Student Snippets

A WINDOW INTO THE DAILY LIFE AND THOUGHTS OF SLIS STUDENTS

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 that are outdated, obsolete, or cannot be replicated.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  https://apps.sciencefriday.com/data/ghosts.html

Madrigal, Alexis C. "Future Historians Probably Won't Understand Our Internet, and That's Okay." The Atlantic. Dec 6, 2017. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/12/it-might-be-impossible-for-future-historians-to-understand-our-internet/547463/?utm_source=fbb

Archives | Real World


Winter Break

A few weeks ago, before winter break began, I received an e-mail that filled me with trepidation. Enclosed with the message from the professor for my Realism class in the spring was a booklist. The professor suggested that students make sure they are familiar with the twenty books on the list, as they are touchstone books for the subject. Out of the twenty, I have only read three. I had thought I was pretty widely read, but this list revealed just how much I have neglected the realism genre, and made it clear that I had some catching up to do.

As a result, I spent my break trying to make sure that I was able to discuss at least some of the books. I was surprised to find the books very engaging and compelling, and as I read them, I was relieved to find that I had read similar things, so I hadn't completely neglected the genre, I just missed some of the historically significant texts. To my surprise, I was truly enjoying myself.

I started my winter break expecting to be miserable, and forcing myself to read heavy, dense stories about difficult lives, and while many of the books did depict difficult lives I wasn't forcing myself to read them. I truly wanted to finish them, and once they were completed, I wished that I could read more. I think I shall enjoy realism. I look forward to next semester.  

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Finishing My First Semester

Whew! I made it through my first semester of grad school! Let me tell you, grad school is HARD. I know, I know; grad school is supposed to be hard, but I'm not just talking about academics--which I was prepared for. Grad school is hard in a good way, it's hard because I have been asked to examine all the things I thought I knew, and verify whether I can still find them true. It's hard because I am learning new things every step of the way, even when I am not in school, and sometimes it feels like my brain can't keep up. It's hard because I'm surrounded by incredible people who have achieved great things and I look up to all of them, but fear I will never be in their league. So yes, grad school is hard; and there are times when I wonder if it was worth it to come, but most days it is hard in a way that also makes me glad I took the chance. 

Students


Libraries Are Awesome!

We had quite the festive end to the semester last Saturday with fresh bagels and muffins in the classroom and SNOW!! I realize this is New England where snow is more a matter of course and a mundane winter inconvenience, but I am from Virginia and still firmly in the "snow is awesome" camp. It started around 11 am in South Hadley and I left immediately after class to start my two-hour drive back to CT, where it had started around 8 am. Golly it was a beautiful (albeit messy and slow) drive! I listened to Christmas music and thought about the holidays and relished in my new freedom from homework.

This was one long semester, but thankfully the end was much easier than the beginning. With the biggest assignments out of the way I've had some time to reflect on what I've learned from both my classes. It may not surprise you to hear that in library school you will learn a lot about why libraries are so awesome. I am definitely coming away from this semester with an even greater appreciation for libraries and archives.

In my class LIS 407: Information Sources & Services (aka reference) we learned all about the resources available in the library. Each week we had to explore and then evaluate one source from a weekly list. At the end of the semester, I now have a list of 206 different individual resources, of all types. Some of these are free online, some are books in the library, many are digital, and some require log-in with library credentials. I have evaluated maybe about 15 of them, and used many more to complete assignments for the class. There are lots that I still haven't even looked at! I am blown away by the quality, depth, and richness of these resources and thrilled that I now have the skills and knowledge to utilize them both as a librarian and as an individual. There is information in these sources that can actually improve people's lives. For one assignment I even took a closer look at my own local library and discovered a ton of resources I never knew were there.  Here I thought I could find most of what I needed from a Google search, but this class has shown me the light and the light is good.

The archives class (LIS 438) was my first real introduction and hands-on experience with archives. I've gained a better understanding of what archivists actually do and a better appreciation for archives' role in history and society. Archival material is different from library material in that it is unique and an organic by-product of the activities that created it. Therefore, the way that archivists provide access is much different from libraries, but the goals are largely the same. It strikes me as both a very challenging and very fulfilling profession.

In summary, both the library and archives fields are service-oriented: we exist to provide services (and resources) that improve society as a whole and individual lives. I am still amazed at all the people in the world who don't use libraries, barely know of their existence, or even question their value. And I would say that societal awareness and appreciation of archives is even lower than that of libraries. And yet here we are: deliberating over questions of ethics, debating how best to promote social justice, and engineering our spaces and services to be ever more inclusive and equitable. Librarians and archivists stand always ready to serve - whether our service communities appreciate it or not.

classes


Scholarship Appreciation Time

I'm extremely thankful to have a merit scholarship from SLIS. Every semester (when I take at least 9 units) I receive $6,000 from Simmons; that's $24,000 over four semesters, which is nothing to scoff at. As a scholarship recipient, I have been tasked to write a short thank you letter; I thought I might post it here.

The cost of higher education has absolutely skyrocketed in recent years, and the only reason I have been able to afford Simmons (and with relatively low financial stress) is the SLIS Merit Scholarship. Simmons was one of two schools I applied to that offered me any financial aid, and by the time I received my acceptance letter, had become my top choice. I was thrilled to see that my academic efforts had paid off, literally!

I cannot overstate how much I value the unique experience I'm having at Simmons. I'm from California, and I went to UC Berkeley for my Bachelor's degree, so you can imagine how different it has been living here and attending Simmons. I never truly understood why it was called "New England" until I moved here! Part of why I chose Simmons was to live somewhere that would feel different; I had lived in the same area my whole life, and wanted to expand my horizons. Boston has certainly delivered on that front. At Simmons specifically, I am frequently impressed by how responsive and engaged the faculty are, and I appreciate their dedication to providing courses that meet the needs of the students. Simmons was by far the smallest school I applied to for my MLIS, and I am grateful to be part of a close-knit community.

The SLIS Merit Scholarship has cut my loans by more than half, which means I don't have to work as much and have more time to pursue my personal and professional interests while in school. I'm involved in student leadership, and plan to become more engaged in student programs, conferences, and events. I'm even able to keep up with my casual interests like music and video games! Finances are one of the major sources of stress for students today, and my lifestyle, academics, and mental health have all benefitted from the relief the scholarship brings.

Boston | GSLIS | New England | SLIS | Students


Ethics in the Library and the Archives

I've been enjoying some very engaging readings and discussion in both of my classes the past few weeks, as our units on ethics happened to coincide. According to my professors, the ethics lesson is always everyone's favorite, and I soon found out why. Believe it or not, the archives and library professions are veritable minefields of fascinating ethical quandaries!

As we discussed these topics in class on Saturday, I realized that library ethics are essentially about protecting and enabling people's right and freedom of choice. We believe that everyone has the right to choose what to read, what to think, what to do, and what to say. We might not agree with their choice, and other people in the library or the community might not agree with their choice, but it is not our place to restrict or pass judgement on that choice. It is important to remember that we cannot know what use a patron intends for a particular book, or what reaction they may have to any given piece of information. Of course, some lines have to be drawn to make sure a person's choice or action does not infringe on the rights of others, and this is where things can get tricky. And what do you do when the profession demands a certain kind of behavior, but your employer demands another? What if it's the U.S. government asking you to act contrary to your professional ethics?

In the archives, ethics largely involves the balancing act between the needs and rights of many different stakeholders: the institution/repository, the users and researchers, the donors, the creators and subjects of records, the materials themselves, and society at large. Archivists serve as mediators between all these different groups and attempt to resolve the conflicts that result when the rights or wishes of one group conflict with those of another group. As with libraries, copyright and privacy present ongoing and recurring challenges.

Professional codes of ethics and values statements can provide useful frameworks for making ethical decisions, but every situation is unique and the possible scenarios are endless. This means that most ethics questions are handled on a case-by-case basis and it often comes down to the individual making the decision and their own inner guidance system. Of all the parties involved, perhaps the most important one to answer to is yourself.  

If you've never seen or read these documents, you should definitely check out the Library Bill of Rights, the American Library Association's Code of Ethics, and the Core Values and Ethics statement from the Society of American Archivists. If these declarations resonate with you and/or provoke feelings of conviction with some trepidation, then you have probably chosen the right profession!

Archives | Libraries | classes


A Language of BEEPS

One of the biggest things I have had to adjust to is the traffic, and the noise that comes with it, especially the horns honking. Each day as I walk to school there are horns blaring, tooting, and bleeping... at first it was all terribly overwhelming, I could not identify any real purpose to it, after all, what difference does it make if you make a lot of noise while you are stuck in traffic? You will still be stuck even if you honk your horn...but slowly I have begun to distinguish between the sounds, and I have noticed that there are patterns to how people honk their horns, and you can sometimes tell what they are trying to say by the noise their car makes:

  • The long drawn out HO-O-O-O-O-O-NK= frustration, usually in the term of "SOMEBODY MOVE!!!! Or "HEY I'M DRIVING HERE!!!" or "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!"
  • An abrupt double HO-ONK-HO-ONK= " STOP THAT (you idiot)"
  • But a quick double-tap Beep-beep= "Hey there" when you see someone you know walking beside the road, or  it can be another form of a catcall, or it can mean "Excuse Me" if you are trying to politely get into the flow of traffic
  • A short, quick Beep= "Hey pay attention" usually when issued when the person in front of you waits to long to go after the light changes, or something like that
  • A series of rapid fire beeps (beep-beep-beep-beep) usually means "Oh my gosh, I am here, please don't hit me" or "I'm coming through move out of my way" depending on the situation or the driver. 

I am sure there are more meanings depending on the situation, and other people might have their own interpretations, but this is what it sounds like to me. I am sure I will have many more chances to study.

Boston


Don't Let School Get in the Way of Your Education

One of the greatest benefits of library graduate school that nobody tells you about is the breadth of experiences people come from. Some students are straight out of college, others have been working as librarians for years, and many (like me) are in between. I highly recommend just chatting with the people around you; it can sometimes be more useful than readings and prescribed discussion.

Just from chatting with classmates, I've learned about the many, many different ways to set up children's storytime, the radically different administrative structures of rural and big city libraries, the pushback against "controversial" projects from supervisors and the public, and much, much more. I often wish there was a space designated specifically for swapping stories, tips, and resources with classmates and colleagues. We grow so much more as a profession when we share information (I mean, that is kind of our whole deal, right?).

Give feedback to your professors related to this. In my experience, they will usually respond graciously. If you find certain assignments unhelpful, tell them. If you have a certain topic you'd really like covered, tell them. As students we can often forget that the school is (ostensibly) there for us. The faculty are there for us. This is especially true in a professional graduate program at a non-research focused institution like Simmons.

Be vocal about what and how you want to learn. Share with each other. This is your education.

GSLIS | People | SLIS | Students


Autumnal Thoughts

Fall here is very different than fall at home. At home, fall is like a candle, once the leaves start turning, they all turn, and suddenly everything looks gold. Then within a few weeks, most of the leaves are gone and you can feel winter creeping in. Here, the fall smolders like an ember--individual trees/patches change to red or gold, and then lose their leaves. The color spreads slowly, and it is possible to have trees with no leaves next to trees that are still green. In addition, the winter seems to slowly move in as temperatures dip a few degrees each week. It seems more appropriate to call this time Autumn; it really is a season here, not just a single month. So much so that I have begun to separate my clothes into fall-worthy and winter-worthy, which I never had to do at home. I am enjoying this change of pace, there really is something cozy about all the Autumn tones people wear, the scarves, and the light coats, the apples and the steaming beverages that are suddenly popular, and it makes time seem like it is going by at a peaceful, calm rate.

Snow_11-9.jpg

Students


Connection

At a small college, opportunity for connection is everywhere.

Currently, there are under 1,000 students in the Simmons SLIS program, and only about 600 on-campus students in Boston. A small department means more interpersonal connection per capita; now that I've finished the core courses, I see the same folks over and over again during the week. When you're so immersed in a space with the same handful of people, and those people have the same interests that you do, and those people are kind and interesting and great, you can have discussions you may not be able to have elsewhere. Where else would those around me take interest in linguistic gatekeepers, adultism, architectural design, and bias in higher education? I'm grateful to be able to have these discussions every day with people who are passionate, opinionated, and kind.

Here's the secret truth about librarianship: nobody is here for the money, glamor, and prestige, because there is none to be had. My friends in law school and medical school frequently run into folks they don't care for much, who have been pressured into the profession, are upholding a family legacy, want money and social power, or any combination of the three. When you choose a path that is chronically underpaid and undervalued, tends to be fairly invisible, and is ultimately about public service, you almost exclusively meet people who genuinely want to be there, with no ulterior motives.

Personally, I would take that over money or prestige any day.


Thinking Like an Archivist

We are more than halfway through the semester and with a few days off for holidays this month, I think I can safely say we are in the home stretch. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Woo!

With my archives internship wrapping up, I thought I'd share some of my observations. First of all, this internship required some serious time management. It is built right into the Intro to Archives course (LIS 438) on top of a typical load of coursework, and it's a lot. I actually advised a classmate the other day not to take it, unless she was serious about archives. Because unless you've got all kinds of free time and not many daytime commitments, it will require some major sacrifices beyond the typical course.

That being said, I have loved all the course material (not so much the online format) and the work I've been doing for my internship. I have finally gotten some hands-on experience in an archive. It really is essential. I've heard several times now how archivists don't just work with a different kind of materials than librarians but that they actually "think" differently. This class, and the internship, is all about learning to think like an archivist.

So what does that mean? Well for my internship I was given a small collection of records to "process." The collection entailed about fifteen gray document boxes filled with file folders of institutional records from the 80s and 90s. There was some order and some disorder and I had to make decisions about what was important, what should go where, and whether I should take the time to rearrange/reorder. Of course I had to take some time to look in each folder and rifle through the materials so I could learn what was there, but how much time should I take? How thorough did I need to be?

In retrospect I realize that these expectations were not clearly defined, and I think (I know) I erred on the side of too much detail. I am a thorough and detail-oriented person by nature, and I wanted to "do right" by the collection by giving it careful and thorough treatment. For the sake of my internship and gaining experience and completing a discrete project, this isn't the worst way to go about things. But what if my repository has hundreds more collections just like that, all waiting to be processed? And what if my users can't access and use and benefit from those collections until they have been arranged and described, at least on a basic level?

This is one of the crucial aspects of the archival profession: effectively balancing the needs of the collection with the needs of users. There are donor relationships and donor wishes to consider, and many issues affecting access such as copyright and privacy. Archivists must balance their limited time and resources with the endless tasks that need doing and services that need providing. To me, thinking like an archivist means navigating all of these difficult decisions, judgements, and priorities to provide the best service possible. 

Archives | Classes | Internships | Online | SLIS | classes


Decisions, decisions, decisions...

Enrollment has rolled around for Spring 2018, and I'm completely torn apart.

Okay, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration, but I'm definitely struggling. Every semester there seems to be at least six classes I want to take, even though I'm limited to four, and self-limited to three due to money. It feels like I can see infinitely branching paths in front of me depending on what I decide. Young adult collections? Collection development? Information services for diverse users? Everything sounds so great!

Let's say there are six classes I'm interested in, none of which create scheduling conflicts (totally hypothetical, definitely NOT enrolled in three classes and on three waitlists right now...). We can determine the amount of possible course combinations by using a non-ordered combination formula.

This results in a whopping...twenty combinations. Okay, so not quite a staggering number, but maybe an almost-tripped-but-caught-myself number?

Anyway, each of these twenty paths could lead me to a totally different future, depending on my classmates, my professors, my assignments, and of course, the content. One of these combinations would be the least stressful. One would be the most. One might set me on a track for success. One might feel like a huge waste of money and time. How can I choose with such uncertainty???

Maybe I'm putting too much stock into this (read: I'm definitely putting too much stock into this). With only twelve courses needed for a degree, I'm bound to miss out on something good no matter what I choose. No amount of math is going to change that.

Classes | SLIS | classes


The Life of a SLIS West Student

It's been a while since I've written specifically about the SLIS West student experience, and I've now taken spring, summer, and fall classes so I'm not the "new girl" on the block anymore. I've never been to the Simmons campus in Boston so I can't exactly compare and contrast, but I can give you a good description of what makes a SLIS West student.

1. SLIS West students commute. Based on all the people that I've met and talked to, the SLIS West commute is anywhere from 15 minutes to 2 hours, and most are somewhere right in the middle. My drive, at 2 hours, is one of the farthest I've heard of and to me it really doesn't seem that bad. Traffic is usually pretty good on a Saturday and the views are lovely. Right now, it's dark when I hit the road and I get to watch the sun rise as I drive.

2. SLIS West students have jobs and families. I have yet to meet a SLIS West student who is just going to school. In fact, I'm amazed how many there are working full time (40+ hours) and still taking two or even three classes. When I was thinking about going to grad school, I was afraid that I didn't fit the "mold" - that I was too old or too much of a mom or something. At SLIS West, there is no "mold." We have all followed very different paths to grad school and we're all finding ways to fit school into busy and established lives.

3. The SLIS West community is small and close-knit. I'm beginning to see a lot of familiar faces in my classes, and I love this about SLIS West. It's common to share the same class schedule with several people and to get to know the professors as you continue to bump into them.

4. SLIS West students have great library resources. We find ourselves right in the thick of the Five Colleges network in western Massachusetts and we enjoy borrowing privileges at the Mount Holyoke College library as well as the ability to request things from Boston. The SLIS West program draws strength from the combined talent and experience of all the colleges and libraries in the area and we find ourselves with no shortage of highly qualified professors, guest speakers, events, and job/internship opportunities.

5. SLIS West has a beautiful setting. South Hadley, Mass. and the campus of Mount Holyoke College provide this lovely, small-town New England feel that I adore. There is no traffic to contend with, no mass transportation, and no parking fees. There are ivy-clad buildings and small shops and trees and families going about their business. Just look at this picture I snapped while I was studying in the Mount Holyoke College library one afternoon:

Ondricek_10-30.jpg

Have I convinced you yet??

GSLIS West


Fun Facts From My Publishing Class

My publishing class is very interesting, my professor has been in the world of publishing for a very long time, and knows all sorts of things about books, and the people behind them.

She was a friend of the authors of Curious George, and according to her, the Reys were Jews in German-occupied France, and when they left, they grabbed some of their work to take with them. They were stopped at the border, but when the soldier detaining them heard that they were writing books for children he asked to see their work. He thought his children would like the story, so he let them through.

Also, did you know that new evidence suggests that Laura Ingalls Wilder had help from her daughter Rose Wilder when writing her books? Laura wrote down her memories, and then Rose, who was a ghostwriter by profession, turned the books into the works of fiction we know today. (For more information see the links below).

https://www.mprnews.org/story/2015/01/10/books-laura-ingalls-wilder-autobiography

http://mentalfloss.com/article/24513/quick-10-curious-george-gets-flossy

classes


Mass Effect

Last fall, I moved out of California for the first time in my life.  I'd visited Boston once, years before. I had vague memories of quaint brick architecture. But travel ≠ transplantation. When I said I was from California, people warned me about snow. But I've been to Minnesota. My culture shock came from other sources.
 
1. Fall. On the west coast, fall means everything dies and it gets colder. It's a short transition between summer and not-summer. But here, fall is an event. People go "apple-picking" and "leaf-peeping," everyone dresses up, cider is consumed. Oh, and IT'S INCREDIBLY BEAUTIFUL.
2. Darkness. In my hometown, we get 300 sunny days a year. Did you know the sun can set at 4:15? Did you know it can be overcast for a week straight? I didn't.
3. Sense of distance. Here, I can visit four states in two hours. A trip to Maine can be shorter than a BART ride to SFO.
4. Regionalisms. I've mentioned "apple-picking" and "leaf-peeping"; other terms that tripped me up include "turnpike," "bodega," and, yes, "wicked".
5. Drivers. Californians are not good drivers, but least they don't perform dangerous maneuvers while honking and yelling at pedestrians.
 
Among the strangeness, the Simmons SLIS community was a rock for me. Commiserating with other fishes-out-of-water has been a lifesaver, and I've learned a lot from locals. I wanted to go to Simmons to experience something different, and it was absolutely the right decision.

A little about me:

  1. I'm in the MS program, focusing on children's/youth services.
  2. I attend the Boston campus and have taken courses online while at home in California.
  3. I started in Fall semester of 2016.
  4. I intend to graduate in December of 2018.

See my bio for more info about me!

Boston | People | SLIS | Students


Massachusetts State Archives Field Trip

Another guest blog by current student, Sarah Nafis. Sarah is in her final 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.

This semester I'm taking Government Archives as one of my electives. The class focuses on government archives at the local, state, and national levels and covers topics such as legal responsibilities, relationship between the different branches of government, accessibility, and challenges facing government archives. In addition to the course readings and discussion, we also have the opportunity to meet with guest speakers and visit a couple of government archives. And field trips are just as much fun in graduate school as they were in elementary school.

Our class was fortunate enough to be given a personal tour of the Massachusetts State Archives (located just around the corner from the JFK Library and Museum) by the Executive Director, Michael Comeau. We spent just under 3 hours on site and I probably could have stayed for another couple of hours. The entire tour was fascinating and it was the perfect mix of Massachusetts history, politics, and archives.

 We started off the tour in the Commonwealth Museum with a brief overview of Massachusetts history and the development of the Archives and the records it holds.  Some of the most interesting records held by the Archives can be seen in the Treasures Gallery. Here visitors can see the original 1629 Charter of Massachusetts Bay, 1691 Charter of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (1780), and one of the original 14 copies of the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights!

After the Treasures Gallery, we focused on the Archives in greater depth. We met with a couple of staff members (including a recent SLIS alumna!) to discuss the reading room, research requests, and digitization efforts. We also got a tour of one of the vaults and the Records Center. It's impossible to explain the size and scale of the Records Center, but try to imagine row after row of 3-story shelves filled with boxes, and think even bigger! And the Records Center doesn't even house the permanent collections. The Archives is working on converting some of the Records Center into another vault since the Archives is almost at full capacity.

I really enjoyed speaking with Michael and other staff members about the challenges and exciting opportunities facing government archives. It added another dimension to our class discussion and assignments and was an overall amazing experience.

Stay tuned for a post about our upcoming visit to the JFK Library and Museum in a couple of weeks

Archives


Libraries or Archives?

As you may know, Simmons has one of the highest-rated Archives Management programs in the country. This was a major factor in my decision to choose Simmons because the idea of an MLIS with a focus in archives interested me much more than a standard MLIS. I felt like it would give me more options - I would graduate with the qualifications to work in both libraries and archives. And frankly, I wasn't sure I was 100% on board with libraries. My interest in the MLIS degree came in a roundabout way as I chased my dreams of working in museums/cultural institutions while maintaining a connection to the world of academia. I knew I wanted to work in a museum or an archives, but I also thought that library jobs would be easier to come by and that I might be just as content to work in an academic library.

The happy news is, I've thoroughly enjoyed all of my classes at SLIS West so far, and only one out of five has been an archives class. Since I'm right in the thick of my archives internship and finally learning more about this profession, I've decided to do a post about some of the ways that libraries and archives are different - and similar. By the way, the title of this post is kind of a trick question. I think you can have and do both. My supervisor at the internship is both archivist and librarian and the two roles are separate but collaborative.

Collections: Both libraries and archives have collection development and management at the heart of what they do, and it is important for both to have well-defined collection policies. The critical difference here is in the nature of the materials they collect, which constitutes the most defining characteristic of archives: archival materials are unique. Therefore, archivists must protect and preserve their materials while also providing access.

Services: Libraries have patrons, archives have users (though I couldn't tell you the reason for different terms). Patrons to the library are free to browse the collection and flip through books, and may find what they need without ever speaking to a librarian. Visitors to the archives must consult with an archivist, who will help them identify records to look at and retrieve the materials. Visitors can use the materials in the archives only, and will be kept under close supervision.  

Observations: Archivists work closely with their donors, spend time carefully arranging and describing their holdings, and participate in the work of the researchers who use the material. It is detailed and sometimes painstaking work, and I think it could be said that archivists are much more involved with their collections than librarians. Of course librarians are thoroughly involved in their work as well, but with more focus on services and instruction. I'm also pretty pleased to find that the archives profession has a distinctly scholarly feel to it, with a knowledge and understanding of historical research methods coming into play. Most of what I've learned in class and experienced in my internship have confirmed what I always suspected: that archives are right up my alley. 

SLIS


Adjusting to Urban Life on the East Coast

Things I love:

  • Access to almost everything: Concerts, shows, stores...stimulation is everywhere.
  • Being at a nexus of the literary world
  • Boston is a very literate city, with many events promoting literacy. In the span of a month, I will have attended the Boston Teen Author Festival, and the Horn Book Globe Awards and Symposium, and the Boston Book Festival. These events all bring me close to authors, editors, and agents.
  • The Dress Code: It is nice to be able to dress casually more often. Even though I strove for comfort in my professional clothes, nothing beats jeans and a t-shirt.
  • The diverse environment:  Like any city, Boston is home to a wide variety of people, from a wide variety of locations. It also helps that my residence caters to international students, so I get to meet people from many different countries, and learn from, and with them. It is amazing how diverse the group is, on my floor of nine residents alone; there are residents from 5 of the 7 continents.

Things I will need to get used to:

  • The dress code: Casual here=formal at home...(not for everyone but certainly for some). Looking at all the girls in their cute dresses and heels makes me both relieved and ashamed that I come from "The worst dressed" state in the Union.
  • Being inside all the time: It is crazy how many people I meet who haven't been outside for longer than it takes to walk from the "T station" to their destination in days.
  • The prices: Boston has a very high cost of living. I am often flabbergasted when I go to pay. "What do you mean this sandwich is $9 dollars? It's a ham sandwich, not a grass-fed beef burger." On the positive side, I am less likely to go buy lunch if I can avoid it.  

Boston


Adventures by the sea

I have been here a month now, classes have begun, jobs have started, and I am more confident about where I am going. It is finally sinking in that I am not a tourist any more. I have begun to develop routines, and to truly adjust to my life in Boston. I did get a chance to do some more exploring and had a few more adventures before settling down in my little world of Boston. First, I went to the former home of August St. Gaudens, an artist who is particularly famous for his sculptures and coin faces. He is responsible for some of the most famous coin faces in the US, particularly the double eagle gold piece, as well as several Civil War statues. Next I went to visit the town of Kennebunkport, Maine. Where I got my first taste of New England's famous rocky coastlines. Finally, I returned to the cape and to one last dip in the Atlantic Ocean. As I got out of the water, I witnessed a very interesting weather phenomenon, where the mist gathered on the water, and on the edges of the beach around me, though I was left in a circle of hazy sunlight. It was like a scene for a story, and I fully expected to see a pirate ship on the horizon, here a mermaid's song, or see a selkie come to shore. There is a kind of magic about the Atlantic Ocean here that invites mystery, and gives the tales of old more credence. It is an affect I have seen in no other location so far. 

Boston


Living the Dream

WHOA it's been a crazy week! So crazy, in fact, I'm going to have to break it down with a numbered list. Here are the important announcements/news items from this week:

1. I started my internship at the Fairfield University archives!

                This internship is a big deal for me. I haven't worked since I had my son almost five years ago, so I need all the professional experience I can get. Also, I've never done any actual archives work before. I have some library experience and some museum experience, and here I am in grad school claiming I want to be an archivist with only a foggy idea of what that actually means. So YAY FOR INTERNSHIPS! Can you tell I'm excited? I'm super excited. This internship is perfect for me. It's not too far from my home and it's a small university archives, which frankly is exactly the kind of institution I see myself in some day.

2. I visited an archives for my field study.

                This would be only the second time I've actually used an archives for research. The first was in undergrad and I'm fairly certain I had no idea what I was doing and was mostly trying to look smart. So I honestly had some apprehension as I pulled up to the Westchester County Archives in White Plains armed with my supposed research topic. And you know what? The whole thing went swimmingly. The reading room supervisor/archivist was extremely gracious and accommodating, and even gave me a quick tour of the facility! I got to look at some legitimately interesting documents (about a house allegedly used by George Washington in the Revolutionary War) just for asking! I knew I was going to love archives. I've come a long way since undergrad.

3. I pulled an all-nighter the night before class.

                This probably shouldn't be a news item, but it highlights an important aspect of my experience as a student. Keep in mind that I get up early and drive two hours to class. Also keep in mind that I didn't even pull all-nighters in undergrad, because I am not a night owl and I do not tolerate lack of sleep very well. But the reality is that sometimes life gangs up on you all in one week and you are pushed to extremes. In hindsight, if I were going to need to stay up all night working again, I should really do it on Thursday and not Friday, because nobody should be driving long distances in a state of exhaustion. But I also realized something else. If it turns out that successful completion of my graduate program necessitates many more all-nighters, then by all means, I will do it. Nobody said achieving your dreams was easy.

4. Fall is really here finally!

                The weather for most of this week was depressingly warm and humid, but in the last few days it has become cool and crisp and autumnal, making my heart soar. Fall is my favorite season and one of the best times of the year. I'm only mildly ashamed that over the course of two days I have made pumpkin ginger cookies, pumpkin banana muffins, pumpkin pancakes, and pumpkin spice popcorn. Yes I am one of those people.

In summary, it has been a very challenging and soul-stretching week filled with lots of "firsts." I'm glad it's over and I hope the hardest part of the semester is behind me. But even if it's not, I will keep right on trucking, reminding myself that I am living the dream. Sometimes it helps to just pause, breathe, take a step back and remember all the reasons why I am doing this. I've dreamed about going back to school for years, and sometimes I still can't believe it is actually happening. So yes, even with the stress and the worrying and the scrambling and the all-nighters, I am living the dream.

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