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.