew I wanted to learn exclusively about children's literature and all that encompassed it.  I did enjoy the LIS program, but I thought, if I am going for my dreams, I am going all the way. 

 I researched more into the school, requested packets of information (which I received in abundance) and did a little outside research about different authors who attended the program. I looked into the Eric Carle Museum and courses offered through Simmons, researched the summer institute, the Horn Book Magazine (located on campus), and through all this, I began to get very excited.  I had to be a part of this community. 

 Between my LIS studies, I applied and crossed my fingers. I obsessively researched Boston just in case I was accepted.  When I got the phone call from the admission's office for the good news I was stoked.  Yes, a phone call! Simmons has the type of people who care and reach out through every process. From the beginning when I was first applying it was easy to access a real person to talk to about what else I needed in preparation for my application, quick turn arounds when corresponding via email about my interview and flexibility on scheduling, and a personal phone call from admissions!

 I applied to other programs that offered Children's Literature as a specialty, but only if you were enrolled in a master's degree in Education or Literature.  Many of those programs were online. I chose Simmons for its dedication to children's literature and the professional standards they have for the program. The location of the campus is in the heart of Boston and their on-campus courses are great to meet people face to face in order to network. 

 Simmons offers online courses for some of their degree programs and I do not doubt they hold the same standards and professionalism for their remote students.  If anyone will make you feel a part of a community while being a thousand miles away, it would be Simmons. 

 I feel that Simmons takes care of people.  In whatever it is you need.  They want to see you succeed, are open and vocal about opportunity, and if my first month here has taught me anything, it's that I am going to succeed.  Not only because I want to, but because Simmons has the tools, the drive, and the connections to make success happen.

Children's Literature | SLIS

SLIS West Tradeoffs

I truly am grateful for the existence of SLIS West. I knew it would be difficult to manage grad school with a family and two young children, and I had begun to resign myself to the likelihood that I would have to get my degree online. When I found out (at the SLIS West information session) that their classes were primarily on Saturdays, the day my husband could stay home with the kids, it felt like my stars had finally aligned.

However, every semester at SLIS West it becomes more apparent to me that there are still some tradeoffs to be made in attending grad school this way. I don't intend to present this as a list of "cons:" just some of the realities you'll face if you decide, like me, that SLIS West is your best option.

1. Smaller program, fewer people

Fewer people means less networking and socializing possibilities. You won't meet as many people at SLIS West as you might at Boston, but you will see the same people again and again which helps you make friends quickly.

2. Limited course offerings

It goes with the territory that there are fewer classes being offered each semester, but I honestly never imagined that my course selections would be so heavily influenced by what was actually available to me. You may not be able to take every class that you want, in the order that you need to. Online classes are not a safe bet either, as they tend to fill up quickly.

3. Fewer "extracurricular activities"

There are less "happenings" around SLIS West because it's not a residential campus situation and all the students are spread out, and busy with work and families. There aren't as many opportunities to get involved, volunteer, attend presentations, and participate in student groups and organizations. We have some lunchtime events, some after-class get-togethers, and our own branch of LISSA (Library and Information Science Student Association). I'd like to see more SLIS West folks attend these, but I'm also someone who lives two hours away and can't always be there myself.

4. Shared facilities

At SLIS West, we are borrowing the classrooms, the building, and the library of another institution (Mount Holyoke College), so the facilities are not exactly optimized for Simmons students. Now I don't really have any complaints, because the campus of Mount Holyoke is beautiful and the spaces plenty sufficient. But we don't have things like dedicated tech labs, a center for student success, or a student services center. We can still access online resources through the Beatley Library and get help virtually, but it's just not the same as being able to walk in and browse shelves, or talk to someone face-to-face.

Despite these tradeoffs, I'm still so glad to be attending courses at SLIS West and I feel like it really was my best option, given my location and situation in life. In a future post I'll be sure to detail all the things I love about this program.

Experience in an Archive

In my Introduction to Archival Methods & Services class, we were charged to write an overview of our experience using an archives, and part of that assignment meant coming up with our own research question and doing some digging into the resources we found.

 I chose to use the local history room at the Somerville Public Library. I chatted with a fellow librarian about some popular topics people come to research there, and one he mentioned was the Ursuline convent riots that took place in the summer of 1834. This really peaked my interest, and even though I don't have the space to go into all the details, I'd still like to give a brief run-through of what happened and the impression it left on me.

 Riding the wave of an increasingly anti-Catholic feeling in the community, a Protestant mob rallied and destroyed the convent over the course of two nights, everything from furniture, books, and religious items to the surrounding gardens. In their frenzy, they even desecrated the tombs of nuns buried on the property. The convent also functioned as a school for young women. There were 67 students and nuns inside the building when the riots took place. Thankfully they all made it to safety, but the damage was done and an ugly message was conveyed.

 The thing that shocked me the most about the event was not necessarily the violence or the intolerance toward a particular religious group. It was the reported inaction of potentially 2,000 spectators who watched what was happening and didn't intervene. For me, what started as a very objective paper turned into something of a personal lesson on social justice. I know that I've been a silent bystander in the past more times than I care to admit, and I certainly felt the call to be more active and vocal when I see situations of injustice happening.

 I was also struck that we have these valuable, albeit painful, pieces of history tucked away in our libraries and archives. I was inspired all over again that I'm able to be a part of this profession and share things like this--good, bad, and every shade of grey in between--with patrons and members of the community who might not hear about them otherwise.

Archives | SLIS | classes

Adjusting to Life in New England

I have lived in nearly every part of the country except for the New England area, and it has been a bit of a transition.  Every place I've moved to has its own culture and has been a different experience, and I've loved them all in their own way.  Here are some experiences I've had that are unique to this region:

  • The Driving:  I have never been more terrified on the road.  Double yellow lines apparently mean nothing here, and everyone is so aggressive on the road. 
  • Public Transportation: Even though I have lived in cities, I've never lived in a city that has had a super comprehensive public transportation plan like the Boston area does.  Just today I rode the Commuter Rail, the T, and a bus.  Learning to navigate the MBTA has been an interesting learning experience though.  I'm so happy that we have the MBTA and that I can easily get in to, around, and out of Boston. 
  • The Accent: Why is Worcester pronounced Wooster? And Quincy pronounced Quinzy?  I just can't drop the "r's" in words no matter how hard I try. 
  • The Food: Seafood is a thing here and it is wonderful.  The fresh fish here is amazing.  I've been working my way through the local seafood here from lobster rolls to fish and chips.  I haven't had the nerve to try clam chowder yet.  I know, it's one of the iconic Massachusetts things but I've tried some of the other classic Massachusetts dishes like Boston Cream Pie!  Someday I'll try clam chowder.   Also, there are some things on menus that are unique to this neck of the woods like GrapeNut Pudding that I have never heard of. 
  • Dunkin' Donuts: There are so many of them.  So many of them.  Dunkin' Donuts was founded in Massachusetts and the iced coffee is insanely popular here, but I have never seen so many Dunkin' Donuts stores in my life and no matter what time of day it is, they are always packed.
  • Seasons and The Weather:  One of the reasons I was excited to move to Massachusetts was because I have never really experienced seasons before and I've been assured that Massachusetts has all four seasons.  I moved away from Michigan when I was almost five, so I barely remember the seasons there, and when I lived in Colorado, seasons really did not exist.  I remember that it could snow in July and it could be 70 degrees in December.  Also, our biggest month for blizzards was April.  In North Carolina we experienced two seasons: summer and winter, with the winter being mild and the summer being extremely hot and humid.  While this winter seems like it has been dragging on forever I have been really enjoying the snow.  I know that feeling won't last forever and someday I'll get sick of it, but every time I wake up to snow falling, it still feels exciting. 

I've really been enjoying my time in Massachusetts and I look forward to exploring the New England area more throughout my time here.   

New England

Welcome to Ashley Jackson

Hello everyone! We'd like to introduce our new blogger, Ashley Jackson. Please read a little about her below.


Hi guys, I'm Ashley, and I am brand new to grad school and Massachusetts! I am in the MA for Children's Literature, and I could not be more excited to have the opportunity to study at Simmons.  I expect to learn a lot here and network to meet people.  My undergrad is in English literature, and I have earned half (yep) of my MLIS from University of North Texas, which I may return to at a later date. I am truly stoked to have the chance to focus on Children's Literature and see where that takes me (publishing hopefully!).

I was born and raised in Texas and have lived there my whole life. So, this is quite the experience for me.  I have spent quite a bit of time in England, so I'm not 100% in culture shock, but Boston is different than Austin; in a good way (hello snow)! I cannot wait to explore the city more and see what New England is all about.  I am married to the coolest guy, and we have two dogs.  Besides sweeping up fur in my spare time, I enjoy taking the dogs to the park or for a hike, swimming, and baking vegan treats.  And of course, reading.  My favorite genre currently is fantasy.


An Exceptional February Day

Today, I had the supremely cool opportunity to join a group of my classmates on a tour of the Boston Athenæum (courtesy of the Simmons Panopticon chapter--y'all rock!). Also, spring decided to pop its head in early with sunshine and warm temperatures, so I was more than happy to don a peekaboo dress and roam into the city.

The Athenæum is one of the country's oldest libraries, and is filled with floor after floor of amazing pieces of fine art, as well as extensive circulating and special collections. A couple of my favorite bits of the afternoon included viewing part of George Washington's personal library, and also getting to browse the original card catalog, now very much a relic of times past and tucked away in the building's basement. 

Sitting pretty at 10 ½ Beacon Street...a cousin of Platform 9 ¾ perhaps...the Athenæum is located in one of the most historically rich parts of the city, and is itself a distinguished cultural heritage center. I trust the patron goddess of wisdom was pleased to be involved as the namesake.

I snapped a few photos when I wasn't too busy picking my jaw up off of the floor, which y'all can see below. Enjoy! 


Events | Fun | SLIS | Students | Weather

A Pleasant Surprise

As a brand-new grad student, and a brand-new Massachusetts resident, I must admit I was extremely ambivalent about taking an online class my first semester.  I don't know anyone in Massachusetts except my parents, and I really wanted to get out there and mingle with my fellow students.  Also, I only took one online class my entire time in undergrad and it was very much an individual experience, as in, I did not talk to my classmates, ever.

I'm finding myself to be pleasantly surprised by my online LIS 407 course.  I'm getting to know so much about my classmates and there is a lot of group discussion in the forums.  In addition, while I was worried about not having the "student experience," again, I was pleasantly surprised.  Simmons is so good about sending emails about networking events through their student organizations like LISSA (Library and Information Science Student Organization), so I can come to campus and participate that way.  I'm sure the next few years of grad school will be full of more surprises and learning experiences and I'm so glad I chose to come to Simmons.  

Online | SLIS | Students | classes

Introducing Two New Members To Our Blogging Team!

Hello everyone! We'd like to introduce two new student bloggers, Sarah Callanan and ShanTil Yell. Please read a little about them below. You will see their first posts very soon!

Welcome Sarah!

My name is Sarah Callanan and I recently moved to Massachusetts from Raleigh, North Carolina. I graduated from UNC Chapel Hill with a BA in Communication Studies with a minor in English.  I have previously lived in Colorado and Michigan, so snow is not as much of a foreign concept to me as one might think.  I started my MLIS degree in January 2018, and am pursuing the Archives Management concentration.  My love of research, reading, and the fact that my living area was slowly but surely becoming a library is what prompted me to start my journey to getting this degree.  I'm really enjoying getting to know the Boston area and all it has to offer.  I'm so excited to be at Simmons and to be on this ride with all of you.  


Welcome ShanTil!

Hi y'all, I'm ShanTil! If you couldn't tell, I'm a southerner. I moved up here from Texas last summer, and even though it might break my momma's heart for me to say this, New England has truly become home to me. I'm in my second semester here at SLIS, and decided to go the "Design Your Own" degree route. My plan is to focus in on rare and special collections, but I'm also developing a passion for public libraries--I recently started working at one, and it has been ahhhmazing--and community outreach.

A few more tidbits about me: I love to write, and it's real exciting for me to be able to contribute my voice to the Simmons community. I have a coffee obsession, cats are my favorite, pearl earrings are my jewelry of choice, living compassionately is the coolest, and in my little windows of free time you can find me meandering through the stacks at the Boston Public Library and checking out new restaurants, bars, and cafés with friends.



SLIS | Students

Leadership in Libraries

Nature is teasing me right now with some shockingly mild and beautiful weather for February, making everyone think that spring is coming. As such, I've been thinking about seeds. Not the kind that are already trying to sprout in my backyard, but rather, the kind that germinate in one's mind to invoke new ideas and ways of thinking. This semester has planted the seeds of some new ideas in my mind - ideas that I never thought I'd have.

Our professor for Academic Libraries is currently the Dean of Library Services at her institution, which is academic-speak for "the boss." As such, she brings the very interesting perspective of library management and library administration - one that I have not gotten much of in my other courses at Simmons. What makes this doubly interesting for me is that my dad, who has spent his entire professional career as an English professor, has also recently found himself in a position of leadership and administration. Both my Academic Libraries professor and my dad have been thrust into these leadership roles without having actually sought them out.

So all of a sudden I've been thinking about leadership and management and it's like the universe is giving me all these hints that this is something I should at least explore a little more. We had a guest speaker in class a few weeks ago who was the library director at a private junior boarding school and she said something to the effect of not discounting your own leadership potential. I have definitely always considered myself NOT leadership material, and I've never given much thought to the alternative.

I see library leadership not as a role I will pursue, but as a possibility I would like to be prepared for. I think many library directors could say that they didn't start out with the goal of becoming a director. Suppose at some point in my career the opportunity arises that I'm uniquely suited for - one in which I could do a lot of good in an area I feel passionately about. I'd like to at least be amenable and open to the idea, and have some experience and skills to back me up.

In the meantime, I have a lot more to learn about libraries and a lot more to learn about leadership and management. But now that the seed has been planted, maybe I'll pay just a little more attention to the examples of other leaders I admire. Maybe I'll consider taking on more leadership opportunities in my personal and professional life, when I wouldn't have before. Maybe I'll look at my own personality traits in a different way. I don't know where this thought process will lead - whether the seeds will eventually wither away or grow to bear fruit. I do know that all good ideas have to start somewhere!

Librarians | Libraries | classes

Winter in Boston:

Winter in Boston:

The Autumnal colors left, and the chill air changed, carrying the scent of frosty leaves, and a crispness that makes it hard to stay outside. Here the wind sweeps in, and that combined with the wet cold makes the feeling of cold settle in your bones whenever you go outside. Everyone walks around in a bundle of coats, scarf, gloves--and yet, they are still very stylish. Fashion,it seems, still applies even when one must layer constantly. 

02-13photo1.jpgI also found the winter weather to be very mercurial, shifting constantly. One day it is rainy and cold, another day sunny and chilly, then rainy and warm, or perhaps snowy. The snow here comes in bursts and then doesn't stay long, it turns to ice, or is washed away in the rain. I keep finding new things to marvel at as far as the weather is concerned.


Boston | New England | Weather

Librarianship is Lifelong Learning

I've always thought that a good librarian is essentially a jack-of-all-trades. It's one of the things that drew me to this field. I couldn't settle on one particular subject or discipline, so my reasoning was that I'd learn a little bit about all of them and become a librarian - an information specialist. I want to be an academic professional that dabbles in many subjects, while helping others to be successful in whatever endeavor they've chosen.

The great thing about librarianship is that many of the skills we are learning have strong tie-ins to so many other fields. Tell me which academic discipline does not require finding and using quality information resources. Let's talk about how many careers involve customer service, marketing, and outreach. Can you think of many occupations these days for which an understanding of IT terminology is not extremely valuable?

At the root of it all is that I just love learning. I love researching and finding information. So far I have found the field of librarianship to be vast and diverse, and to require a good deal of this curiosity. It is a very good place for people who love to learn.

I was listening to a podcast (Simplify) on the way home from class which included an interview with David Allen, productivity guru and author of Getting Things Done. He said "these days, if you know what you're doing it's a great time to be alive. If you don't, you're toast." Allen said this in reference to the great wealth of opportunities available and the speed at which life moves and changes. I honestly feel like my education at Simmons in the field of librarianship is giving me the skills and the knowledge to "know what I'm doing" in this fast-moving, information- and data-driven world.


Bookish Thoughts:

This semester has introduced me to many books, here are some of the books I have enjoyed or found interesting so far:

 Books that taught me things I didn't know before

Danza: Amalia Hernandez and the Ballet Folklorico of Mexico by Duncan Tonatiuh

The Noisy Paint box: The Colors and sounds of Kandinsky's Abstract Art by Barb Rosenstock

Fascinating: The Life of Leonard Nimoy by Richard Michelson

Eyes of the World: Robert Capa, Gerta Taro and the Invention of Modern Photojournalism by Marc Aronson

 Books that provoked an emotional response:

Unleaving by Jill Paton Walsh

Push by Sapphire

Shizuko's Daughter by Kyoko Mori

House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

 Old favorites that I get to see in a new light:

Marcello in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork

A Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman

Books | Children's Literature | SLIS | classes

Staying Sane (and Productive) in the New England Winter

This is the New England winter in a nutshell, courtesy of Bill Murray in Groundhog Day:


We're approaching that part of the season when it really does feel like winter is all you will ever know. The New England winter is soooo long. You can expect everyone to start talking about and anticipating spring around mid-March, but the spring-like weather won't actually show up until May. It is not uncommon to have snow in April. So if you're thinking of moving here from a warmer location: you've been warned.

That being said, there are a lot of healthy ways to cope with the winter and you certainly do not have to love the cold to love New England. Here are a few of the tips and tricks that I have found effective for chasing away those winter blues:

1. Embrace the beauty and necessity of winter.

Every year I have to prepare myself mentally for the winter ahead. Accept the fact that it's going to be very long and very cold. Now look for the beauty in the season. Winter can be very restful and peaceful. Things slow down. Take a cue from nature to slow down yourself and observe how the light and the landscape changes in winter.

2. Take in lots of hot beverages and warming soups.

I drink a lot of herbal tea in the winter. It's soothing and comforting and I believe in the healing properties of the herbs. I also enjoy a cup of my homemade hot chocolate most evenings. The kind I make is dark and not too sweet and full of antioxidants from the raw cacao powder (or at least that's what I'm telling myself). It's a delicious indulgence suited only for winter. Soup is a great way to get your veggies. It is easy to make and has infinite possibilities.

3. Use music to focus and lift the mood.

Obviously this is good for any time of the year, but I find it especially important in the winter when the whole world seems to be waiting, holding its breath. You want to crawl under the covers with a good book or movie, but you've got work to do. Playing some cheerful and bright classical music helps me focus and stay on task.

4. Don't forget to exercise!!

Exercise is harder to do in the winter but all the more important. The science is overwhelming: exercise has been shown to benefit almost every aspect of your life, giving you better sleep, a stronger immune system, and increased brain function. I strive for some kind of exercise every day, usually in the form of a workout video on YouTube. There is much wisdom in the maxim: Take care of your body and it will take care of you.

5. Find an enjoyable inside hobby.

We spend a lot more time indoors in the winter. Sure, you could sit and stare at your phone or read a good book, but I find it better to challenge myself and try something new. The novelty will benefit you when the world outside is one vast expanse of grey and brown. Think of a skill you'd like to learn or a craft you might like to try. Maybe it's juggling, or doing a headstand, or knitting, or origami, or anything else. The possibilities are endless and the internet places all the resources you need right at your fingertips. Guaranteed there's a blog or a YouTube channel out there for anything you could think of.

So there you have it - some of my best tips for staying sane and even productive during the long winter months. It doesn't sound so bad now, does it? Just don't ask me about it at the end of March - it's likely I'll feel differently.  

Boston | New England | Weather

Educational Experience

The semester has only just begun, and already, I can tell that this is going to be a semester that makes me think.

 So how do I know that I will be really thinking deeply this semester? Well, in my Narrative non-fiction class we got into a discussion about biographies, and how they sometimes present a person as an inspirational ideal which raised some new questions for me:

  • How do we pick the people we want to hold up as heroes?
  • How true can an account ever be?
  • What makes a person extraordinary?
  • What if the heroes we hold up in biographies are not actually the great people we believe them to be? Do the actions they are famous for cancel out the actions they are not famous for? Should we be more realistic in presenting them?
  • Are we creating role models, or modeling life in these portrayals?

 Then I went to my class, Contemporary Realistic Fiction for Young Adults (Realism) and, before the first class even began, more questions floated up:

  • How do I define reality? Is that different than how other people define reality?
  • What is real? How do I know?
  • If reality is based on plausibility, is it possible that reality changes over time (because what was impossible in the past may be possible now, or what is improbable today could have been common in the past)?
  • Where do we draw the line between realistic fiction and fantasy?
  • What "truths" challenge reality (mine or someone else's)?

 These are big questions to grapple with, and it will be good for my brain to stretch and grow in understanding.

 If any of you have any answers, thoughts, or questions of your own, let me know.

 Best for now,


Children's Literature | classes

Technology Courses: My "Happy Surprise"

In my last post I promised that I'd write more about my technology classes at Simmons. Like many students, I entered LIS 488, the technology core class, with some trepidation. After all, the technology components of library work had scared me away from the LIS degree for some time. I knew I wanted to obtain an education that would help me get a job somewhere in the library/archives/museum field, and I knew I wanted my degree to be flexible, adaptable. Museum studies seemed too specific and limiting, and I was afraid Library & Information Science would involve too much science and technology.

That was me before I took LIS 488. Now as someone who has finally gotten her feet wet in the world of IT, I find myself embracing a very different mindset. First of all, technology is just another skill, another subject that can be learned. Learning to code is a lot like learning a new language. You don't have to possess any particular personality or disposition to understand technology. You don't even have to be a left-brained, analytical person who loves math. In fact, my professor for Database Management has said that database design is equal parts science and art. Can you think of a more fascinating pairing?

I had categorized myself as someone who didn't "get" technology, who didn't speak computer, and who wasn't technologically gifted. I thought it wasn't my "thing." Which is why LIS 488 came as such a happy surprise. The first realization was that I could do this. The second was that I actually enjoyed it. Now here I am, choosing a class like Database Management as an elective and embarking with not the least bit of fear. It may even be that my technology courses at Simmons turn out to be the most valuable and most enjoyable of my program. Technology skills and know-how are in demand almost everywhere you look, and you'd be hard pressed to find a career that doesn't require them in some form. Technological abilities can open doors, and I for one am eager to develop as many as I can while I'm at Simmons. Approach your education with an open mind, and there's no telling what happy surprises may come your way!

SLIS | Technology | classes


A few weeks ago, I flew home to visit Colorado. I watched as the land beneath the plane transformed, slowly developing cracks and wrinkles that formed themselves to canyons and hills. I watched breathlessly as those hills grew larger, until they became mountains. The instant I saw them, a phrase, half remembered from a high school Spanish report flits across my mind--Yo soy una chica de los montañas--I am a girl of the mountains. In that moment, I am sure, the mountains are the landscape of my soul. How can one resist the scenery, or the wonderful people that live in the mountains?

 Then, when I flew back into Boston, I looked out of the window to see rivers glinting in the light of the setting sun, their ice-covered surfaces glowing, and trees bordering the edges of neighborhoods and cities, framing the scene. The lights in the trees greeting all the people who happen to walk by. Again, my breath caught...Boston is its own kind of beautiful, and it is weaving its way into my heart.



Boston | New England

Year 2: Ready, Set, Go!

The start of this semester marks the beginning of my second year at Simmons. It feels like I've come full circle. Last January, I was one of the brand new students at the back-to-school lunch, declaring nervously that I'd just taken my very first class, feeling simultaneously triumphant and terrified. This Saturday I was a returning student at the back-to-school lunch, conversing easily with colleagues as we chatted about break and new classes. I had the funniest feeling talking to the new students, realizing that I was in their exact spot exactly one year ago, seeing the same fresh nervousness and excitement that I had felt reflected in their eyes.

The past year has been an extremely fulfilling and challenging one for me. I've done so many things for the first time (like blogging!) and encountered so many new ideas. I've uncovered some hidden talents of my own (who knew I'd love coding so much?) and expanded the bounds of my comfort zone by tackling difficult assignments. I've taken 5 classes for 15 credits, which puts me pretty close to the halfway mark. I could conceivably finish in one more year, if I take a heavier load of classes. I've been mulling over my options and I think that's what I'd like to do.

In my introductions on Saturday I said that I was pursing the archives track, but that I was "on the fence" about it. There are a couple of reasons for this. One is that I've had some course sequencing issues for my archives classes (being able to take the prerequisite courses first). SLIS West is obviously a much smaller campus than Boston and therefore the course offerings are more limited. It's true that they offer all of the classes for the archives concentration, but since I started in the spring, the courses haven't been offered in the order that I needed to take them. So I'm almost halfway through my program and I've only had ONE of my archives classes (and I had to take it online!). This semester I'm taking two more non-archives classes, which means that in order to complete the archives track I'll have to load up the rest of my program with basically all archives courses.

The other thing I'm conflicted about is the opportunity cost - the awesome library courses I'll miss out on by choosing archives instead. If I had unlimited time and money I'd honestly stay in school until I had taken every class that sounded interesting to me. Since I can't do that responsibly, I've got to decide which ones are the most important, or the best-suited to my professional goals. As with life, grad school is a choose-your-own-adventure. And I'm just not sure I'm ready to choose archives and turn to page 58 (those books drove me crazy by the way!).

I'm super DUPER excited for my classes this semester: Academic Libraries and Database Management. I've got a wonderful, optimistic feeling about both of them and I'm expecting them to help me decide which path I take for the rest of my program. So stay tuned for more about why I'm excited for these, and for why my technology courses have been the biggest "happy surprise" of grad school so far.



Explaining Archives to the Layperson

I've recently returned to Connecticut from a wonderful Christmas vacation with my family in southwestern Virginia. We were there for about two and a half weeks and I was able to meet up with a lot of old friends and family connections. With this came the opportunity to explain what archives is to people outside of the library community. Most importantly, I wanted people to understand why I find archives so fascinating, and why I consider it such a relevant and necessary profession in our modern age.

As you can imagine, this can be challenging. Archives isn't the only profession that is largely misunderstood and difficult to explain to outsiders. Even my husband has a hard time explaining to people exactly what it is he does at his job. During my vacation, I feel like I came up with a strategy that was fairly successful. It would have been easy enough to just give the usual spiel about documenting society, preserving history, connecting people with information, etc. and move on. But I wanted to engage my listeners, to make an impression on them, and to educate them. The best way I have found to do this is to have in your repertoire a selection of stories, examples, and case studies that will illustrate your definition of archives and engage your listeners. They are like gateways by which the "layperson" can encounter archives in a way that is relatable and memorable.

The two I used were from my readings in Intro to Archives. One "case study" is an illustration of how archives are employed in the solution of an almost inconceivable problem - how to successfully communicate the locations of radioactive waste burial sites for the ten thousand years that these materials require to become considerably less dangerous. This example was in an article we read by Kenneth Foote, cited below. The other is something that I heard referenced a few times in class discussions and literature reviews - the notion of a "digital dark age." If you don't know, digital dark age refers to a hypothetical future scenario in which the historical record and all that comprises it is inaccessible, because it's been created and stored using digital mediums, algorithms, software, etc. that are outdated, obsolete, or cannot be replicated. I've linked some articles below if you want to read more.

Framing my explanation of what archives is within the context of these examples lead to some interesting discussions. Granted, most casual acquaintances probably aren't looking for a lengthy exposition on the topic when they ask you what you are studying or what you do for a living. For something a bit more pithy and small talk worthy, The Society of American Archivists has this great little guide on "Crafting your Elevator Speech" here. As I've said before, I feel like each of us assumes the role of ambassador as soon as we become a part of this library/archives community. What will you say when it's your turn?

Foote, Kenneth E. "To Remember and Forget: Archives, Memory, and Culture." American Archivist, Vol. 53 (Summer 1990). 378-392.

Interesting articles related to the "digital dark age:"

Young, Lauren J. "Ghosts in the Reels." Science Friday. Retrieved from

Madrigal, Alexis C. "Future Historians Probably Won't Understand Our Internet, and That's Okay." The Atlantic. Dec 6, 2017. Retrieved from

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