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

Alexandra Bernson

Alexandra Bernson

I am a student in the online archives management program while working at a certain Massachusetts-based database company full time (I bet you all know which one). I’m especially interested in archives and special collections, digitizing collections, and libraries in their communities. I currently live in the North End, Boston, where it is very easy to lose one’s self in the historic atmosphere and the smell of garlic and olive oil while literally getting lost in the tangle of streets and brick buildings. While I was born here in Boston, my father was in the Navy and my family has lived all over the world. Now I’ve returned and I’m trying to earn back my New England street cred. I’ve already caught myself rounding out my vowels and slurring my “r”s a few times, but I still can’t drink iced coffee during the winter.



Entries by Alexandra Bernson

  • NDSR Residencies and Digital Repositories

    Yesterday I had the opportunity of attending the NDSR Mid-Year Event, where NDSR Residents gave presentations regarding the progress of their projects at their host institutions. If you are like me and know nothing about this program, you would be completely lost as to what any of this means. Don’t worry – despite my own interest in digital preservation, digital stewardship, or any other areas within the ever-expanding world of digital libraries and repositories, I hadn’t been aware of this program either. Originally hosted by the Library of Congress, the National Digital Stewardship Residency (or NDSR) assigns its residents to libraries or repositories looking to improve or originate their own digital stewardship program. This cohort model, where residents and their “hosts” work together to analyze and implement new theories and programs, has resulted in successful programs at past host institutions. Potential applicants are all recent graduates from various iSchools or MLIS graduate programs, and many of them did not have digital stewardship tracks at their graduate program. Currently, the NDSR Boston has residents at Harvard,…

  • Flash to 502

    Last Saturday I showed up to the Concord Free Public Library ten minutes late, pumped full of adrenaline, wet from the rain, and clutching a Dunkin Donuts coffee and old-fashioned donut. It wasn’t necessarily how I wanted to start my very first day at my 502 internship! The night before, after playing board games with friends, I set four different alarms for the next morning. I was prepared to wake up around 7AM, get ready, make breakfast, and hop on the Fitchburg Line for a 9:18AM arrival in Concord, Massachusetts. When Simmons had originally ranked potential internships, I had chosen those with weekend or late night hours within the Boston city limits. When I found out I’d have to hike all the way to Concord, I was initially disappointed. But the prospect of the collection excited me – I’d be working with the records of the Concord Minute Men re-enactors, one of the first and most respected re-enactment groups in the United States. I had worked at Renaissance festivals and been to battle re-enactments before…

  • Dreaming of December Reading

    While free time and sleep are definitely high on my list of “Things I can’t wait to have once this semester is over,” the top of that list is “reading for pleasure.” I’ve been trying to sneak books in during slow weeks where presentations and projects and papers aren’t due, when there are only a few scholarly articles to read, but I can’t wait to dedicate some good time to my armchair, curled up with one of the many books I’ve put on hold at the BPL. In honor of this upcoming pleasure reading, I’ve included some of my favorite books that I’ve read recently in hope that you will recommend some of your recent favorites to me! Feel free to comment or email me with any suggestions! “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/91lUeBR2G1L.jpg I see the words “murder mystery” and I’m a goner. Sadly, sometimes these grisly tales are poorly written, super predictable, or completely impractical: but this novel is none of these things. Plus, as a frequent rider of the…

  • Walk the Walk (on Commonwealth)

    Last week I somehow caught laryngitis. To my memory, I have never been that sick in my entire life. I was sleeping 20 hours a day, quarantined to my little apartment, voiceless and surviving on canned soup, white rice, and rolled-up tortillas, and mentally swaying back and forth on whether I wished I still had roommates: On the one hand, I’d have someone to take care of me. On the other, they would be forced to be witness to my sickness and squalor. Thankfully my prescription meds worked wonders and I’m on the up and up, but my lost week means that autumn in New England appeared out of nowhere for me. Before I was sick, the leaves were just starting to change, littering the streets with neon yellow slivers. Now, the reds and oranges have arrived, bold and utterly beautiful. On Sunday afternoons I work at the Boston Architectural College Library and I take advantage of the still mild weather and Boston’s essential walkability and stroll through Beacon Hill, across the Public Gardens, and…

  • Thank you, Boston! – Boston Calling September 2015

    Between a full-time job, a part-time job, and graduate school, I don’t have much time for vacations.  So this weekend at Boston Calling, a music festival at Government Center, I decided it was time for a little three-day holiday.  Throwing my budget out the window (gulp!), I prepared to enjoy myself as much as could while surrounded by young amorous undergraduates in the first throes of their first semester romances. I’m not much of a music festival person.  My brother loves them: Bonnaroo is his mecca and it seems like he’s always planning another trip and collecting more amazing experiences as he dances to any and all types of music and musicians.  Despite his many efforts, I’ve never attended any of those massive, multi-day fests full of music, drinking, and other miscellaneous vices.  I love music but I’m a fuddy duddy: I like to enjoy it at home or in small venues rather than while being jostled to and fro by sweaty, drunk, painted people. But I couldn’t resist Boston Calling: it was right in…

  • Here Comes the Sales Pitch

    If American libraries and archives were a business, I might just be their best salesman. Not that I’m a particularly good salesman and not that I’m actually making any money for it.  But I find myself talking about libraries and archives all the time to total strangers, so much so that often it feels like I’m stuck in the middle of a cold call. As a second-year student gradually pushing her way through to glorious graduation in May, my life has centered around learning about and working in libraries and archives for over a year.  In that year, I’ve learned that libraries and archives have the worst marketing and public relations teams on the planet and absolutely no one has any idea what a librarian really does or what libraries offer.  Further, the word “archivist” usually inspires quizzical looks that I’d like to document in a series of photographic portraits for future exhibition at the BPL.  Other than the shhing, sexy librarian stereotype, the world of library and information science is virtually unknown to popular…

  • Happy Birthday Trebek: An Ode to Trivia

    Wednesday, July 22nd was a very important day because it concerns a very important man… at least for me.  It is the day that Alex Trebek, host of Jeopardy, turned 75 years old.  The first person I knew who was also named Alex, I grew up watching him host Jeopardy.  To this day, I love that show and become glued to the TV if I stumble upon it.  I have been tempted to buy cable solely so that I could watch Jeopardy every night at 7:30pm.  Alex Trebek and Jeopardy are most likely the reason for my love of knowledge and trivia, which itself is most likely the reason why I am pursuing library science.  A general knowledge of everything tends to come in handy in this line of work! And doesn’t Mr. Trebek look amazing for 75? But to return to the subject at hand: trivia. Now, when I say I love trivia, I don’t think you really understand.  I LOVE trivia.  It makes me so excited.  If I know I’m going to trivia…

  • Summertime Panic

    As an online student, it is difficult to connect with one’s professors or fellow students on a regular basis. Certainly in this day and age there are so many ways to reach out to someone – email, social media, Moodle and discussion forums, but these will always pale in comparison to good ol’ fashioned face-to-face time.  While I know that I can reach out to my professors and advisor when necessary, and I certainly have, I’ve learned to be my own support.  Because of this, coupled by the fact that I spend so much time on my own reading through discussion forums, tracking down articles, and navigating through modules on Moodle, my education often feels like a very solitary experience.  I learned a great lesson recently in taking responsibility for my personal experience as a Simmons graduate student, specifically regarding summer semester. During my undergraduate education, summers usually involved internships in random fields as I tried to figure out exactly what it was that I wanted to do.  I was still unsure about library science…

  • Awful Library Books at the BPL

    Rogue librarianship. That’s what I discovered this past week and it was glorious. I recently had the good fortune to meet a librarian who is subject to scandal in the funniest way possible.  While I won’t share the librarian’s name or identity, I did gain permission to tell you all about my new acquaintance’s mischievous antics. Some of you might be familiar with the blog “Awful Library Books.” In case you aren’t, the blog showcases found library materials that are out-of-date, offensive, or just plain weird, making it a great site for a daily giggle.  Some recent featured titles include “The Breakthrough Fish Taxidermy Manual” and the curious “The Hospital Doctors, Nurses, and Mystery Workers.”  The situation that I share with you began as preparation for this site: as a frequent submitter, the rogue used the Boston Public Library’s tagging feature available in their catalog to keep track of strange titles worthy of future “Awful Library Books.”  Anonymously, the librarian added the tag “awful library book” to items that they wanted to scan and submit…

  • It’s official! I work in a library!

    Okay, well, I’m technically a library clerk, and a part-time one at that.  But still, it’s a start!  I started my first shift at the Boston Architectural College tonight and I am extremely excited to sit in their high stools behind the reference desk and do a whole lot of homework on the catalog computers! To be serious though, this is my first real job in a library since I was a shelver during my freshman year in undergrad.  Throughout the night, everything felt so familiar and yet so incredibly different. For example, I worked at the humanities library at my college, which was absolutely massive and contained the bulk of their print resources.  Here, most of the stacks start with NA, and the periodicals seemingly take up half of the library’s collection.  But even with the limited amount of call number prefixes, there is so much to explore.  We have closed stacks and reserve titles that hold so much promise.  During my break I scanned the closed stacks and saw titles on theatre architecture,…

  • Love in (or Lovin’) the Archives

    I’ve been thinking about the phrase “I have a lot on my plate” lately.  It seems like if my schedule were this figurative plate, it would look like I just left an all-you-can-eat buffet.  In the last week I have ended a job, started a new job, worked a shift of my internship, and set up an interview for a possible second part-time job at an academic library… All while trying to keep up with my school work. In addition to all of this, I’m trying to make time for my friends, family, and (lastly) sleep.  Sometimes when one’s schedule is so packed, it’s hard to remember what exactly one is working toward. But thankfully I’ve been utterly caught up in the romance that can happen with archival work. Previously, I mentioned the series of love letters between a young couple in the 1940s that is a large part of the collection in which I’m working, but recently I found several other letters written to the young woman of the aforementioned couple from a completely…

  • Ancestors & Acquisitions – My Genealogical Internship

    There is such a difference between learning the theory behind everything we study here and actually putting those theories to good use.  As I am currently enrolled in LIS438 (Introduction to Archives), I have the fortune of spending a few hours each week at the New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston, Massachusetts. Before I go into my work there, I want to encourage all of you to visit the NEHGS.  While my work there will definitely keep me busy, I plan on returning to this organization and looking into my own family tree.  While parts of my family are very new to the United States, there is so much to discover and explore.  The librarians, genealogists, and researchers that work at the institution from Tuesday to Saturday each week are incredibly kind, knowledgeable, and helpful.  The society’s collections include published genealogies, manuscripts, maps, art… and not just from New England.  One floor is dedicated to European materials, while their general reference and microfilm collections include materials from New York, the Mid-Atlantic, and the Midwest. …

  • Book Recommendation: The Map Thief

    Despite cancelled classes due to Boston’s clearly insane weather system, I’m sure all of you are deep into your classes and the last thing you need is a book recommendation.  But I would be amiss if I did not share with you a great new book that I just finished and absolutely adored, not only because it is so well-written but primarily because it is incredibly relevant to contemporary libraries, archives, and special collections. http://www.michaelblanding.com/mapthief/ The Map Thief by Michael Blanding is made only more intriguing by the scandalous subtitle: “The Gripping Story of an Esteemed Rare-Map Dealer Who Made Millions Stealing Priceless Maps.”  The story seems out of the plot of some sort of period film, but all took place within the last decade.  Forbes Smiley, a Massachusetts native, entered the rare map trade in the 1980s when map collecting was just becoming popular.  He loved the history and artistry of the maps and often worked closely with librarians at major universities as he was researching maps for potential collectors.  He was instrumental in…

  • Just in time for the holidays – Volunteering at PBP

    I love volunteering, but I never know what exactly I can do.  I know I’m not qualified to be building anything, or cooking anything in mass quantities.   But recently, a fellow classmate advertised the opportunity to volunteer at the Prison Book Program, a local organization in Quincy, Massachusetts easily accessible on the Red Line.  I jumped at the chance, and spent several hours there last Thursday. Located in the basement of the historic United First Parish Church (where John Adams, Abigail Adams, and John Quincy Adams are buried), the Prison Book Program sends out hundreds if not thousands of books to prisoners in United States penitentiaries and correctional facilities.  According to their website, PBP does what it does because they believe that “books are crucial to the political, spiritual, and educational development of all people… In a time of cuts in educational programs for prisons, we serve a vital purpose.” All of the books and packing materials are donated to this organization, but the cost of shipping is expensive.  Among the PBP’s new and used…

  • Local Bookstore of the Week

    Like the good librarian stereotype that I am, I left my two cats to visit David’sTEA (probably while wearing a cardigan) last Saturday when I stumbled upon Commonwealth Books in downtown Boston.  Right off the Freedom Trail, between the Old State House and the Old South Meeting house, this seemingly little bookshop is not little at all! I had no idea that this bookstore existed until I noticed their covert sign pointing down the narrow alley to the shop’s front door.  When I first moved to Boston, I had searched for local bookstores and hadn’t seen this particular shop listed in Google Maps or in the many “Best Bookstores in Boston” lists online.  This bookstore might just be another great Boston secret. At first glance, Commonwealth Books appears to be just another used book store a la Brattle Book Shop (another great shop near the Boston Common, if you’re looking).  But take a few more steps inside their wooden store front and you’ll notice an amazing selection of antiquarian items, including rows of old prints,…

  • Sweatpants and lovin’ it

    I made it through high school without drinking coffee.  Despite all of my friends running to Starbucks after school (but before theatre rehearsal), I only developed an addiction to the little packets of honey.  I thought I was being sneaky, but soon the employees began to notice my pocketing the honey packets and soon I was no longer welcome in the downtown Annapolis Starbucks location. My refusal to drink coffee only lasted until sophomore year of college, when I was forced to pull an all-nighter and my roommate convinced me to have a cup.  She soon regretted giving me the caffeine, and I ended up bouncing around the room all night, somehow managed to finish my paper, and then passed out hard around 5:30AM. I was thinking about that first cup of coffee when I purchased my first pair of sweatpants.  I know, I know, I don’t know how I’ve managed to live a full 24 years without outright owning a pair of sweatpants –  I think it was because I didn’t want to disappoint…

  • The Librarians – Coming to a television near you!

    Often librarians in pop culture are reduced to over-sexualized stereotypes in low tops and glasses, so I can’t help but be excited about librarian portrayals that don’t fall into this category.   Throw in some corny fantasy and I am completely lost.  Therefore, I feel compelled to tell you about “The Librarians” just in case you aren’t aware.  First, let me promise that I am in no way employed or endorsed by TNT (though quick shout out to TNT: if you are looking for an archivist come May 2016, please let me know).  I just completely love television, librarians, and librarians on television, and “The Librarians” looks like my next favorite mini-series.  Last week, TNT released a trailer for their upcoming “The Librarians” mini-series.  I was a little hesitant at first, as my memories of the one “Librarian” syndicated movie I saw was not great.  The one moment that I do remember is Noah Wyle, the information professional in question, struggling to identify what indigenous language an Amazonian tribe was speaking in hopes of figuring out…

  • #LibrariansReadComics

    Ever since I picked up my first comic book, the possibility of one day visiting Comic Con was the goal.  Middle School Alex would probably be rather disappointed in her current day counterpart with regard to my nerd cred: I didn’t keep up with anime, graphic novels, and superhero trivia and knowledge and I do not yet own an authentic Storm costume (though I did put together a pretty great replica using yellow duct tape and black exercise clothes).  Several of my purist friends have complained that Comic Con is no longer only about comics, that “Hollywood took over” and “the con” has been spoiled.  I can understand how these insertions could disappoint hardcore comics fans, but I was happy to learn that ALA is one of those sneaky non-comics booths that is now participating. The relationship between libraries and comics is an ever evolving one.  The previously mentioned Middle School Alex would scour the one small graphic novel section of my public library for the next installment, which would almost never be available and…

  • John Singer Sargent is my jam, but so are weekend SLIS events!

    As an online student working full time in the Greater Boston area, it is very difficult to participate in the multitude of SLIS social gatherings. Whether it is a lecture, a coffee meet-up, or happy hour, these events always seem to take place right in the middle of the standard work day. I understand that the majority of students at Simmons are full-time but I wish that there were more events during the weekends or week nights (I’m sure there is a trivia night somewhere in Fenway!) that might accommodate us 9-to-5-ers. Last week, as I pessimistically scanned the events “This week @ SLIS!” courtesy of LISSA, I noticed an advertisement for a free guided tour at the Art of the Americas collection of the MFA (Museum of Fine Arts) on Sunday, October 5th. The event’s description made me frantic: “ONLY 3 TICKETS LEFT!” I almost dropped my phone as I dove for my computer, opened up Eventbrite, and claimed my ticket. I spent the entire week in anticipation, and not only because I absolutely…

  • Is this meme making me a hypochondriac?

    “The library is a hospital for the mind.”  A friend shared this meme on Facebook this weekend and predictably tagged me, his library student friend, in the post (he also tags me in anything at all Game of Thrones related – I am okay with both of these habits of his).  I thought the picture and quote had a nice general sentiment but didn’t dwell too much on the actual text – until the controversy started. Now, to be fair, I might be describing this with a touch more drama than what actually happened.  By “controversy” I mean, “someone benevolently disagreed in a Facebook comment.”  This responder offered the following instead: “[The library is] More like a buffet. I only go to the hospital when something is wrong, and I can’t choose my treatment. I eat every day and much like a library, the buffet has options for whatever I’m hungry for.” Perhaps it is because I am reading about the “service perspective” within library and information science in one of my current classes, but…

  • Hey You! Take a Break!

    Even though we are barely a month into the semester, I’m starting to get a little overwhelmed.  This post might be a bit premature for some of you reading this blog, but as an online student working full time and living on my own, it is very easy for me to feel inundated with everything that I have to do.  For us online students, there isn’t a standard structure to our academic schedule – no set class times, no free afternoons, no opportunity to go to the 2PM free coffee hour on campus (seriously though – there never seems to be any student events in Boston that take place after 5PM!).  I am still adjusting to building time for my schoolwork into my schedule, and so far I’m getting everything done on time.  But then I remember that it is barely the end of September, and soon my mountains of reading and required discussion forum posts will be supplemented with 10-page research papers and group projects.  I can’t help but log into Moodle and utter,…

  • A Day in the Life

    As a first semester MLIS student, I would be the first to tell you that I don’t have much experience with archival work.  Aside from volunteering in public libraries and a brief stint as a shelver in college, my only real exposure to archives was researching the Theatre and Performing Arts special collection at my undergrad’s university archives.  I had the opportunity to hold a Shakespeare First Folio and other amazing artifacts, and got a little spoiled when it came to the joys of archival discovery. When I volunteered to work several hours at the Brookline Historical Society for the REPS Day of Service 2014 this past Saturday, I didn’t know what to expect.  Google Maps brought me to a little old house with a white picket fence, but thankfully the curators found me lurking in the backyard before I convinced myself that I was trespassing on a private residence.  In a small room in the back of what I learned was the historic Edward Devotion House, I was assigned two boxes from a new…