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A WINDOW INTO THE DAILY LIFE AND THOUGHTS OF SLIS STUDENTS

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What's in Store

I started a job last week at the Snell Library at Northeastern University. It's in the Circulation Department (called Access Services there) supervising work-study students at the information desk, doing interlibrary loans (ILLs) and working with reserves, and a variety of other basic things. I think it's a great way to get my feet wet at a large, academic, research library.

I also started my cataloging internship at WGBH at the American Archive of Public Broadcasting. Unlike at Snell, I feel really confident about what I'm doing here. I have experience with digital collections and metadata from my internship last fall at Emerson College's digital archives. I'm sure I'll catch on and feel right at home at my other job soon though.

Classes start next week. I'm taking Principles of Management (LIS 404 with Mónica Colón-Aguirre who could read the phone book and make it interesting), Subject Cataloging and Classification (LIS 417 with Danny Joudrey who literally wrote the book--the textbook--for Organization of Information, LIS 415), and Metadata online (LIS 445-OL with Kathy Wisser who I'm pretty sure helped invent Encoded Archival Description). It's going to be a blast. A very busy blast!

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Simmons Wrap Up

When I decided to apply to Simmons for my Master's, I was working as a records management professional in a corporate setting.  I loved certain parts of my job, and I wanted to make sure I would be able to keep a career in records management going - so a Master's seemed like a sound (if possibly unnecessary) investment in my future.  (Corporate records managers haven't really needed a Master's in the way that a librarian would, although in the current climate it is becoming more and more necessary to have some education or certification to make you stand out from the rest of the pack just to get a job in the first place.)

I was worried about how I was going to balance school and working full-time.  I was especially worried that I would end up only being able to take one class per semester, and would be in school for 4+ years - that I might lose momentum, or that there were so many things that might happen to knock me out before I finished the degree. 

It took two full years, but I managed to finish when I hoped I would.  Over the course of my time at Simmons, I have changed my mind three or four times about what I want to focus on once I have the degree.  The thing you don't understand before you start is that it's not just archives or libraries; there are different types of libraries and different types of archives, records management, digital repositories, etc.  Even now there are a lot of classes I really loved and a lot of different career paths I think I would enjoy, and choosing just one is difficult.  I've been interviewing a lot over the past few weeks, and have had one offer so far, so it really is time to make a decision, finally.  No matter what I end up doing, I am extremely excited about the future.

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Networking

One thing I have not been very good at while at Simmons (and that I have mentioned here several times before) is networking.  The idea of going up to a stranger in my field and talking about myself pretty much makes me break out in hives, and I know I'm not the only person who reacts that way.  The unfortunate part is that networking, especially in the libraries and archives spheres, is a huge career booster, and the sort of thing that you pretty much need to know how to do, no matter how much you might hate it.

Our NEA mentoring group recently talked about ways to network at our last meeting, and there were some concrete suggestions on ways to do it that I think are a little less unpleasant than having to make awkward small talk with complete strangers.  Here are some of them:

  • Join professional organizations like New England Archivists, Society of American Archivists, the American Library Association, etc.
  • Once you do, join the professional discussion lists, like NEA Discuss, the ALA lists, or SAA lists.  Joining in the discussion on those lists can be intimidating at first, but even just lurking on them can be helpful professionally, since they talk about a lot of topics that can be helpful to early professionals. 
  • Any professional organization has committees relevant to any interest that you can join and contribute to, often virtually.
  • Professional organization board meetings are often open to members, and can be a good place to go and learn about the org's priorities and personalities.

When you do talk to people, professional conferences are a great place to do it - possibly the best place.  Bring business cards to hand out to people, so they have something to remember you by.  Have your elevator speech ready, where you describe who you are (professionally) and what your interests/goals are.   If you do find yourself at a conference, and it has a Day of Service or other activities that get you out of the conference center with a group.

For professionals who aren't complete strangers that you may want to talk to about questions or other archives or library-related issues, there is nothing wrong with emailing them and inviting them out for coffee - the worst thing they can say is no.

There are lots of ways to network; the nice thing is knowing it doesn't always have to be the worst thing in the world.  The more you do it (so I'm told), the easier it gets.   

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