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

Julie Steenson

I starting blogging in early 2012, and I can’t believe I am already halfway through my program at GSLIS! I live in rural NH and enjoy a very long commute to GSLIS West and Boston. I am presently employed as a Library Assistant & Inter-Library Loan Coordinator at my small public library and I volunteer in a prison library. Becoming part of the Simmons GSLIS program was a mid-life career change for me, and one of the best things I ever did. So if you are over 40, married, have kids, dogs, cats, and chickens, and live really far away, I am proof that YOU can do this too!



Entries by Julie Steenson

  • So close, I can taste it…

    This is my last post as a Simmons GSLIS student.  For the last several weeks, I have been saying, “The end is so close, I can taste it,” and then I pour a glass of wine and exclaim, “And it tastes like Chardonnay!”  But now that my biggest assignments are submitted, with just some revisions and tasks to finish up in the last week, the taste is becoming bittersweet. It is hard to say good-bye. I have debated with myself what profound thoughts to leave behind.  Should I write the usual “letter to my younger self” that seems to plague most blogs these days?  Other than a brain crammed with Library and Information Science, what should I share with those just embarking on this adventure?  Here goes. Prepare to be amazed!  Not by my words but by what you will learn from the faculty and your peers. And more importantly, what you will learn about yourself and what you can do. I started my GSLIS career in a spring semester with three CORE courses, and…

  • Guess what? It worked!

    I am writing to share some good news. As the end of my degree program nears, I have started looking at jobs that require the MLIS.  I have been fortunate to have worked in a public library and volunteered in a prison library while going to school, giving me lots of valuable paraprofessional experience.  Having spent all this time and money, however, I felt it was time to look at moving on to an entry-level professional position. If you spend any time on the blogs or on LinkedIn, you don’t believe it is possible to take that degree and get a job, but guess what?  The whole “go to school, get a professional degree and join the profession” plan works! As one of my last classes here at GSLIS, I am taking Literature for the Humanities.  In this advanced reference class, my professor has been nothing but encouraging, so after one of his pep talks, I started looking at the advertisements for reference librarians.  Most want the degree in hand, but I am so close,…

  • Get WISE

    There has been a lot of blog talk lately about online classes.  I have taken all three types of classes in my two years here at GSLIS – face-to-face, blended and online. My personal favorite is face-to-face although with a long commute, blended and online can be more convenient.  I love the face-to-face interaction of my traditional classes, but a well-done online or blended class can be just as involved and highly interactive. (See my posts on Saving Kingston and my alternate reality class!)  Any kind of long-distance learning requires one to tap into a different skillset and requires good time management and self-motivation. As all styles of learning have their benefits, which vary from individual to individual, I am a big fan of trying them all.  I have taken classes on both the Boston and West (South Hadley) campuses, in-person and online.  This semester (my last!), I have added the final GSLIS choice and am taking a class online through the WISE program at Syracuse University. WISE stands for Web-based Information Science Education. It…

  • The Reference Desk

    My professor in Literature for the Humanities also happens to be a reference librarian at a large university.  He offered each of the students in my class an opportunity to shadow him for a day. I never pass up such great learning opportunities. My “typical” day had varied experiences, including a Library Instruction class and a meeting with a new faculty member to discuss how the library could support his research and students, but my favorite part of the day was our shift on the reference desk.   It was an exceptionally busy day at the reference desk, with both walk-ups and email chat questions, and so my professor just looked at me and told me to go to it.  Huh? Me? I appreciated the vote of confidence so without a missing a beat, I jumped right in to be a reference librarian, alongside my professor.  Here I was in an unfamiliar library, suddenly helping a student with an obscure search related to the reproductive systems of pigs and cows.  Yep, former history major turned librarian…

  • Okay Google Now…

    I need to talk about Google.  Most librarians have a love/hate relationship with Google as it is such a useful tool, the ultimate federated search, but also often perceived to be the biggest threat to our job security. With my last tuition payment this month (cheers all around!), I celebrated by finally joining the smartphone world.  I opted for a Motorola Droid phone as they have good antennas and I live in the boonies, and I expected to love being able to check email and have a really nice camera with me at all times.  I did not expect to fall in love with its excellent voice recognition software and my ability to ask Google whatever I wanted to know.  I remember when a computer with far less processing ability than my little phone would literally fill a room, so I am enthralled with the power in this little device.  My favorite feature is “Okay Google, now…” which allows me to ask it anything.  Gasp!  A librarian who is having an affair with Google…. We…

  • How smart is your dog?

    My dog has been my best audience for all the presentations I have had to prepare over the last two years. One of my big surprises when I started graduate school was how often I would be presenting to my peers. There are many ways that people practice public speaking, and while I am very comfortable speaking to a group of kids in the classroom, speaking to a group of adults can be a little nerve wracking. I don’t do well talking to a mirror because I can’t help but notice a new grey hair, and I find that totally distracting! I like to imagine my younger self is giving this talk, as that gives me more confidence, so the mirror is definitely out.  I have found, however, that my dog is a very willing audience. My dog has learned the following over the last 2 years: He knows how to make a website. He can define the role of a system librarian. He knows all about the value of a good survey instrument to…

  • I might sound like your mother, but…

    I am old enough to be your mother, so it’s okay. I know you are so busy that the thought of giving your time away might seem near impossible.  Like many of you, I have a job, a home, a family, and of course, school. We are all in different stages of our lives, and so some of us have a cat, others a spouse.  Many of us have kids – ranging from the tiny squirming variety to adult children, and everything in between.  We rent apartments, live with our parents and own homes.  We commute minutes and hours, and we are so tired and busy.  I know what you are thinking. “I don’t have time to volunteer.” I got my first library job in recent years by volunteering at the library first, and then working my way up as positions became available. I volunteered in a prison library and found my passion to be a correctional librarian.  But I am revisiting this topic (I have mentioned it in previous blogs…) because Tuesday night, I…

  • Teaching in the Library

    I want to talk about librarians as teachers, and I don’t mean librarians in schools.  I mean librarians everywhere. I have encountered many academic librarians who talk about teachable moments at the reference desk.  I have had many teachable moments in the public library, too, and in the prison library.  Teachable moments come in different varieties, just like patrons.  Some of my recent “students” include:  An older gentleman who reminisces about the old card catalog and hasn’t a clue how to search and find on the OPAC. A ten year old girl who wants to know if we have more books “like this,” as she holds up her latest read. A teenage boy who is watching Under the Dome on TV and wants to know if we have King’s novel on CD…and while he is here, what other Stephen King books do we have? An inmate who wants the next book in a Science fiction series. A middle-aged woman who has gone back to school and wants to learn how to use our databases. A…

  • Last Semester Blues

    I started the GSLIS program in January 2012, and with the completion of my three courses this semester, I will have finished my degree program.  Woohoo!  Well, mostly woohoo. I think I have the last semester blues.  I know that sounds totally ridiculous.  I will be done with homework, done with long class commutes, done with tuition, and I will have my MLIS, which will hopefully be my ticket to the job of my dreams.  What in the world am I sad about?! I think I am more afraid than anything. Will it be too easy not to learn new things?  Will I get tired, complacent and frumpy?  Will I turn into deadwood? Will I stay committed to knowing what I need to know to be the best librarian I can be? I know these fears are unfounded.  I will never stop learning with so many opportunities for continuing education through Simmons and ALA, and other LIS universities like Syracuse (where I am taking a WISE course this semester). I even have my eye on…

  • The Ultimate Group Project: Saving Kingston Part 3

    I am recovering from the summer term and the intensity of two classes.  You may have followed our ground-breaking alternate reality game in my online Management class with Mary Wilkins-Jordan.  (See earlier Kingston posts) As fabulous, dedicated Simmons GSLIS students, we did, indeed, save Kingston and all its libraries!  We battled blizzards, naysayers, and gloomy politicians to raise the level and value of the library and information science industry of our fictitious town.  To do so, we had to be a team, and all flag-waving aside, the collaborative effort was the likes of which I have not seen before in any of my classes. Early in the term, our professor gave us complete flexibility to work alone or in groups related to our organizations (public, corporate, prison, archives, etc.) or across our base groups (our classes – management, reference, etc.).  She cautioned us, however, that while working alone remained an option, we might need to work in groups in order to accomplish it all in the compressed summer session. I am pretty driven, but she…

  • A Blizzard, Zombies and a Book Sale: Kingston Part 2

    I attend a fact-to-face class each Saturday and more often than not, I find myself sharing the latest news from fictitious Kingston.  (In case you missed it, read here about this unique online learning opportunity that is part of my Management class.  Alternate Reality and Library School) So what have we been up to in Kingston? First there was the Blizzard in June!  Yes, the temporal instability leads to some crazy weather, and as much as a blizzard sounds good right now in all this heat, such unexpected disasters require good disaster planning by the town’s LIS organizations to weather the storm.  All of our libraries prepared amazing disaster plans for the blizzard, but then also for other unforeseen events like hurricanes, fires, floods, and even a prison riot. And then there was Fourth of July!  Of course, our organizations all needed floats in the parade. My organization, The Kingston Correctional Facility Library prepared a float of librarians wearing prison garb, promoting the freedom to read.  The Franklin Public Library, another organization in town, created…

  • Sage Advice

    I wish I could join my peers in talking about trips to Europe or ALA in Chicago, but alas, my summer is being spent working and taking two classes. The rain has washed away many of my herb plantings, but at least the cabbage and onion plants seem happy…as do the weeds.  All the warnings that two summer classes would make for an intense experience were true! In my first semester (Jan 2012), I took Technology for Information Professionals (LIS 488) which was initially intimidating and ultimately empowering for a middle-aged career changer like myself.  I was a regular user of computers at home, but new advances and I were strangers.  In that class, my professor gave us some good advice that I recently shared and used in another class.  He encouraged us to use every presentation as an opportunity to try out a new technology. This past weekend, I had to give a presentation in one of my summer classes, User Instruction (LIS 408).  I shared this advice with my class as an introduction…

  • Alternate Reality and Library School

    When I started my summer classes, I walked into an alternate reality – literally. I have never been a gamer, but this summer, I am joining my colleagues in LIS 404 Management, LIS 407 Reference, and LIS 450 Management in Public Libraries in an online alternate reality game to Save Kingston, a fictitious town in central Massachusetts that suffers from time and space issues;  It appears and disappears due to the instability of its Library & Information Science (LIS) industry.  A team of talented Simmons GSLIS consultants have been tasked with saving Kingston, by providing their services to the many LIS organizations in this town – Kingston has public libraries, a school library, high school library, corporate library, hospital library, law library, an archive, an art museum, and of course (my personal favorite), a correctional facility library. This is, by far, the most creatively designed and empowering class I have encountered anywhere.   Our leader in this endeavor is our very own Dr. Mary Wilkins Jordan, who explained her motivation to create this alternate world for…

  • The Friends of the Library Book Sale

    The majority of my weekend was occupied by the Friends of the Library Book Sale at the library where I work. Most people don’t give much thought to library sponsored book sales, other than, “Do I have books to donate?” and “Oh, such great deals to fill (and overfill) my book shelves!”  Like many other public library Friends’ groups, our library’s Friends raise money for all kinds of programming expenses and museum passes, and we rely heavily on their continued support and generosity, especially in these lean fiscal times.  The most vital piece of the Book Sale that I had, until recently, overlooked was how much this was a community event and what community really means for public libraries. Here are all the pieces of COMMUNITY that came together to make our Book Sale a great success: Donors – So many members of our community cleaned out their homes and donated great books and movies. Town support – The Firefighters and the Community Church shared their tables with us so we had a great organized…

  • The Interview

    If you have followed my journey from mom to batgirl, you already know that I have committed myself to an unusual career path – correctional librarianship.  A year ago, I did not see this coming.  After my first semester, the possibilities for my library degree seemed endless and in fact, I was a bit worried that I would never narrow down my interests.  Other than motherhood (which was my first calling), I did not expect to experience a vocation, a calling, an overwhelming need to pursue a very specific career.  Then I set foot in a prison library, and my life changed. The problem with a desire to be a prison librarian is that there aren’t that many prisons or opportunities for pre-job experience. The good news about wanting to be a prison librarian is that the skills I acquire in a public library setting are very applicable. On top of that, I am a champion of the benefits all around to volunteering, and my desire to learn everything I could about prison libraries turned…

  • Time to refuel…

    Classes ended on Monday.  Tuesday should have been a day to relax, but then there was that Call for Submissions that I had been thinking about for months, due on Wednesday…so between all the academic pursuits, my public library job, and my volunteer time at the men’s prison library, I am only now coming up for air. This semester was my most rigorous.  I only took two classes, but I balanced more than usual, as my cluttered house and cobwebs will attest.  My day job expanded, I added volunteering, started a regular exercise routine, and had some pet and family health issues.  I would be lying if I didn’t admit to being exhausted.  I am sure my family and friends are tired of my response to most invitations, “In May…can’t do anything before May.” I am not trying to scare you away.  Some great results came out of this: I discovered minimalist running shoes, and my knees don’t hurt anymore. After 18 years of marriage, my husband learned to do laundry. I found my calling…

  • What’s the name of that book…?

    Working in a public library, I often have requests for a book with an unknown title.  These requests come in many varieties.  A few of my favorites are listed below. It has a brown cover, sort of, is about this thick (patron displays width with fingers), and has an Indian on the front. Answer: The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks It is blue and was sitting right here on the New Shelf when I saw it about three weeks ago. Answer: Benediction by Kent Haruf I am looking for a book I read as a kid in the 1940s – it had a train and some kids…and they passed messages with the conductor or something… Answer: The Railway Children by Edith Nesbit We listened to an audiobook a while ago – it had some weird clock and something to do with eyes…and there might have been gypsies or something like that… Answer: The Cabinet of Wonders by Marie Rutkoski I love these kinds of questions. I heard today about another local library…

  • The Great Library Cat Debate

    Nothing gets people more worked up than their pets. I belong to many forums on library issues, and recently, the issue of a library cat was the hot topic on an ALA LinkedIn Forum.  The title of the discussion was: “A Grinch in Swansea, MA wants the library’s feline resident, Penny, to find a new home. Does your library have a pet?” The “Grinch” in this case, is making the claim that the cat’s “presence violates the Americans with Disabilities Act because people with allergies to animals are being discriminated against if the cat is there when they want to use the library.”  Full article: http://www.turnto10.com/story/21809894/swansea-man-says-librarys-cat-violates-ada  The cat has been a resident there for 14 years, and according to townspeople, the man doesn’t frequent the library, but that is beside the issue.  The reactions on the LinkedIn forum were enthusiastic to say the least, with librarians on both sides of the debate.  I quickly got into the fray by asking everyone:  What about Dewey?! How did the famed Iowa library of the most famous library…

  • How Cool Are You?

    At this point in my education (just past the halfway mark), I am bursting with ideas of how to be a game-changing librarian. I am also eager to turn ideas into actions.  After all, being a 21st century librarian is about a lot more than storytime (not that I don’t also love storytime!).  In fact, no matter what your interest as a librarian, an opportunity exists for you to make a difference. If you need a little motivation, check out these cool librarians! http://flavorwire.com/380345/10-of-the-coolest-librarians-alive/view-all

  • Slow Cooking and Library School

    I have a special relationship with my slow cooker.  It all started when my daughter’s community theater involvement required me to be in the car, rather than behind the stove at meal time. I was not very creative back then, and we had a few standby recipes that I could throw in the pot early in the day and then pride myself on serving my family a healthy meal 8 hours later. Then came library school and my library job.  Working in a public library often means odd hours.  Public libraries are usually open some evenings, and that night shift is often shared by staff on a rotating basis. To add to it, my classes are all a long distance from home on either the main or West campus, so my school days are long days. By 7 or 8 pm, when I get home, I want a good meal – no canned soup or grilled cheese.  I am tired and hungry and want to be greeted to the aroma of simmering spices and a glass of…

  • A View from the Inside – or How I Worked so Hard to Get into Prison

    Back in April of last year, I was contemplating all the places where one might find librarians, and all the places we, as librarians, could choose to work.  (Librarian or Batgirl?)  Finding the right library niche is a personal journey.  We can read about different kinds of opportunities, talk to our peers and professors, but I am finding that volunteering is the best path to trying on a new library for size. I work in a public library – a job I got by volunteering there first – and I am learning a lot about small town libraries and how they function in their communities. Recently, I started volunteering in a men’s prison library after a nine month journey to get there.  You wouldn’t think it would be so hard to get into prison…without committing a crime. Early last spring, about the time of the Batgirl blog mentioned above, I started to read everything I could find on prison libraries.  I read articles, books, and blogs.  I watched prison videos. I read articles about recidivism…

  • What does your library look like?

    I took a week off from blogging because I recently started a new volunteer/intern-ish position at a prison library, and I am still trying to embrace the new work schedule and commute, along with my job in a public library, and two classes. (We won’t mention laundry and housework as I am pretending they don’t really exist…) In the midst of my frenzy the last couple of weeks, my sister sent me a very fun link:  The 30 Best Places To Be If You Love Books  http://www.buzzfeed.com/awesomer/the-best-places-to-be-if-you-love-books Take the time to go have a look at these amazing photos. The site quotes Mark Twain, “In a good bookroom you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.”  I could relate to this quote, and I imagine that many of us are here at GSLIS because this is how we feel whenever we walk into bookstores and libraries. So, enjoy visiting these unique book places…hard to choose a favorite but I…

  • The Digital Divide Meets Everytown, USA

    Over and over again, you have heard (or read) about my small town in New Hampshire.  We are the proverbial small New England town, complete with General Store and a gazebo on the Town Common.  We have strong agricultural roots, but we are not a hick town.  97% of our population has education beyond the high school level, with almost 42% having a bachelor’s degree or higher (http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/index.xhtml). While many in town still don’t have high-speed internet access, we have a lot of patrons who come in to use our Wi-Fi.  I really don’t view the Digital Divide as just an access issue, but one of how to benefit from technology and internet access.   Whenever I read about the Digital Divide, I tend to think of it in terms of big cities with wide socioeconomic and educational gaps.  Yes, there is a digital disparity with our older population, but they are quick and eager learners.  To be honest, the Digital Divide hasn’t seemed that relevant to my present situation, until recently. Enter Roxanne…okay, that is…

  • The Role of Libraries in Emergencies

      In my town in NH, we had only 30 inches of snow last weekend.  We were very fortunate and didn’t even lose power.  We were all surprised by this since we lose power so often, but we are a very self-sufficient community and generally well-prepared for emergencies.  Everyone I know in town has a generator including a lot of our patrons.  We remained open most of the day on Friday, and we did a very brisk business of DVDs as well as books for the storm in progress, and when we asked patrons what they would do with five movies if the lights went out, “Start up the generator!” was the typical answer. We know that many towns did not fare so well in this storm, and so I started to think about the role of libraries when emergencies happen.  We play a much bigger role beyond providing recreational materials for the snowed-in crowd. Information!  That is what we do, after all, and many patrons who came in or called during the storm wanted…

  • Cream or Cookie?

    In case you missed it, here is the Library World’s brief moment in the limelight at the Super Bowl! http://youtu.be/rIDaX0eMeIk What I really want to know is who whispers in the library?! Is this still our image? I work in a public library and we are a noisy, fun place, although we try to offer quiet spaces for those patrons who desire quiet work areas. And the librarian…What’s with the finger shaking? And the cardigan? At least she didn’t have her hair in a bun…

  • The Big Picture

      It has been a year since I started the GSLIS program, and it has taken me this long to understand the value of a degree program.  I am not just talking about the “getting a job” piece – this is a professional program so it goes without saying that the purpose of the degree is to enhance employment options.  There is another value that isn’t well understood.  The degree program doesn’t just teach us skills. It teaches us how to be visionaries. That might sound a little lofty, even to me, but I came to this realization recently at my job at a public library. I am in a pre-professional job, which is great experience, but ultimately a dead-end position.  (Hope my boss isn’t reading this, but I think this is important to share with you.)  I do a lot of circulation and I am the inter-library loan coordinator.  I answer reference questions, coordinate the use of the library meeting rooms, do an occasional program,  prepare user instruction materials, and maintain some usage statistics. …

  • A Change for the Better

      One year ago, I started the GSLIS program worrying about catching up on technology and the laundry, and filled with both anticipation and anxiety about going back to school.  It seems like a long time ago. I am not the same person I was last January.  Where there was fear, there is now confidence. As a future student considering our program, the question you need to ask is, “What happened?”  What transformed me from a forty-something who was afraid to get into the car on that very first day of grad school into a confident and comfortable graduate student who embraces challenges and seeks out new professional experiences? The Faculty I have been fortunate to have great faculty who have treated me as a fellow librarian regardless of how many credits or how much experience I had.  Rather than being intimidating authority figures or haughty experts, they are respectful colleagues. They have helped me to grow, acknowledging that we all come to librarianship from different places. They have encouraged me to step far outside…

  • Restructuring Public Libraries

    I like my blogs to be fun but informative, which usually means avoiding politics. Unfortunately, there is a political situation taking place across the nation that just might influence your decision to go to library school. I live in rural NH, and more often than not, rural libraries are staffed only by paraprofessionals.  Librarians with Master’s degree are not the norm, but that is changing, for good and bad. Why a change is good? In the year I have been at GSLIS, I have learned there is a lot more to being a librarian than one might think when one checks out a book.  Along with a ton of technology skills, there are many things that just make good practice and good library management.  In my experience, paraprofessionals are smart people who use a lot of common sense, but their decisions may or may not be informed by library theory or tried and true methods. Why a change is bad? Recently, in St. Johnsbury, VT, the board of trustees fired the entire Athenaeum library staff…

  • A Book by Any Other Name

    Yesterday was a busy day at my local library.  A recent phone call from a patron began with, “I can’t believe you have only one copy of this book…”  He wasn’t talking about the copy on our shelves, but about our virtual e-collection that we share with other libraries in our state (New Hampshire).   The discussion turned to an explanation about library costs for eBooks versus what a patron might pay on Amazon for a Kindle download, as well as a referral to other sources of free eBooks (such as Project Gutenberg and Amazon’s Lending Library), and lastly, of course, a brief lesson on how to search only for available titles one can read right now on the state’s downloadable eBook consortium. This call was followed by a visiting patron, Nook in hand, who needed help to access the downloadable collection. Behind her stood a patron who wanted to download an audiobook to her iPhone…and a young lady of 12 with her new Kindle Fire… and a mom, with a stack of thirty picture books….

  • What’s under your tree?

    With all this technology related gift-giving at holiday time, I did something really radical for my family this year…I bought them all books for Christmas. (And if you haven’t seen Katie’s blog last week with the YouTube video, “Books for Christmas,” it is a must-see!) Yes, books….no computers, no fancy telephones, no tablets, no video games. I picked out some of my favorite picture books for the youngest crowd, graphic novels for the middle schoolers, and the latest YA fiction for the teens. I am not against technology and I love my Kindle Fire (and after successfully completing Database Management (LIS 458), I long to take a programming class). The reason for giving books is just that it is so much fun to get a book you didn’t pick out, to discover a new unexpected world. It stays with you forever. In the age of gift cards, the giving and receiving of books is a lost art. The Bloomsbury Review posted the following picture on their Facebook page and I think it explains it best:…

  • Librarian Olympics and Other Fun

    We all know that librarians are awesome at bookish endeavors, but time and again, my professors (and my experience) tell me that the ability to unjam a stapler is an extremely important librarian skill.  This is right up there with troubleshooting the fax machine, clearing the paper jam in the printer, learning the new phone system, and my most recent nightmare….using the new projector and sound system at the library’s movie night. The problem with all of these minor technical horrors is that one usually must deal with them on the spot, with patrons waiting.  Time is of the essence, and well, to be honest, I am spending all this money on a Master’s degree and I don’t enjoy being stumped by a fancy new remote control.  It’s embarrassing. What we need is Librarian Olympics!  Imagine a convention hall packed with hundreds of different types of copiers, fax machines, and e-readers and teams of librarians competing to troubleshoot the uncooperative machines in the shortest time…The training sessions alone would turn us all into brilliant mechanical…

  • East meets West – Part III – The Follow-up

    I would like to follow up on Chelsea’s two blog posts about some of the differences between the Main Boston campus and West campus in South Hadley. For a general feel, I will start by referring you back to my earlier post, “The Tale of Two Campuses,” but I will try to be more specific in this post. Class Size – Chelsea is right here.  I don’t know the names of half of the people in my Boston class but all my West campus classes have been small, leading to a very bonded group of people. At West, we bake brownies for class and seek out opportunities to work together via discussion boards, email, etc. during the week. The small class size does make a more “family” atmosphere. Demographics –In general, we tend to be older on West campus and in my experience, there are also more men at GSLIS -West.  There are many more career changers on West, and that leads to the bonding over fitting in classwork and group projects around family and…

  • The Librarian Toolbox

    Librarians have lots of tools….our fabulous brains, all that stuff we learn at library school, binders of ready reference questions and answers, reference books, databases, and of course, bookmarks on our desktops to all kinds of useful links. I was inspired by Maya’s post this week about Reader’s Advisory to share some of my favorite Reader’s Advisory tools. Novelist – Novelist is included in many database packages, at least here in NH public libraries. Two of my favorite features of Novelist are the Read-Alikes and the book reviews.   The Read-Alikes allow you to pick a book you like, and Novelist does an instant reader’s advisory by showing what other books are “like” that one.  You can limit the selection based on certain terms or it will just do a general read-alike search.  Then the book reviews allow you to learn more about these other titles.  Novelist offers many more features and if you have it at your library, I highly recommend logging on and exploring some of your favorite authors, titles, or series. KDL –…

  • Who You Gonna Call?

    I apologize for wimping out, but I am swamped with work this week, both school projects and extra hours at my job at my local library.  Please forgive me and enjoy this great view of the New York Public Library Reading Room…ghosts and all!

  • A Hurricane Can be Good for Library Business

    In honor of Hurricane Sandy, my Monday class at Simmons was cancelled so I filled in at work at my local library for a colleague who has a long drive.  All the local NH schools had also cancelled and to be honest, I didn’t expect it to be a busy day.  What a surprise! With the winds still mild and the showers light in the morning in NH, we did a brisk business as everyone scurried in to stock up on books the way squirrels stock up on nuts. The last storm left us in the dark for ten days so we had to be ready. When Governor Lynch urged us all to go home and get off the roads by 3 pm, we reluctantly closed at 2:30 pm, just in time as the winds really started to howl. Power and phone were knocked out a couple of hours later and I am writing this on my laptop with my DSL modem hooked to the generator. It was a good day at the library.  It…

  • Getting Hired

    Many students writing and reading this blog are Millennials, actively pursuing a first-time career. Yes, you were born digital and your perspective brings one thing to the field of library science, whereas the life experiences and digital growth of mid-lifers bring something different. With all the hoopla over the value of the master’s degree, we are all, regardless of age, concerned about the same thing:  Will we get a job? In this economy, every profession seems to share this concern, but a visit to the ALA group of LinkedIn tells us that library graduates across the nation share the same worries about getting a job, getting the experience required for a job, keeping current…and whether gray hair is a detriment or a plus. Graying hair means: Life has been your university.  You are mature.  You have experience triumphing over adversity and meeting challenges. Graying hair does NOT mean: Deadwood, technologically illiterate, or a lack of enthusiasm or innovation. These less desirable attributes belong to tired personalities that have nothing to do with age.  I have…

  • My first rental car and an earthquake…My own series of unfortunate events!

    I don’t have to work or attend class on Tuesdays so it is normally my day to hunker down and get a lot of homework done. Well, I am writing this Tuesday night and have nothing to show for my day but a beloved smashed car, a shiny red rental car in my garage, and a Facebook posting about our earthquake. To back up, I gave up my homework day this week to attend inter-library loan training by our New Hampshire State Library (as I live and work in NH). The ILL system for New Hampshire uses the NHU-PAC (The New Hampshire Union Public Access Catalog) and the system is a bit dated and not intuitive…but it works!  The holdings of over 375 libraries in the state are represented in the NHU-PAC.  Our small libraries thrive on our ability to share our resources and provide patrons with materials from partner libraries all over the state, delivered daily our state library van service. Training is offered periodically and today, I attended a day of training being…

  • A Wonderfully Incurable Disease

    If you haven’t heard of Roy Tennant yet, you will. (No, to my knowledge, he is no relation to David Tennant of Doctor Who fame, although one can’t help but think of how library databases are like the Tardis – bigger on the inside! Sounds like a future post.) Roy Tennant is often quoted for his 2001 statement: “…after all, isn’t it true that only librarians like to search? Everyone else likes to find.” (http://www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA170458.html) When I first encountered this reading, it made me laugh knowingly before I delved into the meat of the article about cross-database searching.  (A great article if you have the time, and he writes a lot of interesting stuff.)  You will hear arguments on both sides about how Tenannt’s statement is true or untrue, and in the world of librarian blogging, it has formed a life of its own. I can only speak for myself.  I love to search and I love to find, but my desire to search is like an addiction, an incurable reference librarian disease. When anyone…

  • The Teacher Connection

    Working in a public library (and a small one, at that), I deal with varied patrons with varied needs.  In any given day, we have toddlers arriving for storytime, teens coming in to use the iPads, middle-aged job seekers, homeschooling parents seeking educational resources, seniors looking for help with technology, boy scouts borrowing our telescope, and anyone and everyone seeking a good read or new movie to take home. Interestingly, I don’t see many teachers. Enter the Teacher Tea, a.k.a. The Library’s Educator Open House. This afternoon, I am joining my colleagues at the public library in re-introducing our public library’s wealth of resources to our local teachers.  Truth is, most of our teachers turn to their school librarian for resources and some, who commute here from other towns, don’t realize all we have to offer. While my colleagues will be introducing our downloadable audiobooks, library programming, and reminding all teachers that working in town entitles them to a free library card with no checkout limits, my job is to demonstrate the eReaders we have…

  • What’s Online?

    I am having a great new experience this semester, by taking classes on both campuses.  As you have all heard me whine just a bit about my lengthy commutes, it is no surprise that a recently minted GSLIS student on the Boston campus asked me, “It’s so far for you…have you tried out the online classes?”  The answer is yes, I have now tried online, face-to-face, and blended, and they all have their advantages, but face-to-face is increasingly becoming my favorite. What you get online: Interaction and learning opportunities with faculty who are otherwise too far for you…this could just mean a different campus, but it could also mean a different state or university altogether. Access to classes not offered by Simmons but accepted as part of our Simmons GSLIS degree. Interaction with students you might not otherwise meet. The freedom or burden of managing your own time and schedule – I do think this is both a pro and a con. No commute. What you don’t get online: Morning text messages from your peers…

  • Filling the Big Shoes

    Last week, I did some marketing of my town library at the local elementary school Back-to-School night. I was lunching with coworkers a few days later, chatting about the event, and someone remarked, “No one likes the new principal.” Someone else replied, “No one ever likes anyone new, and he has very big shoes to fill.  Mr. Brown was so popular and was here for twenty years!” This struck home when another staff member turned to the guest of honor of our luncheon, our departing daytime librarian who was going off to bigger and better things, and said, “Now, remember, if you don’t like it there, you can always come back!”  This was met with enthusiasm by our little crowd. Ouch. Since I was the one filling the soon-to-be vacant position and moving from nights to this better day job, with more responsibilities, I felt a little bit like my entire library team had just announced my second-best status and expendability.  Thanks, guys, that makes me feel great. Lest you all think I am a…

  • The Tale of Two Campuses

    I started my Simmons GSLIS career on beautiful West campus, at Mount Holyoke College.  It was a long, two and a half hour drive, but other than a few dicey snowstorms, the commute through the meandering hills of NH and Massachusetts was a pleasant one.  I enjoyed many great books on my MP3 player during the commute, and the faculty and students at GSLIS West were (and still are) a brilliant and supportive bunch. I had two classes that took place on campus and one online…I will blame my online one, with a remarkable Boston professor, for what happened next. Boston?  I got it in my head to take advantage of ALL Simmons had to offer a library science student.  Was I missing something by being on only one campus? Or is the choice simply one of geography? I decided to find out. So, last Saturday I attended my Database Management class on West campus, taught by a library professional and professor from Harvard (who also teaches the class in Boston), and on Monday, I…

  • My Campaign to Save the Dust Bunnies

    I approached this summer, off from classes, but busy with work and family, as a chance to catch up on many things. I had the best intentions to read the many publications, both professional and recreational, piling up in the living room.  I had planned to maintain my gardens beautifully, and my house would be clean and organized before Labor Day. Well, you know what they say about good intentions… I did get through about half of the publications awaiting my attention. My gardens were beautifully maintained until about mid-July, and then the lack of rain dried up my enthusiasm. I had big plans for the house maintenance issues…I always have big ideas and never enough time or money to implement them. My cookbook shelf is clean and organized…does that count? I did manage a long list of excuses for myself. I didn’t get through all the professional development I had planned because I did explore a different field of librarianship (prison libraries) on my own time.  I also dedicated quite a bit of my…

  • Flying Solo!

    Yes, I am a GSLIS student, but first, I am a Mom, and so the purpose of this post is to give you a parent’s perspective as you head off to grad school. My daughter is heading to the University of Rochester for graduate school, and at the time this is posted, my husband should be safely seated behind the wheel of the Penske truck, and my daughter’s room at home will be empty, and some of my furniture will be missing.  I will have an empty nest, and I am not sure how I feel about that. If you are 25, you probably don’t really care about how I feel about it, and that is okay, except your mom probably feels this way, too, as you make your big decisions to travel cross-country or around the corner to pursue your librarianship dreams. What my daughter and I learned this summer is that we are both stressed about the big changes, both excited about the big changes, and both eager for them to happen… But…

  • Adult Programming at the Library

    When asked to come up with some ideas for the Adult Summer Reading Program, to add to what was already planned, I struggled with how to appeal to a different library population.  In our small town library, the same people generally come to book clubs, foreign films and speaker events.  This population is devoted to the library, and many of them belong to the Friends of the Library organization.  We are grateful for their support, but I really wanted to bring in some new patrons. My first thought was that I wanted to appeal to working parents and families, who can’t come in to storytimes and children’s daytime events due to work schedules.  Unfortunately, that territory appears to involve some toe-stepping and political wrangling so that idea is being tabled for now…. but not forgotten. My second thought was to appeal to an audience interested in pure entertainment, as a way to introduce a new population to all the library has to offer. We all love to be intellectual and talk about the latest bestseller…

  • Pay We Must

    “Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.” -Mark Twain Tuition is a small expense on the path to greatness. The tuition bill arrived yesterday, which is always a “Gulp!” moment around here.  Having just finished paying for my daughter’s undergrad education, I never really allowed myself any breathing time before it was time to pay for my own education.  My daughter and I are both attending grad school this year – different places and degrees – and we have both been blessed with some scholarship help, for which we are enormously thankful, but that falls short of what we both actually need. I am not here so much to share my money woes, the high cost of gasoline, food, and education…We all have these concerns.  What I would like to do is share some of my solutions and hopefully ease the stress of that tuition bill sticker shock.  Don’t let money stand in the…

  • One of those librarians…

    I had the recent misfortune to encounter one of “those” librarians in a public library.  You know who they are. You have seen them and they are everything we don’t want to be. We are (or want to be) the kind of librarians who are friendly,  want to help people, and are happy when the library is busy with swarms of people, and children are making joyful noise.  I, for one, am delighted when the book drop is full, the carts need shelving, and a patron with three small children wants to check out a stack of 23 picture books.  It means we are alive!  We are thriving. But not “those” librarians.  They complain when people use the outside book drop during open hours; Apparently they never had small children in the car asleep while doing errands after work.  They complain when the library is busy because they really hoped to sneak personal computer time.  They delight in informing patrons that they have overdue fines, while they delete fines for themselves.  They ignore all opportunities…

  • The Library’s Changing Role in the Community

    I have many career ambitions for my library degree, and to be honest, working in a small, public library is not one of them, but since the opportunity presented itself, here I am.  I suddenly find myself at the circulation desk and preparing movie nights for the adult summer reading program. My first library job back in 1993 was in a children’s public library, and I absolutely loved it.  If I had had the same opportunities then, I would have become a Children’s Librarian.  I did, in fact, check out Simmons in the early 1990s, but as a single mom who lived far from Boston, it didn’t seem realistic at the time.  Credible distance learning opportunities like West campus, and online/blended classes did not exist. One of my duties so many years ago was an evening storytime, complete with kids in PJs with teddy bears, usually accompanied by working dads who were having quality time while moms enjoyed an hour or two to themselves after dinner.  We had our regular afterschool moms and kids, too,…

  • The Juggle

    Reflecting on Katie’s post, regarding time flying in undergrad and grad school, I attended my daughter’s college graduation this past weekend!  If you are a recent undergrad, I am indeed old enough to be your mother…but even if you are old enough to be MY mother, you are not too old for GSLIS. I have a wooden sign in my kitchen that reads, “You are never too old to change what you want to be when you grow up.”  This might sound like a trite quote from the mid-life crisis crowd, but the sign has hung in my kitchen since I was “only” 32. Becoming a part of Simmons GSLIS was a huge lifestyle change, and if you read my earlier blog entries, I certainly had my share of anxieties. If you are part of the older crowd, you know what I mean about the great balancing act, but younger students have to strike their own balance, too. They don’t have it any easier than we do. Neither of us has more to juggle, we…

  • The Birth of My First Semester…

    My first semester with nine credits (all required CORE classes) bore striking resemblance to pregnancy. Being a new student (and an “older” one), not knowing what to expect, reminded me of the excitement and anticipation of being a new mother.  I was so thrilled to be embarking on this new chapter of my life, redefining myself, but it came with some anxiety.  The question, “Would I be a good student and librarian?” felt a lot like “Would I be a good mommy?” The first trimester (first month of school) came with a little nausea (butterflies), followed by the euphoria of the second trimester (2nd month of school) where I felt great – no more morning sickness and a whole lot of confidence and excitement for what lay ahead. Then, as any new mom will tell you, came the hard part — the seemingly never-ending last trimester with its accompanying feelings of being overwhelmed, exhausted, and wanting it to be over.  I would like to see my feet again…or in the case of school, I would…

  • Nine Credits Later…

    My first semester is over.  Three core courses complete! I have a great sense of accomplishment, mixed with relief (phew!) and just a touch of sadness. (And dread for all the neglected house chores awaiting me…) I can’t believe how much I have learned in just a few months. I have met the most amazing people in this first semester at Simmons GSLIS.  I have enjoyed sharing my first glimpse of library school with all of you, and look forward to sharing much more over the coming months. Many congratulations to my peers who are graduating! I love library school and have a great course line-up for the fall semester, but right now, it’s time to party in the library! Enjoy!  

  • End of Term Projects

      Holy Overdue fines, Batgirl!  I have so much to do this last week of the semester! I could plead an excuse why I don’t have time for a fabulous blog entry this week, but then I thought, why not let you see what a sleep deprived GSLIS student has been up to? As part of a larger Tech tutorial project, I created a sample library website using Drupal Gardens. The actual tutorial is still in progress, but please visit my sample website and tell me what you think!  I will be adding more content and improving the site in response to peer feedback, including yours. http://steenson123moretutorial.drupalgardens.com/ This website is the product of a “How to…” I created for my Technology class.  Be sure to click on all the tabs, links, and complete the short survey…and of course, follow the link at the bottom of the website to “Like” us on Facebook!

  • All the Things that are Good for You: Broccoli, Shoveling Snow, and Group projects

    You probably remember being a kid and being told, “Eat your broccoli…it’s good for you.”  As a parent, I have had said my fair share of “It’s good for you” moments in raising my daughter.  A couple of specific examples stand out:  “Stacking wood builds character,” and “I know it is hard to work in a group, but it is good for you.” While I have no problem eating broccoli and I love to stack wood, I have had to eat my words on the group project thing.  Just two days ago, on a visit home, as I was stressing about an end of term group project, my daughter gave me a sympathetic smile and reminded me that group projects are good for me. I have to admit that I wasn’t prepared for group projects at GSLIS.  I know we will work in a collaborative environment and so learning how to reach our goals with our peers is important, but there have been some real challenges.


  •               Last week, in talking about career paths for librarians, I reminded everyone that Batgirl was, after all, a librarian.  The day after that post, I headed off to the University Of Rochester in New York, to join my daughter on a grad school visit.  The purpose of the visit was my daughter’s admission there this fall, but I had just read about the University of Rochester’s Undergraduate Research Project for my Evaluation class (LIS403). This qualitative study was a fascinating account of how this one academic library adapted both their physical space and information access to better meet the needs of the population they serve.  Naturally, I went off for a little library tour of my own to see the spaces I had just read about in the study. You can imagine my surprise at turning a corner in the Reference Room and seeing an amazing display of the “League of Librarians: Research Superheroes at Your Service.”

  • Librarian or Batgirl?

    Library and Information Science – that is the degree program we are pursuing and the name says it all.  The Master’s degree program years ago was just Library Science, but as the world changes, so does the role of librarians.  We are not just librarians, but information and technology specialists…scientists, in fact. If you think you know what your librarian does, think again. This is a much bigger world than checking out books. We are Superheroes of the Information Age! Earlier blogs discussed our personal journeys to discover what area of Library and Information Science we wish to pursue.  I, like my peers, have changed my mind countless times in these first few months.  Why?  Because there are so many choices! Here is my short list of career paths I have considered: Tradition public librarian with a modern technology twist – database management, technology public outreach (iPads, kindles, etc.), web development, social media. Reference librarian in an academic library. Faculty librarian in an academic setting – Yes, librarians are now embedded in university departments, as…

  • Want Your Own Action Figure?

    All I have to do is look around a typical GSLIS classroom and any librarian stereotypes disappear.  I don’t know anyone who looks like this action figure (although I am guilty of wearing my hair up in a clip on occasion…who has time to style hair in library school?). As I regard my peers on any given day, I see a mix of men and women, young and not-so-young, tattooed and pierced, in all manner of clothing and hair styles.  Any doubters just need to peek at the Men of the Stacks 2012 calendar:  http://menofthestacks.com/  or check out the Belly-dancing Librarian: http://www.sonic.net/~erisw/bdlib.html to know that these old-fashioned shushing librarian stereotypes have no place in modern librarianship. We are fun! We are tech savvy!  We love helping people! Librarians come in all shapes and sizes just like everybody else…so why do the stereotypes persist? And how will we change them?  To learn more, check out this book by Ruth Kneale:  You Don’t Look Like a Librarian: Shattering Stereotypes and Creating Positive New Images in the Internet…

  • Time Management?

    In thinking of what to write this week, all I could say is “I am swamped.”  I know we eat and sleep more than med students, but maybe not this week! This is a week where some of the time management skills I have preached to my daughter could come in handy. Please forgive the brief entry and enjoy this funny video of why Library School Hurts So Good!  I couldn’t stop laughing when I saw it, and hopefully, it will ease some of your stress, too. I really love Library School! Library School: Hurts So Good by: fiver615

  • Spring Break and the Older Student

    No bikinis for this forty-something….trust me, this is a good thing!  For me, spring break was an opportunity to catch up on housework and have the time to go to NY to visit my adult daughter.  I had told myself that I would get ahead on schoolwork, and while I did do some, there was no “getting ahead.” After six intense weeks, my brain needed to ease up, and my non-school life needed some of my attention. If you read my first post, you saw that I had some misgivings about returning to school as a full-time student.  I would like to revisit those initial thoughts now, halfway through the semester.  It has been so invigorating to be in school.  While I sometimes feel like I am drowning in a sea of acronyms, I am learning so much. When I started the program full-time, I had quit my job, figuring that school, home, family, a long commute, and volunteer work would keep me busy enough.  That was a good plan!  When my volunteer work evolved…

  • What It Means to be Blended

    Blended and Online classes offer amazing opportunities to learn from practicing professionals who genuinely want to share their knowledge and experience with the next generation of library professionals. What could be better than learning from real world librarians! Being my first semester, I had no idea what a Blended class actually entailed.  I knew there would be some face-to-face meetings and other meetings online, but I wasn’t sure what that actually meant in practice. Face-to-face is what it implies – a class meeting on campus in the traditional sense.   My blended class combines face-to-face meetings on Simmons West (Mount Holyoke) campus with synchronous online sessions.  Synchronous means that we all log in at class time – either from home in our PJs or some of us choose to log in together in an empty classroom or in the GSLIS West office. While PJs are appealing, I enjoy the group gathering as it has allowed for some excellent peer interaction and good company with my morning coffee.

  • Library of the Future

    Just as we all come from different backgrounds, we all come from different libraries!  I have had the opportunity to experience very modern libraries and simpler, old-fashioned ones.  Just two years ago, I worked in a rural school district that still had a card catalog and stamped the due date on the library book cards, a nostalgic throwback to my childhood! At the other extreme, I recently came across a YouTube video of the Monroe County Public Library, in Bloomington, Indiana, which was awarded the Trailblazer through Technology Award in 2011. In its goal to provide “abundant access” and technological literacy to the community, this library is a model for all of us!

  • Why Metadata is like Pizza

    Meta what? That was my reaction when I read the course description for my Information Organization class and first encountered the word METADATA.  The classic definition seems to be “data about data” which is about as useful as …well, nothing.  There are many better definitions out there, but I don’t want to spoil your fun as you learn about them, so for now, I will call it the stuff that describes a resource…sort of like the stuff that goes on a pizza. When you ask your husband to bring home a pizza (because you have a project due in two days and you are freaking out), you don’t just say, “Honey, please get a pizza.”  You describe the pizza.   Pizza metadata could include thin crust, marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese, feta cheese, pepperoni, red peppers, mushrooms, etc.

  • Technology and the Newbie

    Deciding to make a mid-life career change from mom/educator to librarian came with many uncertainties.  Was I too old?  Would I be able to catch up on all the technology that I hadn’t used over the last few years?  What are the differences between Blended, Online, and Face-to-face classes and how would I choose?  When would I do the laundry? I had an opportunity that allowed me to begin as a full-time student so I quit my job as a nanny, started volunteering at my local library, and jumped in.  I live two and a half hours from both Boston and West campuses, so I opted for one online class, and two West campus classes – one blended and one face-to-face.  By trying all three learning approaches, I will figure out early in my student career the pros and cons of each. The laundry question is still being addressed…but no, I am not too old, and the technology wasn’t quite as scary as I first imagined, but be forewarned, you cannot avoid it.  Being a…