Alison Mitchell '17LS on Balancing Studies, Work, and Family

January 10, 2018

Alison Mitchell

Alison is the Children's Librarian at the Somerville Public Library, West Branch

What was your favorite course and why?

My favorite course was also my most challenging: Information Organization with Candy Schwartz. Candy is one of a kind, and inspires students to work hard! I love how she balanced theory and practice. I do some of my own cataloging now, and feel confident thanks to what I learned in her class. I also liked Collection Management with Michael Leach—like Candy, he gives students practical assignments that can later be applied to real-life situations—and both classes I took with Laura Saunders, who incorporates diversity into all aspects of her teaching.

Do you prefer online or on-campus courses?

Online classes gave me the flexibility I needed (balancing school, work, and family obligations definitely requires flexibility!). There was no commuting, and I could watch lectures at my convenience. I connected with some classmates online, including another “mom” student. In person classes allowed me to meet professors and classmates face to face and spend time on campus, which I enjoyed. I generally preferred class discussion to online discussion, but over my time at Simmons I learned how to get more out of online discussions.

What is one piece of advice you would give to an incoming student?

Choose your courses carefully. I gravitated toward classes with a practical aspect, and was frustrated in classes that were more theoretical. Others might feel the opposite. Read professor reviews, talk with students, and make the most of your time at Simmons—it goes quickly!

Did you work while you were in the program?

I worked as a substitute in 3 different library systems, which gave me a great perspective. I got my MLIS at Simmons in my 40s, with a husband, two kids, and a part-time job (full time my final semester). It was quite a balancing act, but definitely worth it. I feel strongly that working while at Simmons is important (financially and professionally)—it helps you put theory into practice and see what a real library is like, and it’s much easier to get a job after Simmons when you’ve had experience.

What are you doing now?

I am the Children’s Librarian at the Somerville (MA) Public Library, West Branch. It’s my dream job! I’m the only children’s librarian in a small branch, and I do all the collection development, readers advisory and programming, as well as cleaning, monitoring the bathroom, emptying the book drop, and “other duties as assigned.” I use things I learned at Simmons every single day.