Student Snippets


Dreaming of December Reading

While free time and sleep are definitely high on my list of "Things I can't wait to have once this semester is over," the top of that list is "reading for pleasure." I've been trying to sneak books in during slow weeks where presentations and projects and papers aren't due, when there are only a few scholarly articles to read, but I can't wait to dedicate some good time to my armchair, curled up with one of the many books I've put on hold at the BPL.

In honor of this upcoming pleasure reading, I've included some of my favorite books that I've read recently in hope that you will recommend some of your recent favorites to me! Feel free to comment or email me with any suggestions!

"The Girl on the Train" by Paula Hawkins


I see the words "murder mystery" and I'm a goner. Sadly, sometimes these grisly tales are poorly written, super predictable, or completely impractical: but this novel is none of these things. Plus, as a frequent rider of the commuter rail and T, I'd like to think that I could be the next girl on the train. As Alfred Hitchcock famously said, "Everyone enjoys a nice murder, provided he is not the victim."

"Modern Romance" by Aziz Ansari


More comedians should write sociology books in my opinion. Aziz and sociologist Eric Klinenberg studied (mostly heterosexual) relationships around the world for some interesting insight into how contemporary technology has shaped the way that we interact with each other both socially and romantically. If you have used online dating sites or apps, if you have worried about how quickly to text someone back, or if you've reminisced about how dating must have been back in your parents' or grandparents' day, you should read this book solely so you know that everyone does it and you definitely aren't crazy.

"The Silkworm" by Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling)


The second of her Cormoran Strike novels, JK as Robert Galbraith writes a great detective story. I was not particularly enamored of her other post-Potter works (and maybe, as I said before, I'm just a sucker for murder mysteries), but Rowling's ability to weave a complicated story make her a great mystery writer. Start with "The Cuckoo's Calling" first but hurry up! The third novel in the series, "Career of Evil," was released in October, and I'm currently the number #236 hold on the Boston Public Library's current 40 eBook copies.

"Kitchen Confidential" by Anthony Bourdain


Unlike the other three recommendations, this book has been around awhile. Since its publication in 2000, Anthony Bourdain has become one of those famous chefs that everyone knows for everything but cooking. I fell in love with him through shows like "No Reservations" and "Parts Unknown" despite (or perhaps because of) his tendency toward the degenerate and totally weird.  This book, which acts as an autobiography of Bourdain's rise to chefdom from his first job as a busboy in Provincetown, MA, also offers an interesting perspective on contemporary cuisine and restauranteering. I even bought my current knives based on one of Bourdain's recommendations. In any event, I've asked for every other book he's ever written for Christmas.

I hope I chose a diverse-enough group of books to intrigue most of you! As always, please let me know if you have read anything recently that you absolutely loved - I'm always looking to expand my "to read" list! And I'm not picky... especially if murder is involved. :)

Happy finals!


Blogs: The Perfect Remedy to Academic Article Overload

I know that as grad students, we are never in short supply of something to read. Between class work, research, any reading for the plethora of part-time jobs and internships we take on, and just trying to keep up with the latest work coming out in our particular field, it is truly surprising that our eyes don't just go on strike and refuse to read one more word!

But if, by some miracle, you should find yourself in need of something to read, might I suggest exploring the vast world of the blogosphere? With writing of every skill-level on every topic imaginable, there is no shortage of 500-word snippets to tempt any literary palette. I know the selection pool can seem overwhelming, so allow me to suggest a few of my personal favorites to get you started. In no particular order, here they are...

  • Anita Silvey's Children's Book-A-Day Almanac


This blog is perfect for a librarian in search of a book for read-aloud time, a parent browsing for a new book for their little ones, a teacher looking to plan a themed lesson for the day, or anyone else looking for some new book recommendations. Every day Ms. Silvey (who happens to be a professor at our very own Simmons College in the Children's Literature department) highlights a new children's book every day of the year. She somehow manages to tie the book's theme or author to the significance of any particular date, whether it be via a little-known holiday or an author's birthday. Besides providing a summary and a snippet from the text, Ms. Silvey delves into her many years of experience in the publishing field and tells us a delightful or inspiring tale about the writing or publishing process of the particular title for the day. Trust me, there are some fun stories lurking in the archives of her blog, just waiting to be unearthed.

  • Oh My Disney


So I'm a child at heart...don't judge :) Anyone who knows me knows how much of a Disney fan I am, so when I discovered that Disney maintains a fan blog, I was immediately hooked! With daily posts on everything from why we all love Pocahontas' hair to the newest park attractions, this is the site for the truest of Disney fans. Take a quiz to learn which Disney princess's style you should channel, browse a new collection of mugs from the Disney Store, learn how to make a pair of DIY personalized Mickey ears, or read up on the limited-time treats available during Christmas at the Disney parks. And if you need a reason to justify your reading, just tell yourself you are doing market research for the children-centered field you are pursuing. That sounds adult enough, right?

  • VSauce


Ok, this one is actually a vlog, rather than the traditionally written blog, but I will argue it still is a method of communicating a set amount of information on a particularly-chosen topic in a compact format. Unlike the other blogs, VSauce's topics of exploration are pretty far removed from the literary world. The creator of the Youtube channel and the host of all the videos, Michael, does an amazing job of breaking down scientific and psychological questions and principles into universally understandable and (surprisingly) entertaining language. Answering questions like "Why are things cute?" or "Who owns the moon?", Michael succinctly breaks down volumes of research into beautifully-constructed 10-minute videos. This vlog is perfect for those moments when you are missing the hard sciences in the midst of literary critical interpretation.

So if you've read every entry here on Student Snippets and are still not ready to go back to your homework, take a gander through a few of these blogs and expand your mind...but then get back to business! :) 

Children's Literature

Librarianship as Emotional Labor

This post is a little different from my previous ones - basically, I want to gather my thoughts on a topic that I recently read about. Rose Hackman wrote an article earlier this month for The Guardian, arguing that emotional labor is the next frontier of feminism. Emotional labor refers to the type of work that count on "service with a smile," and historically there has been a "positive bias" toward women in these roles. Hackman also argues that it is work that is not accounted for in wages.

"The way I think of emotional labor goes as follows: there are certain jobs where it's a requirement, where there is no training provided, and where there's a positive bias towards certain people - women - doing it. It's also the kind of work that is denigrated by society at large."

The article does not mention librarianship, but I immediately thought of this profession, especially as it evolves away from the "shushing librarian" image and more toward positive user service interactions. Librarianship is an industry of knowledge, but human interaction has always been an essential part of the equation. I'm really interested in  the question of why predominantly women have historically been drawn to this field. Is it part of a positive bias? Or are there particular benefits offered in librarianship that are appealing to women (who are also often working mothers)? Are these benefits or labor conditions transferable to other fields where women have been missing (think: STEM)?

This positive bias is also not necessarily better for us lady librarians; it's damaging to women who are expected to fit this image, and damaging to men who might be seen as incapable of filling these roles. In my own personal experience, I have been hired for a job where I was explicitly told "we wanted to bring fresh, positive energy to the team." Maybe that positivism is part of my personality - and part of me is glad to be seen this way - but, after hearing that, I also felt a weird pressure that my job description included this unwritten duty to lift my team's (often negative) spirits.

Back to Hackman: She talks to a male friend who asks her whether the expectation that women excel in emotional labor is necessarily a bad thing:

"My friend would probably never dare say: "Oh, but women are better cooks," "Women are more talented cleaners" or "Women are better with children." And yet, that he was suggesting that maybe some women "are just like that" - better at emotions - seemed to be the argument I was bumping into most frequently when I brought up the argument. But this essentialist view doesn't hold up academically."

I'm hoping to pursue these kinds of questions academically, and I am curating a Google doc of articles to look into when it's time to write a capstone paper. In the meantime, I would love to hear experiences from other librarians on whether they agree that this a field of occasionally under-appreciated emotional labor. Is the gender imbalance within librarianship the next feminist frontier??

Check out Amy's original post on



Inventorying the Boston Public Library's Print Collection

Since the beginning of October 2015, I have been part of a team that is currently working on inventorying the Boston Public Library's print collection. The print collection, housed in the heart of the BPL, is massive and although considerable progress was made on inventorying the collection over the course of the summer, there is still a long way to go. Currently, my duties are split in two. On Mondays, I spend my shift rifling through index cards (remember those?) and looking for duplicates. Sometimes there aren't any (YAY!); but usually there are a lot of them. For example, I am currently weaning out duplicates from a stack associated to the French artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Without the duplicates, the collection of cards is about two-hundred and fifty. Multiply that number by 2. Talk about a lot of cards!!! As much fun as removing duplicate cards sound, Wednesdays are my personal favorite day of the week. That's because on Wednesdays, I get to actually dig into the collection, open up boxes, see what's hiding inside. Basically this is a task that guarantees that a surprise is waiting inside any given solander box. 

Check out what I found in my most recent box
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Talk about awesome! I can't even begin to describe how excited I was when I opened the box and found these woodblock prints lying inside. As of this Wednesday, these prints along with two others, were officially entered into the inventory and their box, which was unmarked, has been given a label. Hopefully one day soon, these and other items from the print collection will become digitized and then, everyone will be able to enjoy their beauty.


The Joys of Co-Working

"If you have a friend you like to spend time with, but also want them to have their dreams to come true, co-work. Accomplish your dreams together."--Hannah Hart

One of the biggest problems I find myself facing when I'm trying to complete schoolwork is the fact that I let myself decide that I'm not in the right mood to get anything done. I could be in a sleepy mood, and who wants to work then? Or I could be too awake to do work. Or none of the Spotify stations are playing music which I can get work done to.  When I don't 'feel' like getting work done, I can have a million and one excuses.

Now, as a lot of people know, one of the fixes for this is to set up a space where you get work done. Now, I don't know about anyone else, but, although I love my apartment, it's small. My desk has a mix of school books, scarves and bills on it. It's not, currently, a friendly workspace.

Another, faster fix is to co-work. Co-working is when you work with your friends or group partners on assignments or other work to create an environment where you accomplish your goals. You get to be around other people who inspire you, and, better still, you get work done within a set schedule of hours. You know that you only have from 1-4 to work on something, and that builds a schedule for you to complete things.

So, for the past few months, I've arranged 'co-working' meet-ups with a couple friends because there's something really motivating about being in the same room as other people who are really passionate and also want to get work done. I've been able to write papers, get ahead on assignments, and do research while spending time with people I admire and enjoy being around.

So, since it's the last few weeks of school, I propose everyone try to fit a co-working session into their semester. I know that I'm going to!


Pickles and PhDs

As I approach the end of this semester (my final assignments are due 12/3 and 12/8) I am feeling an increasing sense of urgency, but also a feeling of confidence. Part of this is likely due to the fact that I have a whole weekend ahead of me with no plans, except making pickles. I've never pickled anything so it should be an interesting journey. Anyway, it will be nice to make some real progress on my research this weekend.

Last night I indulged in a night of crafting, Gilmore Girls, and no homework. I stitched initials onto some Christmas stockings that I bought for our apartment, and then started making a hat for my boyfriend. I learned how to knit from my old bosses in my job at the Saint Michael's College library, Kristen and Naomi. It's an unspoken law that librarians must learn to knit. I also have a cat, so I can check off that box too.


Last weekend I came very close to being the owner of two cats, when I heard that the MSPCA was waiving their adoption fee for adult cats (older than one year). We've often talked about getting a second cat as a playmate for our ornery and constantly hungry cat, Maverick (he is very well fed on an expensive diet, but Maverick considers anything less than 8 meals a day to be utter depravity). In the end, it wasn't the right time, but eventually I think we will get a kitten. Possible names are Professor Minerva McGonagle, Zipporah, and Tesla.


Yesterday at work, I found a cool (but maybe not surprising) link between school and my job. At a meeting for our Information Services team, our training group gave a presentation about how they had recently changed their curriculum for new attorneys at our firm, and one of their goals was to provide information on a topic as the need arose, rather than give them everything they might in a long, six-hour session. They found that this prevented information overload and that the new hires are able to retain more of what they learn.

This is really relevant to the literature review that I am writing for my Foundations class, especially because I have chosen to track the information behavior of lawyers. We had to choose a population to review and I selected lawyers because I thought it would be useful to me. What I hadn't planned on was the fact that my work and my colleagues could be a resource as well. I had some help from a coworker in our law library, who told me about some journal databases to try; then, yesterday, I even found myself thinking about my topic at the meeting. Basically, our training team was trying to identify points of uncertainty in our lawyers' work and resolve the issues proactively.

I can't really use this real-time information in my paper, because my assignment for Foundations is not an original study, but rather a literature review - though it certainly requires plenty original thought. Still, it's useful to have context as I begin my research. My first piece of reading is a PhD dissertation that someone has already written on the topic, and it's 300 pages. TGIF.


This Blogger's Ranking of the Best Book-To-Movie Adaptations

With excitement building for the upcoming final installment of The Hunger Games film series, I got to thinking this week about other successful (and not so successful) book-to-movie adaptations. So here are my top five favorite movies that started as beloved books.

***NOTICE: I said MY top five. Agree, disagree, vehemently disagree...that's fine. I'd love to hear your lists as well!

My Regulations:

  • I am only including films on the list that I have seen about books that I have read. Hence, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Twilight will not be making an appearance...cheer or grumble as you will.
  • I am only including film adaptations of children's books. I could go on and on about the plethora of Jane Austen movies (and I just might in one of these posts), but I have to narrow the field for this list.
  • I am not including made-for-TV movies or miniseries. There are some wonderful creations out there, and it could even be argued that the miniseries is a better format for book adaptation as it allows for more detail, but again, I have to narrow the selection pool somehow.

Alright, now that that business is out of the way, let's jump right in, shall we?

#5. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005)


 I will admit it now...this was never one of my favorite books. I had to read it quite a few times for school, and I always found it charming, but dull! It wasn't until I saw this movie that I fell in love with the characters! And don't even get me started on Aslan! Liam Neeson is and always should be a lion in my book. Yes, there is an unnecessarily-long battle scene, but that is to be expected and forgiven. The time that the director took to make the experience authentic and magical for all involved definitely translates to the viewers!

#4. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)


Though I am a fan of all the Hunger Games movies, this one is my favorite in terms of book-to-movie translation. It is the most accurate, it follows the book's story arc very closely, and it maintains a superb level of visual intrigue and surprise (I mean, who wasn't excited when they first saw that aerial shot of the arena)! It also does a very good job of balancing character moments with action moments, something I felt the first movie struggled with.

 #3. Mary Poppins (1964)


Throwing it back a few decades, we come to what is not only one of my favorite book-to-film movies, but one of my favorite movies EVER! I fell in love with Julie Andrew's magical nanny when I was just a tot, but it wasn't until a year ago that I ventured into the world of P.L. Travers' literary creations. Reading the books was like a treasure hunt for familiar moments, I was pleasantly surprised to run into many of my favorite scenes and characters in the books. But there were so many more stories and adventures I had never encountered before to fall in love with too. Despite P.L. Travers' misgivings surrounding the final film draft, I saw so much of her whimsical sensibility in the movie's writing and the brilliant actors' portrayals. Plus, the music! What else is there to say?

#2. Holes (2003)


 Have. The. Author. Write. The. Screen. Play! Seriously. I firmly believe Holes was so well-adapted because they made strategic use of the man who knew the story inside out and better than anyone. I understand that this doesn't always work. Authors want to hold on to every detail of their stories (which just can't happen in a movie). But when it can work, it is brilliant!

And finally, my #1 pick for the BEST book-to-movie adaptation EVER...

The Book Thief (2013)


Not only is this my favorite movie on this is also tied for the top spot as one of my favorite books of all time! I could go on for pages and pages about the beauty and brilliance of Markus Zusak's elegantly-crafted novel, but I will save that for another time and place. When I first heard they were making my cherished book into a movie, I was struck with equal measures of extreme elation and sheer panic. What if they ruined it? What if they changed the ending? Who would they cast? How would they translate Zusak's beautiful prose into accessible dialogue? Well, I have no idea how any of these were accomplished, but by some miracle, they were! The film manages to maintain the poetic writing style, the acting choices were unparalleled (I am still permanently indignant that Geoffrey Rush was not nominated for this performance), and the look of the film was simultaneously elegant and devastating. GO SEE THIS MOVIE!!! (Just don't go into it thinking it's a romantic comedy like my best friend did or you will not be emotionally prepared :)

Well, there you have top five book-to-movie adaptations. If anything, I hope I got you thinking about some of your own favorites (or least favorites). Happy viewing!


Attending a SLIS How To Panel

I've been to conferences before, so when one of my friends expressed an interest in going to the How To Attend a Conference event put on by SLIS groups, I was a little hesitant. It wasn't that I didn't find the topic interesting. It's that when you do something once, you kind of assume you know how to do it.

I went to a national conference. I presented for a whole fifteen minutes. I had it down pat.

But I'm a sucker for peer pressure and free food, so I went with her.

I'm so glad I went. It made me address some of my preconceived notions.

One, there's a difference between attending a National Conference as an undergraduate. When you go to a conference as an undergraduate, no one really expects anything out of you. You're like a little baby to people who are Professionals In Their Field. They love that you're so excited but they know that you don't know half as much as them.

Two, there's a difference between an academic conference and a professional conference. At PCA/ACA, the focus was on sharing your findings and putting your work out there, and learning about what other people are doing, but not necessarily in your field. Professional Conferences, I found out, have workshops, and sessions about what the LIS field is doing. There's a focus on professional development of skills.

Three, networking is easy at a professional conference, because everyone is there to network, and everyone at an LIS conference is in the LIS field. It's easy, the presenters promised, to hand out business cards.

Oh, and apparently shipping books from San Fransico to Boston isn't that expensive. Who knew?


Learning about the Copyright Act

Yesterday in my Photographic Archives course (LIS 471) taught by the wonderful Professor Martha Mahard, my class was was treated to a crash course in the Copyright Act and all of its wonderful quirks. For those not acquainted with the Copyright Act, it is something that many of us will encounter more than once in our line of work as librarians, archivists, and information professionals. To describe the Copyright Act is no simple task but I will do my best to define it in under 100 words.

The U.S. Copyright Act: a piece of federal legislation that provides Constitutional protection to the writings of authors. The term 'writings' is a loose term, one that encompasses architectural design, software, graphic arts, movies, and sound recordings. The owner of a copyright has the sole rights to reproduce, distribute, perform, display, and license works based on the copyrighted work. The rights of the copyright owner are subject to limitation by the 'fair use' doctrine. Fair use applies to criticism, comment, news, reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research. These are not subjected to copyright infringement. 
To help the class get a better grasp of the concept, Professor Mahard presented us with an example featuring a figure that all of us were able to identify. Perhaps you might recognize him too.
Does he look familiar?
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This is Wall-E. In the Pixar film Wall-E, he travels from a post-apocalyptic earth into outer space and sets off on an adventure that will ultimately shape the fate of the remnants of the human race. So what does Wall-E have to do with the Copyright Act? Well, if you want to get very technical, and I mean very technical, he is a mobile and talking Copyright Act violation. How so, you might be wondering? 
1. WALL-E records audio from his favorite movie, Hello Dolly!, putting in onto his own digital recorder (bypassing the macrovision DRM on the tape). A COPYRIGHT CRIME UNDER C-61 

2. WALL-E archives the audio, he doesn't merely time-shift it. He listens repeatedly! A COPYRIGHT CRIME UNDER C-61 

3. WALL-E shares his DRM-broken music with his friend, another robot named EVE. A COPYRIGHT CRIME UNDER C-61 
Let's be clear here: the information above while ridiculous in nature, especially considering that the copyright on Hello Dolly! expired about 740 years prior to the events of the film (assuming that the copyright for the film expired 95 years after publication), showcases the extent of the Copyright Act. And while I sometimes roll my eyes at it, the Copyright Act is something that all of us should know to some extent. It might not always make sense and it might at times be frustrating, but within the world of archives and museums, knowing how the Copyright Act works could be the thing that saves you and your institution from a potential fiasco. 
Time to do some extra reading....


Temporary Disturbances in the Force

Hello there!

I've had trouble finding time to write recently because work has been incredibly busy. I like my job for many reasons, one being that my firm offers great benefits, like sabbaticals every 10 years; however, in the last two weeks, one coworker's sabbatical overlapped with another person's honeymoon. Doing the job of three specialists has made me feel like a battle droid running around with its head cut off. This week, one of my coworkers is back, so things have quieted down a bit.

Finding time to celebrate Halloween!
I have definitely started to find a healthy balance when it comes to school work, and my last few assignments have come back with high marks. I felt confident enough, when I registered for classes next semester, to sign up for 9 credits instead of 6 - kind of.

It will work like this: during spring break in March my adviser, Jim Matarazzo, is teaching a week long class called "Special Libraries," which is 3 credits like any other course, but meets from 9-5 like a regular job. This means that I will have to plan to use some of my PTO from work, but I can cut out a class later in my program and finish sooner than the 2 1/2 year track that I am on now. This works out well, because I was worried when I found out that it's not really possible to do two classes during the shorter summer term.

My other two courses next spring will be one of our core requirements, LIS 407 (Information Sources and Services a.k.a. Reference) and the more focused LIS 437 (Legal Information Services). 437 should be especially applicable for me, as I hope to eventually work in a law library or similar space. My foundations course requires us to write a literature review (due in less than a month now, on December 3!) on the information behavior of a specific user group, and I chose lawyers because I thought it would be interesting and useful. I also had the idea to reach out to a colleague in my firm's library, and he helped me to identify some helpful resources. This weekend I plan to dig into the reading phase of my research!

Outside of school, there is something interesting that happened at work. I'm on the "Innovation Board," which fields and implements project ideas from our Information Services group. One of the recent ideas was to host targeted TED talks for IS and then have a discussion about the video. My colleague in DC and I took this on, and a few weeks ago we hosted our first one. About 30 people combined attended our events, and discussed a talk by Tony Fadell called "The first secret of design is . . . noticing." It was so successful that I had the idea afterward of counting these quarterly events toward our firm's required annual training hours. This week, after getting clearance, I e-mailed our participants to let them know that they would be given credit for the event, and to spread the word to boost attendance in the future! Hopefully training will be a great incentive, and people will continue to come to these casual but educational talks. I really enjoy them because my department is a little separate from the rest of IS, so it gives me a chance to get to know people in my local office. I also love any chance to break my normal routine and get away from my desk.

Just for fun, here is a picture of my boyfriend and me in our Halloween costumes this weekend. Can you tell which one I am?


Go See Some Art!

I know that, for a graduate student, the concept of "free time" is like some ungraspable mist, always hanging nearby making you aware of its existence, but rarely solidifying into something practical and tangible and enjoyable. Because its appearance is so rare, it is important to make the most of it when it arrives. And Boston is never lacking in cool events to check out in that precious free moment.

For a theatre geek like myself, one of my favorite discoveries over my last year and a half in Boston has been the Student Rush program. This program has been such a gift for my grad-school-afflicted wallet. For just $25 and a peek at your student ID, you can receive amazing tickets to some of the biggest Broadway touring shows in town! All you have to do is show up an hour before the house opens and show your ID!

Now I know this sounds too good to be true, and while it IS true, there are a few downsides...

  1. You can only get one ticket per ID. But this means you and your friends can all wait in line together and pass the time squealing in excitement (at least that's what I do!)
  2. You can't reserve tickets ahead of time, so your plans have to be a bit flexible. The theatre probably won't know until the day of the performance whether or not they will be offering Rush tickets for that evening's show, and if they are, there's no guarantee how many will be available. So make sure you have a backup plan that includes a dessert place to drown your sorrows at missing the show in melted chocolate.
  3. Weekends are usually out of the question. Most shows are in town for only one or two weekends, so they almost always sell out those days. Try for Thursday evening performances if you can. They are the least likely to sell out because people still have to go to work the next day and don't want to be out late at the theatre.
  4. You may not get to sit next to your pals. The tickets available are all the ones that didn't sell to regular-paying patrons, and they are usually scattered throughout the house. But this is only a problem if you're one of those people that feels the need to talk throughout the performance (and you're not one of those people...are you?)

But enough of downsides...let's talk about the possible perks!

  1. YOU GET TO SEE A BROADWAY SHOW FOR $25!!!!! Trust me...this is unheard of!
  2. The shows that tour are usually the best of the best Broadway has to offer. And you get the chance to experience them live, in your own city, for (I say it again) $25!!!
  3. If you get to the theatre early enough (and have a little bit of luck on your side) you could get some amazing seats! I recently saw the touring production of Rodger's & Hammerstein's Cinderella IN THE FRONT ROW! Couples usually buy these seats together, so the end of the row usually has one leftover seat. Sometimes it pays to be alone :)

Boston is an amazing city with so many wonderful opportunities to experience beautiful art and culture (without breaking the bank). Take advantage of your time here, however long that may be, and go see a play, or a comedy show, or walk through a museum. Expand your mind and drink in the beauty of this creative city. And remember the words of painter Gil Dellinger, 

"Art is important. We tend to think it is a luxury, but it gives people deep pleasure because beauty is the personification of hope that something grander is at work."

So the next time you are feeling overwhelmed with your job, your internship, or your classload, put your student ID to work and experience some art.


NaNoWriMo and Me

For most of the school year, I struggle with my time management skills. It's not that I don't have the skills, but rather that I struggle to effectively use them. I have planners and notebooks and generally know of the syllabus and the schedule I should be on to get everything done.

I have a tendency to ignore all of them in favor of doing other things, which, often, are not actually productive.

This, however, completely changes in the month of November.

November is NaNoWriMo. I'm very passionate about NaNoWriMo. I've won the official NaNo every year since 2013.


For the uninitiated, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. It occurs in the month of November when a bunch of completely crazy people, myself included, decide to write fifty thousand words in 30 days. This averages out to 1,667 words per day.

It's a lot of writing, and, to get it all done requires a lot of planning. I haven't stayed up past midnight yet to get homework done or get a head start on my word count for the day, but it'll happen. In the meantime, I've found that I can get about four hundred words written on my phone during the half hour ride to Hynes station, and about five hundred on the ride from the MFA stop back to my apartment every day. Fifteen minute class breaks can (and have) resulted in me writing a handwritten page of notes to be typed up later in the day.

November and NaNoWriMo bring out the planner in me. I've completed over half of a homework assignment not due for another two weeks, laid out the groundwork for another three assignments, and, on top of it all, found time to visit the MFA and tour some of historic Boston with friends. Essentially, NaNoWrimo turns me into that grad student doing the things you wish you were doing.

I encourage everyone to participate in NaNoWrimo, because while there's pressure to write 50,000 words in one month, they don't have to be good words. NaNoWriMo is the fastest way I've found to get past writing anxiety, because you have to write something every single day.

And, hey, if you're on NaNo already, add me as a writing buddy!


Walk the Walk (on Commonwealth)

Last week I somehow caught laryngitis. To my memory, I have never been that sick in my entire life. I was sleeping 20 hours a day, quarantined to my little apartment, voiceless and surviving on canned soup, white rice, and rolled-up tortillas, and mentally swaying back and forth on whether I wished I still had roommates: On the one hand, I'd have someone to take care of me. On the other, they would be forced to be witness to my sickness and squalor. Thankfully my prescription meds worked wonders and I'm on the up and up, but my lost week means that autumn in New England appeared out of nowhere for me. Before I was sick, the leaves were just starting to change, littering the streets with neon yellow slivers. Now, the reds and oranges have arrived, bold and utterly beautiful.

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On Sunday afternoons I work at the Boston Architectural College Library and I take advantage of the still mild weather and Boston's essential walkability and stroll through Beacon Hill, across the Public Gardens, and down busy but adorable Newbury Street on my way to my noon shift. The Public Gardens were beautiful, as usual, and as I exited the cast iron gates I was greeted by the long, tree-lined avenue that is Commonwealth. I decided to take a little detour from my usual routine and it was completely worth it. Avenues are meant to be walkable, a main thoroughfare that encourages strolling, people watching, and enjoying the general splendor. Commonwealth Avenue did not disappoint.

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Maybe it was because I had been essentially stuck in my apartment for a week as I recovered, but as I ambled down Commonwealth it felt like Boston was putting on its best nature show for me.  Leaves fluttered beautifully across the Back Bay mansions as if I were in a movie. Dogs of all kinds romped around with their owners and newly made dog friends. It seemed as though no one tree was the same color, and each block held yet another picturesque moment complete with a different statue and different autumnal hues. I ended up getting to work late because I couldn't help but take picture after picture, but thankfully no students were waiting.

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Because I loved this walk so much, I thought I'd share a little map so that you can take advantage of this amazing area of Boston before winter hits (which I'm sure will be sooner rather than later!).  I'd take the T to Charles MGH and follow Charles Street from there, though feel free to start on the Boston Common around the Park Street stop and walk across to the Public Gardens. I also extended the walk to include my other favorite walk in Boston: around the Fens, from Back Bay to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and (oh look at that!) Simmons College. On-campus students might be de-sensitized to this leg of the walk, but for an online student like me that spends far too much time downtown, all that nature is just what I need.

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New England

A Devotion to Knowledge

This post is for anyone who may be worried about their undergraduate programs being (or seeming) totally unrelated to a master's program. I came into the SLIS program feeling a little bit of this anxiety, which lived next door to my fears about having been away from any school for a year. I have adjusted without too much difficulty, and I think this last year has been invaluable in terms of gaining some real perspective.

In May 2014, I graduated from Saint Michael's College (VT) with a double BA in English and Religious Studies. After those four years of liberal arts, I appreciate a healthy dose of critical self-reflection. I have recently been trying to imagine a rough intellectual trajectory to rationalize how I came to my present studies in LIS - in fact, this question is part of why I started this blog. The English piece of my B.A. degree makes sense (books, right?), but how do I bridge my past studies in religion to my present work in LIS? My answer arrived in an article during the first week of my Foundations class; "Toward a Theory of Librarianship and Information Science" was published in July 1972 and it certainly shows its age. Jesse Shera adorably ponders where computers will take us, and even hints at the potential for thought control.


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I don't agree with everything that Shera has to say, but I was quite taken with the term that he ascribes to library studies. He calls for librarianship to be seen as a "social epistemology," and basically describes it as the study of the nature of knowledge. Shera (1972) challenges us to examine the way that knowledge is used and the "nature of the intellectual process in society - a study of the ways in which society as a whole achieves a perceptive and understanding relationship to its environment."

This phrase "social epistemology" really caught my attention because Shera's definition reminded me of the way that I always explained my religion major as an undergraduate. I attended a Catholic college but remained agnostic during my education, and I focused mostly on the academic study of Islam. When asked about my interest in RS, I would say something like; I'm interested in how and why people believe, and the ways that belief influences their lives. In other words, I wanted to know about the spiritual lenses that people use to interpret and know the world - the "perceptive and understanding relationship."

In the 1980s, social epistemology as a field evolved away from library science and became a separate study in philosophy and sociology; however, I think Shera's original thought process is still related to my own. There is something comforting about the idea that I haven't strayed so far from my original path; for me, it has always been about a devotion to knowledge.


I Do Love a Themed Snack!

I am currently waist-deep in my classwork for the semester and starting to feel the toll of the impending final projects, presentations, and papers, not to mention the weekly coursework I still need to stay on top of. But, thankfully, I was recently treated to a wonderful surprise that brightened my week and reminded me again why I love this school, this program, and my fellow students.

One of the classes I am taking is entitled Victorian Literature, in which we are focusing particular attention on the subgenre of school stories. Well, as any lit. major knows, it is almost impossible to escape a Victorian literature class without encountering the infamous Alice and her adventures in Wonderland. Now, it's time for a confession...I've never read either of the Alice books before this year. I've seen the Disney movie a couple dozen times, sure, but I entered this class and this book with fresh eyes. Well, Mr. Carroll did not disappoint. The whimsical characters, bright poetry, and charming word pictures were a welcome change from the drawing room and school room novels we had read up to this point (my apologies to my professor and her passionate love for novelist Charlotte Mary Yonge, but I occasionally need a bit of imagination in my reading).

But what was this wonderful surprise I mentioned at the beginning? Well, upon entering the classroom on the day we were scheduled to discuss Alice, I discovered one of my lovely classmates had made the entire class miniature apple and pumpkin pies, each baked in individual glass jars that were labeled with a sticker instructing us to "Eat Me" (Did I mention we got to eat them with miniature forks? Cue the awwws!). And beside our pies was a glass of punch for each of us that read "Drink Me".


Well, what a delicious class that was! But even more than that, what a needed reminder of just how passionate my fellow students are about this world of children's literature. It is such a blessing to step into a classroom with these brilliant people and geek out about beautiful stories together for three hours each week! I wouldn't trade it for the world (although I wouldn't mind trading in one or two of those papers I see on the horizon).

Children's Literature

Presentations: Or, the overwhelming fear you're doing it wrong

I love to give presentations. Give me a PowerPoint or Prezi, a somewhat captive audience, a chance to pretend to organize my notes, and I'm off.

My philosophy for presenting is 'if you want to make a splash, you've got to jump'. For me, that means is that when I start a presentation, I go into it believing that the most important part of a successful presentation is the actual presenting. If I go into a presentation knowing everything, having an exact plan, but get nervous and stumble or get mentally disorganized, I feel like I've negated any work I've done. My confidence is derailed completely.

Other people, I know, feel confident in their presentation if they've collected and organized all the knowledge they wanted to get across. They just hate the presenting part.

I'm flashy. I've got the substance, sure, but flash is where it's at for me. I did a presentation last week which I kicked off by handing out two jars of m&m's to the closest guesses of the number of book challenges reported in 2014, and reported since 1982. At the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association 2015 Conference, I included a Mockingjay .gif and ironically used PowerPoint animations to make a 'Spoilers' slide. I spent two weeks picking out an outfit (it was a national conference, in my defense). The substance, the research, and the arguments were all there, but the performance part of the presentation was what I focused on.

However, it's this philosophy which gets me into trouble with poster presentations. Poster presentations have to look nice, sure, but they highlight the substance and, in my experience, the posters are the ones doing the talking. Posters aren't flashy. They look professional and clean, and they can't tell a video of Stan Lee to 'shush'. They won't have a video of Stan Lee at all. Posters can't jump to make a splash. Poster presentations are more about one-on-one interactions and less about performing.

Which is why I was disappointed that I had to work during the Poster-iffic event with Professor Mary Wilkins-Jordan, presented by the SC-ALA. I've done poster presentations before, and was terrified that I would make a mistake. Other friends and colleagues, I know, felt much more comfortable with their own poster presentations. It's a skill I struggle with.

All of this is to say that when it comes to presenting, everyone has their own style, and while many may seem daunting, the SLIS programs and student groups do their best to prepare and assist students in being able to learn these important skills.


Happy Halloween!

Grab your pumpkins and copious bags of candy 'cause Halloween is right around the corner!

This year the holiday fortunately falls on a weekend which means that us students do not have to deal with the epic struggle of deciding whether or not to attend class dressed in full costume. While I will certainly support anyone who has/would do it, I sadly have never really had the opportunity to do so. Life just has a way of messing with my plans. Oh well.

In preparation of All Hallows Eve I've been binge watching and reading anything and everything that reminds me of my favorite autumn holiday. From watching Let's Plays of survival horror video games to reading a horror novel set within a store reminiscent of IKEA, I know that come November 1st, I am definitely going to need a year to recover from my apparent Halloween overdose. But until then, the parade of all things spooky, creepy, and nightmare-tastic will keep marching on. While I sadly could not make a visit to Salem, MA this year, I did get to journey into a massive haunted corn maze last weekend along with my sister and some friends. Although I have taken on the challenge that is the Davis Mega Maze before, this was the first time my sister and I had ever teamed up together to do so. During the first three weeks of October the creators of the Davis Mega Maze offer a 'Fright Night' series wherein the maze is open late and participants are left to wander a monster infested maze. If you love mazes, thrills and chills, and of course, jump scares, this is definitely an activity you want to add to your roster for next year. You can learn more about the Mega Maze here:

While I wish the spooky fun of Halloween could stick around a bit longer, as the saying goes all good things must come to an end eventually. When the clock strikes twelve on Saturday night it will be good bye October, hello November. And with November comes a whole new slew of things to celebrate. After all, the greatest, gastronomic holiday of the year occurs in November. But I'm getting ahead of myself. For now, lets enjoy what's left of October and all the fun the month has brought us.



One thing I like about being an older student is that I have some flexibility.  I'm not trying to finish SLIS super fast to get a job or move somewhere else -- my job and family are already here.  I can take my time with the program and get what I want out of it.  Since I have two kids in elementary school, that flexibility is pretty important to me. 

When I entered Simmons, I expected to take three years to finish the program -- two classes each semester (instead of the traditional three) and no classes in the summer, since my kids would be out of school.  It seemed like a good plan.  Then I took a three-credit short course late last spring, which put me ahead of where I expected to be.  Suddenly, I had options -- should I take another short course and graduate a semester earlier than I'd planned?  Should I take only one course some semester, and pick up additional work hours? 

Which brings me to the upcoming semester.  As I've written, I've been having a little trouble wrapping my head around next semester.  I finally decided to just take one class -- a class I'm really excited about -- and fill my "extra" time with additional work hours (I recently joined the sub list in another town, so I'm now on the sub list at four libraries).  I'm still on track to finish the program in three years, which was my original plan.  And I have the flexibility to take only classes I truly want to take, rather than filling my schedule with classes I'm not psyched about just to finish by a certain date -- and still pick my kids up from school every day.  


Shifting Focus

As a SLIS student at Simmons, there is a big deadline for two important items. One is finishing the TOR (Technology Orientation Requirement) and the other is to complete your first advising session. I finished the TOR before the semester started and this past week I completed the second task with my adviser, Jim Matarazzo. What a wealth of knowledge that man is! Connecting with him was a bit of a circuitous route of self-discovery (through another advisor, the registrar's office, our Assistant Dean Em Claire Knowles, and finally Jim) and by the end of all these conversations, I had changed my concentration and found my voice.

Choosing classes meant that I had to make a decision about where I wanted to take them - online or on-campus? This semester both of my classes have been on-campus, and it is definitely a lot of work to run back and forth; however, I still think it's worth it for me. I absolutely see that online learning could be useful for someone who has social anxiety, or lives far away, or has a unique work schedule; it's neither better or worse, just different. And I chose Simmons (in fact, I didn't apply anywhere else) because I knew I wanted to have the opportunity to attend traditional classes. Basically, I think about Amy Poehler using the line that she repeats throughout her book, Yes Please"Good for you, not for me." 

After deciding that I wanted to be on campus, I was still confused about which classes to take. 36 credits is really not a lot, and I need to chose carefully! After my first advising session, I was overwhelmed and confused about my career path. I even questioned whether the IS&T concentration, which runs primarily online courses, was the right fit for me; it would limit my learning style and path. In the end, I knew I needed to reach out to our Assistant Dean for Student Services, Em Claire, for help.


When I told Em Claire about my concerns, she said all the right things and in a matter of a few hours, had resolved everything. She heard me out and switched me from the IS&T concentration to a track that focuses on Special Libraries. Of course, I haven't lost interest in IS&T - I've just realized that my interests right now are too broad and I want to feel like my options are still open to all avenues. If you don't have a few moments of crisis like this, you probably aren't doing grad school right.

Em Claire also assigned me to my new adviser, Jim Matarazzo, whom I met with this week. Jim suggested several classes for me to take (Web design, Competitive Intelligence, Knowledge Management) and is already talking about internships and jobs. He pushed me to answer the question, "Where do you want to end up?" and I realized that this is what was missing from my first advising session. Because everything leading up to that answer is just a fill-in-the-blank, right? YES PLEASE.

amy_wilson_10-23b.gif Check out Amy's original post at:


"The Process of Submitting Call for Papers Proposals", As Told By Picture Book Characters

Step 1: You find the Call for Papers.

It even aligns perfectly with your particular area of research and interest! You excitedly save the link to your bookmarks tab. This is something to seriously consider. Then the daydreaming begins. What if your proposal was accepted? You could be a published author in an academic journal! You have arrived!


Step 2: You realize you actually have to write this proposal!

Can anyone say "writer's block"? While the prompt was most likely engaging and thought-provoking when you chose it, those original inspirations have quickly vanished into a cloud of confusion and self-doubt. How will I ever get this done when I have all of my other class work to do? Should I even be submitting something when I don't have a degree yet? Am I an academic fraud? Don't feel bad...we've all had these thoughts. The important thing is moving through this phase without completely halting all productivity. Even if all you can muster out of your overwhelmed and overworked brain is one sentence or idea or source per day, at least you are moving forward.


Step 3: Research.

I call this the "buried in books" phase. Yes, I realize that most research is now digital, but I prefer the alliteration of my phrase to "buried in a library database" has a more poetic ring. Indulge me. However you choose to pursue your research, it is arguably the most important part of writing a successful proposal. Selection committees want to see that you have substantial evidence to back up your inventive and enlightening thesis. You don't need to have found and annotated every source you plan to use, but you need a good understanding of what kinds of sources you have, what you still need to find, and where to successfully locate said sources. This is the leg work's a marathon, not a sprint. Plan accordingly, and you may find yourself enjoying this process.


Step 4: Putting pen to paper and writing the darn thing!

You've collected enough sources to choke a horse. You have a clear thesis, and you know what you hope to accomplish with this paper. Congratulations! You've made it farther than many do. Now comes the exciting (and terrifying) part. It is time to confront the blank page in front of you and write the first draft of your proposal. Take courage and don't fear...this is only a draft. You don't have to be perfect. Heck, you don't even have to make complete sense. Just start writing. Get the ideas that you have collected and stored over the last few weeks (or maybe months) from your mind onto your paper.


Step 6: Revision, revision, and revision AGAIN!

As tedious as it seems, we all know by now that revising, rewriting, and reworking is perhaps THE most important part of any writing process (even if you're just writing a grocery list). Ask the opinion of others whose work you admire. But also trust your own instincts. Step aside, and then return to the paper with fresh-ish eyes, making sure the brilliance you have in your head translates well to the paper.


Step 7: It is time! Show them what you've got to offer. Give them the gift of your work.

You've come to the deadline. You have refined your proposal. You are confident with your work and proud of what you've produced. Now, click submit and, as Elsa has taught us all, "Let. It. Go!" Rest easy knowing you have done all you can do to represent your work in the best light possible. If your proposal is accepted, congratulations! And if not, congratulations all the same! You have successfully completed a rigorous academic practice, and what you have learned will only help you improve next time. Press on, and good luck!