Student Snippets

A WINDOW INTO THE DAILY LIFE AND THOUGHTS OF SLIS STUDENTS

Book Talk Beats Bed

Sometimes, as a student with a mishmash of jobs and an objectively messed up sleep schedule, it can be hard to find the motivation to go to SLIS events, even if they are right up your alley! This Tuesday was one of those days where I just needed a nap. I was ready to trek to the bus, journey home, and wrap myself in covers. But, at the invitation of my friend Lee, I powered through and ended up at Professor Jeannette Bastian's talk on her new book: Decolonizing the Caribbean Record: An Archives Reader. 

I'm so glad I went! In undergrad I took a slew of courses on colonization in Latin America and Caribbean women writers that changed my entire outlook on life. This event, put on by the Student Chapter of ALA International Relations Round Table (SCIRRT), brought me right back to those amazing classes!

Professor Bastian's background as the Territorial Librarian of the United States Virgin Islands from 1987 to 1998 means that not only is she an expert on the subject, but the collection is near and dear to her heart. Decolonizing the Caribbean Record is a collection "forty essays by archivists and academics within and outside of the Caribbean region that address challenges of collecting, representing, and preserving the records and cultural expressions of former colonial societies, exploring the contribution of these records to nation-building."

As Prof. Bastian told us, this book was inspired by work she completed in 2014 as a part of a UNESCO-funded team for designing a library and information science curriculum for the University of the West Indies in Jamaica, and was meant to serve as a text for the program. The UNESCO team, and by extension this collection, sought to create material that "was sensitive to the cultural heritage of the Caribbean as well as to the archival concerns of a small former colonial islands in tropical climates."

Our book discussion included the 'owning' of memory, and who can lay claim to records, as well as oral traditions and how recorded history (or lack thereof) shapes self image. In a similar vein, we briefly discussed Professor Bastian's 2003 book Owning Memory, How a Caribbean Community Lost Its Archives and Found Its History. I really enjoyed her expansion of the traditional definition of an archival material, asserting that Caribbean carnivals are an archival record in themselves! We also talked about the difficulties and rewards of editing a book, including organizing and bringing together all of the essays, seeking out contributors, and following through on deadlines set for said contributors.

Professor Bastian joked that her 800 page collection was quite a 'door stopper,' but said it's more of an occasional reader that something to binge: you pick it up, read an essay, then put it down for a few months. Maybe I'll write a follow up blog post in a few years when I make my way through this exciting and rich (but somewhat daunting) text! 

Events | Presentations | SLIS | reading


Library Instruction: What I've Learned

Last week I had my final "big" teaching day at the internship: a packed morning with three classes in a row. I've now taught the same lesson to eight unique sections belonging to four unique faculty members. While I in no way consider myself an expert, I do feel qualified at this point to talk about some of the big things I've learned through this experience.

1. It's okay to be nervous.

Experiencing nerves does not mean that you are doing something wrong or are not up to the task ahead. I've heard from several experienced instructors that they still routinely get nervous. For me, my nerves generally fade away once the class is underway and I get into the "flow" of the lesson, but they can still show up again at seemingly random moments.

2. Every class is different.

Even though I had the same lesson material for eight classes, each one turned out a little different. I asked different questions, said different things, and spent more or less time on certain parts of the lesson. Also, the students and faculty members bring their own personalities and moods into the classroom, giving each section a unique character (some more conducive to learning than others). 😉 You never know what kind of class you're going to get, which is why good instructors learn how to "read" a room and adapt to the situation. I think this is a skill that just comes with experience. It is nerve-wracking, but it keeps things interesting!

3. Teaching is a physical act.

I was somewhat unprepared for how physically taxing teaching would be. It turns out that I like to be on my feet a lot when I'm teaching, and I like to walk around. Wear comfortable shoes. I can't emphasize this enough. I also found that I needed lots of water and chapstick. All that talking makes your mouth dry. I actually had a sore throat after my first day because I was unaccustomed to talking so much. Take care of your body, and give yourself a mini-break if needed.

4. It's probably not you.

There is a lot that instructors can do to make lessons relevant, interesting, and engaging and to manage classroom dynamics. But you can't do everything for everybody and students have a part to play in their own learning. Don't take it too personally if you get students who are bored, tired, distracted, or just not feeling well. Everyone has a bad day sometimes. It's probably not you.

So there you have it! Some of my big "take-aways" from my first experience teaching. How am I feeling about teaching now that I've gotten a real taste of it? I'd say that I have more confidence in my teaching abilities, more realistic expectations for the classroom experience, and more knowledge of my own limitations. Teaching was enjoyable, but I also found it physically and emotionally draining. At this point in my life, I'm definitely not ready to make a full-time career out of it. But I'd like to keep practicing and learning from those more experienced.

Internships | SLIS | Students | classes | skills


It's That Time Again!

It's the most wonderful time of the semester...registration!  Not only is it registration time for Summer 2019, in just a few short weeks it will be Fall 2019 registration, so it's time to think about that as well.

Here's my dilemma, and if you've read some of my past posts, you know a little bit about this.  When I came to Simmons, I started in the Archives Management program, and I created my course planning roadmap under the impression that I was going to continue in Archives Management.  I also decided to take my first class, LIS 407: Information Sources and Services online, whilst fully planning to take the majority of the rest of my classes on the ground in Boston.  Then, I got a job not in Boston and realized that I may not actually want to continue on the archives track, so I've been taking classes one at a time online, hoping that there will be an in-person class that will mesh well with my work schedule and that I will figure out if I want to do archives or not.  Anyways, so far I've taken LIS 407: Information Sources and Services, LIS 415: Information Organization, LIS 488: Technology for Information Professionals, and I'm currently in LIS 451: Academic Libraries. 

Last time during registration, I dithered back and forth between taking an archives class and ultimately decided to not do it, but I also didn't take the plunge and actually switch concentrations, and instead I decided to wait and see while taking an elective.   I'm now pretty confident in the decision that I need to switch to the Design Your Own concentration.  I like the idea of being on the archives track, I really do, but after doing a lot of informational interviewing, talking with librarians, doing research, and having almost a year under my belt of working in an academic library, I'm not sure if working in an archive is going to be right for me.  So, my goal now is to officially switch concentrations (which also means switching advisors) within the near future.  I know there's a Change of Advisor/Change of Program form involved, but do I need to do anything else?  I want to get all the information about the process on how to change concentrations and advisors and I want to be sure I'm doing everything properly. 

So what does this mean for Summer and Fall 2019 registration?  The good news is that for Summer 2019, there aren't as many classes to choose from.   A lot of the classes that are being offered don't seem to match the criteria that I need, such as they are being held at times when I am at work, or they are very concentration-specific.  However, I have made my selection!  For Summer 2019, I am hoping to be in LIS 404: Principles of Management.  I think this class will be really helpful for me in my future career.  For Fall 2019 registration, there are so many options but I have a bit longer narrow down my possibilities and decide.  I'm really hoping that this time there will either be a blended class or an in-person class that will fit my schedule and my course-planning needs.  I've been making a new tentative course planning roadmap based on the projected two-year course schedule that SLIS puts out, but once I officially switch advisors and switch concentrations I think it will be a bit more concrete.  However, I think I've been doing a pretty good job so far! 

If you want to learn more about the courses at SLIS, click here!

Classes | SLIS | classes


Group Project Musings

There's some weight off my shoulders this week because I finished my first group project.  It wasn't just my first group project at Simmons, it was my first graduate level group project ever!  I was pretty nervous about it.  Since I'm taking the class online, I had no idea how we'd choose partners or topics or how we'd actually work together.  But everything went surprisingly smoothly.  The project was for my tech class, and we had to create a tutorial on a new app or program.  Choosing groups ended up being easy because we chose by topic and proceeded from there.  I chose to work on the Raspberry Pi, which is an inexpensive little computer that you can use to learn coding and other programming skills (if you want to check it out, you can go to the website www.raspberrypi.org  It is really fun!).

Our first assignment as a group was to fill out a Team Contract.  This was extremely helpful because it forced us to think about all the logistics of group work:  how we'd communicate, the best times we'd be available, acceptable response time to emails, etc.  All those little details were important because talking to each other via email or Skype is not the same as talking face to face.  It's not better or worse, it's just different, and it took a bit of time to get used to.  One thing I learned is that when you're collaborating online, there's a lot of wait time.  You're waiting for other people to respond and post their work, and they're waiting for you to do the same.   A few days or a week can go by very quickly, and you need to be proactive about checking in in order to make all the deadlines. 

Another important thing I learned is that being able to share documents online makes everything much easier.  We used Google Drive so we could share our work and see what everyone else was doing.  That was a huge help, and honestly the process would have been very confusing if we had to juggle multiple documents for each person.  We kept our main project in Google Slides and we could add and edit easily.  Overall, my group managed to figure out what worked best for us, and we didn't have any problems setting goals for ourselves or doing our work.  We even finished up early!

Now that I've finished this project, I can focus on my next one, which is due at the end of the semester.  I already feel better prepared for it.  Hopefully it will go as smoothly as this one did.

Students | classes | skills


Student Leadership

  It's finally Friday! This week was a busy one, starting off on Sunday using Google Docs to be a part of a LISSA (Library and Information Science Student Association) officers meeting. Tuesday was a student leaders meeting, for all officers of the eleven library science student groups. After I got out of the student leaders meeting, I checked my phone to find five emails from my other SCIRRT (student chapter of International Relations Round Table) officers regarding an event we are planning. Wednesday was the most fun of all the meetings, since I got to attend a faculty meeting as a student faculty representative. From there, the week got easier.

   How did my week get so busy? Well, back in December, a fellow student posted on the SLIS current students Facebook group asking if anyone was interested in being a student faculty representative. I had no idea as part of this position I would be accepting a role as a LISSA officer, or what I would be doing in this role. But my logic was "why not," it'll be fun...?" and that's how that happened.

   Rewind to October, I was sitting in the SLIS lounge in the Palace Road building waiting for my 6 pm class to start, and I heard some other students talking about international-type events. I kept hollering across the room, as I liked some of their ideas. Then, the current co-chair of the club told me how all the officers are new to the leadership team. Soon I found out that this was the club for international librarianship (SCIRRT), and I was hooked. I went home that night telling my dad I was now the new co-chair of the club. After two months of my first semester of the program, I was in a leadership position. At Simmons SLIS, it is easy to be a leader and getting involved helps students professionally and for making new friends.

 Check out all of the student groups at SLIS here.

Leadership | SLIS | Students


Hello Peggy!

We are adding another new blogger. 

Everyone welcome Margaret "Peggy" Hogan-Rao to the team. Here is a Peggy's Bio:

Hi, I'm Peggy! I'm fairly new to the Boston area, so far I love it here. I started the Simmons LIS program in fall 2018, and moved to Boston a few weeks before classes started. Originally from the mountains of upstate NY, coming to Boston is a big change for me - getting used to the city life in Boston. I completed my undergrad degree in Media & Communication and English Writing at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, NY, few hours west of my hometown in Eastern New York. My dream job for after I finish the Simmons MLIS degree is to be a certified school library media specialist in a city school district, and a bestselling children's author. You can find me most weekends exploring a new church or a cool independent bookshop in the Boston area. My hobbies include collecting more books than I can read, cuddling with cute dogs, visiting beautiful beaches, traveling the world, and volunteering in the community.

Peggy will be a regular blogger, look for her first post soon!

People | SLIS


Breaktime

Last week was Spring break.  I didn't go anywhere, because I still have a full-time job, but I was able to relax.  Instead of coming home every day and doing schoolwork, I got to come home and read, or knit, or catch up on my tv.  I still worked a bit on a group project, but I didn't have to spend nearly as much time on that as I would my usual work.  While it was really refreshing to have a break, I have to admit that I got a bit antsy after a few days.  I've been so used to my study schedule that I feel a bit lost without it.  A week was great, but I'm ready to get back into school mode.

I have a lot to think about for the second half of the semester.  I have a group project for my tech class that's due next week, and then two projects due at the end of the semester: a group project for my info organization class and an individual project for my tech class.  I have to create my own website for my tech class, and I'm a bit apprehensive about it.  Even though I've learned the basic building blocks of web design, I haven't yet done anything as complicated as creating my own website from the ground up.  I'll have to think about layout and content, as well as images and colors.  It's going to be time consuming, and I plan on starting as early as possible.  My group project is about cataloging a collection of rock and roll posters from the San Francisco area in the 1960's and 1970's.  I'm a huge classic rock fan, and I'm excited to work on that topic for class.

I also have to think about classes for the Fall semester.  I'm currently on the archives track, but I've been thinking a lot lately about switching to the Design Your Own curriculum.  I really enjoy my tech class and think it would be interesting to focus on that area.  Simmons has several classes that focus on digital libraries and digital records management, and it would be fantastic to combine these with some programming and tech classes.  So this week I'm going to email my current advisor to ask if she can recommend someone that I can talk to about possibly changing tracks.  I want to get all the info so that I can make the right decision for me.  Luckily, I still have some time before registration starts.  Both archives and tech are exciting and integral to the future of libraries, so I'll be happy with whatever track I choose.   I just have to make the decision.

SLIS | Students | classes


Developing and Managing Collection Development and Management

I, Katie Carlson, am a 'microwave thinker.' This idea was introduced to me by a professor at Mount Holyoke, and indicates that given a moment, I can always supply an idea. Put simply, my brain moves fast. (Sometimes too fast - especially when the goal is quality over quantity.) Microwave thinkers are placed in opposition to 'slow cooker thinkers.' These are people who need time to let their ideas marinate, especially before they feel comfortable sharing them with a group. A round table discussion can be torture for these 'slow cookers,' especially when the room is populated with 'microwaves.' While I originally responded negatively to being a 'microwave' -- thinking of unevenly heated food with weird textures -- my professor stressed that one brand of thinking is not better or worse than the other! We landed on the idea that in any educational setting, it's important to plan activities and allow for opportunities that work well for both 'slow cookers' and 'microwaves.'  

 

 

The reason I bring up this 'thinker' dichotomy is that my online class in Collection Development and Management (LIS 453) is forcing me to step away from the 'microwave' and make my way to the 'slow cooker.' Class being taught asynchronously means that I am presented with a few hours of content and have the whole week to consume it. While Wednesdays are my hunker-down and get it done day, the work almost always spills into other days of the week. I never would have guessed it, but I'm slow cooking! I jot down notes during lectures, and highlight my readings, but I'm thinking about patron demographics while I cook dinner, and list checking while I wash my hair! Of course I've always been a ponderer, but putting all of my comments into forums (with an end of week due date) has meant the content I'm sharing is more fleshed out!

Another welcome addition to my online learning experiment is hearing from everyone! In an online class, nobody takes a seat in the last row and avoids sharing their opinions. My favorite thing about education is the collaborative thinking aspect, so I'm grateful to be able to hear from my 'slow cooker' classmates, and learn a thing or twenty from them, too!

 

Learning | SLIS | skills


Putting It All Together

These past few weeks have been about putting things together and wrapping up everything I've been learning into an actual product. At my internship, all my previous class work, observations, readings, and discussions have finally culminated in an actual teaching experience! I have now taught undergraduate freshmen and lived to tell the tale, haha! But really, my first teaching day went as well as I could have hoped. It was rigorous - three 75-minute classes in one day - but rewarding. I did not realize how unaccustomed I would be to talking and standing that much in one day! My very first class was a little wobbly and I couldn't quite shake the nerves, but my second two felt much more natural. By the last one I wasn't even looking at my outline or checking the clock. Whew! I am relieved to have the first day over with so that I never have to be teaching for the very first time again.

In my metadata class we are working on an assignment that involves several pieces, each of which we have learned about and practiced previously. We have to create our own XML schema and then create three XML records based on our schema. This is the third Simmons class I've taken that requires actual coding, and I quite enjoy it. I never thought I'd be coding this much in library school, but I've seen so many practical applications of this skill since I started. Many of us begin our tech-heavy classes with some trepidation, but I can almost guarantee you'll find something fun about coding. I do recommend, however, that you take those classes in-person if possible. I've realized that troubleshooting code is a bit trickier in an online class. There's a delay waiting for responses to your question and something is always lost in translation. It is much easier to have someone else looking at your screen with you and being able to walk you through something. My advice is: take tech classes in person, and if you have to do it online, start your assignments early so there is time to get help.

In other news, we've begun the painfully slow slog toward spring on the heels of what was probably our biggest snowstorm this season. Since I've lived in Connecticut for four years now, I know that March-April often feels more like a second winter than spring, but the signs are there. The sun is coming out more and the birds are beginning to sing - as if nature knows something we don't. Simmons' spring break has given me a little extra time to do my work, but other than that, life goes on as usual. 

SLIS | classes | skills


Spring Break!

It is Spring Break everyone!  Does it feel like Spring Break to you?  It certainly does not feel like Spring Break to me.  We are not having Spring Break-esque weather with the snow and the freezing cold and everything. 

Last year for Spring Break I participated in the SLIS Alternative Spring Break program at Papercut Zine Library, but this year I have to work so sadly I am unable to participate this time around.  This year they are working with The History Project, The Prison Book Program, 826 Boston, and Papercut Zine Library. I had a great time last year and I learned a lot, and volunteering is a great way to give back to the community while also gaining valuable experience!  Also, last year I had recently moved to the area and it was a great way for me to meet new people.  The Alternative Spring Break program is an excellent way to get involved at Simmons, to give back to the community, and to gain experience. 

This year for Spring Break, as I mentioned I have work, and I also have schoolwork.  Even though I technically have this week off, there is still lots off schoolwork to be done- projects to be worked on, readings to be completed, group meetings to be had, etc.   Even though my class (LIS 451: Academic Libraries) is a lot of work, every assignment is so, so useful and everything we learn has a purpose.  We aren't even halfway through the semester and one of our biggest individual projects was due last week.  We had a Mini Grant Proposal project, where we had to go through the process of applying for and creating a proposal for a grant.  Grant writing is such a useful skill, and not just for academic libraries.  Next week our Three Minute Teaching Assignment is due, and again, that is a skill that transcends academic libraries.  I know I've said it before, and other bloggers have said it as well, but there really is no busy work at SLIS.  Every assignment is important.  All of your assignments, all of your readings, and all of your projects are like professional development.  I think in this class I just might see it even more clearly because I am currently working in an academic library, and the class is about academic libraries, but it has rung true for each and every class I've taken here. 

I hope that everyone is having a fabulous Spring Break no matter what weather you are experiencing, and whether you are relaxing, volunteering, or working!  Happy Spring Break!

Students | classes | skills


Tongue-Twisting Terminology

When I tell people that I'm in school to become a librarian, they are immediately curious and ask what my classes are like.  I usually give the same response: "Classes are awesome!  But there's a lot of...terminology."  I know ellipses are overused nowadays, but I can't think of another way to represent the long, slightly awkward pause in which I scrunch up my face, look off into space and try to find the best way to describe my classes. 

It's difficult because my classes are very broad.  Both LIS 415: Information Organization, and LIS 488: Technology for Information Professionals are required classes, and they are meant to introduce students to concepts and standards that will be used later on in our classes and careers.  They're not meant to make us experts in any one area, but to be a starting point on our journey.  So, we go through a lot of topics in a relatively short period of time. 

There are different types of information in each class.  For Info Organization, it's all about the acronyms.  Everything from cataloging methods, standardizing organizations and processes has its own abbreviation.  For example, we recently had to read chapter 7 of our textbook.  The chapter was on resource description, and the glossary at the end of the chapter included thirty-seven different acronyms, including AACR2, CDWA, DCMES, DCMI, ISAD(G), LC-PCC PS, RDF, VRA, and XML.  

For Tech for Info Professionals, there's a lot of coding, which we've used so far to create simple HTML pages.  The coding itself is not the problem, it's the fact that you have to code every single thing, and there are so many variables.  To center a paragraph, you have to define the margins, padding, and borders.  Each of these can include top, right, center, and left properties, as well as codes to fix their positions.  There's also text size, text font, text color, background color, background image, image alignment, etc.  It goes on and on.   

I'll be honest.  It's overwhelming, and sometimes I wish I had a second brain to process all the information.  I don't always fully absorb one week's topic before the next week starts, and it's frustrating.  Thankfully, our assignments are practical and hands on, and we get to use these concepts instead of simply reading about them.  That helps a lot.  And in spite of this seemingly endless glut of information, I really do love my classes.  I'm learning a lot, and I know that I will go over these topics more thoroughly in the future.  I'm confident that by the time I graduate, I'll be able to rattle off acronyms and programming codes with the best of them.  Until then, I need to take it one term at a time.

SLIS | Students | classes | skills


Enjoying the Journey

As the semester goes on I continue to feel very pleased with the way that it has turned out. Taking that two-week preservation course at the very beginning was the best thing I could have done. I enjoyed the topic more than I thought I would, and it left me with just one class to worry about for the rest of the semester! It does feel a little strange to not be driving up to South Hadley every Saturday, but I am thrilled to have my weekends back and to spend them with my family. It is a good thing too, because the weekly class schedule for metadata makes all the assignments and discussions due on Monday - which means I'm pretty busy over the weekend.

Fortunately my internship makes up for the missed classroom interaction and sociality I enjoyed up at SLIS West. On Thursday I got to observe Matt, the senior instruction librarian, teach the class that I'll be teaching next week! The lesson plan, activities, presentation and materials are already provided for me, I just need to work on my delivery. It's like teaching with the training wheels on, letting me focus on getting comfortable with classroom dynamics and the flow of a lesson. I know I'll be super nervous for my first time next week, so I just keep reminding myself of three things. First, that it's not my first time teaching/speaking/presenting in front of people and all those other times have generally gone very well. Second, that I am prepared to do this and right where I want to be. Third, that it's not that big of a deal and it's okay to be a little shaky at first. Matt and I talked about how reading and taking LIS classes and observing can only prepare you so much before you just have to start doing it. Being nervous and shaky is all part of the journey, part of the ground that must be traversed before you arrive at your destination.

Speaking of the journey, my time at Simmons is quickly winding down and while I'm very much focused on what comes next, I'm also trying to relish my last semester. I love school and I have loved being a Simmons student and I may never be a student like this again. School is stressful and a lot of work and while the end result is very important, there is a lot to be gained from the journey itself. Try to soak it all up while you can!

Internships | Online | SLIS West | classes | skills


Never Thought I'd See One of Those in an Archive...

I am now approaching my 5th week of interning at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design Archives and it could not be more of a perfect fit! After graduating with my MSLIS, my dream is to work as an art librarian, so you can imagine my excitement with my placement at this institution! To further sweeten the deal, MassArt is right next to Simmons and my supervisor is a Simmons alum! So easy it is an easy commute and I love hearing about her experience while she was in the program.

Just as a quick recap in case anyone isn't too familiar with how the LIS438 internship works, you are required to complete a 60 hour internship in conjunction with your regular course assignments. The great thing about this internship is that Simmons set it up for you so there is none of that application stress and decision fatigue. I should point out though that the one downside to that is you don't have any say in where you get placed. You fill out a survey where the only real question is whether you have a car, so they can place people to appropriately located institutions.

So given these conditions, I was extremely lucky with my placement! I didn't even have to change the bus I take since Simmons and MassArt are so close (as someone who may never get accustomed to Boston public transit this was a HUGE perk). I have only just started but I know I am going to love this internship. I am working on a small collection of papers from a MassArt alum and faculty member named Theon Cain, who taught from around the 1920-1950s. He was a professor of drawing and perspective so there are a lot of cool sketches among the records as well. But the best thing about this whole collection and my supervisor has told me an intern has never really got to work with before is...a GARGOYLE! That's right there is a gargoyle of Mr. Cain in this collection that I get to process for the archives. It's pretty dang cool. I even got an image from my supervisor to share.

I'm only just starting going through and describing the records in the collection but I already love playing detective and piecing together all the names and publications. I feel lucky to be working with such a small collection because I truly get to look at each individual item and dive deeper into Cain's life not only as a faculty member at MassArt but a student as well.

Another quick plug unrelated to my internship, since Simmons and MassArt are both a part of the Colleges of the Fenway, as a Simmons student we get access to their library system as well! There library is on the 12th floor of their tower building so not only do they have some great resources on art and design but also one of the best views of the Boston Skyline. Definitely worth checking it out if not for the books but for the view. Oh and they also have some really funky chairs with built in tables and plugs that make studying for hours a little more bearable.

Classes | Internships | Librarians | Students


Searching for the Unknown

We are taught early on how to search for information in a library.  You search by author, title, or subject, and find what you need.  But the reality is, it's not always easy to find exactly what you want unless you have a good idea of what you are looking for.  In LIS 415, Information Organization, we completed an assignment where we searched for the word "grey" as author, keyword, and title.  Predictably, the results were numerous and varied, as "grey" is a fairly common word that can be a name or a color.  That assignment gave me a lot to think about.  I use the library a lot, both for school and for myself.  Most of the time I have an author or title in mind when I'm searching, or at least a subject that can narrow down my search.  But how do I search when I don't know what I want?  And more importantly, do I ever search for the unknown?

All these questions came up because of my trip to the Needham Public Library last week.  They had a "Blind Date with a Book" table set up, and it immediately intrigued me.  The books were wrapped in brown paper, with only the keywords taped to the front.  I browsed the table and chose two books.  It was not an easy decision!

Book 1:  Death--Afterlife--Making Amends--China--Ghosts--1920's

Book 2:  Paranormal abilities--search for truth--academic life--rivalry--magazine    editors--past lives--philosophers--aunts--relationships

It was disorienting to search for books using only those identifiers.  I've spent considerable time so far learning about the complexities of categorizing information, and this simple exhibit forced me take a closer look at what exactly that information provided.  Clearly the keywords gave some idea about the book's content, but not about how everything tied together.  Consider Book 2.  How exactly do past lives, paranormal abilities, and (this one makes me laugh) magazine editors relate to each other?  What is the book actually about?  I had no clue, but I wanted to find out.

I don't know if I will like either of these books, but that's not really the point.  The point is that I was open to checking them out and to getting out of my reading comfort zone.  Reading new books is the perfect way to take a risk.  If I don't like a book, I can return it.  But if I love a book, I can discover a whole new world.  The next time I'm at the library, I'm going to take another chance.  Because sometimes not knowing what you want allows you to find just what you need.

For those who are interested, the mystery books were:

Book 1:  Three Souls by Janie Chang

Book 2:  The Novel Habits of Happiness by Alexander McCall Smith

Books | Fun | reading


Time Flies

Oh my goodness as of today I have officially entered Week 5 of LIS 451: Academic Libraries!  My class is already a third of the way over!   It feels like we just started. Can you believe it's almost March? A part of me thinks that is a good thing though- this class keeps me so engaged, so interested, and so busy that it doesn't feel like it has been a long time (although five weeks isn't too long of a time). 

This class has been so interesting and so, so useful for me.  As I've mentioned in previous posts, I currently work in an academic library as a Reference Assistant, and between my job and this class it has really given me a sense of what the future might have in store for me if I were to make academic libraries my future after I get my degree.  Just this last week in class we had a Journal Subscription Budget exercise where we were given database usage statistics and their cost for some universities, and we were told to imagine that we were the Electronic Resources Manager for one of the schools and we had to eliminate $15,000 from the budget, so we had to decide which databases would be renewed and which would be cancelled.  This exercise and all the factors to consider when doing a budget is something that was incredibly valuable for me to learn, and I'm really excited to see what's coming next!

In other news, I had my first honest-to-goodness crisis as a graduate student and I survived!  I suppose this entire situation depends on your definition of the word "crisis" because it's not like my life was in danger, but something that is almost as important was definitely in danger.  Here's what happened: my laptop broke.  I have been taking online classes for the past few semesters, so my entire student existence has been completely dependent on my access to a computer (particularly this laptop) and a WiFi signal.  When I was in undergrad, I was an on-campus student, so if I ever had a problem with my computer, I could easily either go to Tech Services, or I could just go to one of the libraries at my university and use one of their computers to finish my assignment.  While I do live in Massachusetts, coming in to Simmons at any given moment isn't feasible--it requires planning and coordination, especially because my job isn't in Boston.  What this entire situation has reminded me of is the importance of having a backup plan in case if everything goes wrong.  I did have a half-baked plan for if my computer ever broke, but I never thought it would happen anytime soon due to the relative newness of my computer.  One thing that I did have before my computer broke was a backup of all of my data, so thankfully I didn't lose anything; however, I now have that data backed up in multiple places because I am now paranoid.  Anyways, the good news is that this situation happened early enough in the week so that I was able to get my computer fixed in time for my weekly assignment to get turned in (although it was a very close call), and I now have a very thorough plan so it won't be the end of the world if this ever happens againAnyways, this is a PSA about having a plan in case if your computer breaks.    

Also, we're coming up on my one-year anniversary of being a student blogger!  Happy Blogiversary!  I can't believe it's been a year already! I've really enjoyed sharing my thoughts and my journey of being a SLIS student with you, and I look forward to continuing to do so!

Librarians | SLIS | Students | classes


Everything is (Kind of) Organized

As I enter my fourth week of classes, I'm kind of in shock. I can't believe I've been in school for almost a month!  It feels like it's been much longer, but not in a bad way.  It's just that I've learned so much already, and it's still only the beginning of the semester.  I have notebooks and papers strewn on my kitchen table and files and folders on my laptop to keep track of all my assignments and emails, not to mention multiple calendars with all my reminders and due dates. It's a lot to handle, especially with working full time, and it's clear that I need some sort of system to keep track of everything.

Which brings me to my topic this week: organization.  One of my classes this semester is LIS 415--Information Organization, and it's already given me a ton to think about.  Information organization may be one of the pillars of library science, but I have never given much thought to how and why things are organized.  I realize now that everything in the world is organized in its own way, but I don't always see it.  This class has made me take a closer look at how I organize everything in my life, especially my school, work, and personal life.  It's been a lot of trial and error so far and I'm still working things out.  Surprisingly, the actual classes have been the easiest thing to manage.  Both my classes are online, and I study every day after I get home from work.  I haven't had any problems getting all my schoolwork done this way, and it feels natural to block out time every day, rather than only working on certain days. 

What I'm struggling with is what to do with the actual information that I have, and where and how to store it.  I thought I would keep track of most everything electronically, so I didn't buy any folders or binders.  But I've found that I prefer having a paper copy of assignment explanations and certain readings.  I like having copies to highlight and scribble on and hold in my hands. The same goes for my calendar.  I have deadlines in my phone but I also have a giant paper calendar, color coded and highlighted, because I love to see everything laid out.  It's a bit of overkill but I can't let go of paper just yet.  Old habits die hard!  Even though all that paper is piled on my desk at the moment, my goal this week is to get it bound and organized.  That way my work space will be nice and clean, and I will be less stressed about the mess.  Because if there's one thing I've learned so far, it's that being efficient and organized is key to succeeding in school, and in life.  I'm sure I'll get everything organized eventually.  Until then, I'm taking it one day at a time.

SLIS | Students | classes


Which Side Are You On?

Do holidays completely de-rail anyone else's week, or is it just me? One of the harsh realizations I have had as a mom is that holidays and celebrations all come down to you. All those fun and magical things you expect to happen on special occasions have to be planned, shopped for, carried out, and cleaned up by somebody, and that somebody (in my family) is me. So thanks to Valentine's Day (or week, as it felt like), I'll be playing catch-up this weekend.

I've realized something interesting about the work I'm doing this semester and about the library profession as a whole. My metadata class and my reference/instruction internship are at the opposite ends of the spectrum of librarianship. Metadata belongs on the "technical services" end, along with cataloging, circulation, inter-library loan, database management, etc. This side is known for its back-end, back-room work and lesser degree of human interaction. My internship belongs on the more public facing end, with reference, instruction, outreach, etc. where a much higher degree of human interaction is expected and required. It is interesting to see how this general division exists and how I could probably sort each of my Simmons classes into one side or the other. At the Fairfield University library, this division is made even more explicit by a physical separation of the two "sides:" all the offices and work spaces for technical services folks are on one side of the building, while all the reference, instruction, and outreach librarians live on the other side of the building!

To be clear, these two sides of librarianship do NOT need to be mutually exclusive. There are plenty of places where boundaries are fuzzy and the librarians wear many hats. I have worked in a small academic library where my job as a library assistant was a good mix of both. But even there, we had a dedicated cataloging person who almost never interacted with patrons and a reference/instruction person who was very much the "public face" of the library. It's probably worth thinking about which side you might be more interested in and suited for, because as I noted in my last post, we each have to take responsibility for creating our own specialized librarian identities. I am loving my internship so far and if I decide to pursue this route toward instruction and reference, I wonder if I'll ever really need or use anything from my metadata class (which is very interesting and instructive nonetheless). It's increasingly beginning to seem like I can't have both. So which side of the library do I want to live on?

Librarians | Real World | SLIS | Students | classes


A Lightbulb Moment: When You Finally Realize What You Want

How did I get here?  I've asked myself this question a lot the past few weeks.  I've spent the last fourteen years as an administrative assistant for an accounting firm.  It's not what I was planning on doing with my master's degree in art history, but life doesn't always take you on a straight path.  I always thought I'd move on and find something else to do, but I didn't know what I wanted.  So I stayed, got comfortable, and saw myself continuing with the firm for awhile longer. 

But then, an unexpected shakeup left the future in doubt.  My plan to stay with the firm when the younger partner took over was no longer feasible.  For the first time in awhile, I had to seriously think about what I wanted for the future.  I started thinking about the things that I love--books, organizing, helping people--and what jobs would fit that criteria.  I thought being a librarian would be perfect, and browsing through Simmons' website, I knew I was right.  I read the program and course descriptions, and thought, yes!  THIS is what I want to do.  Before that, I couldn't really articulate what I wanted.  It was just a nebulous idea in my head, but now it had form.  And when I read about the archives concentration, I was completely on board.   

So here I am, going back to school again, only this time, I'm approaching it from a completely different angle.  With my previous degrees, I took classes in the hopes that I would get some kind of relevant job afterwards.  Now, I know that I want a job in working in an archive, and every class I take will help me get there.  While I'm a bit nervous, I'm also completely excited to learn everything I can, ask questions, and get my hands dirty (maybe literally?) with an internship.  It feels amazing to finally realize what I'm meant to be doing, and I can't wait to find out what the future holds.

Real World | SLIS | Students


Welcome New Blogger - Amie Grosshans

Hello readers! We'd like to introduce our new student blogger -- Amie Grosshans! She will be posting regularly soon.

Read a little bit about her below:  

Welcome Amie! 

Hi, I'm Amie! I was born and raised here in Massachusetts and have a master's degree in Art History. As soon as I read about Simmons's LIS program, I knew that I wanted to be a librarian. It's a bit of a shock to be back at school again after almost twenty years, but I'm loving every minute of it. I'm finally in my element and so excited for the future. I'm currently in the archives concentration but am open to exploring other areas of librarianship.

When I'm not working or doing schoolwork, I'm usually reading or listening to an audiobook. I also love to knit shawls, sweaters, and socks and am pretty much never without my needles. My handknits make the crazy Boston winters a bit more bearable. Aside from my family, my dog Peggy is my biggest supporter and study buddy.

People | SLIS | Students


Going Home and Going Online

I got back from winter break a little later than everyone else since I had my brother's wedding to attend the last week of January. If anyone needs a refresher (I'm sure I mention it in nearly every blog post) but I am from Florida, and in true extra Florida fashion, my brother got married on a 3-day Disney cruise to the bahamas. It was fantastic, I got to spend quality time with my own family and my new sister-in-law's family, most importantly though I got to spend that time with family in the sunny caribbean.

I mention this lovely vacation not to brag (that's a lie, I am totally bragging about how great Florida is) because in order to spend the most time with family over break and for the wedding, I decided that this semester I will be taking classes fully online!. It just made the most sense given that I wanted to spend as much time as possible home in Florida. Which is one of the great things about Simmons, they offer nearly all the core course needed for the program online!

So this semester I am enrolled in LIS438 (Introduction to Archival Methods and Services) and LIS439 (Preservation Management) both key courses in the Cultural Heritage concentration. This is not my first time taking online classes but it has been quite a while especially considering that the only other time was when I was 19, in community college taking 100 levels courses over the summer.  My biggest concern is probably obvious but self-motivation is a very important part of taking online classes. Simmons online course are asynchronous so you don't have a specific time where you have to sign-in to "attend class". You do have deadlines like any other course but the great thing is you don't have to get up super early to try and beat rush hour traffic to make it to your class on time or rush to campus after work to make your evening class.

I'm only on my third week but so far the experience has been going pretty well. I'm naturally a night owl so I like being able to watch lectures and do assignments on my own time but I can't stress how important it is to stay on top of deadlines for online courses. I'd argue it's more important than face-to-face course since you don't see you classmates or professor around in person to remind you of what's coming up. So far though both my professors have been great about emailing and messaging us through moodle with updates and reminders, but I constantly find myself referring to my syllabus just to make sure.

I also want to say how important it is to take breaks when doing online courses. The first week I was quite overambitious and thought I could crank out my assignments in a day if I devoted all my time so that I wouldn't have to worry about them leading up to the cruise. Annnnnd that lead to a wonderful migraine and even more stress. So seriously remember to pace yourself and take breaks, learn from my overconfident idiocy.

A final word of advice, which seems kind of obvious, is to not just hole up at home doing your classes. Sure, I may have decided to take online classes Spring semester because winter in New England is criminal but I am not doing myself any favors academically by sitting in bed on my laptop trying to write a reflection on agents of deterioration. Get to a coffee shops, a library, or a community work space. A change of scenery really helps perk you up and re-energize you to get back to work (caffeine and the social pressure of having others working around you certainly helps too).

 

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