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Recently in Librarians


I was struggling to find a topic for this week's blog.  I've been consumed with finishing year end projects and figuring out how to complete this week's work in time because of the holiday.  I won't be able to do any work on Thursday (I'll be too busy stuffing stuffing and pumpkin cheesecake in my face) and then I'm going away with my mom and sisters on Friday and Saturday, so those days are out, too.  And then I started reminiscing about last Thanksgiving and found my topic.

Because last Thanksgiving, I was just starting to get my application together to apply to SLIS.  I had already figured out who to ask for references and was ready to fill out my application.  I was thinking about how excited I was to possibly be starting school again, but I was also so nervous that I wouldn't be accepted.  Once I "discovered" the idea of becoming a librarian, I couldn't think about doing anything else, and I would have been devastated if I wasn't accepted at Simmons. 

Things happened pretty fast after that.  I originally expected to start this semester, but when I visited campus and the admissions director told me there were actually a few places still open for the spring 2019 semester and I decided to go for it.  Within a month I was accepted and starting classes, and I wouldn't have it any other way.  Now I'm three weeks from being officially halfway through the program.  I have learned so much already. 

Which bring me to next Thanksgiving.  I'll be a few weeks away from being finished with school.  Maybe I'll already have a job lined up (fingers, toes, everything crossed!), or maybe I'll still be looking, I don't know.  But what I do know for certain is that I'm excited to learn even more in my final three semesters, and to share everything here in this blog.  Happy Thanksgiving all!

Librarians | Real World | Relaxing | SLIS | Students

Librarians are Resources!

My assignment for yesterday was to bring a picture book of my choice that was published within the last five years, along with 6 assigned picture books, to my Writing for Children class. To prepare for class, I went to my local branch of the Boston Public Library. The children's librarian there is very helpful for students of all ages. She is a Simmons grad and loves working at the library with the youngest patrons. This is just one example of how everywhere I go in the Boston Public Library - whichever branch I visit - I find a Simmons grad. Hoping to utilize the expertise of the librarian, I told her that I needed an exemplary picture book written in the last five years. I was hoping for a book that could teach me about a picture book's narrative structure. 

The children's librarian searched for notable picture books from 2018, and suggested A Perfect Day by Lane Smith: a hilarious book inspired by animals visiting the author and illustrator's backyard. Knowing I had a knowledgeable children's librarian to help me made this assignment feel so much easier. I went home that night to read my seven picture books. In reading the books, I found my notes from LIS 481: Library Collections & Materials super helpful. Looking back at these notes made understanding the context of the words with the illustrations much easier. Because there are some SLIS students who are dually enrolled in the LIS and Children's Literature degrees, many courses pair together or cover similar concepts.

Going into class yesterday, I knew that only one other student in my Writing for Children class was also in the SLIS program. Many of my classmates shared that they had struggled with finding a picture book published within the last 5 years for this class. Reflecting, it seemed like I was the only student who went straight to the children's librarian to ask for help. I did this because a strong knowledge of the collection and reader's advisory (i.e. recommending materials) are necessary skills for a children's librarian. I went into class yesterday with A Perfect Day on my desk, and my writing professor immediately recognized the book as a well-written story for kids. Now that I've spent a few hours reading through my LIS 481 notes and reading picture books, I think maybe it is time for me to write my own draft of a picture book! 


Children's Literature | Classes | Librarians | SLIS | reading

Referencing Spook

I recently moved from circulation up to reference at the Watertown Free Public Library where I work! It was interning at the reference desk at my local public library in college that sparked my desire to be a librarian in the first place, so it felt a bit like coming home! It's already been fun to help people that I recognize from working in circ with some of their more in depth questions.  

My first shift on desk (after my training) was Wednesday night, and I was able to help patrons with flyer making, provided information on literacy classes, completed some reader's advisory, and updated some bib records. But my favorite thing by far was getting to design a book display! Whenever I do displays, I make sure to showcase the voices of authors of color and of various gender alignments. Displays are a chance to recommend books -- even to people who don't engage with you at the reference desk -- and a fun challenge!

I wanted to create something spooky, but not overtly Halloween-like, as we are only a few weeks into October.  The sign is a little bit difficult to make out, so above is a copy of what the flyer looks like. 

A few books I compiled for the display and recommend: 

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Machado (a favorite) 

The Merry Spinster by Mallory Ortberg 

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter (creepiest book I've ever read -- cw for assault) 

The Cask of Amontillado and other works by Edgar Allan Poe 

Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin 

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys 

Haunting Bombay by Shilpa Agarwal 

Feel free to pop into the library to come say "Hi!" or to check out some ghoulish or ghastly books from my display!


Books | Fun | Librarians | SLIS | reading


If you haven't been able to tell from some of my posts, I've been battling an extreme case of senioritis this semester. Now that the sun is out and the birds are singing it has become even harder for me to get down to work. I'm sitting outside right now watching my kids play and I just can't think of anything more interesting to write about. You see, there's a very small part of me that wants nothing more whatsoever to do with libraries, databases, websites, research, emails, and due dates from the moment I turn in my last assignment of the semester. This really is the final countdown for me, and I am so beyond excited to be almost DONE.

Then there's the question, that I've been getting a lot lately, of what I plan to do after I graduate. What I really want to say to people is: "Do I have to do anything after I graduate!? How about just enjoy my accomplishment and not having any more homework?" It's fine, I know what people mean. This reference and instruction internship may have the distinct possibility of turning into a part-time job, and I've been telling people for a while that I might look for part-time work after I graduate. In many ways, working part-time at the Fairfield University library is EXACTLY what I want to do with my degree and I can't think of a better opportunity or situation.

At the same time, I am in the enviable position of not necessarily needing to work to support my family. My husband and I have always felt that the best way for me to support my family is to be at home with the kids while they're young. But if I went back to "just" being a stay-at-home mom (for now), doesn't that mean that all the time, money, and work I put into my degree would be wasted? Well, that's for me to decide. When I applied to Simmons, I had no other long-term goal in mind beyond realizing my dream of going back to school and earning a Master's degree. I will have accomplished that, so maybe it's enough.

Anyway, there are a lot of big life decisions ahead for our family and many factors to consider. Beyond a doubt, 2019 is shaping up to be a momentous year with lots of transitions and changes. I don't know exactly what the next chapter holds, but I do know that I will always feel proud and grateful for all the learning and growth I've experienced during my time at Simmons.

Getting a Job | Librarians | Real World | SLIS

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

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

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

Finding Your Librarian Identity

I have two interesting stories from this week! For the first, I unexpectedly came face-to-face with a real life preservation situation and I knew exactly what to do. I keep all of my family's important documents and records in a heavy duty plastic file box. The other day I was pulling out a package of extra file folders when I noticed an icky smell. The outside of the package smelled really bad, and looked a little....wet, or maybe greasy? I looked back in the box and noticed the pocket folder next to the package was deformed and buckling, like it had gotten wet. I gingerly pulled it out and observed some interesting damage and deterioration all over the surface where the glossy finish was wrinkling and peeling. I cracked the folder open, which in retrospect, wasn't the best idea because it was stuck together with MOLD!!! I stared at it for a good three seconds with equal parts fascination and repulsion thinking, "so that's what active mold looks like" before I hustled the whole thing into the trash and washed my hands.

What's cool about this is that I immediately knew exactly what I was looking at and exactly how to handle it. The next day I inspected the rest of the contents of the box, removed everything and cleaned (and dried) the inside thoroughly because I know that mold is serious business. Nothing else in the box was damp or moldy, so I'm guessing the folder was already wet when it was tucked into the box. Luckily my little mold outbreak was very small and did not damage anything too valuable, and I caught it before it spread. The lesson here is, take preservation if you can, because it is such a fun and interesting class and you will definitely use your knowledge and never look at materials storage or old buildings the same way again!

My second story comes from my internship. My mentor/supervisor and I were discussing an article I had been assigned to read, and he called my attention to this line: "Rapid changes in the profession, combined with the evolution of the many different types of information professionals, have made it all but impossible to pin down a core identity shared by librarians" (citation below). We then talked about the importance of setting your own narrative, managing how you perceive yourself (and thus how others perceive you), and determining your own librarian identity. My mentor said that library school gives us a "generic" education about librarianship and that it's our responsibility to pursue/create our own specialties or areas of strength beyond library school. We have to set the narrative for ourselves or other people will set it for us, and it will probably be based on incorrect assumptions or stereotypes.

I realized I have a lot more work to do in this area. Part of the problem is the uncertainty of life: where my family will end up and what kinds of jobs will be available when I'm ready to work full-time (or even part-time). I want to be able to be flexible and try a lot of different things, and not pigeonhole myself into one specific area. But I also know that there are certain things that brought me to librarianship, and special ways for me to contribute as my own individual. I guess I was hoping that life, or fate or something would decide the path for me. Anyway, it's something to think about as I approach graduation.

Miller, R. K. & Benjes-Small, C. M. (2016). "Identifying as an Instruction Librarian" from The New Instruction Librarian: A Workbook for Trainers and Learners. American Library Association. p. 9. 

Librarians | SLIS | Students | classes | skills

One Year Down!

I have officially completed my first year at Simmons!  I started in Spring 2018, and I've just finished the Fall 2018 semester.  I've completed all three of my core LIS classes- LIS 407 (Information Sources and Services), LIS 415 (Information Organization), and LIS 488 (Technology for Information Professionals).  I've learned so much over the past year, and I've made such huge strides both personally and professionally.  While the past year has been challenging at times, it has also been extremely rewarding.  Here's a quick wrap up of some of the lessons that I've learned and things that I have accomplished over the past year:

  • I've learned so much about search strategies and techniques, instruction, finding and evaluating information, the way information is organized, circulation and cataloguing, ethics and professional standards across the industry, and so much more, and I've been able to directly apply nearly everything that I've learned so far in my professional life. 
  • I have learned that coding is an incredibly useful tool and it is not something to be feared.  However, learning how to code is something that takes a lot of time and effort (at least for me).
  • I have gained so many technology skills- not just coding!
  • I have successfully learned how to use the public transportation system in Boston (commuter rail and the T) and I have taught other people how to use it!
  • I've started exploring and learning more about my new home of Massachusetts (I'm still working on exploring more though- even though it's a small state there's so much to explore!)
  • I got a job in an academic library!!!
  • I've learned that time management is everything.
  • I've learned that it's okay if you don't know what you want and your plan changes.  If I don't continue with Archives and instead switch to the Design Your Own concentration- it'll be fine.  If I do continue with Archives- it'll be fine.  Nothing is set in stone- there's no need to worry. 
  • I've learned that there are librarians everywhere and that you should be prepared for a networking opportunity at a moment's notice- whether it be on a plane, at a wedding, at a family reunion, or in a restaurant (all of these have happened to me).  Every semester I've gotten an email from the Student Service Center at SLIS offering free business cards, and I've either ignored it or forgotten about it, and every semester I have regretted not getting the business cards because I keep running in to networking opportunities and getting asked for business cards.  I'm definitely getting them next semester.
  • I've learned the importance of getting involved.  Even though I've only taken online classes so far at Simmons, I've been able to get involved in my own way.  Some of the ways that I've gotten involved include writing these blog posts, going to some events on campus, joining organizations, volunteering, getting a job in the industry, and connecting with my peers in my classes as best that I can.  I feel much more connected to both the university, and to the industry itself when I get more involved with the program and by working in a library. 

These are just a few of the takeaways from my first year at SLIS (and from 2018 overall).  This year has been a lot of hard work, but it has paid off, and I'm excited to see what the future holds.

I hope that everyone has a great holiday season!

Librarians | SLIS | Students | classes | skills

International Opportunities at Simmons SLIS

One of the great things about Simmons SLIS is how many events are hosted each week! We have a very active student body and there are more panels, workshops, field trips, socials, etc. than anyone could ever hope to go. While being a graduate student is synonymous with overbooking your time, I have made an effort to attend a few events, specifically anything that has to do with international librarianship. I have always loved to travel and learn as much as I can about different cultures. So any chance I get to combine this passion with my passion for libraries, I will seize it! In this past month, I went to two really amazing presentations from faculty about their work abroad.

The first was with Professor Lisa Hussey, who I currently have for 407, and Professor Nanette Veilleux on their Summer course in Rwanda. This program is only a year old but offers students interested in international librarianship, archives, and computer science an opportunity to gain hands on experience working with a handful of schools throughout Rwanda. Listening to both professors and past participants stories about working with the Rwandan students was really inspiring. It also helped that Professor Hussey is an amazing baker and brought goodies and Rwandan tea that was so delicious. I could see anyone interested in working in a school library really getting a lot out of this course as both professors stress how wonderful the students are, and how eager they are to engage with Simmons students.

The second event on international librarianship I attended was put on by the Student Chapter of the International Relations Round Table (SCIRRT) which is a student organization on campus that while inactive for a brief period is making a come back! The event consisted of a panel of faculty speaking about International Librarianship and Libraries in Iraq. Faculty members included, Caryn Anderson and Michele Cloonan (who is also my advisor in the Cultural Heritage Concentration). I honestly could have listened to both of them talk for hours about their experiences working with libraries and archives throughout the Middle East. Professor Anderson started the discussion with her work as an Information Resource Officer in Iraq. She explained she did a lot of work helping to develop libraries, providing resources with a focus on modernization. She had a funny story about how because of the difficulties of being in such a warm climate frequently without AC libraries resorted to storing laptops in the fridge to keep them from overheating and crashing! Next, Professor Cloonan talked about her experience working with the Zhean Archives helping to work with preservation of newspapers, historic records, Kurdish documentary and journalistic heritage. Both professors stressed the importance of flexibility, openness, self-reflections, and following up with people.

After having attended both these presentations I am fired up to start looking up international opportunities that would best fit my interests in the library science field!


Events | International | Librarians | People | Presentations | SLIS

Hump Week

I've dubbed this week "hump week" because I have major assignments due in BOTH of my classes on Saturday. They are the last assignments before our final projects, so it's the last "hump" of the semester before the final hump. As such, this will be a brief post just to check in and confirm I'm still alive after last night's adventures of writing papers and monitoring a child with a bad case of croup. I'd like to say it gets easier as you progress in your program and get into the rhythm of schoolwork, but that hasn't been the case for me. Each semester has brought fresh new challenges, and each has necessitated some late nights and bouts of stress and anxiety. The fact that getting your library degree might be your dream or passion doesn't make it any easier, but it does make the work more meaningful.

We are more than halfway through the semester (only four classes left!) and it is just flying by. If my spring schedule shakes out as planned and I take preservation for two weeks in January and then an online class, it means that these are the last weeks of me spending Saturdays at SLIS West. This is the last time I'll drive through Holyoke in the fall, the last time I'll be enjoying lunches in the SLIS West office, and the last time I spend Friday evenings gathering supplies and turning in early. I feel both happy and sad. As I observe each semester's new crop of students, I reflect on where I was at the very beginning and where I am now. What do I know now that I didn't know then? I'll save that discussion for another time when I have more energy, but one thing is for sure. When this is all over, I'm going to be pretty darn proud of what I've accomplished.

Librarians | SLIS | SLIS West | classes

Registration Part 2!

I have an update on my last post!  So my desk is completely covered in Pro/Con lists, and I have officially decided to not take LIS 438: Introduction to Archival Methods and Services next semester, therefore delaying my decision on deciding what to do about my concentration and instead just take an elective.  I know at the end of my post last week it seemed like I had talked myself into doing that, but then I started going back and forth again, but now I have decided!  The world, and course catalog, is my oyster!  So many wonderful choices!  I'm now trying to decide between a few different classes.  I'm planning on continuing to do what I've done for the past few semesters and only take one class.  Between work, my personal life, and financially, taking one class a semester has really worked for me.  Also, unless if I can find a Saturday class that works for me, or a blended class that has a really good time, because of my work schedule next semester, I think I'm going to go the online route again.  I'm trying to pick a class I will enjoy and that will be useful in my career, which is pretty much all of them!  Even though all the classes sound so interesting, I don't want to waste my choice this semester.  Simmons puts out a tentative two-year class schedule with the course number, location, whether it's face-to-face or online, and the semester it'll be taught in, so I'm trying to pick strategically.  Another reason why I'm picking strategically is in case if I do decide to continue on with the Archives Management concentration.  If I decide to continue on with the concentration, I only get 4 electives, and the rest will all be archives and preservation courses.  If I switch to the Design Your Own path, I get 9 electives.  So, in case if I decide to continue on with Archives, I want to be sure I'm picking one that I really want (but honestly, all of the classes sound interesting which is why this is so hard).  I have a few different classes in my Preferred Section on Simmons Connection to choose between.  I'm deciding between LIS 403: Evaluation of Information Services, LIS 451: Academic Libraries, and LIS 490: International and Comparative Librarianship.  All three classes sound so interesting!  I may add a few different classes to choose from in the run up to registration though.  LIS 451 would probably be the class that would be the most useful for my current job, as I'm currently working as a reference assistant in an academic library; however, all of the classes sound fantastic, and hopefully I'll be able to get in to one of them! 

Aside from registration decisions, life is getting pretty hectic.  There's about a month left in the semester, and we just had a huge project due last week, I have another project due next week, and that's not even mentioning our weekly labs and final project!  Between work, registration decisions, school, and my personal life, I'm really starting to look forward to Thanksgiving, when most of my assignments and projects will be done and turned in, registration will be over, and I can relax (for a few days).   This stressful time comes every semester, and I dread it, but I'm always proud of the work I've accomplished and the things I've learned when I'm done. 

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

Librarians | Online | SLIS | Students | classes

The First 100 Days - Guest Blogger - Hanna Soltys, '17

Hi Everyone, 

Please join me in welcoming our one time, guest blogger Hanna Soltys! She recently had the most exciting opportunity at the Library of Congress. 

Bio: Hanna Soltys '17 MS, Archives Management is one of five in the Library of Congress's pilot Librarians-in-Residence Program. She was placed in the Reference & Instruction track, within the Prints & Photographs Division, and began her six-month appointment in late June 2018. 

soltys_hanna_Photo.jpgThe First 100 Days 
As a Librarian-in-Residence at the Library of Congress

Since I'm now in DC, it only feels right to reflect on my First 100 Days. Let's be real, a residence program at an institution such as this is intimidating. The anxiety and doubt bubbled up as that plane took off from Logan Airport with just my luggage in tow. Though from Day One, I quickly saw how Simmons and my experiences throughout Boston had prepared me for this program.

The work I completed with Simmons students and former professor Martha Mahard in the Boston Public Library's Prints Department ensured I wasn't too green coming into the Library of Congress. This part-time job from the Simmons JobLine provided me with an understanding of photographic processes, assessing time periods, and more importantly proper handling techniques. My LIS 438 class internship and later contract work at the Roxbury Latin School showed me the power of using an archival collection for outreach and reference projects, in addition to gaining exposure with rare and fragile items, all of which continue to be useful when serving materials to patrons.

No matter your institution, the reference game is a lot of improvisation, becoming knowledgeable about a topic and/or collection quickly, and all about customer service. The Reading Room of Prints & Photographs has a dedicated team of Reference Librarians answering inquiries and questions from afar (online or by phone) and in-person; in addition to other roles, responsibilities, and projects.

With holdings boasting 16 million items, you quickly become familiar with best practices for handling and searching across a wide array of formats. Architectural drawings, posters (circus ones are a personal favorite), comic illustrations, lantern slides, stereographs, portfolios, scrapbooks, contact must be agile and plan ahead on larger items to pull with another set of hands!

As a rookie, the team had me complete a handful of exercises to become familiar with the arrangement, materials, and how to search collections. One very wonderful thing about the Prints & Photographs Reading Room is how much original material is out for self-service. With a Library of Congress Reader Room card, researchers and patrons can peruse the various collections at their pace.

This is by far the largest library team I've worked with and the amount of pop-up projects is abundant. From moderating Flickr and hosting Reading Room tours to working with technical services on digitization and staffing special events, you see the different hats, titles, and jobs a Librarian wears.

The Library of Congress offers educational programs for employees, with classes ranging from technology and systems to understanding the work of other divisions and seminars. The Reference Orientation class I took visited a different Reading Room each week, showing materials and collections throughout the Library of Congress. In addition, my colleagues, both in and out of the Prints & Photographs Division are always willing to answer any and all questions while sharing their experiences. The mentorship is abundant here and I'm thankful for a field that is so supportive.

In my day-to-day, I'm continually pulling from knowledge and experience in LIS 407 (it was a major help during my internship at the Baseball Hall of Fame), LIS 446, and LIS 415. While I currently don't use the coding languages from LIS 488 and LIS 440, these two class made me comfortable with unfamiliar technology, which was a benefit when learning about new systems and databases.

The next few months will be busy ones with a few project deadlines approaching (writing for the Picture This blog, a Reference Aid for the postcard collection, transferring a Finding Aid into a LibGuide), though it's exciting to see the varying amount of work completed in a mere six months. This has been a magnificent place to begin my professional library career and build upon my knowledge and experiences from Boston.

Postscript: Hanna's Librarians-in-Residence contract was extended for four additional months, and she will continue working in the Prints & Photographs Division in 2019.

Photo Caption: Hanna is seated in the Prints & Photographs Reading Room holding "Simmons College, Boston, Mass." from the Detroit Publishing Collection. This photograph dated between 1910-1920 is available as a digital file in the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog (LC-D4-72328)

Jobs | Librarians | Real World | SLIS

A Whirlwind of Activity

Oh my goodness the past two weeks have been a whirlwind of activity!  So many things have happened!  I flew to North Carolina to be a bridesmaid in a good friend's wedding, which was very exciting.  I have been to several weddings, especially in the past year, but I've never actually participated in one, so it was a new experience for me.  I was so thrilled for the couple, I've known the bride for ten years and she is one of my best friends, and it was my first time back to North Carolina since I've started at Simmons.  I completely forgot how hot it is in October in North Carolina!  It was about 90 degrees and extremely humid every single day I was there.

 Additionally, while I was at the wedding, I met someone who was considering pursuing their Master's in Library and Information Science.  It's really funny, at the past three weddings I've been to, I've either met someone who has gone to Simmons SLIS, someone who works in the LIS field, or now, someone who is considering joining the field.  It really is a small world, and one I am so grateful to be a part of.  I was able to tell the person all the wonderful things I've learned and absorbed since starting at Simmons, and hopefully they will enjoy this profession and program as much as I have.  

I had a wonderful time, and I really enjoyed going back to North Carolina.  None of this would have been possible had I not been taking an online class (LIS 488- Technology for Information Professionals) this fall.   I know I've said it before, and I probably will probably say it again, but online classes really do give you the convenience of being able to do your work from anywhere there is a WiFi connection.  Simmons gives you the option of taking classes in a variety of formats, and I look forward to exploring them all. 

PS: Welcome to Simmons and to the blog Katie and Maria!!!!    

Librarians | Online | SLIS | classes

Learning about Learning (or rather, metalearning)

I saw a mug in the bathroom at Mt. Holyoke on Saturday that said: "Anything you can do we can do meta" and I've been chuckling to myself ever since. You see, the prefix "meta-" is something I hadn't really encountered before I came to library school and now I can't seem to get away from it. Librarians love it (and we aren't the only ones).

I'm going to do you a solid today and tell you what meta means and then make up some words with it just for fun.

The Google dictionary defines meta as "denoting something of a higher or second-order kind" but I actually like this one from Urban Dictionary better: "Meta means about the thing itself. It's seeing the thing from a higher perspective instead of from within the thing, like being self-aware."

The example you'll encounter most frequently in library school is metadata, which is essentially data about data. Right now in User Instruction we've been reading about metacognition, which is thinking about your own thinking. And since this week's readings are about learning theory, I've decided to call this "metalearning," or learning about learning. (Turns out meta learning is a real thing. I just googled it.)

I actually quite like learning more about how learning works, and I've realized that you don't have to study learning theory to learn more about learning. In fact, pursuing higher education is an excellent opportunity to learn more about how you learn; all you have to do is pay attention, reflect, and experiment a little. When I'm learning something new, I've found that I need some time and space to explore it on my own terms before I fully "grasp" a concept. After I've got that initial footing, then discussing or exploring it with other people helps flesh it out further. Finally I've got to put my new knowledge into practice to cement the learning. It's an iterative and non-linear process.

Anyway, here are some more meta- words that I've just come up with for kicks and giggles:

Meta-journaling: journaling about journaling

Meta-anxiety: anxiety about your anxiety (ooh this one's handy!)

Meta-requirements: requirements about requirements

Meta-excited: excited about your excitement

Meta-planning: planning your planning (bullet journals, anyone?)

Meta-arguing: arguing about arguing


P.S. Welcome new blogger Katie!!!

Fun | Librarians | skills

Engaging Classes and Best Laid Plans

I'm delighted to report that my new system for homework worked incredibly well last week. I methodically chugged through all my readings, got started on some future assignments, took notes on everything I read, and tracked how much time I spent on what. It was so efficient that I had everything finished by Thursday! Want to know my grand totals for the week? (Of course you do.) I spent 17 hours and 45 minutes total, of which I spent 11 hours reading (and note-taking), 4.75 hours on assignments, and 2 hours on review. I know this is incredibly nerdy, but I've ALWAYS wanted to know how much time I actually spend on homework, and how close it is to the 20-hour/week ballpark (10 hours per week, per class). Also, I thought it might be helpful for any of you out there still considering library school to get a realistic idea of the time commitment.

My archival access & use class is down to only five people, but so far that hasn't hindered discussion. I find the professor's teaching style very engaging. It's basically three hours of discussion with some lecture scattered throughout. I came to class this week thinking I was so prepared with all my readings and notes, but I still had to think really hard about the questions Professor Cox asked. The way he leads the discussions challenges us to think critically and carefully about the things we've read and what we think we already know about archives. I come away from class with a lot more ideas, and even more questions.

In my afternoon class, user instruction, we all got surprised with an impromptu 5-minute class presentation - scary, but instructive. We're going to be presenting a lot in that class to practice being in front of people and not freaking out. The class itself is like a laboratory for our experiments in teaching and learning. It feels like we're on a journey together with the instructor, to discover and develop our own teaching identities and philosophies. It's a fun and engaging class, and the time goes quickly.

As for this week, what is it they say about best laid plans? Both my kids were off school on Wednesday, and it looks like my son will be home sick with me today. It will be a challenge to fit in all the homework time that I planned, but at least I started strong. I spent Tuesday morning on the campus of Sacred Heart University interviewing instruction librarians and observing a library instructional session for one of my assignments. Everyone was so nice and helpful - it's great to see how willing the professionals are to mentor new aspiring librarians.

Librarians | SLIS | Students | classes | skills

Pondering the Future

So, readers, my little summer break is almost over.  My new class starts next week (LIS 415: Information Organization).  As I've mentioned in a previous post, it's an online class again and I'm excited to start.  I am a little bit ambivalent about the shorter timeframe, but I'm really excited about the topic and I've already started in on the reading. 

Over the past few weeks I've been pondering my future a lot.  Currently, I'm doing the Archives Management concentration within the MS in Library and Information Science program.  Even though I'm near the beginning of the program and am still taking my core classes, I can't help but wonder whether or not the Archives Management track is right for me and if I should instead be doing the design-your-own option.  I've been doing a lot of informal networking lately, and through my discussions with other librarians I've started to think about what I really want to do with my life once I graduate from Simmons, and if archives will play a role in that.  I started to think about this when doing course planning and seeing all of the awesome LIS classes Simmons has to offer and trying to pick what electives I'd want to take in the future.  It's just so hard to choose as all of the classes sound so fascinating.  On one hand, I don't think I'll fully know whether or not archives are for me until I actually take an archives class.  I don't think I could go wrong either way, but I feel I'll miss out on something great, whether it be some amazing electives or archives classes, no matter what I choose.  But, this is the time to figure out what I want.  Right now, I work in an academic library as a reference assistant and I love it, so maybe academic libraries are my future!  Maybe something completely different!  Who knows what the future could hold for me- but the one thing I do know is that I'm going to love each and every class I'm going to take at Simmons. 

If you want to learn more about the course offerings at SLIS click here.

Getting a Job | Librarians | Real World | Summer | classes | skills

My Unexpected Library Class

If you are like me, you'll come to library school with some idea of what librarianship looks like and what subjects your course of study may include. I can tell you that there are plenty of courses that you might expect, such as subject cataloging, history of the book, collection development, and library programs and services. But you will also find courses that you might not expect, like usability and user experience, knowledge management, web development, and information visualization. The fact of the matter is, there will be more classes offered that you want to take than you can fit into your program. Library school is both too long and way too short. If you're curious about Simmons' course offerings, you can view the full course catalog here.

Database management is one of those unexpected classes that I'm so excited to be taking. My interest in databases dates back to my internship at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum and the day my staff sponsor asked me if I had any knowledge or experience with Microsoft Access. I didn't, and so I performed all my tasks in Excel with the impression that it was not fully adequate for my assignment. Microsoft Access (and relational databases in general) was only a vague concept to me back then, but for some reason it stuck in my mind as something I wanted to learn. Fast forward to my first semester at Simmons and an assignment in the technology core class to create a technology tutorial. What did my partner and I choose? Microsoft Access.

Now my latent curiosity of 8 years is finally brought to fruition in a class all about databases. We are learning about database design (a combination of art + science), the various programming languages involved (HTML, SQL, PHP), issues surrounding data security and privacy, and recently, the process of knowledge discovery in databases. What I love about this class (besides the coolest instructor of all time) is that the skills and knowledge that we're gaining have wide applicability - certainly across libraries, museums, and archives but out into other fields as well. Knowledge discovery is a whole separate field in itself and databases are like a bridge of commonality between it and library science. I would love to work in traditional libraries and archives but I would also love it if my degree took me somewhere a little more unexpected. For some examples of this, check out Simmons' blog/podcast Beyond the Stacks:

Keep an open mind when you come to library school - you may discover your most interesting and exciting opportunities lie outside the box of "traditional" librarianship.

Librarians | SLIS | SLIS West | Technology | classes

Librarian Advice

Spring break has come and gone (while we're still waiting for actual spring to arrive) which means we're entering the second half of the semester. It's amazing to me how different this semester has been from my last. In the fall I had the same number of classes and the same number of credits, but 20 hours a week was barely enough time to complete all the assignments and I struggled to keep up with the reading (I was also doing my 60-hour archives internship). This semester, 20 hours a week feels fairly sufficient, and my current two classes require lighter reading and fewer written assignments.

Last Saturday we had one of our Day-in-the-Life lunchtime programs that could have been called "Personalized Advice from a Career Librarian." It was awesome. These lunchtime events are one of the best things about SLIS West. There's free food and the opportunity to mingle with classmates and librarians from around the area. Saturday's speaker was Barbara Friedman, current part-time director of Erving Library with nearly fifty years of library experience. We had a small group sitting around the table in the SLIS West office, so Ms. Friedman allowed each of us to tell her a little bit about ourselves, to which she then responded with some career/library advice. What she told me has changed my entire outlook.

I've always felt that my situation of being unemployed for the past 6 years and busy raising my young children puts me at a disadvantage in terms of getting somewhere with my degree. Most of my classmates are busy earning their library degree and accumulating real-world library experience at the same time. All of the job ads that I see require both a MLIS and a certain amount/type of professional experience. The MLIS is not a "golden ticket" all on its own (spoiler alert).

After I somewhat sheepishly admitted to Ms. Friedman the circumstances of my life that I saw as limitations, she expounded on several reasons why these are not limitations at all. She told me about some of the interesting library opportunities she found while raising her own children (like organizing the private library of a wealthy Connecticut couple!). I realized that while I may not be able to independently choose where I go or what I do, I don't have the pressure of supporting myself financially with my degree. I can work part-time or volunteer for a while and hopefully be able to gain a variety of experiences.

I am grateful to have found a program like SLIS West that fits my situation and my family's needs. I am grateful for a small program, with opportunities like personalized advice from a career librarian. I do worry about the future, and about what will happen after I graduate. But I know that I've chosen the right field and I'm prepared to enjoy whatever path it takes me down.

Events | Librarians | Real World | SLIS West

Conference Thoughts

So, let's talk about conferences. I knew that librarians had conferences before I came to library school. While I worked at an academic library in Virginia, I went to two of them. One was for the state library association, and the other was some kind of interlibrary-loan specific conference. Somehow this did not prepare me for how many library/archives conferences there would be happening in New England. As library students, we get plenty of emails about them and hear a lot about why we should be attending them. Students are even encouraged to submit papers and be presenters.

Conferences are a great opportunity but they are difficult to attend. Most of them are a good distance from your home, necessitate overnight stay, require missing class or work (and in my case, lots of babysitting), and charge registration fees. Simmons and sponsoring organizations make a good effort to mediate these demands by offering professional development reimbursements, travel awards, and scholarships for students. These efforts are nice but they also require some time and work on the part of the student.

I've been dutifully reading all the conference emails, and I finally found one that looked feasible. It was the joint spring meeting of the New England Archivists (NEA) and Archivists Round Table of Metropolitan New York (ART). It was being held in New Haven, CT (only 45 minutes from my house!) and the conference was offering reasonable early-bird and student discounts. Thanks to some encouraging emails from our SLIS West program director, I decided to jump on the opportunity.

The conference was this past weekend, and I attended Friday only. Even though I had some reservations about spending an entire extra day away from the kids and sitting through about six hours of educational programming (and then waking up early on Saturday for a full day of class), I was so glad that I went! I spotted some fellow SLIS West folks as soon as I entered the main room, and I did not feel as out-of-place there as I thought I might. It was really nice to just sit back and soak it all in. It's kind of exciting to be in a huge room of strangers and feel like you're with "your people," because everyone there is speaking the same language (of archives).

All of the sessions and speakers were very interesting to me (except for the one on digital preservation which went right over my head), and I came home charged up with good ideas. Those ideas showed up in my life as early as the next day, when I was using them in class. My favorite session was about archiving the web - what a fascinating project! I got a good introduction to it and got to hear from three different web archivists. I'll definitely be thinking about web archiving and looking out for opportunities as I move forward.

Conferences are great for students because they give you an opportunity to learn more about your field in a way that you might not get in class. They give you a glimpse into what's happening right now and afford wonderful networking opportunities. Conferences are difficult to attend, but totally worth it if you can find one close by or apply for financial assistance. 

Librarians | SLIS | SLIS West | conferences