Interview: Kendra Giannini, Capstone Coordinator

October 14, 2014

"SLIS faculty and staff are always thinking unconventionally, and they encourage students to do so as well."

Kendra Giannini, Simmons alum and now SLIS staff-person, talks about her role as Capstone Coordinator, provides some insight into the curriculum changes and Simmons' internship and alumni network, and offers advice to students on the wealth of professional opportunities for Simmons SLIS' graduates beyond traditional library positions.

Can you talk about your role as Capstone Coordinator at Simmons SLIS?

It's a new role that was created along with the new curriculum. I work with students when they get to the final part of their program. The largest part of my job is coordinating the internships, but I also will assist students who choose to undertake a research project or other special project as part of their course of study. The job is still taking shape, which is exciting for me.

The whole curriculum is dynamic. You start with your 401 [Foundations] and intro series. At the midpoint in your studies, you meet with your advisor again to assess where you are; then, you have the Capstone project: an internship, research project, or special project related to your area of interest. Think of the Capstone as a step toward your desired career. It is meant to "cap off" your time here at SLIS; you have an opportunity to apply all of the knowledge and experience you have gained while here to something that will not only enhance your knowledge but, from a practical standpoint, boost your resume and make you marketable in the field. These opportunities existed before; students just did not always take advantage of them. Now they are required to, so we know for sure they will have the chance at that experience.

What factors should determine which of the three Capstone experience options a student should pursue?

In practical terms, internships are great if you have minimal experience in the library field, or you want to make a transition to a different type of library. The research projects will often be for those already working in libraries who need the professional degree to advance, or those who want to pursue further academic degrees. The resulting paper would be publishable, especially important if you want to kick-start an academic career. The special project is a bit of a catch-all for projects that don't fit snugly into either the internship or research project categories. It might work for someone already working in a library full time, or will offer great flexibility for those in the new Information Science & Technology (IS&T) concentration. The goal is not to limit students but to offer them a variety of opportunities.

Can you talk about the criteria Simmons SLIS uses for determining internship sites?

We require a student to work directly with a professional librarian. We want to make sure they are getting a substantive experience--not getting coffee or filing. Students are required to meet with their supervisors to develop specific goals for the internship. When I was at Simmons my internship was at the Thomas Crane Library in the Children's Room; I did a story-time, some collection development, and a reader's advisory.

Faculty and staff at Simmons have great connections. There are lots of options--definitely heavy on the public and academic institutions, but we also have law libraries, medical libraries, and private-sector positions. There are a lot of opportunities. You will often see students who come in focused in one area, but when they see the options they pick something totally different. We are now expanding, with the IS&T program for example; there might not always be a professional librarian on site, so we have amended that to be, "or a professional in the field." We work with students and leverage connections. I have emailed people whom I had never worked with about internships; because Simmons has such a good reputation, I can reach out to the LIS community. When students want to do their internship in a different state, the school's reputation makes that happen. The opportunities are definitely there, and students are encouraged to seek them out as well.

You are a Simmons grad; how do you view the Simmons College alumni network, specifically with respect to SLIS?

The alumni are deeply involved; many of the internship supervisors are alums. Many of them have taken fascinating career paths, where they may have started in the library profession and taken interesting turns. For example, we have alumni working in development (fundraising) as prospect researchers and some work in publishing. The alumni have been great to work with and great at getting our students into the field.

When you entered the LIS program, what focus did you expect to pursue? How did you realize you enjoyed the administrative end of LIS education?

I was interested in youth services, specifically young adult; that was the age when I became involved with my library and developed a good relationship with my librarian. I attended Simmons as an undergrad as well, because they had a degree in arts administration, which at the time was not common. I did a lot of theater and singing in school, but had no illusions about a career in performing. I thought that arts administration seemed like a good compromise, where I could still be involved.

I worked in administration at the Boston Ballet, then the Boston Architectural College. I've always been really interested in how those organizations manage to function beyond the finished product--a performance, an art exhibit. I discovered there is often a disconnect between the administration and performer, artist, or faculty member. That always really fascinated me--the ladders of communication--how two people can be on different ladders working toward the same goal, but they have very different information and perspectives. I like understanding people and their motivations, and I like helping people. It may seem trite, but I think some of it stems from my desire to have everyone get along; in any academic, arts, or other similar organizations, we all have the same desire to provide service and/or enjoyment to society. Sometimes we can get so focused on our own piece of the process that we temporarily forget that. That is not to say that either side is not willing to try to understand the other, but sometimes it takes someone who is slightly removed from either side to move things toward an agreed upon solution.

I have always had a desire to get to the bottom of things--to understand as much as I can about all of the parts that make the whole. Sometimes something as simple as a difference in vocabulary can cause issues; artist, performers, and those more on the creative sides of things practically have their own language. The same holds true for administration. I have watched a dean and a CFO argue over changes to credit hours only to realize that they were in complete agreement, but one was speaking of credit hours in terms of degree requirements and the other was referring to the cost of each credit hour. It took someone else catching on and asking for clarification for them to work that out. You don't even have to be a stellar communicator, just generally curious and willing to listen and learn. Qualities all librarians have, I suppose.

What advice do you have for students seeking employment with respect to non-traditional librarian or information specialist positions? Any specific employment sectors that seem particularly promising to you?

SLIS faculty and staff are always thinking unconventionally, and they encourage students to do so as well. When I chose this degree, I was really interested in innovative thinking, but I knew people who had gone through the degree and ended up in very different settings. My husband's sister met her husband here at SLIS, but neither of them is working as a traditional "librarian." She started out as a corporate librarian for Fidelity, moving into project management and is now a Director in Portfolio and Research Management. My brother-in-law was an intern at an academic library at the start of his career, but ended up moving into a technology role. He is now the deputy Chief Information Officer at MassArt. Students should not be afraid if their degree takes them out of the library profession; there are really wonderful opportunities out there. The degree offers skills and a mindset that work well in many professions, so you can really go anywhere with a master's in library science.

By Dean's Communications Fellow Lily Troia