Student Snippets


Libraries or Archives?

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

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

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

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

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


Adjusting to Urban Life on the East Coast

Things I love:

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

Things I will need to get used to:

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


Adventures by the sea

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


Living the Dream

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

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

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

2. I visited an archives for my field study.

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

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

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

4. Fall is really here finally!

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

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

Archives | Internships | SLIS | classes

Getting To Know Boston

These next two years will be full of learning experiences for me, and I am looking forward to that. Already, I have learned a few things. Did you know that Boston is where America's first public school was founded? Or that 75-80% ground the city is resting on is man-made? Have you ever heard of the Boston Harbor clean-up project?

Here are some of my initial impressions of Boston.

Things I love:

  • All the history: Guys, I got to visit some of the most important places of the American Revolution! I climbed Bunker Hill (and Breeds' Hill) I have seen replicas of the boat that tea was tossed from during the tea party. I live in a building built hundreds of years ago. It makes my heart sing.
  • The student environment: Boston is one of the biggest college towns in the nation. According to a 2011 publication by the Boston Redevelopment Authority, Boston is home to 35 colleges, universities or community colleges and there are more than 150,000 students enrolled in those institutions. So whether it is MIT students making me smile with their pranks, or Berklee College of Music students showing off their talents, there are people everywhere pursuing their dreams.


Not far from my home is a bridge leading to MIT; the students of MIT when out carousing on night decided to use one of their classmates to measure the distance across this bridge. Being engineers, they took the time to label the distances and make sure that the distances were precise. Thus I know that I live 468 (+/- a foot) from MIT.


  • The metro: I love watching the people, wondering where they came from, or what they have spent their time doing. Also it is fairly easy to navigate.
  • The art/architecture:


Things I will need to get used to:

  • The metro: There is something about being underground that is scary, plus it can be uncomfortable to be in such close quarters with so many strangers.
  • The constant noise: Traffic noise, people noise, squeaky noises everywhere sometimes I walk around with ear buds in just to cut the noise.
  • "Ahh" instead of "r":  It makes me smile, but I sometimes have a hard time interpreting what people are saying if they speak too quickly.
  • Dollar Coins: At home we collect them; here we get them as change.


Best for now!




Put People First

I was sitting in church this past Sunday listening to a woman tell a story about a piece of advice her older sister had given her which had become a guiding principle in her life. The piece of advice was, "put people first." This axiom could apply to all areas of life and for me, I've been thinking about it in relation to library work. We've begun learning about the reference interview in LIS 407 and on Saturday we watched videos of a "bad" reference interaction and a "good" interaction and discussed the behavioral performance guidelines set out by the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA). RUSA's guidelines read a lot like the basics of being a kind, considerate, caring person with a few library-specific points thrown in. Stuff like: make eye contact, acknowledge patrons with a friendly greeting, focus complete attention on the patron's need, and communicate in a "receptive, cordial, and supportive manner." One of my classmates said that most of the guidelines were common sense, and another said that they were basically good customer service.

I agree that the RUSA guidelines are simple, basic, and common sense, but this does not mean that they are easy or that following them is automatic for decently good people. How many times have I been going about my business, completely preoccupied by my own thoughts, concerns, and priorities when a random act of kindness from a stranger jolted me out of my self-absorbed stupor? Being preoccupied with ourselves is automatic, but kindness takes some special effort and focus. Kindness has no gender and no age. It is not affiliated with any particular personality type or level of education. Kindness is universal: it crosses language barriers, absorbs cultural differences, and dissolves hard feelings. When I think back to the videos that we watched in class, I realize that the primary difference between the two is that one librarian put her patron first - above all else in that moment - while the other librarian remained preoccupied with her own concerns.

I think people are at the heart of librarianship and it is for this reason that so many librarians are passionate about what they do. We all know from personal experience what a difference a simple, kind interaction can make when we're having a bad day. In class we were encouraged to be that difference in somebody's day as we sit at the reference desk, fielding whatever requests may come. I wonder how this principle applies to archives. This week I will begin my internship and visit an archival repository. I plan to be looking out to see how even in archives, whose focus may be a bit different from libraries, the idea to put people first can permeate every aspect of the work.

Libraries | People | SLIS | classes

On Being Ambassadors

I think I can safely say now that this will be one tough semester, characterized with lots of work outside the home. My first semester I had to drive to class every Saturday but all of the work and the assignments could be completed at home, on my own time. Not so this semester. This week I will go interview a reference librarian. Next week I will be visiting an archival repository as a researcher. And any day now my archives internship will start up, requiring 60 hours of work over the course of the semester. As an avowed introvert and homebody, I do not relish the thought of all the running around I'll be doing. But I also feel confident that once the stress of setting up appointments and making arrangements is over, I am going to love getting out into the field, talking to archivists and librarians, and getting the hands-on experience. The museum internship I had so many years ago right out of college was such a formative experience for me and I am sure this semester will be equally as significant.

Lately I've been thinking about how librarians and archivists and the work they do is perceived by those outside the profession and how that general perception/stereotype is wrong in most cases and even antithetical to all we do. In my reference class we had a lengthy discussion about the popular notion of the librarian as authoritative, unapproachable, and out of touch. Where did this notion come from, how has it been popularized, and what can we do about it? Some of my classmates observed that there does seem to be a "type" of people drawn to this profession, and that many of us can truthfully be classified as introverts who would rather spend time with a good book than a real person (not true in all cases but the trend is certainly there). But I have not met anyone in library school who remotely fits the stereotypical, popular image of the librarian. I have met lots of caring, passionate people whose professional interests align with a personal mission to reach out to and help people.

Archivists may have it even tougher than librarians, simply because of the nature of the materials they deal with and the way that an archival repository's mission and objectives differ slightly from those of a library. Archives certainly want to promote and provide access, but because of the sensitive and unique (and sometimes rare and valuable) nature of archival materials, archives must also concern themselves with restricting access. I find it interesting that as I have been researching archival repositories to select a site for my field study, even I - an archives student - have felt put off by some of the strict rules and regulations of some of these repositories. And I have found some archives websites to be much more welcoming than others. The point of the assignment is have us experience using the archives as a researcher, as a member of the public, and already I feel I'm gaining valuable perspective.

In any case, I can't help feeling that by simply becoming members of this community of libraries and archives, we take upon ourselves the duty to change the way people think about us and our work. We become ambassadors - in the things that we say and do and the way we interact with others - for the true nature of the profession. 

Archives | Internships | Libraries | Real World | classes

Introducing a New Blogger!

Hello everyone! We'd like to introduce one of our new student bloggers, Josie Snow. Please read her bio and first post below:

Josie Snow grew up in a small mountain town in Colorado, where she lived until September of 2017. Her love of reading prompted her to become a teacher, and later to pursue her masters in Children's Literature, which is what brought her to Boston.In her free time, she enjoys exploring the east coast (its all so different than her home!), puzzles, hiking, and stories of all types.

New Adventures in Boston

I brace my feet and don my special glasses, trying to get a glimpse of the solar eclipse out the train window. I can't help but think how appropriate it seems for me to be hurtling through the countryside towards exciting, yet unknown territories at the same time that the sun and moon are reminding the world just how much we have to learn; how just as the moon will temporarily replace the sun, so too am I replacing mountains for coastline, and my small rural life to dwelling in the city.

After I arrive, I get to play the tourist for a few weeks, visiting the cape, walking the "Freedom Trail" which goes by many sites of importance to the American Revolution, and wandering around the city--trying to learn my way around. So goes the beginning of the adventure!

Snow_9-14a.jpg    Snow_9-14b.jpg

My mom and I watching the eclipse from the train


First Day Jitters

I remember the first few days of each new semester in college being really overwhelming. I'd go to each new class, go over all the syllabi, find out about all the readings, assignments and expectations, and trudge home wondering what the heck I'd gotten myself into and how on Earth was I going to get it all done and why oh why did I register for so many credits?? But then things would get going and I'd work out a routine and a rhythm and everything would settle in just fine.

Well that overwhelming feeling is kind of what I'm experiencing right now after the first week of my new fall classes. I have my very first completely online class and a Saturday morning class at SLIS West and both my professors were like, "this class is going to be very demanding and lots of work and you cannot slack off one little bit." Not in those exact words, but that's definitely the impression I got. And when you've had a few weeks off and you've been spending your time haphazardly and a tad irresponsibly the prospect of getting "back to the grindstone" is slightly terrifying. Not to mention, my son started going to preschool for the first time so we've all been feeling jittery this week. Nervous, excited, and a little overwhelmed.

It felt so good to be back up in South Hadley at the campus of Mount Holyoke on Saturday. I left my house in southern Connecticut nice and early and drove with the sunrise, arriving to a perfectly crisp but not too cool day that hummed with a kind of anticipation. I know the route by heart now and I didn't have to consult a campus map to find my classroom so there was some predictability to sooth my nerves. I found quite a few familiar faces from my previous classes and the day was filled with renewing old acquaintances and making new ones! I really do love the crowd at SLIS West. I love that it's small, I love that we share one communal office space and see each other a lot, I love that we get people from all ages and life circumstances. I met a woman who is similar in age to myself with a young child and we talked about parenting for at least an hour. We had both noticed that most of the people in the program seem to be younger and/or childless, or older with grown-up children, so we were delighted to find one another. Earlier my professor had mentioned that she had a 6 month-old when she originally took the class herself. So yes, you can be a mom with kids still at home and go back to school!

Speaking of socializing, I'm having my first experience with the online forums and group discussion that accompany an online class format. Since all of our class discussion must be conducted in this way, we are required to do A LOT of posting. That means a lot of writing. Now, I am somebody who thinks pretty carefully about what I'm going to say before I speak, but I do even more thinking before I write something. In person you can always clarify your statements and convey meaning with tone of voice, but with this discussion format I find myself choosing words carefully and taking time to craft my statements. I'd heard that online classes could be more time-consuming and feel like more work than in-person classes and I'm beginning to understand why already. But it's also kind of fun. It's like social media when you and your friends are all commenting on each other's posts and getting excited about stuff except this is all about archives and there are such passionate, intelligent voices adding to the discussion. Stay tuned for more of my thoughts about online vs. in-person classes as the semester progresses.

I realize this post has basically been me unloading all my feelings from the first week of class and I could keep going but in the interests of time, I'd better wrap it up.

Until next week,



Moving Day Advice

Moving day.

Don't be afraid. It's a tedious and crazy couple of days, but the city of Boston has a pretty thorough system, considering that about 90% of leases go up August 31 and September 1st. There's a LOT of moving in the city. This is my first time moving in Boston, and it's a little overwhelming, so I'm going to talk about the major obstacles and how to avoid/tackle them as I've come to understand it.

(Get ready for another "listicle". I could totally write for Buzzfeed.)

1. Parking. This is a big one. Boston's got a fun, delightful mix of narrow and one-way streets, so parking can be incredibly difficult on a 'low-traffic' day. If you're employing the use of a moving truck, you need to apply for a moving permit through the City of Boston website. You can only apply online if your moving date is at least two weeks away, and no more than a month away. You can apply in-person and online - if you choose in-person, go as soon as possible within the allotted time frame. Lines get crazy.

It does cost - $110 for two metered spaces - but it is incredibly worth it to have peace of mind that a parking spot is guaranteed. You'll receive a set of parking signs for both locations if you're moving from one place to another within the city as well as a notice flyer to put on cars parked in the intended space. The signs need to go up, and the flyers put out on cars (each day) at least 48 hours before your move date.

If someone is parked in your space on move day during the stated times on your sign (usually 7 AM to 5 PM), you can call the non-emergency line for the police and they'll arrange for a tow if the owner can't be reached.

2. Movers. If you want/need movers, get on that fast. Their schedules get filled up with lightning speed, especially as the end of August approaches. I scheduled movers in June for an August 31 move, and there was already limited availability. Some companies were already completely blocked out. I would also recommend getting an experienced mover to drive the truck. I worked in maintenance for two years and drove an enormous moving truck daily but I'm definitely not comfortable driving on Boston streets with Boston drivers on the two busiest days on the year. You don't need an accident on top of the general craziness. Plus, there's a million road closures and parking restrictions, and the mover will know way more about that than you. (No offense. I'm sure you are very smart.)

Get ready to spend a pretty penny if you're hiring movers. There's no such thing as cheap movers in Boston this time of year. The cheapest 'base' cost I could get was 600 and that doesn't include time, labor, gas, or number of stairs (yes, that's a real fee). I know it's not ideal, but it really is worth it, especially since most Boston apartments are three floors or more. I've spent a lot of this post talking about spending a lot of money, so let's talk about free stuff for a moment.

3. Trash Day. "Wait a minute," you say, "you said free stuff then called it trash?" Well, yeah. I did. But one man's trash is another man's treasure! People get rid of all sorts of stuff during moving - couches, tables, beds, TVs, dressers and shelves, kitchen appliances, even clothes. There's SO MUCH free stuff that moving day is also affectionately called 'Allston Christmas'. My first apartment was like 50% furnished with streetside stuff. Items are placed outside for trash pickup if someone doesn't snag it first. It's not all junk. Heck, check Craigslist and Simmons News and Announcements (available through your Simmons Connection account) and your neighborhood's facebook page - there's a veritable trove of stuff that works just fine, but the owner can't keep it or is upgrading. My roommate got us a 50-inch TV that way, and it works perfectly, and only for $45! Not quite free, but I'd call a $185 savings a heck of a deal.

Speaking of trash pickup, Boston has a schedule specific to certain kinds of trash and their pickup. The City website has a 'Household Waste Lookup' so you can see when someone will be around to pick up old boxes, couches, TVs, and anything else you need to toss that isn't plain food waste garbage. There's a list of any kind of trash you can think of and there's a specific way to dispose of it. There's a Trash Day app if you want the schedule for the entire year at your fingertips. Please - use this system. Don't just jumble all your trash together. I know I might sound like a hippie, but we have to be good to the earth and city we live in and do these minimum-effort things to keep our lives, city, and homes clean. And it's so easy!! SO EASY!!!

4. DO NOT DRIVE A TRUCK ON STORROW DRIVE. For the love of all that is holy, don't. Don't. Don't drive a truck on Storrow Drive.


Does NOT.

Go well.


I know there's a lot of information to process up there and you might be nervous about accidentally breaking a rule or forgetting something, but it's incredibly doable. I goofed on my parking permit signs and the employees at City Hall were super nice and fast about remedying the issue. Also, ask your friends and coworkers if they have any tips and tricks! We're all in this together and literally everyone wants moving to be over with as soon as possible.


Librarians: Myth and Fact

During my first year in library school, I'm noticing things about my classmates as well as people in the field. I'm noticing what is and isn't true about people in the library science field and what stereotypes don't hold true. I figured I'd address the most common things you should know about people in the field before you come in with all the normal assumptions (as I did). These stereotypes apply to all library science careers, but I'm going to use the term 'librarian' for the sake of brevity.

  1. Librarians are quiet. This could not be more untrue. Librarians LOVE to talk. You'll take a reference class where you learn how to talk. If you ever encounter me on campus or in class, God bless your cotton socks, because I will talk your ear off. Part of being a good and effective library sciences student and future employee is being able to talk and communicate effectively, just like any other field. Jobs in library science aren't jobs where you show up to work and don't say a word the whole day. We value silence but we also value communication, which not only helps us understand our patrons but also helps cement a relationship with them.

  2. Librarians aren't friendly and they want to be left alone. This ties into #1, and it's just as wildly inaccurate. Everyone I've met in the program and out in the field has been warm and welcoming and I've forged a lot of solid friendships. Not only is it boring to sit at a desk all day and not do anything, but we are truly here to help you! ALWAYS feel free to talk to your librarian or archivist or what-have-you, we want to help you and we want to feel that sweet satisfaction when our patrons get the help they need. Additionally, library school is chock-full of group work and teamwork, which, weirdly, no one seems to expect. Working in a team is a constant part of working in a professional setting, so SLIS helps prepare you for that. Buckle up!

  3. Librarianship is a woman's job. *buzzer noise* Nope. I know when you think of a librarian, you think of a plump little old lady with white hair pulled up into a tight bun with half-rim glasses halfway down her nose, but that's far from the truth. Although the job is stereotypically for women, men have always been in the field. To be fair, the ratio is 70-30, but that's changing. Information doesn't have a gender. It's for everyone, literally everyone. Simmons is a women's school for undergraduate, but graduate programs are coed. Anyone and everyone is welcome to work in library and information science. Something that's pretty cool about Simmons is inclusivity -  you'll never feel left out or marginalized for any reason. Everyone is welcome!

  4. Librarians are boring. Wrong again, compadre! The people I've met have genuinely exciting, outgoing lives - rock climbing, dancing, concerts, hiking, bar crawls, road trips, swimming, activism, trivia nights, movies, world traveling to name a few - librarians do it all. Even the SLIS organizations and clubs have fun stuff to do, like the aforementioned bar crawls, local trips to see the sights Boston has to offer, or even just relaxed get-togethers on and off campus. Librarians are still people, and we love to see and do all kinds of things, but we can also appreciate a good night in with a glass of wine and a movie. One time I invited a non-SLIS friend to a party of SLIS friends. After we left, she told me "They're really cool. I actually had a lot of fun." People are actually surprised.

Don't expect to see all your classmates with their noses stuck in books - we love to read and learn and educate, but we love to live life to the fullest!


Final Thoughts on LIS 453 (Collections Development and Management)

I know it's been a little while since I last posted and I'm so grateful the Simmons folks have been patient with my erratic summer blogging. Our final class for LIS 453, collection development, was on Saturday and I've been gathering all my thoughts about the class, the format, and the things I've learned.

First of all, I'm really glad I took a summer class and I'm glad I only took one, as opposed to two like I originally planned. This summer has been so enjoyable, with just the perfect balance of relaxation and work, traveling and sitting at home, homework and pleasure reading. I almost wish it could last forever, but fall is just around the corner and with it, a busy new semester at SLIS West!

This class was the first time I had ever taken something with an online component, and I thought the blended format worked really well, especially for summer. To me it seems like the "happy medium" between in-person and online classes. It gave me flexibility to vacation with my family and spend some weekends at home while turning in assignments remotely. The online class sessions, to be completed on your own time and at your own discretion, presented the opportunity for learning on my own terms. I was not well prepared for this, as it was much too easy to breeze through the videos and skim the readings and be done. In hindsight I wish I'd been a bit more disciplined and gone over the material more thoroughly and explored more of the additional and recommended resources. Let this be a lesson for the online class I have coming up in the fall!

In terms of the content of the course, well, it probably all would have been worth it just to meet and talk with the instructor, Michael Leach. He was very knowledgeable, very experienced, and he made the material fun and interesting by illustrating all his points with real life examples. I appreciate all the practical knowledge we gained, along with the theory. Here are the most important things I learned from the class, in no particular order:

How to write professionally: most of our assignments involved writing policy and other professional communication for our libraries, with emphasis on following the "language rules" our instructor had outlined. Each assignment had specific length restrictions, forcing you to really think about how to cover all the important information clearly and concisely. It was great real-world practice.

How to tweet and be a library advocate on social media: I'd been wanting to get involved on Twitter ever since I started library school, but I was hesitant and a little nervous, to be honest. Turns out the best way to get started is to just start tweeting! Our social media assignment was just the push I needed. It all clicked for me the week I spent taking my kids around to all the local libraries, tweeting about our adventures. The libraries tagged in my posts invariably retweeted them or even thanked me for my shout-out! Promoting libraries, one tweet at a time.  

How (and why) to follow book news, publisher news, reviews, awards, etc.: this is something I'd never even thought about before, but it makes perfect sense that as librarians, we know what's going on in the book world. There are so many genres out there with which I have little experience, and learning more about them has given me an even greater appreciation for books and reading. So many books, so little time....

How to use data and statistics to evaluate and demonstrate library performance: this was probably my favorite topic in the course. I have worked with library statistics before, but I had never understood the theory and concepts behind the process. Doing assignments with library data and usage reports reminded me how much I love it, and how much more I want to learn.

So there you have it. I suspect I'll be back blogging again in the fall, but until then I'll be enjoying what's left of this mild and beautiful New England summer on the shore of the Long Island Sound, reading lots of books. (Or at least, that's what I like to think I'll be doing...)

Blended Class | Fun | Libraries | Online | SLIS | Summer | classes

Riding The (Heat) Waves - In Boston

It's official: summer is HERE, and hotter than ever. Coming from Texas, I'm used to the humidity and heat, but not walking around in it - Texas is too big to walk so everyone drives! But here in the 'Walking City', I've had to adjust to hoofing it wherever I need to go. The MBTA is a blessing and a curse - sometimes the air conditioning is a gift, but other times when the AC is not working it can be a cruel joke. That said, summer in Boston is actually very lovely, as it not only gives me a reprieve from classwork, but lets me actually explore the city I've been living in for almost a year.

As a SLIS student, museums and libraries are obviously at the top of my list of things to do, and Boston is jam-packed with incredible institutions. The Boston Public Library, the Boston Athenaeum, and the Cambridge Public Library are my top three, although I do like visiting local branches and see how everyday people like me are presented with opportunities to read and learn. The Boston Public Library (BPL) and the Cambridge Public Library are vast, and have excellently diverse sections so that everyone can find their interest in one spot. They are also interesting architecturally, being mash-ups of old and new buildings - what a metaphor for life, huh? 

Jarcy_July_photo1.jpgCambridge Public Library 

The BPL and the Athenaeum both provide that unique feeling of mixed awe and inspiration - their study and reading spaces take me back to how our predecessors used to learn and discover, and inspire me to do the same. The Athenaeum requires a paid membership to use, but various types of tours are available. I'm fortunate to have an internship there, so I've become familiar with the ins and outs, but it never becomes less affecting.

Museum-wise, I'm sure I could go to a different museum every day until I die and still not exhaust Boston's assemblage. My favorites by far are the Isabella Stewart Gardner (naturally) and the Science Museum. The Gardner is a Boston classic, even for non-SLIS folks, and I adore it. I've always loved the cluttered-but-organized Victorian aesthetic, but the gorgeous garden and the empty frames really sold me on the Gardner. I could go right to sleep in the courtyard, with its lush greenery and softly playing tapes of birds (can't have real birds) and I feel transported to a different time with every room I step in and every hall I wander. I'm astounded every time by the empty frames where the Rembrandts used to hang, astonished by the fact that they still haven't been recovered. I also think it's funny, ironic, and sad that they have Rembrandt's portrait of himself hanging across the room, staring at the places where his work used to hang for all to see.

jarcy_July_photo2.jpgDon't be sad, Remy. We'll find them.

The Science Museum is always a lot of fun. It's ENORMOUS, packed to the brim with interactive exhibits, and constantly rolling out something fun and new. I've been there three times for hours on end and I still don't think I've seen it all. They have lightning shows with the original Faraday cage, dinosaur bones, a bed of nails you can lay on (feels pretty good, actually!), a natural history hall, a space exploration hall, indoor butterfly garden, and awesome exhibits on rotation, such as the POPnology exhibit, which is an exhibit of technology-based pop culture icons, such as Watson, the Terminator, R2D2, and other amazing things you might not have heard of but you'll wish you did sooner! The Museum of Science is very hands-on and interactive, which I love for myself, but I also love to see for the hundreds of kids that go each day, to see them having fun and learning and seeing how cool science and math can be! 


Boston | Fun | Internships | Relaxing | Summer

More On Why I Came To Library School

So apparently, sitting around and talking about books is something librarians actually do, because that's exactly what we've been doing in collection development class! On Saturday half of us presented our genre/topic discussions, in which we gave a brief overview of a book genre and talked about what's hot/what's not. Except in my case, it wasn't a book genre. It was board games (a rising trend, wouldn't you know it)! Someone brought cupcakes to celebrate her birthday, so the whole thing was basically a librarian party. It was pretty clear that everyone there loved discussing and learning about books, many of us becoming nostalgic or sentimental as we talked about our favorites. Which brings a nagging question to my mind that I've had since I began library school: is love of reading and books a necessary ingredient in the makeup of a good librarian?

Now I think, in most cases, that librarianship is particularly attractive to those of us who do love books, and the two just naturally go together. I'm sure there are a great many characteristics which make an individual well-suited to librarianship, and these can be found in any number of combinations. The library/archives field is as diverse as the individuals that populate it. As the sign-up sheet for our genre discussions was being passed around, I gained further confirmation of a suspicion I've had for some time: that public libraries are probably not the best fit for my set of skills and interests. You see, I do love to read. But I don't love all kinds of books. I have no interest in most kinds of popular fiction, I have no interest in young adult books, I have no interest in children's books, I have no interest in anime or graphic novels.... I'm actually nervous to make this confession, like suppose one day I'm applying for a job at a public library and my prospective employer tracks down this post and sees all the bad things I just wrote. 

But I think it's okay, because like I said, library land is a diverse place filled with all sorts of unique institutions and specialized areas. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I'm beginning to think that I came to library school looking for a gateway into academia and/or cultural heritage institutions. I love to research and learn about new things. I feel like I become invested in just about any new subject that I'm learning about. While working in the Botany department at the Smithsonian I was all about plants. Plants are the coolest. While researching the Greek Civil War for a paper in undergrad I was all about World War II era history. I was sure I wanted to be a park ranger after spending a week camping and volunteering in Prince William National Forest. My "pleasure reading" is generally some kind of non-fiction relating to a topic that I want to know more about.

So if my LIS degree enables and equips me to continue learning and researching new things all the time and to share that knowledge with others in a way that touches their lives and makes the world a better place, then it will have served its purpose quite well.

Books | SLIS | Summer | classes

On Catching Up, Belonging, and Library Stats

As I wrote my last post it seemed as if summer was just beginning, and now I am watching the longest day of the year fade away over the endless, undulating lines of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I am in Virginia right now, and I can't get over how awesome it is that I can be on vacation in the middle of my summer class at Simmons. I love this blended format.   

The days are sliding by just as summer days should, and I find my time agreeably divided between homework, leisure reading, and hiking. I've made several visits to my old library, the one I'm using for my assignments, and it has been so fun to chat with the librarians again now that I'm in library school. Suddenly I find myself interested in and caring about topics that had never crossed my mind back when I was the library assistant: things such as acquisition policies, weeding strategy, and the future of information literacy education at the university. The director and I had a lengthy chat about these and many more subjects and I had that settling, confirming feeling that I belong here, in this field. If I weren't so worried about being a nuisance I'd show up every day and follow the librarians around, asking questions about everything. The Von Canon Library is very proud of its legacy of library workers that go on to attend library school. I think the number stands at 13, which is impressive considering the small size of the school and its complete lack of any library/information science courses.

For the evaluation assignment I have coming up, I've been collecting a variety of the library's usage statistics (with which my friends have been very generous). The library stands indebted to one of its former directors for his insistence on detailed and precise statistics. This task fell under my purview when I became the library assistant, and it has been the task of every library assistant since. When I first started I could not believe the amount of stats the library collected, nor could I imagine a use for all these numbers. While I enjoyed the process and took pride in the level of detail and comprehensiveness that my reports achieved, I did not appreciate the real power of all this quantified documentation of the library's services. In class I am learning more about the value of statistics for evaluating library collections, campaigning for funds, advocating for the library, and making informed decisions. I am also learning about the limits of quantitative data - what the numbers can't show you. In a perfect world, libraries wouldn't have to constantly justify and document their value with numbers and figures. But in our world, those numbers and figures sure do lend some heft to our claims and serve many other useful purposes. In any case, it's a fascinating area for me and I hope to learn more about this in school. Until then, please enjoy this dweeby picture of me sitting at my old library desk, looking at library stats and feeling happy as a clam: 


Blended Class | Libraries | Online | SLIS | Students | Summer | classes

Hellooo Summer!!

June - the first real month of summer - has arrived and my summer class at SLIS West is almost two weeks underway. In the time since I last wrote, I have enjoyed about a month of no classes, took a family vacation to my beautiful hometown in southwestern Virginia, celebrated my 29th birthday, hosted my parents and little brother for Memorial Day weekend, and read two books in rapid succession (should've read more). It was a pretty glorious break. Just look at this picture I snapped from the Blue Ridge Parkway overlook down into my valley:


Getting out of Connecticut every so often is good for my soul. I like a lot of things about where I live, but I'm a small-town, mountain-loving girl at heart, and Fairfield County, CT is just a little too urban, a little too crowded, and a little too rushed for my tastes. But I love the opportunities I have here, especially the opportunity to attend Simmons!

Let me tell you about my summer class, LIS 453 Collection Development. There are 11 of us students, and the instructor is the head of collection development at the Cabot Science Library, Harvard. Michael Leach has been a librarian for 30 years, and teaching at Simmons for the last 12 years. I'm pretty sure he knows everything (about libraries). I'm so excited to be learning from him and from the other students in the class, many of whom are near the end of their programs. The class is delivered in a blended format, which seems to me to be the best of both worlds. We meet in person a couple Saturdays a month and "virtually" for the rest of them. It means that I get the benefit of some personal interaction, but I don't have to drive to Massachusetts every Saturday! It's the perfect arrangement for summer.

The assignments in the class are focused on creating a collection development policy for an actual, real-life library, so one of our first tasks was choosing our library. For most students, it's a no-brainer to select the library in which they are currently working. I don't work at a library right now, and the last one I did work at is in Virginia. I could have chosen my local public library which is very close to my house and would have entailed pretty easy information gathering. But I really wanted to use my small academic library in Virginia because I'm familiar with it and the librarians, and it fits more closely the type of institution I hope to build my career in. It's an unconventional choice being so far away, but the instructor said we could make it work! The other reason I wanted to use this library is because I am sort of hoping the work I do will benefit the library in some way. As I said, it's a small academic library and the handful of full-time professionals working there must each take on many roles. There certainly isn't a librarian position dedicated solely to collection development. Maybe their policies could benefit from a set of fresh eyes and some free labor (or maybe I'm overvaluing my capabilities just a tad...?).

Anyway, so that leaves me pestering librarians for data and plotting another trip with my kids to Virginia for an on-site visit (because...homework). I will never not be glad to have another reason for crashing grandma and grandpa's house. It's pretty much what we do with our summers around here.



Classes | Online | SLIS West | Summer | classes

One Rather Late Semester Wrap-up

So... it's been a few weeks. My first semester of grad school ended five days ago and since then I've been processing, and recovering, and "making it up" to my family. Those last two weeks of class were kind of a whirlwind. And even though I had jotted down ample notes for a blog post, I just couldn't take the time to sit down and type one out. I poured all the time I could into my final projects and trimmed everything "non-essential," or at least able to be put off for two weeks. I scrambled around doing the bare minimum to take care of the kids and the house and let me tell you: bare minimum is not pretty. The kids (aged 4 and 2) were super great considering my parenting could be described as something resembling benign neglect. Or in other words, "Have some goldfish for dinner and watch all the TV you want and sleep in your clothes tonight." I still shudder now to think of it and it was all I could do that last week to keep the mom-guilt monster at bay. I think this blog is supposed to be about real life so there's some real life for you.

Wow my first semester of grad school is over! Only about five or six more to go! You know, this first semester really was a big experiment. It's been seven years since I graduated from college and I had no idea how it would be getting back into school with two little kids to care for. Honestly this week has kept me so busy I'm wondering how I did it with homework on top of everything else. But you know what? I did do it. And for most of the semester I felt cool, calm, and under control. Not only that, but alive and thriving. I packed so much into every day that when I collapsed into bed at night I did so with a full and satisfied feeling of accomplishment and gratitude.

This week I have felt strangely listless and apathetic. Yes, I am relieved the semester is over and delighted to be able to spend leisure time with the kids without the nagging tug of homework in the back of my mind. But I have also struggled to find the motivation to do and to care about some of the other duties and responsibilities in my life. I thought it would be so lovely to have some of my free time back to tackle a list of to-dos. But as it turns out, in the absence of the pressures and demands of school I feel a tad directionless. Or, as my husband told me earlier in the semester: "You're better when you're busy." It's not the busyness in and of itself, of course. I still felt plenty "busy" this week without school. It's being engaged in the pursuit of a clear and definable goal that I care deeply about that makes me better. It's the work that broadens my understanding, challenges my perspectives, and stretches my capabilities that makes me better.

The biggest surprise of the semester was the core technology class - LIS 488. I was a little apprehensive going into this class. In our family, my husband is the "techie" one and I'm the "bookish" one. I've never considered myself very interested or inclined toward technology. Throughout the semester we learned the basics of technology issues and troubleshooting, software/hardware, computer components, the Internet, and web design. Our final project was using everything we'd learned in the class to create our own personal websites - writing the code and uploading it to Simmons' web server. That's right folks, I made a website! And it was so FUN. I got totally hooked on coding this thing and I feel so much pride and ownership for the final product. Suddenly I'm considering new directions for my coursework and career that I never EVER would have thought suitable to my talents and inclinations. I'd heard the advice before to take as many tech classes in library school as you can, but now I genuinely want to do that because I feel like I could really enjoy them! Not to mention how marketable those tech skills are.... In short, library school will teach you to embrace the tech, not fear the tech. The most important thing to bring to your introductory tech class is an open mind and faith in your own ability to learn something new.

So that's it for now, folks! Stay tuned for posts about my summer class which will begin in three short weeks (and who knows, I may even have some thoughts to share with you over break)!


Finals | Real World | SLIS | Students | Technology | classes

My last blog post: Thoughts on education

This one's going to be a bit weird, but you know, so am I. So it's fitting.

There's some mixed info out there, but most agree that the word education comes from the Latin words educare, meaning to bring up and educere, meaning to bring forth. Others say that that Latin educare means to bring out, lead forth. So I think it's safe to say that education, etymologically, is about expansion and growth. Not the colonial concept of expansion and exploration- that of imposing your culture on others, but the expansion of our minds and therefore our very selves, whatever makes us a self.

I was at Amherst Explorations, an event that celebrates Amherst College student successes of the academic year, when one bright student presenter brought up this etymology and the idea of education as bringing out, leading forth; that concept of shifting & expanding the self. I call him bright not only for the obvious usual meaning adjectively: that he is quite smart; but for another reasons as well.  The Amherst College motto is Terras Irradient, "let them enlighten the lands," and this student did shine light on the concept of education for me. Bright indeed.

It was a total epiphany moment for me really, not a new idea epiphany- but one of those wonderful times when a network of ideas you've long had finally fit a bit better together thanks to one new piece of the puzzle. I like librarianship and I chose to move from nursing to this career for many reasons, not one easy to define reason- just as I noted in my first blog post for Student Snippets. But I will say that education in general is a big one of those reasons. It's why I'm working in an academic library right now as well, though certainly education comes from the resources and opportunities that public libraries and special libraries afford as well. Education has had such a big impact on my life. I know learning is a process that we are all undergoing throughout our lives, and that process doesn't require the big e Education in system form, necessarily. But it's the big e Education that I am talking about now. I am a school person. I'm not saying that's more valuable than not being a school person, I'm just explaining me. I like school. I like Education. It has almost always helped me; it has been my way out. I'm not going to say it's been my way up, because again that implies some value to the directions I've taken due to Education. But it has been my way out, and I have wanted out. Out was for me. Out is for me. It doesn't mean that staying In is bad, it's just that Out is for me. I was very lucky where and how I grew up, but I always wanted to explore. I dreamed of just walking and not stopping from the time I was very young, of seeing other places, of learning other things. And it has been Education that has gotten me where I want to go, or at least it has gotten me going even if I have no desire for a destination, but just for the going. I mean, walking got me going too- especially when we're talking about my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail.

But it was doing well in high school that got me Out of my town and into college where I learned so much. Not just about pharmacology (remember I was studying to be a nurse in undergrad), but I learned more about the world. I learned about other perspectives. My world expanded SO much. I was really into anthropology my first year, and my friend always made fun of me because he said I threw out "you know, in some cultures.." in almost every conversation. It was a really wonderful, expansive time. Again, I'm not saying you can't get that type of experience outside of college, outside of Education, but that's a big thing that did it for me.  I learned new ways of thinking and new ways of being. I learned of all the Out out there. Because of college I got a stellar job as a nurse too, traveling around the country and working with all sorts of people as patients and colleagues. I was challenged. I grew. I met people I will never forget. Some patients in particular let me into their world and thus again Out of my own.  

Fast forward 9 or so years and there I was again, back in Education, Out of nursing, Out of any comfort zone. Librarianship is a more radical field than I think most would imagine, and though the practices I have learned in this degree will be incredibly useful, it is the theories and overarching, holistic, expanding concepts I've learned from this program that will have greater effect long-term on me. I know a lot of folks don't like that about grad school. They want practical skills, not so much theory talk. But I'm all about the theory talk, because if I can understand the why of something I can better apply the how, no matter how much the how changes over time. And you'd be surprised how much the theory of how to organize information can affect your worldview, I kid you not. Because in the end everything relates to everything else, right? My world keeps expanding and I keep getting Out and it's only by getting Out of our world that we can look back and see it as one whole planet with boundaries that make it what it is and yet are meaningless. Anyway, here's to you Education. Maybe you're not the way Out for everybody, and maybe everybody doesn't want to be Out. But you sure as heck worked Out well for me.

And most importantly, thank you to my family and friends who supported me and gave me this crazy confidence that everything is going to work out and everything is possible and I can go back and Out and wherever I want to. I did what I did and I go where I go because y'all never made me think I couldn't. I just expected to have the chance for happiness because of you, and then I did.

And so long, SLIS West. Thanks for all the fish.    


PS: One final Terry Pratchett quote/s, this time from Going Postal:

Vetinari: "No sane mortal is truly free, because true freedom is so terrible that only the mad or the divine can face it with open eyes. It overwhelms the soul...What position would you take here, Drumknott?"

Drumknott: "I've always thought, my lord, that what the world really needs are filing boxes which are not so flimsy."

You  said Drumknott, you said it. 


Dig Libs & Graduates

My graduation is approaching and all you devotees to my snippets on this blog (hi Mom!), know that senioritis is really setting in for me. Actually, it has been there all semester pretty much, which is a little crazy since my graduate school experience has only consisted of 5 semesters, counting the summer when I took classes. So 1/5 of my time in grad school has been under the haze of senioritis. Aren't humans funny little things when it comes to anticipation? Anywho, I thought in this blog post I would use that senioritis focus and combine it with something I love to do- scour digital libraries for interesting ephemara, artificats, letters, pics, etc. So here you are blog followers and compatriots! The wonderful world of graduates as seen through collections in digital libraries around the states.

(note: I excluded videos & sounds in collections, but that's also a fun ride if you enthusiasts want to go exploring. Many of the sites cited below also have such materials available on the interwebs).


Who doesn't want to hopscotch after finishing up school?

1910 Amherst College Commencement (photograph by Justin B. Smith, class of 1909), retrieved from the Archives & Special Collections blog of Amherst College


He looks like he's got some plans...

June 1937 Touchstone (student publication at Amherst College that ran from 1936-1950 and was continued by The Sabrina (another student publication), retrieved from the Archives & Special Collections blog of Amherst College


You said it graduate! Let's hear it for the folks, whether their parents or spouses or friends or whatevs, who support us through this time, in all the different ways that they do!


Clark, Junebug. [Students at UNT Fall Commencement], photograph, December 13, 2013;( accessed April 18, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library,; crediting UNT Libraries Special Collections.

pizzollo_4-18c.jpgThis is the front cover to a little song book. I can't wait for the cherubs to come hang with me once I don my graduation cap.

Music Division, The New York Public Library. (1899 - 1899). Pretty Minnie Clare Retrieved from

pizzollo_4-18e.jpgThis is called "3 graduates on the steps of Westbrook highschool, Westbrook," so at least some folks here are likely graduates. I like this one because it's a stereograph (find out more here), and it makes me really thankful that I don't have to wear big heavy dresses outside in the current weather.

The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, The New York Public Library. 3 graduates on steps of Westboro highschool, Westbrook. Retrieved from



Last, but certainly not least, the first page of a Simmons College Commencement Program from 1910. Soon I'll hold the 2017 version in my hands. :-)

Simmons College, "Simmons College commencement program," in Daisie Miller Helyar, Item #103,  (accessed April 18, 2017).


Whole-self Librarianship

I learned passion and enthusiasm from my dad. My dad is a college English professor and his passions include subjects such as Victorian literature, poetry, Shakespeare, and John Milton. He has other passions as well that he indulges outside of the classroom, like birdwatching and playing the guitar. Both his professional and personal interests make up who he is and tend not to honor the distinction between "professional" and "personal." His academic interests follow him home from the office, work their way into casual conversation, and inform his worldview. Likewise, his personal interests flavor his teaching style and influence the way in which he relates to students and colleagues. I have observed my dad in his various capacities and positions within the home, at the workplace and in our church and I can tell you he is the same man all across the board.

I was reminded of the importance of passion at SLIS West on Saturday. First, there was the lunchtime panel on interview skills with Tom Raffensperger, the Dean of Academic Information Services and Library Director at Westfield State University and Jean Canosa-Albano, the Assistant Director of the Springfield City Libraries. Tom spoke several times on being genuine and Jean spoke of core values. One of the essential aspects, it seems, of an outstanding interview is the ability to be genuine, to be passionate, to know both what you love and what you stand for and express it well. Honesty and tact are required as well as some strategy regarding what and how you share. We were urged to remember that an interview goes both ways: both the interviewer and the interviewee are looking for that great fit and so accurate representation will benefit all parties.

In my afternoon class, Tech for Info Professionals, we ended up on a discussion of "whole-self librarianship" (I'm crediting my instructor, Abigail Baines with this term, since I had never heard it before and a precursory Google search did not turn up much). We had been talking about the personal websites we are creating for our final project and discussing the balance of professional/personal content. According to Abby, there are two approaches to this: one with a more rigid separation of personal and professional identities and another that embraces the "whole-self."

We discussed the implications of revealing certain personal details, ideologies, or beliefs in an interview or on a personal website and whether that could indeed hurt you professionally. But then it could be argued, do you want to end up at an institution that does not honor or support your values and individuality? I believe that in many cases (such as my dad), allowing certain beliefs, convictions, personal experiences and hobbies to permeate your professional life actually makes you better at what you do, and able to relate to others on a more meaningful level. And my dad has found an institution that is a very good fit for his personality.

The takeaway for me from all this is to know who you are, what you love, and what you stand for and to weave that into everything you do. What are your core values? Why do you want to be a librarian? What mark do you hope to leave on the profession? Understanding these things is a journey all of its own, and one that may be constantly evolving. Have someone ask you these questions and get some practice answering them. I often find that I don't know if I know something until I have to express it to somebody else. It suddenly becomes clear that either I have no idea what I'm talking about, or that I actually have some pretty strong convictions that I didn't realize I had or weren't fully formed until I said them out loud.