Monday, November 21, 2016

Facing 2017

“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.” 
― Audre Lorde
If you follow me on social media, you know how I feel about the outcome of the recent elections. I won't rehash all of that here, but I will tell you my plans for this blog moving forward. This page began as a way to reflect on my grad school journey, but was always about something bigger than that - particularly, my quest to proactively cultivate joy as I set out into the post-grad world. This mission seems even more important as we face what will inevitably be a challenging and often disheartening four years for this country.

I want this blog to be a space where I continue to actively cultivate that joy, as one act of defiance against an administration that has built itself upon fear and hatred. I'm no longer blogging for Simmons Admissions (no hard feelings, I just decided it was someone else's turn), which means I am free to navigate this ship with a renewed purpose. I was inspired by Cristen Conger's decision to branch out from her Stuff Mom Never Told You web series and launch her Do Better Dispatch. Cristen is a badass brilliant lady and she describes her project in this way:
"A weekly newsletter dedicated to allyship, uplift and intersectionality from nasty woman, gender nerd and Stuff Mom Never Told You creator, Cristen Conger. White feminism sold separately, batteries not included. Suggestions, questions and privilege-checking welcome. We're in this hot mess together, y'all."
Cristen and Samantha Bee are giving me life right now. I've also been obsessively following Kimberly Foster of For Harriet.

I want to share a few of the things I am doing, or planning to do, to stay engaged in this fight. It is by no means comprehensive, but it's part of my goal to Do Better. I hope that readers will be inspired by these ideas, and will please provide suggestions for me to take this even further.
  • For the next four years, on the 10th of each month, I will be making a $20 donation to an organization that advocates against sexual assault, Islamophobia, xenophobia, or racism (this is in addition to the $15 that I already give each month to Planned Parenthood Action). That's $20/month x 4 years, + November and December 2016 = $1000. One thousand dollars to fight against the human slime that will occupy our highest office. I want to support a diverse group of organizations, because the revolution will be #intersectional. This month I chose to support the Southern Poverty Law Center. If you want to take similar action, Jezebel has provided a list of organizations here.
  • In the early rawness of last week, I created a self-care basket for the women's room in my office. I am trying to back this up by being a good listener and recognize that my privilege protects me from being directly impacted by many of this administration's threats.

  • Last week, I called Governor Baker's office to ask him to step up as a leader in this moment, and issue a formal statement that Massachusetts respects all people and will be a refuge for anyone who feels they are under attack. I told his aide, that the Governor's leadership is especially important since he did not cast a vote for president in the recent election. I also reminded him of this quote from Desmond Tutu. I especially feel that as a "moderate" Republican, Gov. Baker has a responsibility in this administration to speak out against injustice and maintain sanity in his party. See this article about the phone blitz, orchestrated largely by Pansuit Nation. I plan to continue calling my legislators regularly.
  • I want to recognize the dedication of public servants like AG Maura Healey, whose office established a phone line for victims of hate crimes and violence following the election. I also delivered a thank you note to her office.

  • Finally, I am committing to fill the gap in my classic English major education and hopefully become a better ally by reading more, and reading intersectionally. All of the books that I read for "fun" (not school) in 2017 will be books by women of color. I've started this goal right now; so far I've completed The Color Purple by Alice Walker and I am halfway through The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
None of these things are enough, and I plan to keep building on them with activism, volunteerism, and advocacy. I recognize my privilege and my responsibility to stay engaged. I hope that this space can facilitate conversation as I try to Do Better.

Recent reads:
Sarah J. Brazaitis: White Women's Trump Card
Kimberly Foster (For Harriet): What Not to Say to Anyone Still Grieving Trump's Election
The Light Bulb podcast: What's Next?
Stuff Mom Never Told You podcast: Election Hangover
Tiffanie Drayton: Why White Women Broke for Trump
Blythe Roberson: Ways I am Preparing for a Trump Presidency (comic relief)

Thursday, August 18, 2016

School's Out for the End of Summer!

It's been two weeks since my summer class ended, and I've been SO relieved to have a break. I've been knitting a lot, reading actual books, and cooking real meals with Rob. We've been able to host and visit family for entire weekends; Rob's family came to Boston for 4 days, and this weekend we are going up to Maine to go river-tubing with my family.

Reflecting on my class, I can admit that I definitely struggled to be mentally committed to this class. I think it was a combination of the fact that it was summer and that this class was online. The content (Competitive Intelligence) was very interesting, but also more business-oriented than I expected so that caught me off guard and I really had to push myself to get into that unfamiliar mindset. I figured out pretty quickly that I prefer the research processes to the analysis, and analysis models are a huge component of CI (producing deliverable intelligence rather than simply gathering information).

Being part of a group project was challenging because we had never met in person, but it also helped me to be accountable to our project because other people depended on me. It was also helpful that we all had different backgrounds, so we could fill in the gaps when we had a misunderstanding.

Speaking of knitting... even though I didn't have much time to knit during the course, I was definitely thinking about it! This is because our project for CI was on JP Knit and Stitch (as our "client") and their presence in the online marketplace. I knew about this shop from when I used to live in JP, and I wanted our project to be something unique and locally focused. Our key questions for research and analysis focused on whether JPKS should invest in expanding their online shop in order to better compete in their market. Our findings indicated that this would NOT be a good investment for them - because they have a limited staff and want to focus on being tactile and grounded in the community - but they can learn from the online market and adapt popular trends to fit their strategy. For example, we came up with the idea of creating "knit kits" that would be a cross between a subscription box (ie. BirchBox) and a CSA. Customers could sign up for for a curated kit each month and could pick it up in the store; this would bring people into the shop and would not significantly add to the staff's work load, since JPKS already sells employee-curated kits in their online shop.

I'm glad I took this class even if I don't want to build a career in CI; it was good for me to get into a different mindset (think: how will my findings be analyzed and applied, and how can that direct my research?). I also feel better equipped for my next online class this fall, Knowledge Management. I will still say that online classes aren't my favorite way to learn, but it will be nice to only go to campus once a week (Thurdays for my Technology class). Until then, I'll keep knitting because everyone in my life is having a baby and knitted baby gifts are the best baby gifts (until you can donate REM sleep hours to new parents)!

Friday, June 24, 2016

SLA Conference 2016

I'm home! It's been a week and a half, but I still feel like I'm getting back on my feet after a month of traveling - Puerto Rico (for fun), Ohio (for work), and Philadelphia (for school). Most recently, I was in Philly for the Special Libraries Association 2016 Conference. My boyfriend and I took advantage of the location to also stay with family outside the city, and we got to meet their new (four months old is new, right?) baby!

We drove to Philly on Friday (June 10) night after work and arrived in the suburbs at about 11:30pm. On Saturday we took a bus tour of the city with Rob's cousins and had a nice dinner with them - there was a lot of chilling out because it was so hot and muggy! On Sunday, after lunch, Rob headed home to Boston and I went to the conference downtown. Because of my stipend from SLA New England, I was able to get a rental car, which allowed me to drive in and out of the city each day.

View from the top of the parking garage!
My first multi-day conference experience was really interesting, and I think I found a good balance between enjoying myself and also learning quite a bit.

Here are some of the classes I attended:
  • MASTER CLASS: Best Practices in Data Management and User Engagement
  • The Role of Information Privacy and Ethics in Good Business Practices
    • This talk was very lively, as people definitely have strong opinions about big data and privacy. The panelists also really encouraged dialogue more than hosting a "watch and listen" presentation. I actually spoke up at the end, because I could see the conversation turning to, "young people put everything on the internet and don't care who can see it," and I wanted to point out that actually elderly people are some of the most vulnerable on the internet because they are not as likely to be critical users of the internet. Digital natives and millennials, I argued, deserve more credit than we give them. I'm glad I spoke up, because after my comment I had many people come up to me to continue the conversation.
  • Exhibitor Theater Presentation - Lucidea - Doing More with More: You Can't Shrink Your Way to Success
  • Cuba as an International Business Opportunity
  • The Importance of Soft Skills in Intelligence Gathering and Practice
  • Voter ID Laws: What We Need to Know
  • Preparing Students for Corporate Research Life
  • Ethnographic Research Methods
I also spent a lot of time in the INFO-EXPO, attended the Legal Division's Sunday night reception and Monday morning breakfast, and went to a Simmons alumni meet-up on Sunday evening.

You might notice that many of the events I attended were hosted by the Competitive Intelligence Division or very relevant to CI work. This was actually a coincidence, but I do think that it was a great way to prepare for my CI class this summer. On Monday morning, I remembered that my professor, Cynthia Correia, was attending the conference, so I emailed her and we ended up grabbing lunch together before she came back to Boston. I was glad to meet my professor in-person, since our summer class is online! While at lunch, we also ended up sitting next to a law librarian from a firm in New York City, and the three of us had a great conversation about CI, law firms, and legal research.

In reflecting on the conference, I think I really made the best of this conference and found a good balance between attending events, making contacts, and letting conversations happen spontaneously. I came home with a stack of business cards and new contacts with whom to follow up. I also let myself take some mental breaks, including a long lunch one day and a walk to see the Liberty Bell, so that I could return to the conference with a fresh mind, ready to engage.

My first conference experience was definitely a success and I am so grateful to SLA New England for their financial support!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Summer Semester and SLA

I've had a short break since my spring term, and now I'm getting ready for my online summer class, 'Competitive Intelligence.' In the last few weeks I have been busy with work, but I did fit in a quick vacation to Puerto Rico!

Enjoying a coconut on the beach

Zip-lining in the rainforest with kittens

Based on what I've seen of the syllabus, Competitive Intelligence going to be intense. There's a lot of reading, plus we will have weekly virtual meetings on Monday nights. On those evenings, I plan to stay at work late and call in from my office, since I won't make it home for our 6pm start time.

This week, I'm getting ready for another trip, to the Special Libraries Association's Summer 2016 Conference in Philadelphia! We are lucky enough to have family in the area, so we will stay with them. Our plan (for Rob and me) is to drive down Friday after work; he is driving home Sunday, and I will fly home Tuesday. The conference is only from Sunday to Tuesday, so we get to enjoy our visit with Rob's cousins too.

A few weeks ago, I wrote an essay and was awarded a stipend for attending the conference from the SLA legal division. The money can be used for travel and hotel expenses, so I'm planning to put it toward my flight and a rental car to get in and out of Philly each day.

This week, to prepare for the conference, I'm going to check out the list of events and plan which ones I want to attend. The SLA website has a neat tool that lets you plan your schedule so you don't have to carry the whole long list around. I'm also hoping to attend a Simmons event on Sunday night, which a few of our professors are attending.

I also want to read through the "Tips for First Time Attendees," since this is my first multi-day conference and I know that big events like this can be overwhelming. I will try to take in as much as I can, and write again next week about my experience!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Field trip and Finals

This was my last week of "regular" classes, and next week we will be making our project presentations. Ironically, both of my classes required us to create LibGuides as our final projects. Mine are ongoing at these links:
For my Legal Information Sources class (LIS-437), we actually had a field trip this week to the Social Law Library. The space is incredible and it has a really rich history as a public/private institution; I think that working there is my dream job, and not just because of the work environment. I love the idea of a space that stands for increased access to law and has such a long tradition of facilitating justice. 

During class, we took a tour of the library with Brian and Kirsten, then our professors gave us an assignment to do with the library resources. Using only print, we had to work backwards to locate answers, then craft questions that would lead a researcher back to where we had started. We were in two teams, so after we had written our "questions," we switched and had to go on a kind of scavenger hunt. After a semester of being frustrated by my professors' homework assignments, I have a new appreciation for writing questions that will be difficult, but not too difficult, and will make a point to the student about using a particular source. 

Oh and PS. with good news - remember the scholarship essay I wrote back in February? Well, thanks to that essay, and probably some great recommendations, I got a scholarship from the American Association of Law Libraries! This will be helpful for the fall semester since I budgeted my loans for tuition but planned to pay for my books out of pocket. It's a nice reward and emotional boost heading into this weekend of workworkwork (punctuated by a short hike on Saturday)!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Boston by foot

One of my goals for 2016 was, as soon as the weather was nice enough, to walk to work. From my house, it's only 2.7 miles, which takes me about an hour. Normally, if I am taking public transit, I need to leave by 8:15 to get to work for 9am; walking the same route only adds 15-20 minutes to my commute (which doesn't say much for our transit system).

One of the top women runners at the Marathon

Attending the Boston Marathon on Monday inspired me to step it up (pun intended). After the marathon, I walked to Simmons to do some homework. Unfortunately, the computer lab was closed, so then I decided to walk home across the Charles (I live in Somerville). My 3.5 miles was definitely no marathon, but I felt proud of myself because normally it wouldn't even cross my mind to walk.

View after crossing the Charles

I think it's easy to forget what a small city Boston is when you take public transit, because it can take so long to get around. Geographically, we are really not very large.

Obviously I needed ice cream after that walk

This week I have walked to work once, and walked to the train station (skipped the bus part of my commute) a few times. I am still working out the timing; my schedule is weird, because the nights that I have class, I have to come into work half an hour earlier so that I can leave on time. I didn't plan very well this week, but next week I will make sure to leave enough time to walk even if it's one of my early start days. I also want to try out different routes to see what is the prettiest/fastest way.

Last night I was so happy to break out my summer dresses and pack up a bunch of sweaters. I left our electric bed warmer on the bed, because the nights are still chilly and there is nothing nicer than getting into a cozy bed! I'm sure my flowers would agree - even though it has stayed above freezing, they are not looking so happy in our garden. I can't wait for my boyfriend to come home from his work trip, because he is the farmer in our house. I will keep you updated on their progress . . hopefully they can survive until his return on Monday!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Spring days/Planning for Fall

I had been putting off writing a post this week because I wasn't sure of what I wanted to say. It was a pretty quiet week - my boyfriend came home from a business trip on Tuesday, and he left again this morning, so we really just squeezed in as much time together as was possible. We went to see a bluegrass band on Tuesday night with some friends, went out to an early breakfast together Wednesday morning at our favorite restaurant, and yesterday (Saturday) we planted our backyard garden.

Baby Romaines!

I am going to make some hanging signs for these old white chair backs that say "flowers" and "veggies."

In school related news, I registered for my Fall 2016 classes this week (already?!). I also had to plan my financial aid from now until the end of my program because of the way my schedule will work out. I will only take one class in my last semester (fall 2017) which means I won't meet the minimum attendance requirement (part time/two classes) to receive financial aid. As a result, I had to plan to take loans to pay for those classes now. While that is kind of scary (and also lame that I will be paying interest on loans months before I need them), it's cool to be able to see the end and have a total in mind for what my degree will end up costing.

I got into both of my choices for the fall, which are LIS-488 (Technology for Information Professionals), one of the required "core" SLIS classes, and LIS-465 (Knowledge Management). KM is going to be an online class, just like the Competitive Intelligence class that I am in this summer; hopefully by the fall semester I will be used to that format.

This is a long weekend so I am really looking forward to having an extra day outside in the beautiful weather and going to watch my first Boston Marathon tomorrow! Cheers to many more sunny breakfasts on the fire escape of my big blue house!