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So in an exercise of sheer archivist-historian self-indulgence, I’ve decided to offer an occasional series this fall that features emails written by 2007 me about my first few months in Boston (and first semester in graduate school). I’m going to kick the series off with an email I sent out to my family on 5 September 2007, on the first day of the fall semester. It features bookstores, libraries, Hanna, classes, and more! I’ve added a few clarifying notes, deleted some individual’s names, and included links to relevent posts from back then. Other than that, it’s a gen-u-ine primary historical source!

From: Anna
To: Brian, Janet, Maggie, Mark, and Joseph
Date: Wed, Sep 5, 2007 at 9:53 PM
Subject: First class, etc.

Hiya all,

Dad wrote earlier and thanked me for keeping y’all “in the loop” about what’s going on in my new life here in Boston. Ha! That’s a losing battle :). Things are happening so swiftly right now, I’m pretty sure I can’t keep up with them myself, let alone keep everyone else up to speed . . .

But here are a few developments in the last 24 hours.

(No, you don’t all have to read ALL of it, if that’s what you’re thinking B & M . . .)

This morning I spent a couple of hours on the phone with Q, the computer magician at Lean Logistics [a company I was working for remotely], setting up the Virtual Private Network (VPN) connection with Lean Logistics. In order to do this, he set up a WebEx conference connection which (get this!) allowed me to give him a remote view of my desktop and control of the mouse on my computer! So I had the very surreal experience of watching my mouse float around doing things while Q talked in my ear, muttering to himself about what he was doing. It was quite cool, actually. And the most important thing is that it worked! So I am now back on board with the whole data entry thing, and fingers crossed it will turn out to be worth the fuss.

On the other job front, I took the Green “D” line downtown to the Prudential Center today and met R [a department manager at Barnes & Noble, where I had transferred from my previous position in Holland, Mich.]. The store is a very strange, warren-like layout, with the children’s department situated back of beyond . . . but she assured me she tries to schedule at least two people in the department at a time. The schedule sheets and “dailies” of staff assignments are intimidatingly large! She said they have about 120 people on staff (though of course not all in the store at one time). I will be starting work a week from Friday, with a 7:00am-11:00am “zoning” shift, which means shelving and so on in the early morning. The next two weeks I have no closing shifts, thankfully, so that I can get a feel for the public transit routes without worrying about returning to the dorm at midnight. There seem to be no truly straightforward ways directly from the Prudential Center to the residential campus. There is a [subway] station incorporated into the center which stops fairly near the [Simmons] teaching campus, but several blocks away from the residential campus. The alternative is to walk a few blocks from Prudential and then take the subway line that stops right next to the dorm. I will have to ask around about what’s advisable. My impulse would be to refuse to be intimidated, but I also don’t want to take foolish risks.

When I was down at the Prudential Center, I took a very pleasurable detour to the Boston Public Library and signed up for my very own library card. It made me positively giddy and possessive feeling . . . like Eva [a child my mother cared for] signing up for her first library card (well, maybe not THAT giddy). You’ve all seen pictures of the BPL before, but here’s a picture of me with my new card standing on the steps in front of the statue of Our Lady of the Libraries (or whichever muse she’s supposed to be) on Copley Square.

Boston Public Library, Copley Square (September 2007)

Meanwhile, just to add spice to my work life, my friend Hanna — a GSLIS student with whom I’ve been corresponding this past year & just met at the History reception last night — emailed me this morning to say that the archives at Northeastern University, where she works, will be starting a year-long grant project October 1st, for which they need a part-time (10-13 hours/weekly) assistant. They are digitizing records from Freedom House, a civil rights organization from the 1950s that worked to integrate (and keep integrated) neighborhoods in Boston. She is urging me to apply for the job, and her supervisor said I should put in my resume ASAP — so I don’t have a lot of time to decide. At first I was like, “gawd this is too much!” But the more I think about it, the better it sounds . . . it pays $15/hour and it looks like Barnes & Noble won’t be offering me more than around 10 hours a week, which means I lose the permanent part-time status. Without that, there really isn’t much incentive to keep the job for the long haul (aside from the employee discount & pleasure of being around, um, books, which doesn’t seem to be a problem for me!). So, I’m going to apply for the job, and if I get it probably a) restrict my hours at B&N and b) quit after Christmas. [I didn’t get hired by Northeastern at this interview, but went on to work for them first as an intern and then as a part-time archives assistant a few years later.]

My final stop of the day was the Introduction to Archives class. This is the first of the three Archives core classes, so most of the students in the class are starting their AM (archives management) focus. This can happen either after they’ve already been library science students, or (as in my case) if they come in knowing what they want to focus in, and perhaps even dual-degreeing (can that be a verb?). I don’t know if I’m unusual, but I’d say that I’m less committed to archives as a specific type of library science than I am to doing both history and library science . . . if that makes sense? I get the impression that students dual-degree because the history will be useful in their archives career, or they got into archives through their history undergrad. I wouldn’t say I thought “archives!” when I imagined becoming a librarian, though there are certainly lots of things to recommend it. I mean, it doesn’t take much to get me all enthusiastic about public history, collective memory, material culture, the democratization of access, and so on. But there are moments (like every other one) where I could just as easily become a Public Librarian in some place like . . . oh, Leland? Or drive a bookmobile through the Lake District?

That having been said, I’m sort of on syllabus high right now, which comes before syllabus shock (that sets in after all three courses have had their first days, and I start accumulating project deadlines). Next week, I’ll get to choose my top three choices for the 60-hour internship out of over 100 options Simmons lines up for us. Fingers crossed it’s something with women’s or social justice history, or education . . . it’s Boston, I’m sure I can manage something! Or perhaps something off-beat will catch my eye that I never even thought of.

And the professor, V, seems nice (if a little prone to rambling . . . really, how many profs have you met who DON’T have that tendency?) She’s enthusiastic, available, and her basic message was: plan ahead, keep me informed, and don’t panic.

Well, I should wrap this email up and hunt down my resume for a little polishing (I’m going to put off writing the cover letter until I’ve had a sobering night’s sleep behind me).

Tomorrow I get my first History Methods class — hooray! — in the afternoon. I think that’s the one that has everyone shaking in their boots (“so much reading!” is what I keep hearing . . . um, and this is a problem to us library students HOW??). That and this job application are the last big things on my list this week. Other than that, I’m going to try and finish my online technology tutorial, open my bank account, and pick up my ZipCar card and paperwork at the main office downtown. And Saturday, Hanna is taking me out to all the best used bookstores, or to a museum, and her favorite coffee shop . . . or something frivolous, geeky and fun. I finally ordered my “Feminism is for Everyone!” library call number shirt (HQ1190.H67) and am hoping I have it in time to wear on our outing.

I did wear this shirt on our Saturday outing;
To this day, Hanna remains particularly fond of it.

 Love to you all,