GSLIS Continuing Education
By Sasha Nyary, Dean’s Editorial Fellow
Are you about to graduate? Are you a recent graduate? Been a graduate for, ahem, some time now? How about not even close to graduating? The GSLIS Continuing Education (CE) program is for you, and you and you and you. It's for people who want to keep up their skills and stay current with the vast and rapid changes in library and information science. Why take CE workshops?
* To keep current in the field. Learn about QR codes, say, or digital copyright.
* To position yourself for another job. CE offers workshops in reference,
information management, archives, technology, and more.
* To learn from leading professionals in the field. Take Graphic Novels 101
from Robin Brenner. Study Online Research with Amelia Kassel. Learn
Strategic Information Arrangement from Katherine Bertolucci. All are
professionals and experts in their areas.
* To network, work, and make friends with LIS professionals in the business.
* To earn continuing education credit.
* To satisfy your curiosity: What's the difference between graphic novels and anime, anyway?
The bottom line is: The workshops are practical. "The more practical the better," says Kris Liberman '87LS, CE program manager. "Everyone wants to learn something new, and they can also put it on their resumes." The cost is practical too: GSLIS alums get a discount, and current GSLIS students get 50 percent off. In addition, LISSA, the student association, reimburses 75 percent of professional development, so a current student ends up paying a quarter of a half of the cost, which is a good deal. And graduating students are given a voucher for 50 percent off their first CE class.
As for why current students might want to take CE workshops on top of their regular classes, Liberman can answer that too: "Students get to hear about people who have real day-to-day issues, and I think that opens them to another world. The CE courses can fill in some things that aren't comprehensively covered in the curriculum, such as Zotero or bookmaking. They might find something they're interested in that they can do in depth."
CE runs courses in two terms, spring/summer and fall/winter, with 35 to 45 workshops offered each session. Most are asynchronous online workshops that run over a calendar month, with a few lasting six weeks. CE also offers face-to-face workshops, which Liberman describes as "a quick hit." These
half- or full-day sessions are particularly easy for students because they mostly meet on Saturdays on the Boston campus and Sundays at GSLIS
West. "You do it, you get a certificate, it's done," she says. The workshops are not graded, although GSLIS does offer continuing education units (CEUs) and
professional development points (PDPs), per the Massachusetts Department of Education. Online classes are usually held using Moodle, and the Dean's Fellow for Teaching Assistance, who works in the GSLIS Tech Lab, provides technical support for the instructors and students. There's no specific online class-meeting time, such as an instructor lecture; workshops are usually taught through readings, conversations, activities, and assignments.
"The convenience of being able to work on any Internetconnected computer is what I like most," says Maria Touet, '93LS, librarian at Pope John XXIII High School in Everett, Mass. "But the content of the classes is what makes them so
valuable. I like using Moodle; it has been easy, and it is set up in a great format, with assignments, grades, discussions, and more."
Between 375 and 450 participants register for CE workshops each semester; class size ranges from 5 to 25, with an average of 10 to 15. Many tend to be from New England, but increasingly, people from outside the United States sign up, says Liberman, including people from Canada, Trinidad and Tobago, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Australia, and various European countries. All they need is a computer with Internet access and a facility with English. Participants are of various ages and levels of experience; about a quarter are GSLIS alums, and a few are current GSLIS students. "The Simmons name is known," says Liberman. "Even if people aren't alums, if they work in libraries, especially in New England, they're going to know Simmons. They look to Simmons to provide something like this."
The instructors find Simmons too, she says. All are from the U.S., just about all are prominent working professionals, and a number are Movers and Shakers, as named by Library Journal and the American Library Association.
"We have a good reputation and I don't have to recruit teachers very often," Liberman says. "Mostly people come to me with proposals for classes. We end up with a great mix. And students tend to make connections with the instructor, and with others in the class, which is always good for professional development."
Absolutely, says Jennifer Beauregard '00LS, assistant director of library services for the Alumni Affairs and Development Office at Harvard University. She has taken a couple of workshops, including Strategic Information Arrangement with Katherine Bertolucci. "She [the instructor] provided creative assignments for us to develop our own ways of information arrangement. She
is at the top of her profession, and her passion for her field infused the classes with a lot of energy. Along with the great instructors, the students who took the classes with me were amazing. I received great support and encouragement from my classmates. The collective knowledge and experience that was shared was incredible."
The most important part of the classes, Beauregard says, were the examples of scenarios that the instructors had with their clients. "It was helpful to be taught by current professionals so that we received the most up-to-date information. It was helpful to receive the technical information as well as the techniques they used to work with their clients."
CE workshops are organized by category: academic libraries, archives, book arts, careers, children's/YA/school librarianship, information organization, management, reference/research, technology/Web 2.0, and user instruction/information literacy. "We have a robust LIS school continuing education program with a broad subject matter," Liberman says proudly.
Amelia Kassel, a popular instructor and 40-year LIS professional with legendary expertise in research and databases, and a deep knowledge of business and marketing strategies, agrees with this. "Simmons has a great menu of workshops, with a lot of good options," she says. "I've seen the program grow, with an increasing number of workshops, teachers, and topics." Kassel began teaching CE workshops in 2007 and teaches four to six
each year. "I tell students, look at the other classes too," she says. "All the people I've worked with at Simmons have been wonderful, and the student tech support is phenomenal."
As the CE program expands, Liberman is always on the lookout for ways to meet the needs of its users. She offers special pricing to organizations that register a significant number of participants in a workshop. CE has also provided customized training for libraries and other organizations and hopes to do more of that. "We provided 10 online classes for 300 school librarians in New York state last year," Liberman says. "We're interested in doing more of this. We can be nimble in sourcing faculty and tailoring our online classes specifically for a certain group."
The asynchronous online part had a big appeal to teen librarian John
Kenney '97LS, who works at the Hyde Park branch of the Boston
Public Library. "It was incredibly helpful for dove-tailing my class
work into my work schedule," he says. "Librarians can have odd
schedules. Since I didn't have large blocks of time, I needed to do most
of my work later at night. Attending a seminar class would have hampered my work schedule during the day." Kenney says the three workshops he has taken so far, Young Adult Book Discussion Groups, Graphic Novels, and Anime, helped him cross-train and strengthen his resume in these times of layoffs and economic challenges. Best of all, he's enjoyed them. "The most useful was probably the Graphic Novels 101 class," he says. "I'm using that material every day, and even started reading the classics on my own."
The teacher of that workshop, Robin Brenner, is an expert on graphic novels who has given presentations and workshops around the country. She is also a graduate of the online LIS program at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. "Because I had attended library school online," Brenner says, "teaching at Simmons felt like a natural fit. I'd seen how you do it as a student, and I had wanted to mimic what I had liked about my own classes and make sure that I could provide something that could be similar."
Brenner teaches, she says, in part because she has been given a lot. "I like the idea of giving back," she says. "I want to be a resource to my colleagues." Passion for the subject, expertise in teaching, and a desire to be helpful add up to terrific workshops and satisfied students — that's what CE offers.
To see the full list of current CE workshops, please see http://alanis.simmons.edu/ceweb/.