Instant Ideas and Collaboration

Feature #09: What they don’t teach you in library school

For this month’s topic, ‘what they don’t teach you in library school’, we have a feature post from Siobhan, who has recently finished a postgraduate qualification and has some reflections on her experience.

Thanks to Siobhan for writing for us. Join us on Tuesday 1 October between 6.30 & 8.30pm UK time for the #uklibchat. (you can add your questions to the agenda here). We’ll be talking about tips and advice for people new to library and information work, and completing the sentence ‘When I started in LIS, I never thought I’d…’

Reflections on finishing an MA

My name is Siobhan and I’ve recently finished the Library and Information Studies MA at UCL. I’ve been asked to write about my experiences in conjunction with October’s #UKLibChat, ‘what they don’t teach you at library school’. I studied part time, going to UCL once a week, whilst working full time in my job as a bibliographic services library assistant at University of the Arts London.

The obvious, but very true thing I’d say to anyone thinking of, or about to do the MA is that it’s really hard work! There were some points of the course where I’d been at work all day, doing library things, then would come home and spend all evening writing about library things, which sometimes felt like overload. There are a lot of upsides to studying part time though. Being able to practically implement some of the theoretical things I’d studied at work (for example cataloguing) was really useful. Having colleagues, with lots of work experience in many different areas of librarianship whom I could quiz about relevant issues was also helpful.In a time where fees are on the rise and funding opportunities are on the decline, my employers contributed towards the costs of my tuition fees, which was much appreciated, and having a staff library of relevant Library and Information Studies books was super useful for the more popular texts in the UCL library which seemed to be perpetually on loan to other people.

As you go through the course, the areas of librarianship you’re interested become more apparent. Sometimes it was kind of obvious what I’d enjoy- for example the historical bibliography module, as I’m really interested in special collections, but there were also some more surprising things. I really didn’t enjoy the Principles of I.T. And computing module (one of the first I studied on the course), but a year later, doing the cataloguing and classification 2 module, I found learning more about newer ‘discovery’ style online catalogues really interesting, so it was tech-y, just in a different way. One of the good things about the UCL MA was that there was often the opportunity to base coursework tasks around the subject of your choice – writing about a subject area I was interested in certainly helped some of the less exciting modules seem less tedious. Although there’s a lot of debate about the value of the MA LIS dissertation, I really enjoyed the chance to research a topic I was really interested in, and hope to research more, in such detail. If I could do anything differently, I guess it would be to be more organised in terms of managing my time, but I’m not sure I’ll ever be one of those people who forward plans and sticks to it! I do wish I’d used the summer between the first and second year of the course to get the case study task out of the way, rather than waiting until April to do it during a period crammed with deadlines and an exam.

I think the best thing about doing the MA has been the awesome people I’ve met through it, both staff and fellow students. I would really advise chatting to the people on your course and making friends with them- you can encourage and support each other through the good and the bad bits, and who knows, you could even end up working with them in the future at some point! As I said at the start, doing the course over two years sometimes felt like a slog, but finishing has felt very rewarding. However I’m still getting used to the fact that I don’t have to sit down, switch on my computer and start working on my dissertation every time I get home from work!




About spoontragedy

Former public library Children's Librarian, now working as a Careers Information Officer in a London university. Nearly finished being an #aberils student.

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This entry was posted on September 24, 2013 by in Feature and tagged , , , , , , .


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