Monday, August 31, 2015

Orientation Day

Taking the train from Lechmere to Simmons
Last Friday, I took the day off work to go to Simmons' campus for the SLIS Orientation. It was a really exciting day, and I came away questioning all my choices (in the best way) and wondering how I will ever learn all those acronyms. Luckily, at the end of the day I had an hour bus ride to New Hampshire to mull things over.

Orientation Lesson One:

I arrived at Orientation early, because (1) it's what Hermione would do, and (2) I needed to stop by the Registrar. I still have undergraduate loans, so I have been trying to get those all set before I begin paying interest on my un-subsidized graduate loans (un-subsidized means that interest accrues while I am in school). My undergraduate loans are subsidized and Perkins (both Federal), so you'd think it would be simple, but the loan websites are not very clear on how to defer payments - many forms and little instruction. Until Leslie Knope becomes President, this is the confusing bureaucracy that is our government.

At the Registrar, I learned that Simmons is much more efficient than the government (is Leslie Knope running Simmons?)*. Apparently, the Registrar's office sends necessary paperwork to the federal loan people every month to let them know that I am enrolled. There's no need for me to fill out any forms after all!

Lesson Two:

In the main campus building, there is a little cafe and lounge area. I headed there after the Registrar and grabbed a coffee, then went upstairs to the conference center where Orientation was being held. Of course, there was free coffee. I immediately regretted wasting two dollars. I had forgotten the wonderful fact that there are free refreshments on college campuses all the time - and apparently this continues in grad school.

Lesson Three:

The morning of Orientation was filled up with presentations on our required curriculum, the TOR, Violence Prevention, and Creating an Inclusive Environment. We were also introduced to Student Groups, the Student Support Coordinators, and the SLIS Faculty.

I have been so focused on my classes that I completely forgot about extracurriculars at Simmons. As an undergrad, I was very involved with a few clubs and they were defining aspects of my experience at Saint Mike's. I plan on going with the same strategy in grad school: choose one or two groups I can really dedicate my time to, and not stretch myself too thin.

There are many great clubs within SLIS, and it's going to be tough to choose. Here are some of the options, abbreviated (librarians, it turns out, love acronyms):
  • LISSA - Library and Information Science Student Association, and umbrella organization for other groups
  • ALASC - American Library Association, student chapter
  • SCIRRT - works in international librarianship
  • UXBA - focuses on user experiences
  • ASIS&T - ASsociation for Information Science and Technology
  • PLG - Progressive Librarians Guild (radical!)
  • SLA - Special Librarians Association. A special library is one that has a specialized collection, as well as those not public or academic, such as a legal or military library. This is one I am really interested in!

Lesson Four

After lunch, we scattered for various break-out sessions. I went to the one for my concentration, Information Science and Technology (a sub-lesson to Lesson Four: Pay attention to the letter in front of the room number, because it indicates the building. Even though Simmons has a small campus, it's very possible and very awkward to run in late). My session was hosted by two hysterically contrasting characters, Dr. Gerry Benoit and Dr. Naresh Agarwal.

Basically, in my breakout session I realized that my IST program will be much more limiting (as a concentration is meant to be) than my liberal arts curriculum at St. Mike's. I had the luxury as an undergraduate of taking really fun extra classes like Politics of Food and Tolkien and Medievalism (the latter counted toward my major). At Simmons, after I complete the four SLIS core classes and the four IST cores, I will only be able to take two or three electives. 

Lesson Five

The way around these limitations is to be a generalist, which tempted me for about ten minutes of my bus ride to New Hampshire... but then I remembered why I chose the Information Science and Technology concentration. The limits that I place on myself in these two years will ultimately open more doors for me, because in addition to being a passionate and informed librarian, I will also have a unique and applicable skill set. Besides, of course I can still take amazing courses like Radical Librarianship. Empowering people through my progressive librarianship, in a field where women are often underrepresented (IT) is exactly why I chose Simmons.

Source: Hypable
*Leslie Knope would never endorse anyone's decision to become a librarian.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Technology Orientation Requirement

Before or during their first semester, Simmons SLIS students must complete a pass/fail course called LIS-400, the Technology Orientation Requirement (abbreviated as the TOR). The TOR consists of activities and quizzes that are designed to familiarize us with the technology we'll be using at Simmons, primarily the Moodle - basically a homepage for our classes - and the library's catalog. There are TOR companion pages that we study in order to complete the activities, and I thought that they were very well put-together.

One of the TOR Companion pages
One of our assignments was to post and respond in the forum section of our TOR. We were asked to introduce ourselves and then respond to others' introductions. I wrote:
Hello! My name is Amy, and I am looking forward to starting my masters degree after a year away from school. I graduated from Saint Michael's College in 2010 and moved to Boston last summer, where I now work at a law firm. I plan to work through school and attend classes at night - anyone else in this boat?
I live in Somerville and in my free time, I like crafting, doing small projects around my house, and rock climbing. My current projects include: brewing kombucha, sewing a quilt, and developing my 3-D printing experience.
Many people said that they were also working full or part-time while going to school, which was a great relief. I haven't worried so much about making this work, but I have gotten surprised responses when I tell people that I'm not quitting my job, and those responses have made me a little stressed. I also got a lot of feedback on the rock-climbing part of my post, and in the comments we chatted about a rock-climbing librarians club. I imagine it would look like this:


Another assignment that I really enjoyed was creating a Wiki-style page on a topic of our choice. I wanted to choose a topic that wouldn't already have its own Wikipedia page, so I wrote about a vintage red suitcase that I refurbished a few months ago. Our pages had to include things like bold text, multiple links, headings, photos, and a link to a .pdf. Here are a few snippets of my page:

The most challenging TOR assignment was to create a web-page that we had to code in HTML. It had the same requirements as the Wiki page but was a little more complicated. I know that this is really simple stuff but I had never done anything like it. Completing the project on my own, using just the TOR Companion pages, made me feel very confident and accomplished. Simmons SLIS did a great job of providing us with the information we needed, and then letting us figure it out through trial and error. This is my preferred learning style, but they also run workshops and have e-mail contacts if you need more assistance. This part of the HTML page I built:


The deadline to complete the TOR is October 19, so you have plenty of time to complete the course. Since I'm not sure what my work/school balance will be like, I wanted to complete everything before the semester began (and I was very excited).

So far I have been really impressed with the internal/course pages of the SLIS program - they are significantly more user-friendly than the system at my undergrad program. I guess this is the benefit of a program designed by librarians!

Monday, August 24, 2015

This blog

This blog is the sequel to a WordPress site that I started last year, when I had first moved to Boston. I wanted to move forward with the idea, but with 7 months between posts, it also felt necessary to have a fresh start. The original description is, I think, still a good summary of what I hope this will be.
In these past few months leading up to my graduation from Saint Michael's College, I developed a sort-of standard answer to the question, what are you doing after school? I came up with it while crafting my contributor's note for the Onion River Review and thought it was a clever response that could prevent people from giving me too much grief for graduating with a B.A. in English and Religious Studies. So, the very last written line of the 2014 ORR reads, "Amy Wilson is a senior with plans for post-graduate studies in joy."
In the past year and a half, my life has changed in many ways. My original blog began during June 2014 in my "room" (a corner of the living room that had been curtained off to serve as my bedroom) in a Jamaica Plain apartment. By the end of that summer, I had moved a few blocks over to a new fully-enclosed room in an apartment that I shared with three other girls. Now, a year later, I find myself in Union Square, Somerville. Last month I moved in with my boyfriend Rob. His apartment has become ours, customized and cozy.

Soon after my final blog post last winter, I very hastily applied to Simmons School of Library and Information Science. This is not to say that my decision was hasty, only that the process went very quickly. I had been sitting on the decision for a long time, and realized in the middle of January that if I applied by February 1, I would qualify for a scholarship. I had told people all along that I was thinking about it, but honestly, I wasn't. I was enjoying my life as a non-student and didn't feel any rush; however I also realized that if I didn't make up my mind, another year could slip away. I knew that my deposit wouldn't be due until May, and there was no harm in applying while I thought a little longer. I also had a steady job and a manager who I knew would support my decision to be a part-time student. Getting my ducks in a row in two weeks was a challenging process, and I remain so appreciative of my former professor and supervisors for writing my recommendations in record time. Simmons was the only school I applied to and I knew that it was the right fit.

By March, I knew that I had been accepted, and when my partial scholarship came in, I made my decision. I hadn't let myself feel excited until I knew that it was financially possible, and that feeling of joy was unexpected. Now I can't believe I ever doubted myself - but I also know that this year away from school has helped me grow in countless ways.

My intention for this blog is to hopefully keep family and friends involved in my life as I begin these next two years as a full-time employee and part-time student. I also hope that other post-grads who are contemplating a MLIS degree will find my writing helpful and informative.

Orientation is this Friday, and my first day of class is September 3rd, so I will be sure to update this in the coming days and weeks, and provide more specifics on my library background and current courses. Thanks for visiting!