Instant Ideas and Collaboration
Our chat on 1 October focused on advice and tips for those starting out in library and information work. It attracted quite a few participants doing graduate traineeships and working on library and information qualifications, as well as those who’ve been in the profession a bit longer and shared their perspectives. There was some interesting discussion about library qualifications, and what people valued the most and least in their experiences of them. Some of the other questions gave people a chance to talk about their training and development needs and what skills they thought were most important in their roles.
The full archive of tweets from this chat is available here.
In the week leading up to the chat and during it, we asked people to complete the sentence ‘When I started out in LIS, I never thought I’d…‘ . We got some interesting responses, and Ka Ming put them together here. I’d recommend having a look – it’s an offbeat insight into the work we do and a little bit inspirational.
Here’s a summary of the discussion:
Q1. If you’ve done an LIS qualification, what do you know now that you would have liked to know when you started it?
Some people mentioned specific skills they didn’t realise they would use so much in future jobs, including web design, cataloguing, teaching and event management. There was a lot of agreement with @lisaburscheidt that ‘doing it at a “good uni” doesn’t matter all that much, doing it so you get to know your peers does.’ Lots of participants thought it was important to make the most of opportunities for networking and getting to know people in different areas of the field.
Q2: If you’ve done a grad traineeship, what do you know now that you would have liked to know when you started it?
Some people wished they’d known more about the library school application process and deadlines when they started a traineeship. Some universities have early deadlines and you need to apply quite early in the traineeship year. Others said that it’s important to remember how short a year is, and to take all opportunities to get involved in different types of work and projects. Try to build an understanding of the profession as a whole and the different roles available.
Q3: What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given relating to library and information work?
This one is difficult to summarise so I’ll just list a selection of tweets. I think this was an interesting question which brought out what was important to participants in their work and their career paths.
Q4. What do you think should be taught in library school which is not currently?
The top things mentioned here were project management, web authoring and technical digital library management skills, teaching skills, customer service and information literacy. Copyright, database architecture, negotiation skills and more coverage of collection management were also mentioned. Some people felt that although management had been covered, they wanted more of an emphasis on people management. Voice training would help academic librarians get through induction week!
There was discussion about cataloguing and classification; a number of people agreed that this should be a core module in library school. Currently, some universities have it as a core module and some cover it only briefly. Several people said that they use cataloguing more in their work than they had expected to when they were in library school.
If we’d like to add all these things to library school, is there anything we should take out? @ErikaDelbecque had a good answer for this: don’t take anything out, just pick up the pace; currently too much time is spent on basic stuff.
Q5. What alternative routes into professional librarianship are there? (Less traditional ways into professional posts?)
Quite a few participants had colleagues in professional posts who had come into libraries sideways with other work experience and without library qualifications, or had done this themselves. Backgrounds which people had come from included IT workers moving into systems librarianship and people with teaching or nursery experience working in public libraries. Some people felt this sort of entry route had become more difficult in the past 10 years in academic libraries.
An alternative qualification route is CILIP certification followed by chartership, but no one was really sure how employers would view people who’d gone this route. One participant did know of people who had done CILIP chartership without having a librarianship degree or certification, but had substantial experience and an MA in another area.
Q6. What support would have been useful from your employer? (Support beyond cash!)
More flexible working and days off for study were the most popular answers for people who’d done part time and/or distance learning LIS courses. Many people would also have liked the opportunity to tie their dissertation in with a work project. Participants would also like more opportunities for work shadowing. Day release could be helpful for other purposes besides just studying for a course, like visiting other libraries or going to conferences or other professional events.
Q7. If you’ve done a qualification, what was the best part of your course?
Getting to know fellow students, learning about other areas of the profession, and getting a broad overview of library and information work were definitely the most popular answers here. Specific modules which participants valued included research methods and management. The dissertation got a large number of mentions here too – people had found it difficult but also really valuable as an opportunity to apply their learning, put theory into practice, or look into a subject more deeply. @preater said his answer to this question was a complex one about ‘being able to translate theory in practise, great amounts of accumulated book-learning, & ‘levelling up’.
Q8. Do recruiting managers prefer an MSc over an MA? Also- do you think having a PGDip instead of the Master’s (not doing dissertation) makes a difference to getting a job?
Most participants, including some who had recruiting experience, said no to both parts of this question. The important thing was not the name of the qualification or whether or not you had done the dissertation, but whether or not you had a professional qualification recognised by CILIP (or similar). The PGDip is the professional qualification recognised by CILIP; the dissertation which makes it into an MA/MSc is an academic element of the course. Most participants also thought it didn’t matter where you did your LIS degree – employers were just interested in the qualification.
Some people did feel that they’d gained project management experience, research experience, or subject knowledge from completing a dissertation that had helped them to get a particular job.
Another perspective was that the content of the course mattered more than the degree title, or whether you did a dissertation. Some thought that chartership could help you stand out as a candidate. The reflection and professional development required to complete chartership can also help with job applications.