Student Snippets A Window Into The Daily Life & Thoughts of SLIS Students

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Putting Theory into Practice: Tackling Information Literacy for Incarcerated Students

One of the components for my Information Services for Diverse Users class (LIS 410) this semester is a service learning project. I did a lot of community based learning in undergrad, so this was right up my alley! I signed up to work with the Tufts University Prison Initiative of Tisch College (TUPIT), which brights Tufts faculty and students "together with incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people, corrections staff, educators, and scholars of criminal justice to facilitate creative and collaborative responses to the problems of mass incarceration." Because I have a background in restorative justice and a vested interest in the rights of the incarcerated, getting to combine these passions with my library studies was a dream come true! This past Friday, I was able to meet with my project supervisor to get a better idea of what our goals are for the semester.  

As it turns out, we will be creating an annotated bibliography and miniature lit review on the subject of education and information literacy in prisons, as well as the book to prison pipeline. We are looking to discover what successful collections look like in prisons, as well as how educators would be able to get around limited or no access to technology, especially while teaching information literacy. We will also be seeking out people and organizations who have successfully done this work before, and conducting interviews to identify potential landmines, opportunities for improvement, and successes. Our final for LIS 410 will be to compile an outreach plan that TUPIT can then put into place after our semester is done! 

One of the key parts of mindful service learning at Simmons (and in general) is reflection. Throughout the semester, we have been advised to keep a journal tracking our experiences, documenting our feelings about the process, and relating these to our scholarship. As a stream of consciousness writer and blabbermouth with a lot of thoughts, I love having a space (beside this blog) to break down my feelings! 

On Thursday, October 3rd and Friday, October 4th, TUPIT is hosting a symposium entitled Engaging Justice: Inside/Outside Prison. It is free and open to all, and "aims to engage issues resulting in and resulting from mass incarceration, promote empathetic listening, foster vicis discourse, and center voices of those with deep knowledge of incarceration." I'll be attending with my group members and am so excited to further engage with TUPIT! Overall, lots of exciting things on the horizon -- I'll keep you updated! 

 

Learning | Projects | SLIS | classes | skills


When to Stop

I had a very busy weekend.  I finished most of my digital libraries project and I am very happy with it.  The only thing I haven't done is write up my annotated bibliography, but that shouldn't take too long.  I also spent a lot of time on an assignment for my programming course, which I was not expecting.  We have a lab and an assignment each week, and they both take time, but nothing like this.  I simply could not get my code to work.  I spent more than two hours just on the first question.  I tried over and over to make it work.  I changed my names, variables, punctuation, formulae, and it still didn't work the way it was supposed to.  It was almost there, but not quite, which was even more frustrating.  I decided to take a break and try next question, but I could not get that to work all the way, either.  So I put the assignment away for the day.  When I picked it up the next day, I still had no luck.  At that point, I decided to simply turn in what I had and not waste any more time on it. 

Normally I like to have everything fully completed before submitting an assignment.  But what I've learned in the past two semesters is that sometimes there is nothing more you can do.  And that's ok.  It was clear that I was NOT going to get the assignment correct, and I was only driving myself crazy overthinking and getting worked up about not being able to find a solution.  I had spent hours on this assignment, which, in the grand scheme of things, would only be worth a teeny tiny part of my overall grade for the semester.  It didn't make sense for me to spend any more time on it, especially when I had another, more important project to complete. 

If this had happened when I was in college the first time around, I would have seen it as a failure.  Now, I see it as part of the learning process.  Sometimes you understand concepts the first time, and sometimes you don't.  But there's a difference between giving up and realizing that you are simply not understanding the concept at the moment.  It's ok to be wrong, as long as you take the time to find out how to do things correctly later on.  I never thought I would be looking forward to finding out the answers to an assignment, but I am.  I need to know what I was doing wrong!  I'm also curious to see if anyone else in class had trouble with this assignment, too.  I'll find out soon, and until then, I'm not going to waste any more time stressing over it. 

SLIS | Technology | classes | skills


Intro to Programming

I wrote a post last year explaining all the different ways that discussion happens in online classes (http://blogs.simmons.edu/slis/student-experience/2019/04/participation.html).  This semester, I have another new format for my Introduction to Programming course (LIS 485), and it relies on mainly on classmate feedback.  Each week, we have to complete a lab and an assignment.  The lab is where we practice our coding skills, and the assignment is where we answer questions and/or perform a coding task related to what we've learned in the lab.  It's very similar to the format of Technology for Information Professionals (LIS 488), except that now we are required to post our work to the forums for our classmates to review.  I was pretty anxious about this at first.  In a normal class, if I mess up, I'm the only one who knows besides the professor.  With this format, there's no secrecy.  If I struggle or have the wrong answers, everyone will know.  What if my classmates judge me for being wrong? 

Thankfully, this has not been the case.  It turns out that looking at and commenting on everyone's work is not as scary as I thought it would be.  In fact, it's actually very helpful!  There is a lot of variety in programming and many ways that you can get to the same answer.  It's been interesting to see everyone's work, and I've gotten lots of ideas on how to approach different coding situations.  Everyone has been very friendly and helpful with their comments.  It's a supportive atmosphere, not a judgmental one.  For the labs, we can comment on anyone's work, but for the assignments, we have "code partners," and we discuss just between the two of us.  Overall, I think this format is great for improving my coding skills and for getting to know my classmates better. 

This week's assignment is particularly interesting and will probably generate a lot of discussion.  We had to write pseudocode for how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  Pseudocode is basically an outline for your code, where you to write out everything in detail and get the steps organized before you actually start to code.  I made several drafts of my pseudocode.  I started by explaining the sandwich making process in full detail, from taking out the jars of peanut butter and jelly to unscrewing the lids to cutting the sandwich.  I think I had too much detail there, and I whittled it down a bit.  I still wasn't happy with that version and I completely re-wrote it to be very basic.  I think I might have been a little too basic, but it was hard to make the choice between too much info and too little info.  I'm sure the responses this week are going to be all over the map in terms of detail, and I'm looking forward to reading them.

SLIS | Technology | classes | skills


Who Knew Fidelity Investments has a Library?

Hello, Student Snippet readers! Long time no see(read?)! Happy start of the new semester, I have had one of the busiest summers of my life this year. For a quick recap: I had to put my on-campus job in the SLIS admissions office on hold since I was working at Fidelity Investments full-time as their Research Services Intern, while also taking Metadata online which was offered this summer as the SLIS travel course to Yonsei University in South Korea!

Since I could write about my trip to South Korea for ages, I thought I'd focus my first "back-to-school" blog post, on my internship this summer. I found and applied for my summer internship using the SLIS jobline. I was fortunate enough interview, and be offered the internship at Fidelity Investments in Boston, where I would be working with their research services team. Now I'm sure I am not alone in that I had no idea that Fidelity even had a library, and with it some super cool librarians! Because it was a corporate library, the job came with some cool, hip corporate lingo too, we weren't reference librarians, we were information consultants. Functionally though, the work I did wasn't very different from other libraries it was just mainly focused on finance and economics. As someone with an art history and non-profit background, I was honestly quite terrified of working there, I did not feel qualified to handle reference questions about factor investing but spoiler alert: I handled it! I answered reference questions on all sorts of topics like when people buy furniture or which grocery store chain has the highest market share in New England. I also cataloged/checked-in new books and periodicals to the physical collection, and helped with content management of the collection as well.I also learned some sweet, sweet excel skills through this internship; and nothing makes me feel more like a wizard than data organization and visualization in excel with charts. 

I really loved the time I was able to spend at Fidelity and this internship really helped broaden my horizons on different career paths in librarianship. If you had asked me last September, when I was first starting the program if I would ever see myself working in a corporate library I'd probably just say a quick and simple: no. But, it turns out, I really loved it from day one! Most of the people I worked with there were Simmons grads, and it really felt like a great community. My takeaways from this internship were ultimately that I am capable of more than I lead myself to believe, and that my library science degree is applicable in more ways than I could have ever imagined!

 

Internships | Jobs | SLIS | Students | skills


Adventures in Reference

It's week 5 and I still haven't gotten the hang of how fast summer courses go by.  Including this week, there are only three weeks left in the semester.  *takes a few deep, calming breaths.*  How did that happen?  Basically, because all I've been focusing on is my schoolwork and how to get everything done on time without cramming.  I've been keeping a very regular study schedule so that I don't get behind.  When I get home from work, I eat, then do school work, and on the weekends, I spend a lot of time finishing up projects.  There really is no time to procrastinate or take a break, and the time has gone by in a blur.  But, I am loving both of my classes and have learned a ton already.

I'm particularly enjoying LIS 407, Information Sources and Services.  It's all about reference services--basically, teaching us how to search more efficiently and effectively.  We've learned many searching strategies, including how to combine those techniques to broaden or narrow our results, and how to conduct a reference interview to help patrons find what they need.  Our assignments have been to answer a list of questions, which can be anything from "tell me about the origin of this word" to "who was this person" to "how can I find information on this subject."  It seems simple but it's not.  In fact, it took me hours to complete these assignments, and for the most part I was frustrated and not very happy with the sources that I found. 

The main problem is that I'm searching not only for the answer to the question, but for the correct place to search.  There are many different types of sources, including encyclopedias, almanacs, yearbooks, and gazetteers (yes, that's a real word for a geographical index).  It's not as easy as typing "encyclopedia" in the Simmons Library catalog, because there are literally thousands of encyclopedias.  You have to wade through a lot of information and may have to try several search techniques and combinations to end up with a useful result.  Right now, I'm not familiar with all the reference sources that Simmons has, and I have had to search through their database or journal list to just to decide where to start searching.  Also, not all the sources are online, which is frustrating because I have gotten several appropriate search results that have been physical books, which I cannot access.  Luckily, I'm not the only one struggling.  My classmates have all commented on how difficult it's been to search.  We are all, myself included, so used to Googling everything, that it's a real eye opener to use other, more quality search engines.  

The good news is that I am confident that my skills will improve with practice.  Once I am more familiar with the particular reference sources available to me, I will be able to search more quickly, and won't have to waste time on where to start or wading through sources that aren't very helpful.  I actually like the search process, which is surprising to me because I never considered being a reference librarian.  It's like a treasure hunt, and very rewarding when you can help people with their questions.  I'm looking forward to continuing to hone my searching skills.  The learning curve is steep, but I know I'll be able to conquer it eventually.  

Classes | SLIS | Summer | skills


Finding and Landing a Summer Internship

I had been worried about finding another job or internship over the summer months since I knew that I was going to be staying in Boston the whole time and did not want to just laze about until my South Korea trip. To be honest I was applying to almost every viable job that was popping up on Jobline. I was lucky enough to be asked to interview for 3 positions at 3 very different libraries. It was a hectic fews weeks in terms of every job I applied for emailing me at the same time, while I was also dealing with my general classes and internship deadlines, in addition to also preparing for a trip home to run the Star Wars 5k at Disney World! It was a lot to handle, but I somehow made it through with only slight strain on my sleep schedule (it is always those 5am flights that are the cheapest unfortunately).

Which leads to my big news, everyone...I scored my first job in a real library! This is huge for me as someone who going into this program has had no professional library experience. I accepted an offer to work as the Research Services Intern at Fidelity Investments over the summer. This is a 12 week paid internship where I will be working full-time (I have to be there at 8 am eep!) in their library, helping the asset management team with their research requests.

I am both so nervous and so excited about this position. Since going through the program, my mind has really opened up to career options I had not previously considered. If you had asked me before I started the program if I was interested in corporate librarianship, I probably would have responded with "what type of what now???" Luckily, last semester in my LIS407 course we had a whole class devoted to different libraries such as law, medical, and business. Linda Schuller, our liaison librarian at Beatley and instructor for the LIS430 - Business Sources and Services course, visited to instruct on this topic and my interest was peaked! It also turns out that an alumni of the program who I met at one of the admissions office information events had this internship when she was at SLIS (she was amazing to answer all my questions about the internship and let me name drop her during my interview)!

I am so beyond excited to start this internship in June and will certainly follow-up with a future blog post! My advice for anyone going through something similar is to keep an open mind about what type of job or internship you are looking for. Every opportunity is a chance to either practice your interview skills, learn and talk with current professionals and start establishing those networking relationships, and lastly, potentially discovering a whole new side to libraries that you didn't even know you were interested in!

 

Internships | SLIS | Summer | skills


Changing Direction

Let's take a trip down memory lane to when I was applying to college for the first time.  I had several conversations with my dad that went like this:

             DAD:    You should major in computer science! 

            ME:      Ugh, no!  I'm artsy, not techy!

My dad is a computer engineer (happily retired now, although still the go-to computer troubleshooter for everyone in our large extended family), and he wanted me to major in something useful that could get me a job after graduation.  I, on the other hand, wanted to major in something that I enjoyed, like history and writing.  I majored in art history and ended up working at an accounting firm, which was not what I was expecting, but I have no regrets.

I'm bringing this up because I had a full-circle moment last week.  I decided to switch out of the archives concentration and into a design your own concentration focusing on...drumroll please...computers.  Specifically, my focus is going to be on digitalization, digital libraries, and programming.  I'm excited about it, and surprised, too.  The technology course was the one I was most worried about heading into this semester.  But programming is not as scary as I thought it would be.  In fact, it's actually quite straightforward and logical, as long as you follow the rules.  All the code has to be entered in a particular order, and if you forget a single comma or add an extra space somewhere, it will not work.  That is very frustrating and can take a long time to troubleshoot.  I've had a few assignments that I spent unnecessary hours on because I made silly mistakes.  But it's gotten easier with each assignment and will hopefully continue to get easier the more I practice. 

The most important thing is that I love it, and I want to learn more.  Libraries are integrating new technology all the time, and someone needs to keep up with, teach, and develop that technology.  I want to be that someone!  So last week I spoke to my potential new advisor and he answered all of my questions and gave me good advice.  I've made a tentative plan of classes I want to take, including metadata, digital stewardship, digital libraries, and social informatics.  I'm looking forward to learning everything that I can, and I can't wait to see where this is going to take me in the future.

Learning | SLIS | Students | Technology | classes | skills


Mind Over Metadata

Okay, okay I've been dying to use that phrase for a while, and now I finally have a blog post worthy of it! My metadata class has really been picking up speed and intensity. It seems like every week is a new standard to learn. So far we've done Dublin Core, XML (more of a markup language than a metadata standard), Cataloging Cultural Objects (CCO), Metadata Object Description Schema (MODS), and design-your-own metadata schema. And we're just over halfway through the semester! I figured I would learn a lot about metadata in this class: what it is, what it does, how to use it, how to create it, etc. What I did not figure was how much coding and actual metadata creation we'd be doing. It's a lot. Do not take this class if you do not enjoy coding!

Fortunately, I do enjoy coding. It is something I never thought about before library school and now feel pretty comfortable with. For those of you who either want to do lots of coding or want to avoid doing lots of coding, here are all the classes I've taken that required it:

LIS 488: Technology for Information Professionals (sorry, you have to take this one!)

LIS 440: Archives Access & Use

LIS 458: Database Management

LIS 445: Metadata

 As you can see, there are lots of opportunities to pick up some coding/tech skills in library school if you so desire. Or you could avoid most of these if you don't...desire. At one point I actually did fancy myself getting into web development. But now that my internship is nudging me in the direction of reference & instruction, I'm beginning to wonder if I'll ever use any of it in a professional capacity. Ah well. Such is life for the student who doesn't have a specific career plan and wants to try a little bit of everything. That's why we have learning on the job and professional development (and internships!).

SLIS | classes | skills


Library Instruction: What I've Learned

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

1. It's okay to be nervous.

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

2. Every class is different.

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

3. Teaching is a physical act.

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

4. It's probably not you.

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

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

Internships | SLIS | Students | classes | skills


Group Project Musings

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

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

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

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

Students | classes | skills


Developing and Managing Collection Development and Management

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

 

 

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

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

 

Learning | SLIS | skills


Putting It All Together

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

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

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

SLIS | classes | skills


Spring Break!

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

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

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

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

Students | classes | skills


Tongue-Twisting Terminology

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

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

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

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

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

SLIS | Students | classes | skills


Enjoying the Journey

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

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

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

Internships | Online | SLIS West | classes | skills


HTML-ove Affair?

This week in LIS 488, we learned the basics of HTML. As my last post shows, I was really quaking in my boots for this course! This week went really well, as we worked through a Code Academy tutorial, and coded a simple HTML site about bears!

My (very minimal) experience with HTML stems from a tumblr blog I've been updating since I was 14. I remember the excitement of selecting my first theme, and writing my first little bio. With the help of the Wayback Machine of www.wayback.com, introduced to me by Danielle Pollock, I don't have to just fondly remember my blog in 2011: I can see it! And now, on display, my greatest pride and greatest shame, all rolled into one. 

Check out this screenshot of my blog from November 6th, 2011. My first background was a wicked cool purple and black flannel. I "hated people," and loved tea.

I remember sitting in a newly funded computer lab in 3rd grade, and wondering why I was being forced to complete my report on platypi on this stupid machine when my school library had perfectly good physical books. (Sidenote: It took a whole office effort to track down the title of these books I'd convinced myself were a fever dream.)

Flash forward to middle school. I remember being in awe of my teachers who could operate e-Boards. When I discovered the blogosphere, I was even more impressed with the people who could design web pages with multiple colors, with flashing pictures and bold lettering!  I went through high school, then on to college, and learned to love melding physical and digital research together. Times and tech changed, but my blog was always a constant. When it came time to design and redesign my own blog, I scoured the web for the perfect format to properly showcase my teen angst! As these screen grabs from April 30th, 2014 and May 27th, 2017 indicate, I had a penchant for lace, and talented friends willing to doodle avatars for me!


I think it's funny how I've come full circle! Now I'm learning the very HTML that allowed me to express myself throughout my teen years, and I love it! To me, there's something so calming about reading in a "different language," and the way the code changes color in the ATOM software for HTML writing I've downloaded on my computer. It's been a fun trip down memory lane to see what I wrote, selected, and pseudo-designed at different stages in my life. Now it's even more fun to think about what type of code was written to make my blog look and act the way it did! I think when I'm done this course, my blog circa 2019 might need a face lift! 

Fun | SLIS | Technology | classes | skills


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


Spring 2019 Kickoff

With the first week of classes coming to a close, I thought I'd give my first impressions of my second SLIS semester so far!

On Tuesday I had my first section of LIS 488: Technology for Information Professionals (my final core class). I was extremely nervous about this class, so it's not a coincidence that I saved it for last! I am someone who loves technology and is always excited to learn new things, but after a few too many attempts at troubleshooting, I go into meltdown mode. Danielle put my mind at ease when she started class by having us go around the room, share our tech backgrounds, and rate our feelings about technology on a smiley face scale ranging from love to hate (just like this one).

 

Most of us placed ourselves on the scale at "meh," with various justifications for why. Some rationales for not providing a more positive score were frustration, privacy concerns, and lack of sociability. Danielle stated that the course would take on all of those subjects! We moved to the COCIS tech lab for the second half of class, where we signed up for our first presentation, and then spent an hour learning some simple coding via a tutorial website. I chose to create my own Google doodle. It isn't perfect, but I'm pretty proud of it! It ended up looking like this!

 

On Thursday I had my LIS450: Public Libraries class. I was super excited for this course, as public librarianship is my "jam," and it did not disappoint! I know about one third of the people in the class, but was excited to make some new friends. This is by far the bubbliest group I've encountered.

I was originally placed on the waitlist for LIS 453: Collection Management and Development. The class is only offered online, and is apparently very popular, as I started out 22nd on the waitlist. I was briefly enrolled in LIS 493: Intellectual Freedom - which I was very excited to take with my advisor Laura Saunders - but thought that Collection Development and Management better fit my personal goals of public and reference librarianship. Luckily for me, the registrar's office looked at the long wait list, and enlisted Michael Leach to teach another section of LIS 453. I've only just started exploring the moodle page for our online section, but so far I'm feeling super optimistic. I loved that we had a forum to post introductions (including fun facts and where we're from!). I was worried about lack of human connection, but that doesn't seem like it's going to be a problem! I'm looking forward to the flexibility an online class offers me!

 

 

Fun | SLIS | 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


Reflections

As of last night, my final project is complete and turned in!  As I mentioned last week, the final project for my LIS-488 class (Technology for Information Professionals) is a personal website and portfolio, coded by hand using the skills that I developed over the course of this class.  There were some shaky moments during the process of doing this project, but I was able to either troubleshoot and solve everything, or compromise and change my original plan to work with what I had.  All in all, I think that my final product looks pretty similar to the original paper mock-up that I sketched out over Thanksgiving.  I'm really proud of this final project, although I should really stop looking at it, because I've noticed a few things that I would like to go back and change, but what's done is done and I need to walk away and not dwell on it. 

This semester has been a wild ride for me.  If you've been following my past posts, you know that I was a bit nervous about taking this class.  This semester has been a lot of hard work for me.  Some of the topics we learned about include how to use coding languages such as HTML, CSS, and Javascript; we learned about text editors such as Notepad++; we learned how to use image manipulation softwares; we learned about ethics and accessibility; we learned about networks, security, and privacy; and we learned about databases and XML.   Some areas of technology are easy for me to pick up and learn; however, coding is a skill that I definitely had to dedicate a lot of time and effort to.  However, with a lot of determination and perseverance, I've gained a lot of new skills that I've been able to use not only in this class, but also in my personal and professional life.  Every time I encountered a problem with my code, or an issue with the technology I was using, I felt a bit of pride and a sense of accomplishment if I was able to solve the issue, and more often than not, I was able to do it on my own because of the skills I learned in this class.  If not, the class forums were always there for us, and our professor was more than willing to help us.  While other classes that I've taken have come more naturally to me, I'm really glad I took LIS-488, and I'm going to try and take more technology classes in the future to build upon the skills I learned in this class. 

SLIS | Students | Technology | classes | skills