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

Maya Bery

Hi, my name is Maya. I graduated from GSLIS in January 2013 with a concentration in the School Library Teacher Program (SLTP), and am now pursuing my license in instructional technology through the post-master’s online program. During my time at GSLIS, I did my student teaching at Underwood Elementary in Newton, and at Boston Arts Academy/Fenway High School in Boston. Upon graduating, I took a part-time position as a long-term library substitute in Roxbury, and am now beginning a full-time job as the library media specialist for the Carlisle School, a public pre-K-8 school in Carlisle, MA.

As I begin my professional career, I am acutely aware of how well Simmons prepared me for the task of running, teaching and administering my own school library program. It is still the best possible profession I can think of to be in, and I am grateful that I get to do something I love so much.

Beyond library and education related issues, I love to read, cook, bake, travel and sing.



Entries by Maya Bery

  • Notes from the Field #2

    Two years ago, I was fortunate enough to win a scholarship from the Simmons MSLA-SIG (the student interest group of the Massachusetts School Library Association) to attend the American Association of School Librarians conference in Minneapolis.  About a month ago, I attended the most recent session, held in Hartford, and I’m amazed at what a difference being in the field makes.   As a pre-professional, you’re expected to attend conferences to get a taste of what life will be like when you’re in the field, and you can learn lots of things, but it is nothing quite like knowing you can go home and implement all these amazing ideas in your own space.  I’m tremendously grateful for the opportunity, and if anyone is thinking about going to Columbus in two years time, do it! It’s incredible.  As a related note, there was a strong GSLIS presence at the poster sessions and in the concurrent sessions – Dr. Zilonis and instructor Chris Swerling gave presentations on how to write grants, instructor and Ph.D candidate Deborah Lang Froggatt…

  • Notes from the Field #1

    It’s now six weeks into the school year here in Massachusetts, and I am happy to say that I love my job. It’s wonderful. The community is supportive and values the library, my colleagues are welcoming and helpful, and I’m so lucky to have ended up in such a lovely place.  I’m at an especially interesting vantage point, because many of the people who were in the GSLIS program with me when I began have now entered their second and third years of teaching, and they all seem to be thriving: enjoying their jobs, contributing to their school communities, and generally being exemplars of the graduates of the Simmons GSLIS SLTP program.  It’s also six weeks into the start of the Instructional Technology Licensure program (ITL), the two-year, entirely web-based course for post-master’s candidates pursuing additional licensure in instructional technology.  We’ve discussed learning styles, how to foster collaboration, and are now moving into our study of Web 2.0 technologies and their applications in education.  What I value about this course is that it encourages us…

  • And so it is over

    2.5 years at Simmons is officially over for me.  The last project has been submitted, the second practicum binder has been handed in, and I am ready to move on to the next chapter and start my professional life. Last Friday, I went in for a job interview for a maternity leave position, a long-term substitute.  I got the job (hooray for gainful employment!), but more than that, this week has shown me just how thorough my preparation for this role has been.  When the person I am substituting for didn’t come in Tuesday, I didn’t hesitate to jump right in.  Were there bumps? Sure, but that’s to be expected, especially when working with younger students who thrive on routine and consistency.  What counts to me is that I know now, after just three short days of observing and teaching, that my time at Simmons, my coursework in the SLT Program, and my two practica experiences have more than prepared me to step in, take charge, and hopefully take this position, or any future positions,…

  • Finishing My School Library Teacher Degree

    If I am not mistaken, this blog entry represents my penultimate contribution to the Simmons GSLIS admissions blog.  For I, dear reader, am exactly one week away from finishing my library school career after 2.5 years.  I am excited about that, but it’s also bittersweet, but that is not the focus of this post.  This post is about how I finished my high school practicum yesterday.  Yes, 150 hours, a 22-page practicum log, six lesson plans with reflections, 12 artifacts of different types, and a lot of paper later, I am done.  It’s a tremendous sense of accomplishment seeing this giant binder come together with its pretty colored dividers, the cover page, the table of contents.  I’ve taught lessons galore on how to find non-fiction books and generate keywords to run effective searches in the OPAC and in the Gale databases.  I’ve learned to use iPads and researched a dozen apps that have really, really cool implications for students with special needs.  I created a rocking pathfinder for students researching Romney and Obama’s positions on…

  • Transferability

    It often amazes me just how transferable the skills I have gained as a school library teacher in training are to the wider world. It brings a measure of comfort to know that should (heaven forbid) I one day find myself struggling to find a position that I will not have a useless degree.  On the contrary, I will have a very relevant degree (take that, Forbes magazine!). For a start, during my two practicum experiences, I have gained a lot of experience creating things.  What sorts of things? Brochures. Posters. Website design. Video guides. Written guides. Pathfinders. Sure, these are all topically library-related, but the skills I’ve learned and honed include design, layout, how to use different software and presentation tools.  Between my practica and the LIS460 class, I’ve also gained experience using WikiSpaces, Tumblr, Prezi, Screenr, Piktochart, Microsoft Publisher, Audacity, Twitter, WordPress, and more.  I’ve learned how to create materials that are clear and well-written, which some might say is a dying art. And let’s not forget the awesome powers of Google-fu we…

  • Reader’s Advisory

    One of the hot topics in reference is reader’s advisory. It’s the reason many people engage in reference interactions with librarians, but it’s often hard to narrow in on exactly what a patron liked about a particular book.  And for me at least, when a patron admits that they don’t enjoy reading or actively dislikes it, I feel a lot of pressure to deliver.  I have long felt that there is a book out there for each person, it’s just a question of matching the two together.  But doing that can be a complicated, frustrating, and sometimes disheartening experience.   If I sound down, it’s because I’ve just handled two reader’s advisory interactions which went less well than I would have hoped.  In the first case, I had a freshman who “hates reading” looking for a short, funny book, but not one that would make her feel dumb (so graphic novels were out), no vampires (“read my lips: N-O, NO!”), no romances, no chick-lit books, nothing I could suggest caught her interest. “You know who’s…

  • “We’re Open to Serve You During Storm Recovery”

    Unless you live under the proverbial rock, you know that this week, the east coast was battered by Hurricane Sandy before the remnants of the storm moved inland to cause further havoc as far west as Wisconsin.  It was a pretty remarkable sight seeing essentially every school in the state closed for the day on Monday, and on Tuesday, many districts still opted to stay shut, but it’s back to business here now.  We got extremely lucky in that Boston was spared a lot of the damage that places further south of us, namely New York and New Jersey, have had. Now, you may be wondering what this has to do with libraries.  Well, earlier this summer, I wrote about how the libraries in Boston were opening as cooling centers on some of the hottest days of the year – a place where those without air conditioning could come, for free, and be safe and cool.  In the winter, libraries often offer the reverse service – a warm place for those in need of protection…

  • Current Trends and Topics in School Librarianship

    One of the best ways to get a sense of whether or not school librarianship (or really, any aspect of LIS) is right for you is to explore what the current trends and topics are in the field.  The school library field is a particularly rich one to investigate from the comfort of home because even if you don’t have database access to the leading journals, there’s a lot of great stuff out there that can give you a sense of what we school librarians spend our time thinking and talking about, and better yet, they’re free! Blogs: The wonderful (really, I’ve met her in person, she’s fabulous!) Joyce Valenza can be found over at NeverEnding Search, her blog at School Library Journal. Buffy Hamilton blogs at The Unquiet Librarian, and closer to home, Michelle Luhtala publishes her thoughts at Bibliotech.me. SLTP Professor Rebecca Morris is also active in the blogosphere at School Library Monthly. There’s so many more diverse and interesting voices from the field out there, so go explore! Webinars: YALSA offers webinars, both for free and for a…

  • What Does a Library Lesson Look Like?

    It’s a question I get asked over and over again, by strangers and by those closest to me.  My friends and family know that I love what I’m doing, some of them know I get to do cool tech things like play with Glogster, or Prezi, or VoiceThread, and iPads, but they don’t really know what happens during a library lesson.  The short answer is, of course, not very helpful: many things.  Our core goals as school librarians are to foster a love of reading (naturally), but in today’s “information overload” age, our job is also to teach students key information literacy skills while meeting state curricular standards. “What does that mean?” I hear you asking. Well, to give you an example, the past two weeks I’ve worked with several high school classes in my practicum to help them with different research projects.  Part of this process has involved teaching a refresher on how to use the OPAC to find books relating to their topics.  Part of it has been website evaluation – a recap…

  • Destination: Library School

    Inspired by some of my fellow bloggers entries last week, I thought I would share with all of you how I came to library sciences.  One of the things I love about library school is that the students come from a whole variety of backgrounds.  Some have worked in libraries for years, others, like myself, had never done any kind of formal work in a library before entering. There’s no course pre-requisites, no track you have to have been on since age 8.  You just have to tell us why you want to be here, and chances are, that passion will be enough to get your foot in the door.  And once you’re in school, you can focus on racking up all that valuable internship and volunteer experience that will help you land a job afterwards. So let me start by being honest.  Before I applied to the school library program here at Simmons, I had no idea that such a thing existed. Yes, you read that right: I had no idea my future profession was…

  • The Practicum Binder

    If you’ve ever known an SLTP candidate, you’ll know that these two words have a special power over us.  The practicum binder represents the culmination of all the hours of work we put in at our practicum experiences – the rich experiences we have are condensed down into two, massive, three-ring binders filled with papers.  Yet, it’s also really satisfying to see this tangible evidence of all you’ve worked to achieve. The practicum binder serves as the official documentation of the evidence submitted to the state by Simmons when we graduate, since our diplomas become our initial licenses.  This way, if the state ever wants to audit the program, we will have the evidence to support what we said we did during our student teaching hours. The binder is a mammoth undertaking, one that must be completed over the course of the semester, within the 100 hours we are meant to work (most candidates work more, but 100 is the official minimum requirement).   It breaks down into four major components (apart from a summary…

  • Practicum Experiences

    This afternoon, I had the opportunity to attend a Boston Arts Academy pep rally for the whole school at Fenway Park.  Now, I’ve been to Fenway before, but always surrounded by legions of fans.  Today, however, the park lay entirely empty, save for some groundspeople and a few (slightly confused) tourists, and it was pretty cool.  The reason I got to do this was because I am doing my high school practicum at Boston Arts/Fenway High School, and as a library intern, the librarian wanted me to be introduced to the student body as part of her staff, but it really stood out to me as a hallmark of the experiences we have as practicum students.  Though we are only at our schools for a few short months, and though the time flies by really quickly, the schools and the librarians take great effort to welcome us and make us feel included.  To my mind, this makes the experience that much richer, because it gives you a sense of every aspect of the librarian’s role…

  • It’s Good to Be Back

    School is back in session, and though we’re only in the second week of the semester, December seems frighteningly close.  Maybe it’s because I’m on a fairly strict deadline of when materials need to be due for my second teaching practicum experience, but there really is not that much time.   But that’s not the point of this post. This post is to revel in how nice it is to be back in a school environment, doing my librarian thing. I have so far spent two days at my practicum site, and I’m already brimming with ideas and glowing with some successes from yesterday.  An 11th grade science class had come in to do preliminary research for their science fair projects.  The librarian I’m working with did a quick overview of Dewey, and then they were off to the stacks.   Some students knew immediately what they were looking for, others grabbed books on science experiments and sat down to review their choices.  But a few students looked puzzled, so I seized the chance to…

  • Another Semester Begins…

    It’s hard to believe the semester’s start is already upon us.  Just yesterday, it seems, I was luxuriating in the post-semester haze of sleep and excitement for a full summer that stretched in front of me, gloriously empty.  Well, it didn’t quite work out that way (for the better), but I’m back and ready to take on my second round of practicum teaching (HS level), and my VERY LAST GSLIS CLASS EVER! Ahem.  It’s the last of the required “core” classes, Evaluation of Information Services, which should hopefully prove interesting as well as giving me my annual exposure to people outside the SLT program. Yet, even though the semester hasn’t officially begun yet, things are already in motion.  The fabulous new officers of the MSLA-SIG group are hard at work, preparing for the back-to-school introductory meeting, I will be on campus in two short hours to share my practicum experience, tips and tricks learned to the newest crop of first-time practicum students, and my own practicum meetings with my cooperating librarian and practicum supervisor are…

  • A New Semester: Reference

    To those of you about to start your Simmons GSLIS careers in two short weeks, welcome! It’s going to be a great experience, I promise.  Now, if you’ve been a diligent student and read the handbook, you’ll know that Reference is one of the required core courses that everyone at GSLIS must take.  I really enjoyed reference, in part because my professor gave us a series of assignments with puzzling questions that we then had to find the answer to.  Let me tell you, I knew I had found my calling as a librarian when, after six hours of intense search strategies and different keyword combinations, as well as an extensive perusal of the Simmons’ databases (since all the answers were to be found therein), I made the internet yield the correct answers.  It was a moment of pure and sweet triumph, and made me think for the first time “hey, maybe I really can be good at this whole librarian thing!” So, to get you into the spirit of the new semester and sharpen up your…

  • Metadata and Street Art

    Metadata and street art.  These are very distinct “things,” if you will, each with their own importance and meaning to those who are familiar with them, yet they exist in worlds that do not often crossover with each other, unless of course, you are an art librarian with a penchant for cataloguing.  Metadata, for the uninitiated (or those who have not yet had the pleasure of taking Information Organization) is data about data.  It doesn’t usually intrude upon our daily lives, but it’s vital in the work of librarians and those dedicated to making information accessible. When you’re looking for that thing that you want to know about on Google and you just can’t come up with what you’re looking for, it’s because you likely haven’t hit upon the right kind of keywords (which are part of metadata) to describe what you’re looking for, and thus make it appear. A friend from college, the wonderfully eloquent Laurenellen McCann, recently discussed this at a TEDxWDC talk entitled “Making Cyberspace for Public Art.”  in the context of trying to…

  • The Library as a Cool Space

    If you’ve been in Boston the past two days, you know that we have issued in summer with a bang.  Record-setting temperatures of the high 90s (with the humidity making it feel like the low 100s) have made people seek cool spaces, whether outdoors in the shade or by a pool, or indoors, in the air-conditioning.   Having air-conditioning can often be a life or death matter for people at high risk of heat stroke (the elderly, young children, the infirm, the homeless), but not everyone owns an air-conditioner, or has the means to adequately cool their residence (my own apartment currently has seven fans and a portable AC running).  That is why Boston, like many cities, designates places as cooling centers, where people can go and escape from the heat for a few hours.  Suggestions include hanging out in shopping malls, movie theaters, museums, or libraries. Now, I don’t know about you, but if I’m in the first three places, chances are high I’m going to be spending money while staying cool.  Great for…

  • Library School Changes the Brain

    I recently returned from a trip to see my parents, who have just moved continents and countries from India to the Netherlands. When I arrived, they had just received their shipment of possessions from India, and were still in the process of setting up. My parents are lifelong readers, and for as long as I can remember, our house has had endless numbers of bookcases overflowing with books, sometimes several levels deep, and not counting boxes in the garage or basement. When I got to college, I enrolled in a major program very similar to the one my dad had done more than thirty years earlier, and to my delight, I was able to use some of his vintage books. Nobody else had inherited copies of the Communist Manifesto, the Marx-Engles Reader, or even The Protestant Work Ethic, but I did. Yet, there was never a set method of organizing the books in any real or meaningful fashion. This never bothered me before, but it bothered me now. My librarian brain, fresh from the experiences…

  • Opportunites at Simmons

    One of the amazing things about Simmons is the people it puts you in touch with – faculty, students, and visitors.  For instance, last week, Susan Ballard happened to be on campus. If you don’t know who Susan Ballard is, she’s the president-elect of the American Association of School Librarians.  Susan was on campus because she’s also an instructor at Simmons (and an alumna!), involved in the post-graduate, online instructional technology program that launched this past January.  While she was here, she asked to meet with the SLTP and IT students, which is how I came to be in a classroom with about ten other students and faculty members discussing the future of school librarianship with the head of my national organization.  That’s pretty amazing, if you ask me.

  • Change in Curriculum for Fall 2013

    Recently, the GSLIS community received news that beginning with the incoming class of 2013, the curriculum will be changing.  The core requirements are changing (Evaluation of Information Services will be replaced with a Foundations course), the program will increase to 39 credits, and most importantly to me, that there will be a new capstone requirement put in place.  For me as a SLT student, my capstone experiences are my practica, both at the elementary and the high school level.  It’s part of the state licensing requirements, but as I draw to the end of my elementary practicum, I realize just how valuable an experience this is, so much so that before this announcement was made, I was going to write a blog post exhorting new students to sign up for LIS 501, a 150-hour, hands-on internship. Here’s why I approve of this change.

  • So…why library school?

    If you are currently contemplating the decision to attend library school, chances are at some point in your search process, you have heard some helpful individual say something along the lines of “Libraries are dying/e-books are rendering books irrelevant/why do you need a degree for that/fill in your own silly reason here.” This issue irked me so much, it actually wound up being the introduction to my admissions essay for Simmons. Are e-books and the internet changing the way in which libraries operate? Of course.  But the library as an institution is far from becoming irrelevant, and in fact, I think this is a fascinating time to choose to enter our noble profession.   For a start, there’s so much potential that technology and the internet opens up for us, and a simple Google search is just the tip of the iceberg.  When your friends and family learn that you actually know how to extract useful information out of Google in a method more refined than random keyword searches, their estimation of you will rise.  If…

  • Simmons Perks!

    With the end of the semester just around the corner, everyone is predictably buried under end of the semester papers, projects, and group work. I know for myself, the mammoth practicum binder that SLT students must submit at the end of both of their practicum experiences has begun to infiltrate my dreams. My respite is delving into the stack of dark and depressing books I have chosen for my youth programming materials talk in two weeks time. But if you have some spare time, or you simply want to take a break, why not take advantage of that little blue card in your wallet? Yes, that one. The one that says “Simmons College” on it? There’s probably a very unflattering picture of you beneath the logo? Yes, that blue card. You may not realize it, but that Simmons ID card gets you two rather nice perks. You see, Simmons is located right in the midst of two of America’s finest museums: the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (which you…

  • Simmons MSLA-SIG Conference Tomorrow!

    I’d like to take this blog post to shamelessly plug the annual Simmons MSLA-SIG conference happening tomorrow in the Main College Building from 8:30-3:00 p.m.  Though I admittedly had a personal role to play in organizing the conference as the secretary of the Simmons student interest group of the Massachusetts School Library Association, I would encourage anyone interested to come because it promises to be a great day.   We’re featuring panelists discussing “how to survive your first year” and “teaching middle school” as well as two presentations that were given at the 15th annual AASL conference this past October in Minneapolis on fostering collaboration and getting multicultural literature off the shelves and into the hands of readers.  I think this conference also demonstrates what is so wonderful about Simmons and the GSLIS program in general.  The MSLA-SIG is a student-run organization, though the wonderful Dr. Fran Zilonis serves as our advisor.  This conference, which has been going on for several years now, is entirely student organized, and attracts phenomenal speakers from across the state each…

  • Spring is here…sort of

    Forgive the tangent from more scholarly, library-centric posts, but I would be remiss in my duties as a blogger for the Admissions Office if I did not comment upon the weather in Boston.   You see, before I moved to Boston, I knew that it got a lot of snow.  This seemed self-evident – we are, after all, living in New England.   What I didn’t know is that Boston is very much a “four seasons in a day” kind of place, though usually the changes are spread over the course of one day to the next. Take this past week, for example.  Last weekend brought with it the time change, clocks going forward an hour, giving us extra daylight at the day’s end.  This is a welcome change even if it does result in lost sleep because it means instead of getting dark at 5:30 (now – in the depths of winter, it’s pitch black by 5:00), it’s now dusk until somewhere around 6:30.   The beginning of the week brought the most extraordinarily gorgeous weather, the…

  • Two Weeks In

    The crowning experience of the SLT program is the two practica, which are carried out at the elementary and high school levels (though starting this fall, middle school will be an option as well).   In addition to a mountain of paperwork and a log that could possibly qualify as a lethal weapon due to its sheer weight, part of what we are meant to do is learn the ins and outs of being a librarian.  This includes not only shadowing our cooperating practitioner, but writing our own lessons, collaborating with teachers, planning activities, creating displays, doing our three minor projects, and, of course, teaching. Yesterday marked the end of my second full week (though this week was a little off-kilter), so I thought it might be interesting to give you all an idea of what happens at a practicum at the beginning stages. In the past two weeks, I have: Introduced myself to the students and found out about what countries some of them have lived in Written and taught the first lesson of my…

  • The Joys of Public Libraries

    For someone who grew up going to the public library on a near weekly basis and then spent two years overseas in a library wilderness, moving to Boston has been nothing short of a heavenly experience. As a Boston resident, I am entitled to borrow books from any of the branches within the Boston Public Library system (extensive in its own right), and I am allowed reciprocal privileges through the Minuteman network as well.  What this means is that I basically have any library between here and New Hampshire at my disposal, through the wonders of the OPAC and interlibrary loan. In addition to the countless hours of personal pleasure the BPL and Minuteman libraries have afforded me, they have also played a central role in my GSLIS academic career. 

  • The wonders of LISSA

    One of the many nuggets of useful information I received at new student orientation in July 2010 was the way the LISSA officers kept reminding us of the fact that each GSLIS student receives an allotted amount of money for professional development each year.   As long as you fall within the yearly limit, LISSA will reimburse 75% of the cost of any professional development-related activity.  What really stood out to me however, was the fact that the LISSA officers stressed how few people took advantage of this opportunity each year.  To which I say, GSLIS community, what gives?! The LISSA reimbursement is the ideal tool for the broke graduate student hungry for professional development (which unfortunately costs money).  While I don’t want to comment on the specific rules for reimbursement, I do want to illustrate how the reimbursement has enriched me on a personal level. Last year, as an eager new GSLIS student, I duly signed up for ALA membership, and joined the two associations most relevant to my chosen path: AASL (the American Association…

  • SLT Practicum

    It’s only a month into the new semester, but for those of us in the school library teacher (SLT) program, we’re already looking forward to August and September.  Our wonderful advisor, Dr. Fran Zilonis, has already wrapped up meetings with all students planning to undertake a practicum experience in the fall to let us know about deadlines and offer advice in choosing a site. The practicum experience is the capstone of the SLT program, and is required by the Commonwealth for our teaching licenses upon graduation.   Each SLTP student does two practicum experiences – one at the elementary level (k-5 or k-8), and one at the middle or high school level (6-8 or 9-12).   There are two hundred hours of work required in total, which are done under the supervision of a licensed library teacher at dozens of schools across the greater Boston area (students who attend GSLIS West do their practicum experiences in western Massachusetts, generally). What this means is that the great scramble to find practicum sites has officially begun.