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!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Accessing the Potential of Graduate Students

Yesterday I attended a conference that was jointly hosted by LLNE and ABLL at Northeastern University School of Law. The focus of the conference was "Access to Government Information," but I noticed a second theme throughout the day: strong partnerships.

The LLNE/ABLL spring conference was my first as a graduate student, and my strongest take-away from the day has to be the power of strong partnerships to produce successful results. The conference itself was obviously a collaboration of LLNE and ABLL, but this theme also came up consistently during the day's events.

I think that the most important step in forming a strong and healthy partnership is to recognize one's own limits, and then to identify how the other party's strengths can fill the gap. We heard an example of this strategy from Dan Jackson from the NuLawLab when he described his partnership with game designers and law librarians to build a game for self-representative litigants. Susan Drisko Zago also spoke about aligning law librarians with public librarians to serve rural populations in northern New Hampshire. Beryl Lipton and Pam Wilmot shared how their respective groups, MuckRock and Common Cause, work together to improve access to government information. Helen Lacoutre from BC Law told us about the Federal Depository Program at her library.

One of the most ambitious partnerships is perhaps Harvard Law's agreement with Ravel Law to make all U.S. case law freely available online (Free the Law). With regard to this relationship, Adam Ziegler spoke about another aspect of strong partnerships: the importance of setting guidelines should either party fail to meet their obligations.

Sarah Glassmeyer, in her spirited keynote address "Hot Messes, Dumpster Fires and the Role of Law Librarians in the 21st Century," described a few successful partnerships as well, such as the mutually beneficial arrangement for Lexis to publish state government information. This model of contracting with a corporate publisher has resulted in better information access for citizens of those states.

After Sarah presented her research and spoke about future efforts to improve access, one suggestion stood out to me in particular. A follow-up question and its subsequent discussion brought up the idea of working through AALL to have one librarian from each state collect information how their state publishes government information. This would likely be a time consuming project, but the results would be valuable for future efforts to synchronize and improve access across the nation.

AALL could certainly be an important partner for a project like this, but I can think of another resource. Simmons SLIS students, until this semester, were required to complete either an internship or a research project. I imagine that even without the credit requirement, many students will choose to pursue research opportunities as part of their graduate program. Researchers should look to grad students as partners; this relationship would provide a unique and meaningful experience for the student. Additionally, these opportunities could inspire future librarians to seek similar partnerships, bridging the gap between students and the professionals who will soon be our peers.

Encouraging students to attend conferences is a great first step in forging these relationships, because it builds awareness of current developments in the field of librarianship. Prior to this conference, I had not heard of most of these initiatives surrounding access to government information access; today I feel encouraged that these partnerships exist and motivated to become more engaged. I am optimistic about the future of legal librarianship and so grateful for the opportunity to join this conversation.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Beating the Bug

Most of my week was unfortunately consumed by a stomach bug, and I didn't make it back to work until Thursday morning. Is there anything more frustrating than wasting PTO to be sick? I spent many hours on the couch and felt so miserable that I couldn't even get ahead on homework. Instead, I watched/dozed through a lot of Jane Austen movies, including Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Becoming Jane, and Mansfield Park. I also got really sick of toast and applesauce.

By Wednesday, when I still wasn't well again, I was starting to freak out because I had presentations in both my classes this week; Wednesday was my individual presentation on a legal research database, and Thursday was a group presentation on reference in special libraries. Luckily I'm not a procrastinator so all my research/design was done, but I knew that there was no way I could make it to campus on Wednesday night.

Google to the Rescue: Channeling my inner Rob, I started searching for technological solutions. I quickly found a Chrome plugin called Snagit that would allow me to capture my screen and record a narration. After a few awkward attempts, I successfully recorded a 9 minute video file of my presentation that I could upload to YouTube or share via Google Drive. I sent this to my professors, who actually graciously offered to let me present next week. I don't mind that I spent time making the video, because now I have learned a new tool and I have some practice under my belt for this presentation.

As for my Thursday presentation, I did somehow make it to campus, and I think it went really well. It's always easy to talk about something that interests you, so I hope that it showed in the way that I spoke about law libraries... even if I wanted to crawl under my desk the whole time.

Friday, March 25, 2016

A feminist wonders..

This post is piggy-backing off of an earlier post I wrote, about feminism, librarianship, and emotional labor. My boyfriend and I have been having a lot of discussions about job satisfaction, career goals, etc. We are both happy with our chosen career paths of librarian and engineer. Our work/life balances are different right now because he works 50+ hour weeks, while I work 37.5 hours and am in class two nights a week. This can be challenging, because internally I sometimes feel like the fact that I work fewer hours means that I should pick up more slack with laundry, cooking, cleaning, etc. I worry, while at work, about what we will have for dinner and when we can plan to clean the house before having friends over. I also wonder if I am totally failing as a feminist.

Maybe I should clarify: when I say that I feel that I should do more, that doesn't mean that this is my reality. My awesome feminist boyfriend is really great about balancing chores at home. I don't mean that in the way that some people say, I'm so lucky that he offers to help. Even in 2016, in many homes, men are praised for putting in the 50% that they should have done all along, as if we should all be grateful for their progress. No. Rob and I really do work as equals, even if we have different priorities sometimes. My biggest challenge is my own internal voice that says, everything needs to look Pinterest perfect and you need to do it. 

My tendency to self-reflect can be a blessing and a curse. I think that it causes me to consider decisions carefully, but also to doubt myself. I thought about library school for two years before I committed to Simmons; this time allowed me to get work experience, and to decide that I was only going to apply to Simmons. I knew what I wanted.

I know what I want. This is what I need to remind myself when I am swirling in a storm self-scolding, like the other night at dinner. What started as a conversation with Rob about our jobs and work/life balance really became me talking to my plate about why I chose librarianship and whether I was being influenced by subconscious, bad-feminist thoughts. I have always wanted kids, and I have imagined myself as a working-mom who also manages to be a substantive presence in my future-kids' lives. I have read enough articles to know how hard this will be. In the back of my mind, I have wondered, did I choose librarianship because it's often seen as a good fit for mothers? I have wanted to kick myself for even imagining that my career choice could be subconsciously influenced by these traditional gender roles.

I think what it all this comes down to, is that I need to remember to look up from my plate at the dinner table and remember who I am talking to. Self-reflection is a valuable skill, but it can be easy to get lost in these questions that may not even have concrete answers. The truth is that I chose librarianship for many reasons, and the most important one is that it's something I love. Won't it also be important for my kids to see me pursuing a career that makes me happy? To show them that they should be confident, trust their intuition - should find work that makes them proud?

I also need to remind myself that grad school, right now, is part of my job. My work is contributing to my professional development, and I shouldn't see my homework from class as less valuable than the work that Rob brings home with him. I am lucky. I am lucky to have a partner who values my work, who encourages me, who hears my doubts and brings me back to the center. Right now, the best thing that I can do for myself and my future geeky offspring is to see myself and my work as worthy. Oh, and to channel my inner Leslie Knope.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Very Special Libraries

Last week, while most of Simmons was on spring break, I was on campus every day from 9am until about 3pm. I took the week off of work in order to complete a 5-day, 3-credit course with SLIS legend, Jim Matarazzo. Jim has worked in corporate libraries for decades, and he is the original social networker. I’m pretty sure you could ask about any major company and he will tell you the history of their corporate library and name two contacts there. This class was heavily career focused, extremely practical… and wicked fun!

Our assignments for the week included two papers and two (group) presentations. We looked at a set of corporate libraries that had closed and another set that were “successful,” then evaluated how corporate libraries can survive and thrive. We also each summarized a chapter from the textbook (which Jim co-authored). 

My favorite day of the week was Tuesday, when we did our site visits. We started at the New England School of Law, whose library has an impressive reference staff and a very cozy study space. We were lucky enough to sit in on a vendor pitch for a new product, and I got to network with him afterward (thanks to Simmons for all those free business cards!). 

After NESL, we made our way to the Hancock Tower and went to Bain Capital. Our class basically walked into the lobby straight past the library director because we could not tear our eyes away from the incredible view. The research team gave us a very in-depth presentation of their work (I sat with my back to the window so that I would focus). Impressively, there were at least four Simmons SLIS graduates at Bain that we met. 

During the rest of the week, we spoke with other professionals - a librarian who had a career in government libraries, one who had done work in Dubai and Nigeria, another who took a circuitous route to culinary product market research. We heard about so many options for a career in special libraries; it was reassuring to know that there are many paths to choose from. I feel so fortunate to have a resource like Jim at Simmons as my professor and my advisor! 

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Subversive Librarians and Magic Spells

Last night, my Legal Information Services class went to Northeastern University's law library, where both of my professors work. Northeastern's wifi is really restrictive, so we had no access to the catalog and were totally reliant on print sources. We took a tour of the library (and had to remember where the books were located), then were let loose with a list of questions to answer. Finding information in legal print resources is very time consuming - the index is your best friend - but also satisfying, like a scavenger hunt... a scavenger hunt that I would not enjoy in the context of actual research.

After that assignment, (are you ready for the Harry Potter reference?) I've realized how totally crazy it is that students at Hogwarts had to do this completely the old-fashioned way. No wonder it took Harry, Ron, and Hermione four months to find a reference to Nicholas Flamel in The Sorcerer's Stone. WHY didn't anyone in this magical world create a control-F spell? And my bigger issue - why didn't JK Rowling create a cooler librarian?? Madame Pince is seriously terrible and unhelpful, and just reinforces the stereotype of librarians as miserable, shush-happy spinsters.
A warning: If you rip, tear, shred, bend, fold, deface, disfigure, smear, smudge, throw, drop, or in any other manner damage, mistreat, or show lack of respect towards this book, the consequences will be as awful as it is within my power to make them.—Madame Pince's note in a library book
It would have been so amazing if we found out in Order of the Phoenix or something that Madame Pince is like the Mrs. Figg of the wizarding world - a secret guardian who is subversively fighting evil and mentoring students.

In honor of what Madame Pince could have been, here are a few of my favorite badass librarians in literature/pop-culture. JK Rowling, take note:

Rupert Giles
Librarian of Sunnydale High School
Watcher of the Slayer
Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Barbara Gordon
Gotham City Librarian
DC Comics

Lucy Hull
Librarian - Hannibal, Missouri
Kidnapper, LGBTQ ally, ethical enigma
The Borrower

For more cool librarians, check out this Buzzfeed list, or this Wikipedia page!

Friday, February 26, 2016

The Dictionary of Imaginary Places: an Annotation

As promised, this week I am posting my assignment from last week: my reference annotation from my 407 class. I don't make it a habit to post assignments because I think it's kind of unoriginal, but I think when you read about this reference source, you'll understand why I am sharing. This book, The Dictionary of Imaginary Places, is fun to read and fun to write about. I've written a long and a short annotation below. Find out more about annotations at Purdue OWL.

(the long version)
This 755 page paperback volume from Harcourt Publishing is a travel guide for the imaginative reader. The original text, published in 1980, was followed by an expanded paperback run in 1987; this critically acclaimed third edition has been, according to the authors Alberto Manguel and Gianni Guadalupi, co-authored by their readers’ submissions. Illustrators Graham Greenfield, Eric Beddows, and James Cook have created 150 maps and 100 illustrations to accompany the 1000 plus text entries. The book includes an original foreword and an authors’ note for this edition. The authors explain that they have defined “imaginary” as places that cannot be visited and are not mapped in the real world or installed upon existing landscapes. The places must be on earth; there are no heavens or hells, and no places in the future. The authors have clearly researched their sources, taking for granted that fiction is fact. The Dictionary of Imaginary Places is at once entertaining and informative, highly appropriate for research and very easy to use. Each “imaginary place” is arranged alphabetically, in bold, followed by a description and a citation to the original literary work. Readers may make use of the index, which lists places under the original author’s name. Searching for a title or pseudonym will direct you to see the cross-referenced name authority. The authors include non-English titles in the original language (which are translated to English in parentheses). While the Los Angeles Times calls this book a “lively, opinionated ethnography of the unreal,” it is now seventeen years out of date and a new edition would be welcomed. The cover lists the original price as $28, but currently Amazon sells the paperback for $18.66, and the library binding at $36.05.

(the short version) 
From Harcourt, Alberto Manguel and Gianna Guadalupi created this 1999 third edition paperback as a guide to fantasy literature. Graham Greenfield, Eric Beddows, and James Cook created 150 maps and 100 illustrations to accompany the 1000 plus entries. Includes an original foreword and authors note. Entertaining and informative, appropriate for research and easy to use. Arranged alphabetically, entries are followed by a description and citation to the original work. A cross-referenced index lists places under the original author’s name. The LA Times calls this book a “lively, opinionated ethnography of the unreal.” Via Amazon: paperback $18.66, library binding $36.05.

Manguel, A. & Guadalupi, G. The Dictionary of Imaginary Places (1999). San Diego, Harcourt Inc.

Similar Works

Borges, J. L (2006). The Book of Imaginary Beings (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition). New York, Penguin House.

Eco, U. (2013). The Book of Legendary Lands. New York, Rizzoli Ex Libris
(RIP Umberto Eco!)

Rose, C. (2000). Giants, Monsters, and Dragons: An Encyclopedia of Folklore, Legend, and Myth. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.

VanderMeer, J. (2013). Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction. New York: Abrams. 

Friday, February 19, 2016

Making a Statement

This month, I have prioritized getting scholarship applications out for next year. I had deadlines of March 1 for the American Library Association and April 1 for the Association of American Law Libraries. I decided to do it all at once because I know that I am only going to get busier from here.

Below, I am posting an abridged version of the essay that I submitted to AALL. That essay was allowed to be longer because they also wanted to know about my financial status. The version that I submitted to the ALA was limited to less than 300 words. Editing it down was great practice for an assignment that I had this week in my reference course. We had to create an "annotation" for a print reference source; I chose "The Dictionary of Imaginary Places" and had a lot of fun writing it (stay tuned next week to read that piece)!

Anyway, here is my personal statement:

When I was an undergraduate, the most influential classroom of my education was a small, sunny office near the reference section of the library. I had a work study in Interlibrary Loans, and in that transitional year, I found an invaluable mentor in my supervisor. She embodied the professional I wanted to be: well-read, inquisitive, and kind. I learned not only about the industry, but also the intention behind her librarianship. As a result of that training, I spent three summers exploring my options in other libraries as a technical services assistant and paraprofessional. 
I finished my undergraduate program with a dual-major B.A. and, perhaps more importantly, four years of practical experience in a career I felt passionate about. I had also been confronted with an existential challenge; while I was studying abroad in Turkey, my father lost his battle with cancer. I needed time away from school, so after graduation I explored the wider scope of information services at a prominent law firm.  
Seeing the internal network of a law firm helped me focus my aspirations toward a career in legal librarianship. After a year away, I returned to graduate school, continuing to work full time and remaining engaged in the information field. I have demonstrated my leadership and my curiosity by joining the Innovation Board within my firm, and I am currently leading a firm-wide initiative to host quarterly educational lectures for the entire information services group. I have also successfully petitioned management to incorporate these events into the curriculum for our annually required professional development time.  
Ever since I left for college, I have been financially self-reliant; the longest I have gone without working was during my semester in Istanbul. I have learned not only to make wise choices, but also to trust myself to take risks. Four days after graduating, I moved into a summer sublease in Boston, setting a goal for myself to find a job by the end of July. I had been interviewing since March, driving between Vermont and Boston, and those miles paid off when I started a full time job less than a month after my graduation. 
Applying to Simmons was, like moving to the city, a calculated risk. I considered many factors: my remaining undergraduate loans, my rising rent and modest pay. Today, I am proud to be putting myself through school, and I will continue to work hard because I recognize the value of investing in myself. My attending Simmons would not be possible without receiving external financial aid, and I will make every effort to be deserving of it. 
I look forward to a point when I am able to help sustain and mentor aspiring librarians. I envision myself as a law librarian where I will have opportunities to work alongside intelligent, influential colleagues and to lead innovation in the field. Legal librarianship appeals to me because of the strategic nature of research and the tangible implications of my service. I see a career in librarianship as not only fulfilling, but also a field in which I can bring intention and meaning to my practice.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Yes... there is crying in grad school

Maybe I should be relieved that it didn't happen until the second semester, but LIS 437 (Legal Information Services) made me go there.

Legal research is like learning a new language. It's different from any research I have done as a student. I need a dictionary to understand the legal dictionary. Through our class, we have access to Lexis Advance, one of the major sources for legal information. I'm sure once you know what you are doing/looking for it's much more intuitive, but I feel like a tourist.

This week, our assignment was to locate a bunch of secondary sources based on potential reference questions and then write the correct citation for them. Legal citations come from the Blue Book, which is like the second line of defense between me and the right answer. First you have to get past the Lexisdragon, then actually cite the dragon with proper spaces and punctuation.

It's not hard to see how I ended up totally lost by the second question. I spent 90 minutes scanning through Lexis sources for one question, not sure if I even had the right answer to be citing. I think the biggest struggle for me was that my professors had warned us, "you won't get the right answer, but make your best effort and don't worry about your citations being perfect." Um, what? If there is no way for me to get the right answer, when am I done?? This is not a criticism of the class - it's just very different from the way I am used to working.

Eventually, I became so frustrated with myself that I just had an angry cry. My boyfriend, who I think has cried 2.5 times in his life, was baffled, but sweet. "This is what I want to do with my life!" I cried, "and I can't figure it out!"

I'm also insecure because there are a few people in my class who are actually lawyers or have experience on the legal side of things. I work for a law firm, but my job is closer to IT/administration, and I'm just not used to using that language. In the end, I did e-mail my professors to let them know that I was confused, and they were really helpful in class. Sometimes you just have to say, "I have no idea where to begin."

I am trying to get past the feeling that this is some kind of straight-out-of-the-gate failure, and accept the fact that I am in graduate school for a reason. I'm not supposed to know what I'm doing yet. And yes, sometimes, there is frustrated crying, but there is also chocolate.

Friday, February 5, 2016

This week in 3-D printing adventures...

Last Tuesday, I hosted a lunch event at my law firm as part of our "Innovation TED Talk Series." I'm on my Information Services department's Innovation Board, and one of our most successful "ideas" has been this series of lunchtime sessions, where we view a TED talk and then discuss it as a group. Even though we have the capability to have meetings with multiple cities, we have kept this at the local office level because it has been very nice to just have a discussion with people that you might cross paths with in the kitchen but never really have an opportunity to talk with. It's also a venue for people to brainstorm and share ideas generally. After the first talk, I also campaigned to have these kind of events count toward our department-wide annually required professional development training.

This quarter, our talk was "Where Good Ideas Come From," a 2010 presentation by Steven Johnson that examines what kinds of spaces and environments lead to innovation (if you have 18 minutes, it is worth a watch). Our ensuing discussion ranged from open concept workspaces, to standing desks, to nutrition. We also ended up talking about the Innovation Board itself and how it fields new ideas and fosters innovation in our firm.

Since it was lunch time, I also made a snack for the event - I have been baking cupcakes like crazy for my boyfriend's birthday (we had a party and a surprise bar night). I made a batch of vanilla cake/chocolate frosting mini cupcakes and my boyfriend created "idea lightbulb" cake toppers in Google SketchUp. We 3-d printed them overnight and they were the perfect addition to my TED talk snacks.

Rob's design
Speaking of nutrition... Sugar high anyone?

Monday, February 1, 2016

A Board Game Birthday

This weekend we celebrated my boyfriend's 25th birthday and had to incorporate one of his favorite things: board games. For a few months, he has been working on a 3-D printed Settlers of Catan board (original and a few expansions). We have printed everything except the cards, and I have helped him by hand-painting the terrain tiles and resources. I wish we had kept track of how many hours we have spent working on this game.

Our friend, who was also celebrating his birthday, created a wooden board to hold the tiles. I personally LOVE honeycomb patterns, so there is something really satisfying about seeing them all laid out this way. My favorite are the Wood tiles (green), because each is painted a different shade of green.

Setup, before play
I had never played Catan before, so my boyfriend I were on a team (basically I just watched and listened, and rolled for us). I think that I understand enough to play on my own now... but whether I have the patience for a three hour game is another question.

The game in play, with our "Robber," named Donald Trump
After the game, I brought out the cake that I had made - red velvet with "Meeple" sprinkles. Meeple are the game pieces that are used in Carcassonne, one of my favorites at game night (I go every Wednesday after class and meet up with Rob). I found these sprinkles on Amazon by searching "nerd sprinkles," and paid $10 for them because they were obviously necessary.

I also used my re-usable silicon mini cupcake cups!
Is anyone else really into board games? I have found a solid appreciation for them, although I do prefer more social/less strategic games like Heads Up and Cranium (my family had a game night last Friday as well, which included hours of Heads Up). I know that there are some popular "board game cafes" like Brookline's Knight Moves (which is starting a Somerville Branch!). Is this something that works well in public libraries too? The fact that this was all 3-D printed could be really suitable in a public library that has a 3-D printer (like mine in NH) - if patrons lose any pieces, you can just make more!

I'm also really curious about what other games we could 3-D print. This has been cost-saving, but also just a fun activity for us to complete together. While I don't think we will ever run out of projects, I would love to find more activities like this. I will have to poke around on Thingiverse and see what is out there.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

300 Words or Less

This was the first week back to class and I am really looking forward to this very career-focused semester. As I have mentioned before, I want to go into legal librarianship. My classes this semester include:

Wednesdays - Legal Information Services
Thursdays - Information Sources and Services
& Spring Break (five full days) - Special Libraries

I can already tell that this is going to be a lot of work, but I am going to throw myself into it because everything I learn is going to be directly applicable in a career. Even my Information Sources and Services course (also known as Reference) is going to be highly focused. I was worried that the broad nature of the topic would mean most of it wouldn't relate to my career; however, Professor Froggatt made it very clear from the first night that she wants us to find our focus and use it as a lens in the class. This morning our group presentation sign-ups opened at 8am, and I set an alarm to make sure that I could get into the Special Libraries group. I feel really fortunate to have such experienced adjunct professors at Simmons; Professor Froggatt has had an amazing career, and my Legal IS class is being taught by two Northeastern Law librarians.

With the start of 2016, I have reached the first entries of my five year journal, which I started last year. It's a journal that makes keeping a diary really easy, because you only write one line day for five years. One of the best parts is getting to look back at what you were doing on the same day a year, or five years, before. Recently, I've enjoyed reading my notes about applying to Simmons. A year ago this week, I finished my first draft for my personal statement. Somehow, I collected all my application materials and submitted them in the final two weeks of January to make a February 1 deadline. I decided to apply very late, and haven't regretted it once. I'm tempted to go back and read my statement - maybe I can find some inspiration for the statement I am currently writing for the ALA scholarships, due March 1. How can I articulate all my career goals in 300 words??