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

Gemma Doyle

I am a part-time Main Campus student with three semesters left to go! I have an archives concentration and a lot of interest in archiving digital media. I’ve worked in a corporate archive for the last three years, and various public libraries for the last ten, so I feel like I know what I’m getting myself into. (Mostly.) I moved to Boston from Vancouver, British Columbia, and am still getting used to New England winters and other quirks of the US (see also: drive through liquor stores).



Entries by Gemma Doyle

  • Simmons Wrap Up

    When I decided to apply to Simmons for my Master’s, I was working as a records management professional in a corporate setting.  I loved certain parts of my job, and I wanted to make sure I would be able to keep a career in records management going – so a Master’s seemed like a sound (if possibly unnecessary) investment in my future.  (Corporate records managers haven’t really needed a Master’s in the way that a librarian would, although in the current climate it is becoming more and more necessary to have some education or certification to make you stand out from the rest of the pack just to get a job in the first place.) I was worried about how I was going to balance school and working full-time.  I was especially worried that I would end up only being able to take one class per semester, and would be in school for 4+ years – that I might lose momentum, or that there were so many things that might happen to knock me out…

  • Networking

    One thing I have not been very good at while at Simmons (and that I have mentioned here several times before) is networking.  The idea of going up to a stranger in my field and talking about myself pretty much makes me break out in hives, and I know I’m not the only person who reacts that way.  The unfortunate part is that networking, especially in the libraries and archives spheres, is a huge career booster, and the sort of thing that you pretty much need to know how to do, no matter how much you might hate it. Our NEA mentoring group recently talked about ways to network at our last meeting, and there were some concrete suggestions on ways to do it that I think are a little less unpleasant than having to make awkward small talk with complete strangers.  Here are some of them: Join professional organizations like New England Archivists, Society of American Archivists, the American Library Association, etc. Once you do, join the professional discussion lists, like NEA Discuss, the…

  • Interviews

    I’ve had a few job interviews in the last couple of weeks, and I have another big one coming up soon (so cross your fingers for me, if you would), so it seems like I’ve been interview prepping for months now.  I’ve probably had a hundred or so interviews in my life, so I’ve got the general idea of them down pat, but every one is different, so there’s always (for me) something to be nervous about.  (Being so nervous in important interviews is definitely something I do, to the point where my mind goes blank.  It’s an issue.) The main thing to remember is this: no one likes interviews.  Not the interviewee, who is usually at least somewhat stressed and under pressure, and not the interviewer, who isn’t under the same pressure but is still in the awkward position of having to ask questions of someone who is.  My worst interview ever was with a library in Massachusetts that quizzed me on Library of Congress call numbers and then made me to a skills…

  • Bookfest!

    Edgar Allen Poe is famous for spewing vitriol about Boston and the literary habits of its inhabitants, pretty much from the moment he left Boston to the day of his death.  (The thing that makes it funny, of course, is that today the only Bostonian monument to Poe is a plaque on the side of a Boloco two blocks from his long-demolished childhood home.  They are, grudgingly, going to install a statue of him eventually.  Lesson: do not crap on a city, because it will always outlive you and have the last laugh.)  It’s true that Boston isn’t a literary city on par with New York or San Francisco, but it’s not a book wasteland, either.  I mean, we have to have something to do in the winter when the internet’s out. So: the Boston Book Festival, or BookFest, is a huge one day celebration of all things bookish.  It takes place in Copley Square and is, get this, entirely free.  You have to have tickets to some of the more popular author readings or…

  • NEA Mentoring Program

    A few months ago the New England Archivists sent around an email to the Simmons email list looking for students or early professionals in the archives field to join a mentoring circle, wherein a few seasoned archivists will give career advice to people just starting out.  It sounded like a great opportunity to meet people and learn a little bit about how the archives field in New England looks from the other side, once people have successfully gotten their careers in motion.  That’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot anyway, as I begin to apply for actual professional jobs.  A mentoring circle, I thought, would help.  I’m not sure exactly what I expected, but at the very least I thought it couldn’t hurt to have a dialogue about what a career in archives really looked like, especially with informal discussion.  I’ve already proven that I’m no good at conferences, but the small group aspect of this was much more appealing. We had the first meeting this week, and it was actually fun to talk…

  • Head of the Charles

    I love fall here in New England.  We’ve covered that topic pretty well, I think, but I don’t think I can really stress it enough, now that the foliage is changing in earnest and color is everywhere.  I think I love it so much, and I appreciate it so much, because it’s nothing that I’m used to and it seems like a minor miracle to me every single year.  So it was with actual, real shock that I heard someone on the radio talking about watching the boats on the Charles and how it was the only part of autumn in New England that she liked. Well.  First of all I had no idea what she was even talking about, so I had to do some research.  You know every movie that has ever been set in Boston, how there is at least one scene with crews doing their crew boat thing on the Charles?  Apparently it’s a huge deal – and I never even expected that, because in all the time I’ve lived in…

  • Fall Festivals

    New England is known for being a bit quirky in its weather, and one of the things that really gave me pause about moving to Boston from Vancouver was the cold and snowy winters.  To be fair, Boston is relatively cold and there usually are some spectacular snowstorms, but it’s not quite on the level of the Prairies or American Mid-West in either of those categories.  (Which is a good thing!  I know there are people who love the cold and think skiboarding and shoesnowing are great fun, but luckily you can usually spot them coming a mile away and steer clear of them before their delusions can get you.)    The thing that outweighed the cold and pushed me to come here anyway was the promise of amazing autumns.  We don’t really get autumn on the West coast – not like here, with the vibrant foliage and pumpkin patches and fall festivals popping up everywhere.  Autumn in Vancouver means dropping temperatures, more rain and fierce wind storms, none of which are as fun or…

  • ThatCamp Harvard 2014

    On Saturday I attended THATCamp at Harvard University.  THATCamps are popping up all over the place these days – the name stands for The Humanities and Technology Camp, and they are meant to be a collaborative day between people working in the humanities and people working in technology.  As the THATCamp website describes it, “an open, inexpensive meeting where humanists and technologists of all skill levels learn and build together in sessions proposed on the spot.” THATCamps are meant to be very informal and spontaneous, not at all like a regular conference.  (Much better than a regular conference for promoting productive work, which is one of the goals behind THATCamps.)  Sessions on Saturday ranged from Wikipedia and conversations about how to foster more collaboration to archival tools and discussions of using social media and ways to visualize music.  Sessions were informal groups chatting; no lectures or hierarchies.  Professors and students spoke as equals as they tried to solve problems.  Most important of all: it was fun!  It really was.  (And you know I am not…

  • Librarians as Information Radicals

    Everyone knows the persistent stereotype of the shhhing librarians, enemies of noise and fun.  As I noted a month ago, there’s even a shhhing librarian action figure.  The reality, of course, is very different – as no doubt anyone who is attending or even seriously considering library school knows, and that’s not even the half of it.  At least in some circles – circles in the know – librarians are painted as ninjas protecting the privacy rights of their patrons.  And they’re not wrong.  The ALA has supported patron privacy rights since 1939, affirming that confidentiality is crucial to freedom of inquiry in the Library Bill of Rights.  It’s definitely true that if patrons believe that libraries share their information queries with any agency that asks, they won’t make the queries in the first place.  Libraries often view privacy rights as basic human rights, and base their privacy policies on the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Of course, having the basic ideas in place is one thing, but actually acting on them when…

  • Careers for MLIS Grads

    Most people who attend a Master’s in Library and Information Science program want to work at a library or archive when they finish.  The degree tends to be centered on those types of repositories, but there are also other research-oriented jobs that an M.S. can be excellent preparation for, especially in the current job market.  Here are a few different career tracks that I’ve seen advertised in the Boston area recently: Prospect Research involves finding potential donors for non-profit organizations.  It can involve a lot of internet and database research, determining not just who is likely to want to give to an organization but also what their donation capacity is.  Because prospect researchers are employed by different types and sizes of organizations, the pay and actual job can vary widely. I’m going to be doing a prospect research internship this fall, so I’ll probably end up writing a couple of blog entries about what it’s actually like to do this type of work. Rights and Permissions Research involves doing internet research to identify and locate…

  • Ahts Festival

    One thing I love about Boston is the amazing diversity and frequency of the festivals and events that happen in the city throughout the year.  This is especially good if you’re new to town and aren’t quite sure what to do with yourself – I know I spent my first fall here learning the city by going to harvest festivals in neighborhoods all over the place, and it’s how I learned the T/commuter rail routes.  Fall may be the best time, the quintessential New England time, really, but summer is a busy time for festivals, too, and it’s hard to go more than a few blocks in the city without stumbling on tents and music and food trucks.  This happened to me Labor Day weekend, when I went into Boston mostly to visit the Institute of Contemporary Art but also just to poke around Haymarket and enjoy my last free weekend before classes started.  The Ahts Festival is proof that no matter what anyone tells you about not being able to hear the accent you’ve…

  • Literary Librarians

    It’s August and summer classes have finally ended, which means I have another two weeks of relative freedom before fall classes start in September.  I’ve been spending a lot of time catching up on television (I know people told me Orphan Black was good, but it is so good, you guys) and the lengthy list of books I’ve wanted to read.  People who choose to study the library sciences do tend to be big readers, and the size of my To Read pile definitely means I’m no exception.  Because I’m graduating in less than six months (!!!), most of my focus is on job hunting and my future career, and I’ve been spending my time reading about fictional librarians and their work for inspiration.  The problem with fictional librarians is that a lot of the time they seem to be the stereotypical shhhing librarians who hate fun – even the librarian action figure has sensible shoes and “amazing shushing action.”  Luckily, there are a load of awesome literary librarians to help balance the picture of…

  • Museum of Bad Art

    Boston, it has been pointed out by myself and others, has a lot of really excellent art museums.  One of my favorites that doesn’t get mentioned a whole lot in the usual lists is the Museum of Bad Art, which specializes in pretty much what you’d expect. The Museum displays most of its collection online, but also, fittingly enough, exhibits in the basements of two theaters (right outside the bathrooms).  One of the theaters is the Dedham Community Theater, but the other is the Somerville Theater in Davis Square.  The only problem is that you have to buy a movie ticket to get inside, but the Somerville Theater is usually playing something decent, and matinee tickets are only $6. The museum only takes works that were done with the intention of being good; it’s not for deliberately terrible works, which is what makes it all the more interesting.  It also doesn’t collect anything that is done on black velvet or anything paint-by-numbers, which I think is kind of a shame because that would really be…

  • Job Hunting

    I have about six months left until I get my degree, and that is both incredibly exciting and incredibly terrifying.  The point of library school is, of course, to be able to get a job at the end of it, and these days the competition for that job is stiffer than ever – especially in the Boston area.  I’m a little more fortunate than a lot of my peers because I have more than a decade of professional experience under my belt, but that’s no guarantee of anything.  Luckily, the same class that gives me a dose of real world internship experience (LIS502) also gives students a crash course in resume, cover letter and interviewing dos and don’ts, then lets students discuss their own experiences. The discussions are really the meat of it, because we give each other encouragement and tips, everything from interesting job boards to tricks for combatting nervousness and professional dress (I have to admit that I am in my 30s and still can’t walk in heels particularly well. It’s an issue!). …

  • Real World Experience

    When I was looking at grad schools and deciding where to apply, the things I was really looking at were the program’s requirements: GPA, recommendations, essays, etc.  I didn’t delve too far into what the different programs actually offered in the way of classes, since before I started library school and understood a lot of the skills and terminology, the course descriptions and requirements meant next to nothing to me.  Still, one of the things that really stuck out for me about the Simmons GSLIS program was the emphasis on internships.  Most of the programs that I looked at didn’t require any sort of internship or real world experience, but Simmons requires two – two! – internships to graduate.  To be perfectly honest, that seemed like a nightmare.  All I wanted to do was go to class, do the work, eventually graduate and then start worrying about getting professional work in actual archives. I didn’t want to have to attempt to work in archives before I even had my degree. Once I got in to…

  • Summer Reading

    It’s June, which means Summer Reading time at public libraries across the country.  Last summer I was temporarily working as a young adult librarian, juggling my first ever summer reading program, and I can tell you that Summer Reading is both the most exhausting and rewarding part of being a youth librarian.  It is seriously two months of stress and terror (did I bring enough snacks for this program?  Did I bring enough prizes?  What about the kids who didn’t sign up but want to come anyway – did I bring extra supplies?) but it’s what the bulk of the programming budget is spent on, too, so it’s an interesting time with lots of fun things happening.  As the YA librarian I had my hands full enough, so I didn’t help out much with the children’s Summer Reading program, which is about 300% busier.  (If anyone is thinking about becoming a children’s librarian at a public library, I would advise them to spend a summer helping out with Summer Reading first, so they know what…

  • Fenway Flag Ceremony

    I am not a sports person, as I’ve mentioned, but I always seem to become friendly with massive sports fans who try to cure my sports apathy with huge infusions of exciting sports… stuff.  Well, exciting for them.  Mostly incomprehensible to me.   I spend a lot of time struggling to look like I care, if you know what I mean.  One of my friends is a huge – and I mean huge – Red Sox fan.  As a way to try to inspire a similar love for the team in my cold, dead heart, she invited me to go to Fenway to help with the giant flag that unfurls from the top of the Green Monster before the game.  (Here’s an image of the flag (not from that day), for other non-Fenway go-ers.  We’re the people who are actually behind it, who you can only see from the knees down.) Basically, we got to Fenway about two hours before the game started, before the gates were open to ticket holders, and got to walk around…

  • Derby Dames

    I am not a sports person.  In Canada we have our hockey, yes, but even people who don’t like hockey are allowed to go about their daily lives with a minimum of head shakes and eyebrows raised.  Even hockey, it’s understood, is not for everyone.  That’s not possible in Boston.  Sports are a religion here.  It’s hard for me, an outsider, to say which team inspires the most passion in Bostonians; if hard pressed I would have to guess the Patriots, but the Patriots-Red Sox-Bruins trifecta is everywhere.  Trying to explain that no, you haven’t been to Fenway to see the Red Sox play because you’re not actually a baseball fan will get you both head shake, the raised eyebrows, and an immediate invitation to come see a game, with the obvious expectation that yes, you too will soon be converted.  (Which is why I will be not only going to a game on Thursday, but participating in some sort of giant flag (?) holding ceremony (??) on the field before the game (!!).  I……

  • Boston City Archaeology Lab

    It’s no secret that Boston has a rich history.  One of the first things I did when I moved to this area was spend a long afternoon walking the Freedom Trail, which I highly recommend to anyone new (or not so new) to the area, especially now that the weather has gotten so lovely.  Of course, the Freedom Trail only tells the recent history of Boston; the Massachusett and other Native American people were here long before the Pilgrims, and their history is harder to see.  Not impossible, though – if you’re very interested in the history of the Boston area, the place you want to head is the city’s Archaeology Lab, out in West Roxbury.That’s the home base of Boston’s City Archaeologist, Joe Bagley, who oversees all of Boston’s archaeological digs and collections.   (Stop for a minute and think about how cool it is that Boston has archaeological digs going on right now that are unearthing amazing finds about the history of the city.  It’s pretty cool.)  The best part is that if…

  • Professionalization of the Archival Field

    One of the things that struck me only after I’d started the archives program at Simmons was how incredibly diverse the field of archives really is.  I knew that there were small historical societies staffed with volunteers with little or no formal training, but until I actually began to take classes in archives I had never realized how much there was to study, and how important that information was for preserving the items in the archive to begin with.  My LIS438 and 440 classes were peppered with stories like the one about the (untrained) archivist who cut photographs into pieces to file each person in the photo under their name in the files: many collections of letters which were broken up in order to be filed under subjects, rather than by provenance; all the letters from all the collections mixed together forevermore; collections where diaries, of all things, were cut up so that individual “important” entries could be saved and the rest thrown away (this was thought the be an extremely efficient use of space)….

  • Dear Boston at the Boston Public Library

    On Saturday I went to see the Dear Boston exhibition at the Boston Public Library, which opened on Monday and will remain there until May 11.  The Marathon bombings that happened last year are obviously all over the news in Boston right now, but nothing in all the interviews I saw or stories I read really affected me as much as seeing the items that people left at the bombing memorial in the days and weeks after it happened, including the hundreds and hundreds of pairs of running shoes. The exhibition is at the public library but was coordinated between the Boston City Archives, the Boston Art Commission, the New England Museum Association, and the BPL, which shows how amazing our resources really can be when we pool them between informational institutions.  I have worked in a lot of public libraries and one thing I have been somewhat disappointed about when I’ve interned in local archives is the lack of outreach.  I don’t just mean the button making “fun” outreach that I mentioned in my…

  • LISSA’s role in GSLIS

    Before I went to the NEA Spring meeting a few weeks ago I was pleasantly surprised to discover that LISSA would reimburse my expenses at the conference up to $300.  This was great news for me, because money is always tight as a grad student.  LISSA has always been one of those elusive organizations on Simmons campus for me – it crops up in conversations a lot, but I’ve never been involved in it or really known what it was.  One of my fellow students, Joy Rodowicz, is involved with LISSA (and helping to plan this year’s Graduate Symposium) and offered to write some pointers about it for everyone, because as a GSLIS student (or potential student), LISSA is a valuable tool to be aware of. 1) How did you get involved with LISSA? I first got involved with the Library and Information Science Student Association (LISSA) after I finished my first semester here at Simmons. I wanted to find a way that I could be more involved with the GSLIS community and saw my…

  • Tumblarians!

    I spend way too much of my time every day online.  I am fully aware that it’s a problem, but not one that’s going away any time soon.  It’s gotten even worse lately, as I’ve been trying to use social media to learn more about archives and archivists, and have been working on networking through Twitter and tumblr (since I’m so terrible at doing it in person.)  I’m not entirely sure about the librarian/archivist community on twitter, but the tumblr community of tumblarians (tumblr+librarians) is vibrant and very friendly.  (I’m libromatic on tumblr, by the way.)  The wonderful thing about tumblr (and Twitter, too) is that if you’re shy and nervous about posting a lot when you’re not entirely sure you know what you’re talking about, reblogging (and retweeting) are completely acceptable ways to share ideas! If you’re not on tumblr already, and you’re looking for ways to meet people in the library/archives field, here’s how to get started.  After joining the site, find people to follow.  A list of library and librarian tumblrs can…

  • New England Archivists Spring Meeting

    This week the New England Archivists held their spring meeting in Portsmouth, NH, and I (and a good portion of my archives classmates) were in attendance.  This was actually my first professional conference, and I went to see and hear professionals in the archives community talk about their jobs, the current state of the archives field, and of course, a decent dose of networking, networking, and more networking.  (I am terrible at networking, and would generally rather rip out my own tongue than talk to a complete stranger, but I went into the conference knowing that I would have to do exactly that at least once because it was an assignment for my LIS440 class.  Let the record show that I did manage to talk to one stranger and did not die as a result, so I think I may be a better person for the experience.)  (Let the record also show that one stranger was exactly how many I talked to, so… baby steps.) The thing about the archives field is that it is…

  • Alternative Spring Break

    This week I took advantage of one of the many opportunities that are offered during spring break to try something new and spent an afternoon volunteering at the school library of the Boston Teachers Union School.  I’ve spent a lot of time working with teens and adults in public libraries, but have not really spent a substantial amount of time in the children’s rooms.  I’ve also never worked in or even volunteered in a school library before, so I thought it would be a really interesting and fun experience -and that I was pretty much guaranteed to learn something. Given my lack of experience, it was a good thing that our day consisted of labelling, barcoding and shelf reading; anything more advanced probably would have been a little nerve-wracking because I would have been too worried about screwing up something completely new to me. Boston Teachers Union School is K-8, so we got to see kids of every age throughout the afternoon, and process materials for every age as well.  We also got to see…

  • Little Libraries

    One of the first things I learned from working in public and special libraries was that even though they all provided more or less the same services to the community they served, there were countless differences in how they functioned and what people even meant when they said “library.”  The wonderful thing about libraries is that they don’t have to exist in a certain way. They can be the giant buildings with borrowing cards and policies, but they can also just be a small shelf of books that people are invited to take and replace as they will, all for free.  Little Free Libraries are a network of tiny libraries set up on street corners and curated by anyone who wants to put in the work, who have free books that anyone can come along and take, and leave their own books in.  There are 10,000 – 12,000 Little Free Libraries set up around the world, including seven in the Metro Boston area, mostly in Cambridge and Somerville.  They each have their own eclectic selection of…

  • Things to do in Boston in Winter

    When I moved to Boston from Vancouver, BC, I was a little afraid of the winter.  Maybe more than a little, actually.  We don’t get a lot of very cold weather in Vancouver, and it rains pretty much every day from October 1 to April 1.  (This may be a slight exaggeration, but believe me when I say that it’s very slight.)  We don’t get a lot of snow.  We don’t get a lot of ice.  I was a little terrified at the prospect of having to drive in either, having to walk around in either, and really just having to exist in either.  I had this idea of winter in Boston as a dark, cold wasteland, with people spending most of their time gathered around heaters, dressed in five or six sweaters, hats and gloves on, shivering as they heard the wind whistling outside the ice-caked windows.   It’s not really like that.  Life goes on in Boston in the winter, without people letting the weather ruin their plans.  In fact, there are a lot…

  • The Agony and Ecstasy of Group Work

    One of the main differences between undergrad and graduate school that I would probably have appreciated knowing about ahead of time was how different the workload tended to be.  Instead of lots of small assignments, you usually only get 3 or 4 big projects per class per semester.  I hate to tell you this, but most of them involve group work. I have to admit that I didn’t know that going in.  For some people it doesn’t seem like a big deal – group work?  So what?  For others, though, myself included, knowing that my entire academic life at Simmons was going to depend on groups of peers working together was enough to make my heart sink.  The first time I heard about the approaching group work storm, I was sitting at a table with five or six other new GSLIS students at the Orientation Day last spring, and we were shooting questions about GSLIS classes and professors at someone who was about to graduate.  I swear that when he mentioned group work, every single…

  • Crowdsourcing the MFA’s New Exhibit

    On Friday, the Museum of Fine Arts opened its first crowdsourced exhibit after letting the public vote on what works should be included in the “Boston Loves Impressionism” show.  Over 10,000 people voted in three rounds, showing that Bostonians are pretty passionate about their art.  Simmons is only a few blocks from the MFA, and one of the great perks of being a student is that we get free admission to a lot of the local museums with our student ID, so I usually end up visiting the MFA at least five or six times a semester.  I’ve been paying particularly close attention to news about this exhibit lately, because I think this is a great use of the idea and technology of crowdsourcing.  Instead of letting curators have all the power to create the shows they think people want to come to the museum to see, why not let people tell curators exactly what they actually want to see?   One of the big topics of discussion at Simmons, one that has come up…

  • Papercut Zine Library

    The Papercut Zine Library takes up the back corner of Lorem Ipsum Books in Inman Square, Cambridge. Zines have been around since the rise of punk subculture in the ’70s, and continue to thrive as small handwritten or typed booklets today.  There are zines on every topic imaginable, and thousands of new ones produced every year.  I’ve always loved the personal stories found in most zines, and the time and energy put into making them tends to mean more to me than simply reading a blog entry on the same subject. The Papercut Zine Library is home to more than 15,000 zines, with new arrivals constantly being added to the collection.  A year’s membership costs just $12, and unlimited zines are lent out for 4 weeks.  Better yet, at least for me, they are always looking for volunteers to help out with cataloging the zines and running the zine library, and that was what really interested me.  I still haven’t taken a cataloging class, but what better way to navigate the tricky cataloging rules than…

  • Corporate Archive

    I work in a corporate archive.  When I took LIS438 (Introduction to Archival Methods and Services) last spring, one of the questions someone asked me was what the main difference is between a corporate archive and a historical archive, besides the obvious fact that the corporate archive only hosts documents pertaining to the institution I work for.  The one I can think of, off the top of my head, is that our legal department gets to determine how documents should come to the archive, and what shape they should be in when they get there.  One of the first things I learned while I was doing my first archival internship at the Worcester Historical Museum was just how much I should appreciate the lovely uniformity of the records that I got every day in the corporate archive – everything organized and arranged just so before they even got to me.   Of course, at the historical archive there was always the excitement of opening a box and having only the vaguest of ideas what might be…