Student Snippets

A WINDOW INTO THE DAILY LIFE AND THOUGHTS OF SLIS STUDENTS

Ice Cream: The Only Good Thing About a Warm Winter

I don't know about all of you, but I am NOT happy about this crazy warm "winter" we've been having this year. I want snow, and hot chocolate, and ice skating, and cold cheeks and noses! I do NOT want to walk out of my house in a spring jacket and be sweating from the humidity before I reach the train station. Last night, in particular, I was really feeling steamed about this heat wave. So, I decided to make myself chilly, even if it was 50-some degrees outside. (I should explain that I'm from Minnesota, so the cold is in my blood...it's a part of me...I need it). Anyway, I headed to the freezer, dug out a carton of cookie dough ice cream, and prepared to make my own winter experience. As I settled onto the couch and started munching, my brain began to wander, as it does, and I got to thinking about ice cream. It's just the most wonderful treat, and it's so customizable! You can make it fruity, chocolatey, hard, soft, melted, floated, etc. So, today, I want to honor this pinnacle of desserts by sharing a few fun ice cream facts with you!

 In the 1300s, Marco Polo brought an early form of the dessert back to Europe.

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Americans were first introduced to ice cream in the 1700s, but at that point it was only for the societal elites.

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1904 - The waffle cone premieres at the World's Fair in St. Louis. ***Side note: This, in my opinion, is the best thing to happen to ice cream...ever!***

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New Zealand is the world's largest consumer of ice cream per capita, with the US as a close second.

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The average American consumes 48 pints of ice cream per year (though I would guess graduate students have a large hand in the size of that number)

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It takes 50 licks to finish a single scoop cone.

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So there you are...a few fun facts about one of the most therapeutic desserts on the market. Next time you're upset about the warm weather, just remember...at least you have an excuse to eat ice cream all year long! Head out to the store and try a new flavor today (my most recent favorite is pistachio and fudge) and get to work on this year's 48 pints!

Relaxing


Color Our Collections

Anyone who's set foot into a bookstore recently has spotted the latest trend in bookselling: the adult coloring book. There's ocean scenes, fandom pages, and kaleidoscope images. There are funny ones, spiritual ones, and calming ones. Long story short, adults have been given a mass market way to say "it's acceptable for me to color too!"

And, when it comes to trends in the book industry, libraries and archives like to be included. Which brings us to the latest initiative sweeping archives across the nation--"Color Our Collection".

I first ran into the concept when browsing through the Librarian and Archivist tumblr community, when I saw a post about how the Bodleian Libraries (at the University of Oxford) is inviting people to add color to their rare book images. However, they're not the only ones. A quick google search will pull up results from the Digital Public Library of America, the New York Public Library, and the Stanford Libraries. Even the Smithsonian is participating in the fun!

Okay, but real talk: what do they plan on getting out of this initiative? By doing this, archives, libraries, and museums are bringing attention to their collections by offering them up to be colored and interactive with their audiences. By making such fun images available online, these organizations are being innovative in creating a dialogue with their patrons and beyond.

Are you coloring, or interested in seeing these creations come to life? Check over at twitter's #ColorOurCollections to post your own and see what other people have done!

Archives


Interning at Johnson and Wale's Culinary Arts Museum

Like many students who entered SLIS in the fall of 2013, this semester I will be completing my final LIS course. While each program within SLIS is structured differently, all feature a Capstone course that usually includes an internship requirement. For this internship, students can either wait to choose a location from a database of options (similar system to what is used in LIS 438, the introductory course for those on the Archives track) or they can work alongside the Capstone Coordinator, Kendra Giannini, and set up an internship at a location of their own choosing. Since my first semester as an Archives-History dual degree student, I have known that my dream job would be to work within a museum or special library that features a large collection of cookbooks and other texts and items associated with food culture. When I met with Kendra, we talked about my interest in Food Studies and she suggested that I consider trying to satisfy my Capstone requirement by interning at the Johnson and Wales Culinary Arts Museum. With her help, I decided to do just that.

Last Tuesday, I officially stated interning at what I can only describe as my personal Heaven. Located in Providence, RI, the Culinary Arts Museum is a sprawling institution that works closely with Johnson and Wales University's School of Hospitality and College of Culinary Arts. Featuring a massive collection of food related papers and items, the museum is a visual testament to impressive history of foodways and food culture in America. As I already mentioned, this is basically my version of Utopia. Although the commute is something to be desired -the commuter rail isn't always on time- I really don't care. At the Culinary Arts Museum, I witness a daily synthesis of Library Science, History, and Food Studies. Additionally, I get to work alongside others who share my passion and obsession with all things related to food. 

My project for the semester revolves around a collection of food-related documents that were part of a much larger collection of materials that were donated to the museum in the 1980s. These documents include menus, letters, invoices, and receipts. Although these materials have already been inventoried and cataloged, it would be incorrect to say that the collection has been fully processed. On Wednesday I was going through a box and discovered that it contained an entirely different portion of the collection; there were still papers missing. At the same time, there were papers in the box that weren't listed on any of the itemized lists that I had received! Just where exactly did the menu containing doodles and notes from Mark Twain come from? And what about the note from Tesla? While I was originally going to confirm and reorganize the collection, I'm now in the middle of a scavenger hunt to find the missing documents. Talk about exciting! 

Although I have a lot on my plate this semester what with my thesis and all, I am still over-the-moon happy about have the opportunity to work in an institution like the Culinary Arts Museum. This is the very sort of institution that I would like to work in professionally one day. I am looking forward to seeing what is in store for me this semester while I complete this internship. Hopefully I'll have some fun stories to share here on the SLIS blog.

Internships


A Board Game Birthday

This weekend we celebrated my boyfriend's 25th birthday and had to incorporate one of his favorite things: board games. For a few months, he has been working on a 3-D printed Settlers of Catan board (original and a few expansions). We have printed everything except the cards, and I have helped him by hand-painting the terrain tiles and resources. I wish we had kept track of how many hours we have spent working on this game.

Our friend, who was also celebrating his birthday, created a wooden board to hold the tiles. I personally LOVE honeycomb patterns, so there is something really satisfying about seeing them all laid out this way. My favorite are the Wood tiles (green), because each is painted a different shade of green.

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Setup, before play

I had never played Catan before, so my boyfriend and I were on a team (basically I just watched and listened, and rolled for us). I think that I understand enough to play on my own now... but whether I have the patience for a three hour game is another question.

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The game in play, with our "Robber," named Donald Trump

After the game, I brought out the cake that I had made - red velvet with "Meeple" sprinkles. Meeples are the game pieces that are used in Carcassonne, one of my favorites at game night (I go every Wednesday after class and meet up with Rob). I found these sprinkles on Amazon by searching "nerd sprinkles," and paid $10 for them because they were obviously necessary.

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I also used my re-usable silicon mini-cupcake cups!
Is anyone else really into board games? I have found a solid appreciation for them, although I do prefer more social/less strategic games like Heads Up and Cranium (my family had a game night last Friday as well, which included hours of Heads Up). I know that there are some popular "board game cafes" like Brookline's Knight Moves (which is starting a Somerville Branch!). Is this something that works well in public libraries too? The fact that this was all 3-D printed could be really suitable in a public library that has a 3-D printer (like mine in NH) - if patrons lose any pieces, you can just make more!

I'm also really curious about what other games we could 3-D print. This has been cost-saving, but also just a fun activity for us to complete together. While I don't think we will ever run out of projects, I would love to find more activities like this. I will have to poke around on Thingiverse and see what is out there.

Students


Not Much Happenin' Here...Or Is There?

I've got to be honest...I am struggling with this blog post this week. I usually like to post about fun activities or cool experiences I've had in the past week. But this week has, thus far, been pretty event-less. I began the semester, and I started binge-watching episodes of Veronica Mars, which I would never have discovered if it hadn't been for my professor including the first episode on our syllabus "reading" list. For that I am very grateful!

But honestly, what do I write about in the doldrums of January? It's not yet Valentine's Day, I don't have any papers to stress over, I still have a relatively firm handle on my homework load. I'm kind of coasting right now, and that doesn't make for very interesting blogging. My apologies.

***A few hours and a few snacks later***

Alright, I've thought of something! Aren't you relieved? Today's post is for those of you who, like myself, feel like they are drifting through their first few weeks of the semester. Enough is enough! Time to shake up our lives! And I have found three local places that are just the cure for our rutted routines.

1)      Boston Swing Central

http://www.bostonswingcentral.org/

This awesome swing dance club sponsors open dance nights a couple times a month. Bring a partner or fly solo...it doesn't matter. Everybody dances with everybody. And if you've never danced before, no problem! They offer a lesson before the band begins, and they welcome all skill levels. If you can count to three, trust me, you can swing dance! It is so fun, and it's a great way to meet some very cool people. Prices depend on the featured band of the night, but they don't really go above $20 (and every price has a cheaper student rate as well). Bring your friends and hit the dance floor for a fresh night out.

2)      AirCraft Aerial Arts

http://aircraftaerialarts.com/

Have you ever gone to the circus and wished you could try some of those high-flying stunts? Now's your chance! With a huge variety of classes to get you into the air, this place has something for everyone's comfort level. A friend of mine loved it so much she got a certification to teach her own aerial fitness and yoga class! It's definitely more exciting than the treadmill!

3)      A Whole Bunch Else...

https://www.jumpshell.com/posts/things-to-do-in-boston

Number three on the list is a bit of a cop-out, but I found a website recently that list "44 Unconventional Things to Do in Boston", and there were so many cool ones that I just couldn't pick one to show you. Some of my favorites include a visit to Bodega, what appears to be a dingy convenience store until you step on a secret tile in the floor (seriously!) and step through a secret passage to a high-end shoe store in the back, and the "mapparium", a giant, hollow stained-glass globe of the world that you can walk through.

Our city is full of vibrant opportunities to try something new...so let's break out of those winter doldrums and go find an adventure :)

Boston


On Hobbits and Morning Classes

I woke up early on Monday morning--

--after hitting the snooze button for twenty minutes and silently yelling at myself to put down the phone and make breakfast, that is.

These past few weeks, save a few days of work and ALA Midwinter, I have had the privilege to sleep in until 9 or 9:30, laze around for half an hour, eat cereal, then another half hour later I'd make some toast, and then, an hour later, I'd make an actual breakfast with actual substance. By the time I had finished that, it was lunch time and the cycle could begin again.

I have long ago accepted the fact that I am probably a hobbit. However, hobbits don't have morning classes.

I have two 9 AM classes this semester, which means that my hobbit-esque schedule is irreparably broken. Waking up at 6:00 am? Definitely something I have to re-accustom myself to. Luckily, my first class of the semester, LIS 488 (one of the options to fill the technology requirement), I have with two of my dearest friends, so I was excited to hang out with them in class and struggle to learn computer talk and coding together.

Maybe excited is the wrong word. I was happy to see them, but trepidatious about 488 topics, such as talking in computer speak and coding. I wouldn't say I'm afraid of technology, but I definitely grew up knowing there were Computer People who Fixed Computers and Did the Coding, all of which was Technical and 'Not My Field'. I thought web design was Wordpress blogs or Tumblr or Google blogs. Previously, I thought I was set. I got the internet. I'm a 22 year old millennial. Technology and me grew up together.

Except this class isn't about how to use the user-end of the technology. It's about learning how that technology is coded. On the first day, we cracked open an 'autopsy computer' (it died and now has joined its place among its comrades to be taken apart by people who don't know what they're doing), and tried to understand how a computer physically looks and works. I think I mainly stood there and held the screws while excitedly pointing out that the vent goes behind the fan.

To be honest, though, now that we're doing the work, my trepidation is disappearing.The exciting part of a new semester, though it lacks mid-day peanut butter and chocolate chip pancakes, is learning new things. I missed the bustle and excitement of a packed semester, as much as I (for about the first week and a half) enjoyed relaxing and not having multiple assignments due every week.

With the familiar pressure and stress building, I feel ready to face this semester head on.

Classes


NDSR Residencies and Digital Repositories

Yesterday I had the opportunity of attending the NDSR Mid-Year Event, where NDSR Residents gave presentations regarding the progress of their projects at their host institutions.

If you are like me and know nothing about this program, you would be completely lost as to what any of this means. Don't worry - despite my own interest in digital preservation, digital stewardship, or any other areas within the ever-expanding world of digital libraries and repositories, I hadn't been aware of this program either.

Originally hosted by the Library of Congress, the National Digital Stewardship Residency (or NDSR) assigns its residents to libraries or repositories looking to improve or originate their own digital stewardship program. This cohort model, where residents and their "hosts" work together to analyze and implement new theories and programs, has resulted in successful programs at past host institutions. Potential applicants are all recent graduates from various iSchools or MLIS graduate programs, and many of them did not have digital stewardship tracks at their graduate program. Currently, the NDSR Boston has residents at Harvard, MIT, the JFK Library, U-Mass, and the State Library of Massachusetts (where I just started as their new part-time Program Coordinator who will be taking on the responsibilities of digital projects when our resident leaves in May).  My supervisor and I went to hear our Resident's presentation and learn more about what the other Residents might be up to.

Sitting through each of the presentations, I was struck by the huge amount of work building and maintaining a digital repository requires. Each of the residents mentioned the many standards that they were attempting to use for their own projects, specifically ISO 16363 - a massive international standard that lists over 100 different areas to check to verify that a digital repository is trustworthy. What exit strategies should be in place should funding for specific software programs become unavailable?  What policies exist or should exist for born-digital materials? How do we work together with IT services and educate them about proper preservation rather than standard weekly or monthly backups that provide only short-term solutions? Stefanie, our State Library Resident, asked how could we as an institution efficiently and effectively collect agency publications (which we are required by law to do) without those agencies providing consistent reports or documents or even notifications that they had in fact published those official reports or documents? How can we best educate and provide outreach services to our patrons or users?

All of these questions were posed, yet few were answered. But that's the great thing about mid-point presentations: getting an in-depth look at the chaos that ensues between the beginning and end of a project. While I have taken several classes on digital stewardship and electronic records, these presentations gave me far greater insight into the real-life struggles of new librarians and archivists in this burgeoning field. I'll definitely be sharing more about this project as it progresses!

If you are at all interested in digital repositories, digitization, or the evolution of libraries, I urge you to check out the official NDSR blog as well as the individual blogs of each of the residents, which I have included below. And if this is something that you would be interested in applying to as a recent or soon-to-be Simmons graduate, keep checking in with the NDSR website and blogs and explore similar programs!

NDSR Boston: http://projects.iq.harvard.edu/ndsr_boston/home

NDSR Boston 2015-2016 Resident Blog: https://ndsrboston2015.wordpress.com/

Stefanie Ramsay - Digital Preservation at the State Library of Massachusetts Blog: https://ndsrstatelibraryofma.wordpress.com/

Events


It Begins!: My Final Semester

All throughout the Fall semester, I've been mentally preparing myself for this moment. However, now that the time has come, now that my final semester is about to begin, I've come to the realization that nothing truly could prepare me for this. That's the funny thing about reaching the last stretch of a race or the final level of a video game; you've known all along that this would happen and yet you still can't believe that you've finally made it. The finish line is in sight, the final boss is right behind that door. In other words, stuff is about to get very real! 

Last semester, I wrote a blog post about my semi-frustration with people asking me about my future. What were my post-grad school plans? Was I going to stay in Boston or contemplate moving away? Was there a PhD program waiting for me just past the horizon? Essentially, this was my life all throughout my Thanksgiving break:

Ironically this scene also happens to occur during a Thanksgiving meal
I didn't know the answer then and I still don't totally know it now. However, I do acknowledge that these are good questions to be asking someone on the cusp of finally entering the world of full-time working professionals. Although I haven't figured everything just yet, I have recently reached a few conclusions.
1. I want to remain in Boston (at least for another year), but I will apply for jobs outside the city and state
2. A full-time job would be fantastic (but I'd be content working two part-time jobs)
3. I want to work within a special library environment 
4. I enjoy working as a reference librarian
5. My 'dream job' would be one that would allow me to combine my experiences as a references librarian with my archives training
6. Working for a library or museum that specializes in food history would be amazing! 
7. A PhD might be in my future but not right away
 
So yeah, that's what I've got so far. The above doesn't satisfy every question that I've been asked, but I think it is a good place to start. After all, right now my attention needs to be focused on completing my thesis and my capstone project. However, as the end gets closer and closer, I am certain that I will write a blog post or two that reflect my thoughts on the future. 
I'm gonna close this blog post by wishing everybody a good semester. Let's all cross our fingers and toes and pray that we don't have another snowocalypse like last year!
Good luck everyone!

SLIS


300 Words or Less

This was the first week back to class and I am really looking forward to this very career-focused semester. As I have mentioned before, I want to go into legal librarianship. My classes this semester include:

Wednesdays - Legal Information Services
Thursdays - Information Sources and Services
& Spring Break (five full days) - Special Libraries

I can already tell that this is going to be a lot of work, but I am going to throw myself into it because everything I learn is going to be directly applicable in a career. Even my Information Sources and Services course (also known as Reference) is going to be highly focused. I was worried that the broad nature of the topic would mean most of it wouldn't relate to my career; however, Professor Froggatt made it very clear from the first night that she wants us to find our focus and use it as a lens in the class. This morning our group presentation sign-ups opened at 8am, and I set an alarm to make sure that I could get into the Special Libraries group. I feel really fortunate to have such experienced adjunct professors at Simmons; Professor Froggatt has had an amazing career, and my Legal IS class is being taught by two Northeastern Law librarians.

With the start of 2016, I have reached the first entries of my five year journal, which I started last year. It's a journal that makes keeping a diary really easy, because you only write one line day for five years. One of the best parts is getting to look back at what you were doing on the same day a year, or five years, before. Recently, I've enjoyed reading my notes about applying to Simmons. A year ago this week, I finished my first draft for my personal statement. Somehow, I collected all my application materials and submitted them in the final two weeks of January to make a February 1 deadline. I decided to apply very late, and haven't regretted it once. I'm tempted to go back and read my statement - maybe I can find some inspiration for the statement I am currently writing for the ALA scholarships, due March 1. How can I articulate all my career goals in 300 words??

Classes


The First Day of a New Semester

Well, it's that time again. Break has ended, we've all made our way back to Boston from our respective hometowns and states, and we are "ready" to start strong on a fresh semester of grad school. Here is this grad student's minute-by-minute thoughts throughout her first day...and don't judge. You all thought the same things!

10:00pm (the previous night) - "I'm going to set my alarm for 7:00 and give myself plenty of time to eat a good breakfast and get organized for class! Nothing like starting off on a healthy note!"

7:00am - "Curse you alarm clock!"

7:01am - "Snooze."

7:10am - "One more snooze."

7:19am - "Why, oh why, did I decide to get up this early?"

7:20am - "Ok, I'm up."

7:30am - "Haven't gone grocery shopping since I got back...guess it's popcorn for breakfast."

7:32am - "Yay! I found some cereal! My roommates won't mind loaning me some milk, right?"

7:50am - "Nothing on this earth feels better than a warm shower."

8:00am - "Nothing on this earth feels worse than remembering you forgot a clean towel while you're in the shower!"

8:30am - "What to wear for the first day? I want to look cute and professional, but I want to be warm and comfortable. Decisions, decisions..."

8:40am - "Ok, I've been standing here staring at my closet long enough. Just pick something!"

8:50am - "Wow! Dressed, fed, and ready for the day before 9:00am! I am ROCKING this semester so far!"

9:00am - "Now what?"

9:01am - "Starbucks!!!"

10:00am - "Thank goodness for chai tea!"

10:30am - "I've been sitting here too long. I should buy a bagel or something so I don't feel like one of those Starbucks lurkers."

11:00am - "Ok, now I can start heading to school without looking too eager. Right?"

11:30am - "Good ole' Simmons! Greetings friend!"

11:35am - "None of my classmates are here yet. Just enough time for another chai tea!"

12:00pm - "My friends!!!"

12:30pm - "I've missed my library peeps! These weirdos are my tribe! J"

12:45pm - "Oh, crap! I should probably figure out which room my class is in."

12:55pm - "Yay! Class! Notes! Lecture! Discussion!"

1:05pm - "Not the syllabus! Anything but the syllabus!"

1:20pm - "Finally. Now we can get to discussing all that reading we had to do over break! This better be some awesome discussion!"

3:00pm - "Ok, I'm liking this so far. This could be a great semester!"

5:00pm - "Finally back home from class. I forgot what Boston rush hour is like!"

5:05pm - "I seriously need to go grocery shopping! Eh, I'll just have popcorn."

5:30pm - "I should get started on next week's reading. No rest for the weary."

6:00pm - "I'll just close my eyes for a quick sec...zzzzz"

7:10pm - "I love naps!"

7:30pm - "Really, homework would be a good thing to start..."

8:00pm - "Ok, I'll start homework tomorrow. Who am I kidding...Netflix is calling!"

9:00pm - "What a day! One down....I don't even want to think how many there are to go. But they're gonna be great!"

9:01pm - "I'm gonna set my alarm early again tomorrow! Maybe I'll even manage some grocery shopping!"

Students


Flash to 502

Last Saturday I showed up to the Concord Free Public Library ten minutes late, pumped full of adrenaline, wet from the rain, and clutching a Dunkin Donuts coffee and old-fashioned donut. It wasn't necessarily how I wanted to start my very first day at my 502 internship!

The night before, after playing board games with friends, I set four different alarms for the next morning. I was prepared to wake up around 7AM, get ready, make breakfast, and hop on the Fitchburg Line for a 9:18AM arrival in Concord, Massachusetts. When Simmons had originally ranked potential internships, I had chosen those with weekend or late night hours within the Boston city limits. When I found out I'd have to hike all the way to Concord, I was initially disappointed. But the prospect of the collection excited me - I'd be working with the records of the Concord Minute Men re-enactors, one of the first and most respected re-enactment groups in the United States. I had worked at Renaissance festivals and been to battle re-enactments before and I couldn't wait to see what weird and interesting materials I would be interacting with for the semester.

But my plans about my productive morning did not work out - somehow, not one of the four alarms went off and I woke up leisurely at 8:45... 20 minutes after my Saturday morning train left Porter Square. I immediately went into panic mode, trying to figure out how I could possibly get to Concord. My supervisor, I knew, would only be there until 1PM and the next train wouldn't get me there until noon. I had messed up big time and I wouldn't be able to start today. The delay was a nightmare for my schedule - and I was already looking at an extended internship due to my limited availability.

Suddenly I realized that my friend, who had hosted the board game playing the night before, had mentioned that he had access to a car. Hopping around my room trying to pull on my jeans, I called him in a panic. "I totally know that this is out of the blue and you'd be doing me such a huge favor but you can say no if you can't do it..." I rambled into the phone as my friend groggily woke up. The car in question was actually his roommate's car, so he stumbled to her room, woke her up, and asked her. I fed my screaming cats in hectic anticipation.

He could borrow the car. 

"Just let me splash some water on my face and get dressed and I'll be there ASAP."

Like a tornado, I whirled around my apartment to find my rain boots, my umbrella, my notebook. Neither my laptop nor my lunch made it into my bag.  I whipped down to the stairs and into the nearby Dunkin Donuts. My friend was there minutes after I picked up my old-fashioned donut and coffee, a sad excuse for the pancakes that I had originally planned to make. It was 9:10AM.

Of course, it was close to torrential downpour as we wove down Storrow Drive and onto the highway. My poor friend, though, didn't complain and even offered to wait around downtown Concord to drive me back.  Despite my terrible navigational skills (the adrenaline running through my body completely destroyed any hope for focus or following directions), we made it to the beautiful Concord Free Public Library right at 9:40AM.

I must have looked a fright to my supervisor and the other Simmons intern. I hadn't had a moment to eat my breakfast in the car and I was (understandably) forced to leave it at the door of the special collections' department. Famished, crazed, and wet, I somehow managed to review the entirety of the collection by the end of the day and catch an afternoon train back to Boston.

I'm sure I'll be writing more about the Minute Men collection this semester so I'll leave you with this little heart-warming story about friendship, Dunkin Donuts efficiency, and how not one of the archivists thought anything of my frantic entrance. Come to think of it, their acceptance might be very telling about the profession as a whole.

Until next week!

Internships


ALA Midwinter

A scene:

You walk into the Boston Convention and Exhibit center. It's 7:30 on a Saturday morning, and the sun is still struggling to break through the dawn and clouds. You rush to the table you're staffing for the day, check in, and then head over to pick up your pass.

You made it.

You're at ALA Midwinter. It's official. You have a pass and everything. They even gave you a free tote!

And then, as you're heading back to the table, you see it.

A wonderland. A dream come true. A place better than Neverland. It makes you feel how Cinderella must have felt looking upon the Prince's Castle.

You've caught your first glimpse of the ALA Midwinter Exhibit Hall. Above the crowd of stations and booths, rise recognizable signs for Ebsco, JStor, and McFarland. Hidden in this huge arena, you know, reside the numerous tables for Penguin and Random House. Authors and illustrators are preparing for signings. Free books, posters, and tote bags are just within reach.

Already, the scene is alive, bustling with people finishing setting up the world below, and, as you tear your eyes away from the scene below, you see that the rest of the convention center is livening up to look just as exciting.

Or, I mean, that's what I did.

At any rate, ALA was amazing. Besides the number of Advanced Reader Copies, posters and tote bags I got, I was able to meet a lot of cool librarians and vendors. I was staffing a table for one of the ALA presidential candidates, and it was a great opportunity to engage with the library world beyond Simmons. I was able to talk with Librarians about what I enjoyed, what I learned, and what I wanted to do, and they would respond with stories, ideas, and advice about how to get where I want to go. I was also able to talk to vendors and learn more about what they offer libraries.

I also had a great experience working at the ALA Presidential Candidate's table, because I got to learn about the different visions for the path of ALA, and get information about the ALA elections.

Afterwards, while the midwinter conference came to a close at five pm and we closed up the table to the sounds of the Hamilton Musical Soundtrack playing from Networking UnCommons, a friend suggested we head over to the SLIS After Dark ALA after party.

So, we went and we ended up talking with a couple alumni about who they knew and who we knew, and getting extra free drink tickets. It was inspiring to hear what alumni were doing and the amazing effects of their work. It was inspiring to hear how classes at Simmons helped these alumni succeed.

ALA Midwinter, overall, was an exciting, inspiring, and amazing event. It was packed with wonderful people, interesting events, and educating experiences. I enjoyed every second.

Events


Attending ALA

This past Friday I attended the American Library Association's mid-winter conference which was held at the Boston Convention Center. Not only was this my first time attending an ALA conference, this was actually my very first library conference in general! Talk about exciting. While I had known that the ALA mid-winter conference was going to be held in Boston for quite some time, at first, I wasn't certain if I should go. Since my focus within the field of library science is archives and cultural heritage, I was slightly concerned that, despite being a wonderful opportunity, I wouldn't have too much to do beyond wandering around the exhibit hall. However, after speaking with a cousin who is a librarian in the Queens, NY area, I reconsidered a few things. 

To begin with, the conference was being held in a city that I was currently living in. One of the primary reasons I had opted out of attending the Summer ALA conference (previously held in San Fransisco) was the cost of finding a place to stay for the length of the conference. Even though I could have used AirBnB, I sadly could not afford to go. This time around, I didn't have to worry about such matters. All I needed to get to the conference would be a T pass and a good sense of direction. The next thing that really changed my mind was hearing my cousin talk about the varied experiences that she had gotten out of attending conferences like ALA. She had met fantastic people, networked with a variety of different professional organizations, and had made close friends with other participants during individual sessions. Hearing her recount these things really sealed the deal for me. I signed up for ALA just in time to still qualify for the early-bird deal*.

To prepare for the conference, I dedicated a bit of time to looking over the mid-winter conference's website, which was filled with information for first-timers like myself. I found suggestions for what to wear, what to bring, how to organize my time, and other useful tips. What was really great was that ALA had set up an app that allowed me to view and change a schedule that I had personally designed. This really helped me stay on track of sessions that I really wanted to attend. 

On Friday I attended an authors forum with Ken Burns, Mark Kurlansky, and Terry Tempest Williams. The three authors talked about writing, the importance of memory, and other things. As a big Ken Burns fan, this was truly a wonderful experience though both Kurlansky and Williams also had amazing stories to tell. Following the forum, the exhibition hall was officially opened and the true madness began!

Saturday started off with a walk around the exhibition hall. Since I had to leave early on Friday, I hadn't had much of a chance to really explore the exhibition hall. Upon reflection, I think that this was probably for the best. Between 12:30pm and 5:00pm, I accumulated two tote bags that filed to the point of bursting with books! Everywhere I went, there were advance copies of books being handed out like Halloween candy. Each time I promised myself that I wouldn't grab another, that my arms were already going to fall off. But then I'd see another table and that promise would promptly go out the window. Throughout the day, I ran into my fellow SLIS classmates; all of us were dragging bags upon bags of books around with us. Thankfully, there were a bunch of sessions held at the cooking stage that offered me a chance to sit down and relax. The first cooking session was a Q&A with two bakers from Prohibition Bakery. They were promoting their new bake-cook which features page after page of alcoholic cupcake recipes, a few of which I have since marked to try sometime down the road. The next session was a cooking demo with author, Beatrice Peltre, who was also promoting her new cookbook, My French Family Table. She made the most amazing parsnip, potato, and pear soup that I am still dreaming about. It was hearty, creamy, and just simply delicious. I made certain to be in line to pick up a free copy of her cookbook! After the cooking sessions ended, I wandered around the hall again, trying hard to resist the urge to grab more books. Thankfully I had made dinner plans with my cousin (the librarian from earlier) and had an excuse to leave before I could load up on anymore books.

Due to rain, I ended up staying home on Sunday. However, when I returned Monday, I had come prepared. Armed with an empty tote bag, I joined the remaining conference attendees in gathering the last of the free books. However, there was one book in particular that I had set my sights on. It was a cookbook -no shocker there- and it also just so happened to be the one thing that my mom asked me to buy for her at the conference. This book itself had been published earlier this past fall, and my mom had added her name to a list of patrons at her library to read it. She finally got it while I was home during Christmas break and deeply enjoyed reading through it and copying down recipes that appealed to her. When I saw the book on a publishing house's display shelf Friday evening, I knew that I had to get it for her. The bad news was that the publishing house wasn't planning on giving it away, it was just for display. Undeterred, I kept asking about the cookbook, hoping that maybe they would change their minds. No dice. Finally on Monday, in the last hour before they packed their display copies up, I went back one final time. I explained it was for my mother, a huge fan of the author, and that I would pay full price for the book. Prepared to be rejected again, I was gobsmacked when they handed the book to me and said I could have it for free! I couldn't believe it! I thanked them more times than I could count and then left the hall to call my mom.

In the end, I'm happy I attended ALA. While I sadly didn't get to attend any professional development sessions, I enjoyed listening to authors talk about their books, conversing with vendors like ARTStor, ProQuest, etc., and hanging out with my friends from SLIS. As for the books that I acquired, I left ALA with twenty-five new books, five of which are cookbooks. Not too shabby for a first-timer...

*While I know that footnotes are somewhat unorthodox to appear in blog posts like these, I just want to assert the sheer wonderfulness of the early-bird deal! If you sign up for any conference before this window closes, you are going to save SO MUCH MONEY! 

Events


New Year, New Conference

Happy 2016! I hope everyone had a good break and is ready to face the New Year!

I spent my break back home for a couple weeks, chilling with my family and my puppy, catching up on netflix shows, and generally destressing after my first semester as a grad student. My friend and I went to a local art museum/historic house, and I ended up antiquing with my father and sister, both of which were interesting and fun. My family and I also went to see Star Wars together. I didn't do much beyond, well, relax.

With the close of 2015 being rounded out with a game of Heads Up and a Taylor Swift music video (and wine), the start of 2016 is pretty packed. I picked up a friend from the airport, met her cat, cleaned my apartment, and started to round up scholarships to apply for. Boston itself is prepping for the influx of librarians and information professionals for ALA midwinter this weekend, which is beyond exciting. The official conference runs Friday to Sunday, and while it's not a big or impressive as the Annual ALA conference, there's a lot going on to be excited about. There's going to be author meetings, campaign tables, the announcing of who won the Caldecott, the Printz, the Newbury and the Coretta Scott King Book Awards--I'm basically geeking out 24/7 at this point. The chance to go to a national conference that's so local is amazing and exciting (and also pretty cheap, which is great!) because the ALA conferences aren't coming this far north after this for a few more years.

I'll get you the inside scoop after the conference next week!

SLIS


How FRBR helped me come to terms with a Harry Potter play

What a time to be alive as a geek! This weekend, my boyfriend and I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens and it was a train of feelings. I don't want to derail this post by telling you how amazing it was, but WOW.

Let's talk Potter

Anyone who spends significant time around me knows that I love all things Harry Potter, particularly Hermione Granger, who represents all my hopes and dreams for myself. I have been to the Wizarding World theme park, the midnight movie releases, and my personal record for speed-reading is having completed the final book in 14 hours. I am a regular listener of the terrific podcast, MuggleCast. I own a Time Turner. I listen to the audiobooks when I can't sleep.

If you follow any news about the fandom, you might have heard that there are two important projects happening right now in [Queen] J.K. Rowling's world; for one, she has written and is releasing a prequel (about 80 years prior) to Harry's story, which follows the author of one of his textbook's Newt Scamander. The film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them will be released next November, and I have complete faith in JKR and her team, which includes of lots of HP alumni on the production side.

The second project is a play, opening in London next summer. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child takes place after the closing epilogue of the the HP books, and focuses on Harry and his middle son, Albus Severus. My excitement for Fantastic Beasts has not been matched by this play, as much as I have tried to be excited about a new creation from JKR. I've tried to figure out why my enthusiasm is having trouble getting off the ground.

  1. One of the best things about the Harry Potter books is the fact that they are so accessible. Books are so basic - they don't require you to travel or have special equipment. If you don't have the money for a book, you can usually get it for free through a public library. Books don't ask much of us - and we receive so much in return.
  2. Not counting the editors, books are really an interaction between the author and the reader. It's intimate and personal - and there is no one else around to screw things up. A film on the other hand, is dependent on many more variables: the budget, the author's involvement, the available technology, and most importantly, the skills of the actors. Let's remember (and then immediately forget) the hot mess that is Michael Gambon's attempt at portraying Dumbledore.
  3. Perhaps the thought of a play is concerning to me because I have not always loved the translation of book to film, and theater seems to invite even more fluidity to the Wizarding World. The theater has undeniable merits - the vivid experience, the vulnerability, the aliveness. Going to the theater is a rare and singular treat, and that fact is exactly what causes me to question the stage as an appropriate venue for Harry's world. Every performance, no matter how skilled the actors are, will have its subtle differences. Those fans who are fortunate (read: wealthy) enough to access this piece of the canon will have something that the rest of us can't share. 

Regardless of the content of this play, I'm still struggling with the fact that this piece of canon will be released in a less accessible medium. It's similar to the argument that Mugglecaster Selina Wilken makes in favor of a printed, definitive encyclopedia as a opposed to articles on Pottermore and random bits of information on JKR's Twitter feed: 

"An officially published encyclopedia would be an edited, indexed, bound, solid, unalterable reference guide to expand the Wizarding World, filling in backstories, adding dates and names to this universe and making it feel more real and tangible. Pottermore and J.K. Rowling's tweets, by contrast, don't feel like expansions of the world, but rather like they're limiting my own interpretations of it."

More Big News

So why am I excited for a prequel, but not a sequel? I think it comes down to the fact that one (Fantastic Beasts) is introducing an almost entirely new cast, and the other (Cursed Child) is building on character portrayals that we adore already - and are pretty protective of. 

This week, the names of the three actors playing our new Harry, Ron, and Hermione were released. The internet is abuzz because the actress playing Hermione is a Noma Dumezweni, a black actress. I want to be clear that despite my reservations about telling this story as a play, I think that this decision to cast Hermione as a woman of color is beautiful and important. The deeper meaning and merit of this decision is explained really well in this Buzzfeed article - it's just awesome. Hypable also counters a lot of the stupid arguments against racebending this amazing character (who, by the way, is NEVER described as a particular race in the books). In a way, this change from the films might help alleviate one of Selina Wilken's complaints that new information about the world stifles our fantasies; a black Hermione validates the imaginations of many fans. JKR is suggesting that there are multiple interpretations of her canon.

I actually am coming to terms with this play's existence, thanks to a concept from my 415 Information Organization class - yes, the semester is over and I have retained something. I started thinking about the play in terms of the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR), which is a conceptual model for relating information sources. The most memorable aspect for me was the idea of [Group One] entities: work, expression, manifestation, and item. In a normal model, a work would be Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban; an expression, or the intellectual realization, would be the text in its American English translation; the manifestation would be its physical embodiment (print book published in 1999), and the item would be the singular copy that I have on my shelf at home, with my name written in the cover.

The way that I can rationalize this play is by thinking about the FRBR entities and their relationships. What if, rather than Prisoner of Azkaban being the work, we think about the entire world of Harry Potter at the work level? Beneath that, we could imagine that everything JK Rowling creates is an expression of that work. Book Hermione, Emma Watson's Hermione, and Noma Dumezweni's Hermione are related conceptually, not chronologically.

Clearly I am abandoning FRBR, but this is what I picture as a conceptual model:

  • W1: Wizarding World
    • E1: Hermione Jean Granger
      • M1; as written by JKR in the books
      • M2: as portrayed by Emma Watson in WB films
      • M3: as portrayed by Noma Dumezweni in Cursed Child
      • M4: as portrayed by Lindsey Lohan on SNL
      • M5: as portrayed by Bonnie Gruesen in  A Very Potter Musical, A Very Potter Sequel
      • M6: as portrayed by Meredith Stepien in A Very Potter Senior Year
      • M7: as portrayed by Potter Puppet Pals

Ultimately, having Hermione as someone who looks so different alleviates my concerns that this play would be an inadequate attempt at continuing the trio we already know. This Hermione, and this story, will be a new and original manifestation of the fantastic expression that exists only in JKR's world. Just because Emma's version of Hermione was so lovable does not mean that she is our onlyHermione; in fact, fans have imagined her as a woman of color for years. I am so grateful to JKR for leaving Hermione's physical description, other than her bushy hair and big teeth, open to interpretation; Hermione's most important trait has always been her intelligence and resourcefulness, and all women should be able to see themselves in her. We are all Hermione.

Noma Dumezweni can and should create her own vision of Hermione Jean Granger, and, if the play ever comes to the States, I am excited to watch.

Classes | YA Literature


Finished with Flying Colors

I officially finished every assignment for this semester on Tuesday, and I'm currently only waiting on one grade to find out my GPA for my first semester in Library Science School, in order to humble brag on Facebook. I've returned all my books, organized all my notes, and printed the last thing I'll print for this semester.

And as exciting as that is (Yay! I'm done!) I can't say that this hasn't been a whirlwind semester. I'm still getting used to public transit, I keep forgetting to do my laundry, and the world of library science is much larger and cooler than I expected. I can definitely say I'm happy with where I am.

With the first semester winding down, some of my friends and I were talking about why we chose Simmons. For most of my friends, who are archives students, the scale was easily weighted in favor of Simmons because it's the number one school for archives in the nation. Another friend said that she decided to go to Simmons because of the weather--she could handle snow, but her other option had mudslides, and she wasn't up for that.  We all talked about how crazy lucky we all were that we decided to go to the same school, at the same time, where we got to meet each other and do awesome things.

Looking back, it seems kind of obvious that I would end up at Simmons. I had a set criteria when looking for LIS programs. Number one, any potential school had be in the Northeast. I'm a New Englander born and bred, and I love the area. Two, it had to be an accredited program. And three, I had to want to go there. I couldn't shrug and say "i guess i can get my degree there". It had to be a place I would love going to every day.

Simmons achieved all of those with flying colors, and I'm glad to say that my first semester has made me even more certain that I made the right choice. I've met amazing people, made wonderful friends, and learned and done the most interesting things.

That's a pretty good feeling. So, to all of you finishing off your finals and looking towards the future, good luck and have fun!

SLIS


Reading again - finally!

With my literature review finally behind me, and then my final presentation for 415 (Information Organization) last week, I let myself get into the holiday spirit. In the past week we set up our tree, finished all the wrapping, and hosted a party on Saturday for about 30 of our friends. I also baked ten dozen cookies to serve at our party, and to bring to work and my final class tonight - our assignment, if we are not presenting, is to bring a snack. 

I also let myself totally indulge by reading a real piece of fiction: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. This book is in HIGH demand right now and is also going to be made into a film soon, starring Daenerys Targaryen. The Minuteman Library Network is clearly inundated with requests. I have requested the sequel (spoiler: I liked the first book) and there are about 100 people ahead of me on the list. Luckily we have a great resource called Interlibrary Loan, thanks to Fred Kilgour (one of the "Twentieth Century Library Figures" from my presentation last week)!

So, this book really pulled me in. Maybe I was asking for it, after months of reading encyclopedia entries and information behavior studies; however, I give Jojo Moyes a lot of credit. I read the entire book in two days (and still haven't returned it - oops) and it's one of those stories that leaves you thinking about it once the cover is shut. 

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Summary: Lou, an unemployed and quirky townie needs a job to help support her family, who is struggling financially. She finds work as a personal care attendant with Will, a quadriplegic from a wealthy family in town.* Before his accident, Will was a thrill-seeking lawyer, but now he is, understandably, in a very dark place. Will's mother has hired Lou to help lift Will's spirits, and potentially save his life, after seeing something special in her that is both intriguing and frustrating. Lou is just kind of a weirdo, but Moyes thankfully avoids turning her into a manic pixie dream girl stock photo. Lou is relatable, but not predictable, and Will is certainly not a stereotypical Prince Charming.

The cast of characters is witty, funny, and so very human - all struggling with complicated moral choices but also just trying to find moments of joy in lives that are less than simple. Moyes tackles a complicated issue with grace, and without politicizing it. The only character who seemed monochromatic was Lou's boyfriend, Patrick. Because of Moyes' excellent writing, I suspect that it was her intention for Patrick to just totally suck. Though most of the book is in Louisa's perspective, Moyes breaks up the text by inserting chapters that are from other characters' minds to describe particularly poignant moments. 

I've now started the audiobook of P.S. I Love You, and I'm trying to avoid acknowledging how much I prefer the movie - I have always stood firmly in the "The Book Was Better" camp. If it doesn't grab me soon I will abandon it for something better -  especially if After You shows up at the Somerville Public Library anytime soon.

*More on this topic: A movie that will make you cry, and a movie that will make you laugh.

Books


Expecting Nothing More or Less

It's the end of the semester. I have two assignments left, two days of work, and four days. I'm trying not to stress out.

However, looking at the semester, I'm trying to make sure that I've achieved the one goal I set out for myself: To Have No Expectations.

I like to theme my school years. Junior year, for example, was the Year of Yes, and I said yes to every opportunity I could, from entering the honors program to becoming a head tutor. Senior year was my Year of No, and that year I did my best to not add extra work to my overfull schedule.

Entering Grad School and moving to Boston, however, required a new focus. I'd learned a lot between the yes year and the no year, and I knew what I could handle without freaking out.

So this time around, I decided that my focus would be to have no expectations. I wouldn't expect classes to be difficult or easy. I wouldn't expect myself to always have it all together. I wouldn't expect other people to always know what I was doing, or thinking, or going through. I wouldn't expect Boston to be either a nightmare or a dream world.

I would, instead, try to focus on experiencing the events and people around me to best learn. I'd allow myself to not be an expert at something.

This semester, however, I ran into roadblocks where the moment I began to expect something and it didn't happen exactly the way I wanted, I'd panic. I would have to go back and remind myself that I wasn't expected to be perfect. I wasn't expected to be a card carrying adult, because no one gives out cards that say 'Tara has the permit to Adult but only between dawn and dusk' or 'Adulting License (limited)'. Everyone kind of just acts like we all have the full adult license. I've talked about the imposter syndrome before, and I think one of the important things, whether you're in grad school, or considering entering, or applying, is to allow yourself to just experience the process. If you don't expect there to be a set path or a fancy business card handed out to signify that 'Yes, I'm here! I've made it! I'm an Adult!' then you're able to allow yourself the space to just be in the moment. I think, personally, that's when and where I learned the most.

The thing about setting that as my theme, however, is that I expected myself to be able to break down all of my expectations immediately. So I don't know how successful I was, but I know that I tried. Good luck on finals everyone, and I'll see you on the other side of next week!

Classes


One Semester Down

Two days - this is all that stands between me and my last assignment this semester. Technically, my last class is next Tuesday, December 15, when half my classmates in my Information Organization class will present their research on an LIS topic. My group is presenting in this first week, so my only job for next Tuesday is to listen and bring a snack. I think I can handle that. Finishing this first semester is a little surreal. A year ago, I had no intentions to apply to Simmons, and here I am one sixth of the way through my program.
Last Thursday I turned in my eleven page literature review for my Foundations class. My focus was the information behavior of lawyers, and it really gave me a new respect for my colleagues on the legal team at my work. Ultimately, I found that there are really two levels of information seeking in legal work; first, there is basic legal research, and second, there is a more complicated process of finding the solutions within that information - recognizing patterns and using experience to construct a strategy.
As librarians, I think that this is where we can prove our value in a world where information is at our fingertips. Librarians provide access, create context, and give validity to sources. In reality, it comes down to the difference between a book report and master's thesis - or a winning argument.

Classes


A Christmas Gift for All the Bibliophiles on Your List

In some ways, book lovers are the easiest people to buy a gift for. If all else fails, they will always be ecstatic to unwrap a new book. But wading through the infinite pool of possibilities to choose the perfect book (or book-related item) can be daunting at best. Enter this gift guide, complete with the best tried and tested book and gift options around! So before you head to the store this season, arm yourself with this list...and some sort of caffeinated beverage...and prepare to win at your holiday shopping this season!

 

 

For the traditional book lover...

 

In our glitzy, shiny, high-tech world, there are still those who love the dusty smell of an old book, love to crack open the binding and feel the coarse paper between their fingers. For the traditionalist on your list, steer clear of the chain stores with their e-readers and their paperback-filled shelves. Instead, visit your local used book store and hunt the racks for a hidden treasure. Maybe you'll find an early edition of a Dickens classic, or a beautifully-bound collection of Shakespeare. The possibilities are endless, and you also get the gift of an afternoon spent browsing the shelves with fellow book-lovers. Happy hunting!

 

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For the young adult reader...

 

Teens today have gadgets and gizmos aplenty. This season, remind them of the joy that comes from getting lost in a real page-turner. If they already have a series or author they love, job done. Surprise them with the newest work in their collection. But if they are in a reading rut, or are looking for something new to try, may I recommend a few titles I've recently fallen in love with.

 

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing: Traitor to the Nation

By: M.T. Anderson

 

This book is beautifully written and crafted! The characters challenge the reader and the story envelopes you, drawing you into the world of Revolutionary War America and opening your eyes up to new sides of the narrative of our country's formation.

 

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The Summer Prince

By: Alaya Dawn Johnson

 

Set in futuristic Brazil, this book dances along, telling the story of a young artist and the boy she wants to save from a ceremonial death. The reader is definitely thrown head-first into the world but as the story unfolds, new pieces of the puzzle begin to fall into place. This is a beautiful and challenging read for the sci-fi fan on your list.

 

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For the kiddies (and kiddies at heart)...

 

As a strong believer in the power of the picture book, I will argue until I'm blue in the face that picture books are for anyone and everyone, from the newborn to the PhD candidate! The shelves of bookstores are chock full of absolutely stunning artwork and book designs. Take an afternoon to plop down on the floor of the kid's section and revisit your childhood as you pour over some of these sweet Christmas picture books.

 

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For the person who has every book in the world!...

 

We all know that person. Their library is as big as the one in Beauty and the Beast! There is no way they can fit another book on their shelves! What do you get the person that loves books this much but just can't find room for another one? You get them a book-themed gift, of course! Perfect for librarians, teachers, and SLIS students at Simmons College (hint, hint).

 

This card catalog book bag is perfect for trips to the library! I was so inspired when I saw a woman using it as an autograph "book" at the Horn Book Awards this year! What a great way to keep all your author/illustrator signatures together, dated, and organized (just like a library student likes it!)

 

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This scarf has been on my Christmas list for many years now! What a fun way to keep your favorite book close to you at all times! There are even some sites that allow you to submit your own text or page of writing for a customizable piece. That way, if your favorite book in the world doesn't happen to be Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, or Alice in Wonderland, you can still jump on this bandwagon J

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So there you have it...gift ideas for just about every kind of book lover on your list!

Happy shopping and Merry Christmas!!!

Books