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

Johnna Purchase

Hi! My name is Johnna Purchase, and I am in the History + Archives Management dual degree program at Simmons. Although born in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, I am the least Texan-Texan you’ll meet and have also lived in the Twin Cities, D.C., Dublin, and Heidelberg. I’m excited to now call Boston home! My passion for reading has been a lifelong love, but my interest in libraries did not begin until college when I interned in Rare Book and Special Collections at the Library of Congress and the Early Printed Book Division in the Long Room Library at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. While my writing credits include creative non-fiction essays printed in college-level literary journals and a publication with Rowman and Littlefield, I am eager to blog for the first time here! When I’m not wandering the stacks, I enjoy singing classically, performing in musicals, immersing myself in sci-fi novels, writing up new worlds, and reading poetry, especially war poetry from WWI and the inter-war period.



Entries by Johnna Purchase

  • Interning in the Outer Banks: An Archival Analogy

    An analogy for archival work that they don’t teach you in 438 is this: archival processing is cleaning up other peoples’ messes. Without a key, without a blueprint, without any inkling of what, potentially, the original organizational system that the donor, maybe, possibly, hopefully attempted to follow for at least part of their document-generating life. You, the intrepid archivist must venture through boxes, pulling out sheaves of paper that seem to share nothing in common except the rusty paperclip holding them together, dusting your black pants with the glitter of deteriorating fax paper, and puzzling over the names of repeat characters in the documents like a crime scene detective building profiles for each murder suspect.    Or so I’ve felt these past few weeks processing my first collection. In the midst of the chaos, though, I stumble across little gems that make me forget about the filing conventions my donor seemed to create and then drop on a whim or the fact that desperately-relevant online records for certain local government officials don’t exist. An inspirational quote…

  • Interning in the Outer Banks

    Billowing white sand dunes, salty sea breezes, and Elizabethan history lurking at every corner – welcome to Manteo, NC in the Outer Banks! Today marks my second full week interning at the Outer Banks History Center (OBHC) on Roanoke Island after I spent my first week virtually due to an outbreak of COVID in the guesthouse I am staying in. A satellite archive in the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, the OBHC collects materials about the history of the region – often maritime in nature – ranging from oral histories about life on isolated Ocracoke to extensive photo archives of the generations of beach goers in this late-blooming tourist destination. While Manteo, the town I’m working in, touts itself as the “birthplace of English-speaking America” and as the birthplace of the first English baby born on American soil – Virginia Dare – the collection I’m processing is decidedly more modern. It was donated by a prominent local who served two tenures as mayor, led on a variety of boards and commissions, spearheaded…

  • Simmons Students Present at Boston College Conference

    Over the weekend, the Boston College History Department hosted their first annual graduate student conference entitled “Grad Student Voices.” The student leadership team possessed a simple yet bold vision – a conference for graduate students by graduate students. Especially as a student just finishing her first year of her M.A. in History, I found it refreshing to attend an history conference that uplifted graduate voices rather than relegating their voices – and the students themselves – to the corner.  Since the dual degree Archives and History program here at Simmons pairs the M.A. in History as a complement to the M.S. in Archives Management, at times I have struggled to engage with my peers as fellow historians. The dominant attitude is that we are archivists first. And while I take my role as an archivist seriously because of the authority it invests in me in determining what records make it into the archives that future historians will rely on, sometimes I just want to dive deep into the theoretical frameworks and dizzying array of possible…

  • Planning Your Move: Spreadsheets, Time Machines, and Lime Skittles

    This blog post was originally published in 2021 and has been updated for April 2022. I hope that this article will help a new group of students navigate the complex task of transplanting to Boston! I moved to Boston cross-country from Texas in early August and so, with 1,839 miles and nearly thirty hours in a Kia Niro hybrid worth of experience, here are a few suggestions I have about how to prepare for your move if you, like me, need to cover a long distance:  Utilize Google Sheets. There are many variables when planning a move so instead of relying on your potentially-running-on-overdrive-thanks-to-all-the-change brain to remember everything, start keeping track in Google Sheets. You can use formulas to tally costs, project budgets, make checklists, and organize it on separate tabs. It’s also a great opportunity to brush up on your Excel/GSuite skills. If you need more help, check out the resources provided from Simmons in the Technology Competencies Guidelines which was emailed out to students in mid-June.  Choose your mode of transport wisely. From…

  • Holiday Reading

    At the onset of any break, I create a mound of books that I hope to read. I know that I won’t quite get through all of them, but I make my ambitious pile nonetheless in the hopes that I might be able to squeeze in just one more book before the busyness of term begins again. Below is my booklist for the break. Happy reading! Fiction A Very Irish Christmas: the greatest Irish holiday stories of all time publish by New Vessel Press – This adorable collection of poems, songs, and short stories brought back many delightful memories of a Christmas I spent in Ireland! Fantasy The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang – I know that I am a little late to reading The Poppy War series, but after picking this up at Brookline Booksmith and starting it on the plane home, I am charmed with Rin’s grit and determination. Sistersong by Lucy Holland – I noticed this behind the counter at Barnes & Noble when picking up a Christmas present and then found…

  • Wellness Week

    This past week LISSA – the student library organization here at SLIS – organized a week of activities to help promote wellness in the run-up to finals. Designed to facilitate relaxation, these bite-sized events were thirty minute moments every evening at 7:30 so that students could break seamlessly without needing the added stress of carving out an entire evening to practice wellness! On Monday, pet-owners and pet-lovers alike gathered to introduce their pets to their SLIS colleagues. Chris, a Ph.D. student studying accessibility in public libraries and LISSA Community Liaison, hosted the event with her two dogs Boomba and Lacey and foster dog Tripp. On Tuesday, students engaged in meditative journaling to reflect on the past semester, set goals for the semester to come, and remind themselves of their “why” for being in the SLIS graduate program. Rosie, LISSA President, provided prompts on dreamy powerpoint slides that participants could journal directly onto while the old at heart wrote out their intentions on paper. Wednesday evening turned physical as Johnna, LISSA VP of Events, helped participants…

  • SLIS in the World

    Welcome to our new feature, SLIS in the World, where we will be interviewing alums to see where in the world they are now, what they’re doing with their library degree, and what they loved the most about their time at Simmons.  When people think of job opportunities post-graduation, they tend to think of roles like “middle school librarian” or “reference librarian.” Cybersecurity research tends not to be anywhere on the list of imagined roles, but for our inaugural alum, that’s exactly what her work at Forester involves! We’re happy to welcome to the blog Isabelle Raposo, a DYO (“Design Your Own”) concentrator who, after following her various passions through this flexible concentration, now describes herself as a “Swiss Army Knife” librarian ready to tackle all sorts of information needs after graduating in 2021. Read on to learn more about Isabelle’s work experience, favorite courses, and best study hack!  The DYO track at Simmons allows students a lot of flexibility in how they shape their studies. How did you approach completing the DYO concentration?  I…

  • SLIS Faculty Finds a Silver Lining to 2020 and Wins Award

    Creativity – albeit forced creativity – became the order of the day when teachers and programs pivoted to online learning for the end of the 2020 and the entire 2020-2021 school years. In recognition of the optimism and innovations of the faculty, Simmons dedicated a $10,000 Presidential Grant from the Davis Education Foundation to a Post-Pandemic Innovative Teaching Award, colloquially called the “Silver Linings” Award. Out of more than thirty applications, eighteen faculty members were recognized, including SLIS’s own Professor Lisa Hussey. Professor Hussey was recognized for her implementation of a flipped classroom to foster meaningful remote engagement and to engender class community even from afar. An initial hurdle for Professor Hussey was imagining how to transition her course Reader’s Advisory, built around class discussions of nine novels and the application of genre theory, to a remote setting. Although Professor Hussey had taught other courses virtually, she never imagined this course in a remote learning setting. However, thanks to the success she had with transitioning it online, Professor Hussey plans to offer the class virtually…

  • Three Weeks In…Reflections on the First Semester

                We’re three weeks into the semester over here at Simmons! At times it feels as if I’ve been doing this forever (I’ve already completed my first group project!) and other times it feels as if I still don’t quite have a regular routine established (how should I use my after-class afternoons this week…?). I remind myself that it’s early in the semester still, and, as such, I – and my fellow first-years – are still figuring out what our individual “grad school rhythms” will be. During these weeks I keep returning to thinking about natural adjustments and the way my courses fit into my “master plan” for the three years of my program. Since this is my first semester of grad school, I have had to adjust to many different aspects of schooling – living in Boston, learning a new commute, being the student instead of the teacher, making new friends from scratch, finding groups and activities to participate in, and balancing work and study schedules. Amidst this change, I have most had to…

  • Planning Your Move: Spreadsheets, Time Machines, and Lime Skittles

    With only three weeks until term begins and the annual “great lease renewal” of Boston September 1st, if you have yet to plan how you are moving yourself and belongings to your new apartment, the time has come. I moved to the city cross-country from Texas in early August and so, with 1,839 miles and nearly thirty hours in a Kia Niro hybrid worth of experience, here are a few suggestions I have about how to prepare for your move if you, like me, need to cover a long distance:  Utilize Google Sheets. There are many variables when planning a move so instead of relying on your potentially-running-on-overdrive-thanks-to-all-the-change brain to remember everything, start keeping track in Google Sheets. You can use formulas to tally costs, project budgets, make checklists, and organize it on separate tabs. It’s also a great opportunity to brush up on your Excel/GSuite skills. If you need more help, check out the resources provided from Simmons in the Technology Competencies Guidelines which was emailed out to students in mid-June.  Choose your mode…

  • “Sharks, Left Hands, and Goodbyes”

    The past year has felt like a global season of goodbyes, each of varying magnitude – goodbyes to old routines, goodbyes to our understanding of the way society functions, and even in some cases, goodbye to loved ones. The biggest goodbye for me during this turbulent time is the goodbye to my old professional life as I make room to begin my studies at Simmons. For the past six years I have taught in a Title One public high school in Texas and, as an AP Literature teacher who works with seniors, said goodbye to my students annually as they graduated into the next phase of their own lives. Many of these students I taught for two or three courses and while I felt proud of their personal growth from their sophomore to senior years, sadness at the ending of so many relationships came too.  Not only did I say goodbye to my students this year, but I also said goodbye to my colleagues. To kick-off my own personal season of goodbyes, my family surprised…