Instant Ideas and Collaboration
Our second feature article this month is a personal perspective from a a recent full time student on the Library and Information Studies MA at UCL in 2013-14.
Our earlier feature this month was about an educator’s perspective on supporting LIS students through their qualification.
Join us for the chat on 3 March for Library Student SOS, 18:30 – 20:30 GMT, the March Agenda is now up to add your questions to. Open to everyone who has ever studied for a LIS qualification or hopes to!
When past graduates discuss their qualifications, it isn’t unheard of for people to refer to them as ‘just a piece of paper’, one of the unfortunate but necessary hoops you have to jump through in order to have a career. I can’t comment on other people’s experiences but I certainly don’t remember any exercises in hoop-jumping. (I’m slightly disappointed about this because hoop-jumping sounds quite fun.) I’ll admit that the biggest reason I had for doing my masters was that the jobs I wanted to do required one. However, I wanted lots more from my course than the bit of paper that ‘proved’ I was a proper grown-up professional (as a graduand I still haven’t technically got that paper yet).
Now that LIS courses are becoming so expensive, it’s understandable that students will and should expect and ask for more. However, remember that your department is probably a relatively small player in a much larger institution – your programme directors will not have free reign to do what they’d like. Even if they could, it would be impossible to satisfy everyone.
Before I started my course, I expected it to be quite intense. I wanted to delve deep down into the theoretical underpinnings of bibliographic classification, understand information work in a political and social context, and get to grips with information theory (my first degree was in Philosophy, I liked theory). The course didn’t turn out to be quite like that but some students still said there was too much theory: ‘how will this help me in my job?’
I also wanted the course to give me the practical knowledge and skills to help me in the workplace. I hoped to fly out the other end as a superlibrarian, knowing everything and able to do anything. That didn’t happen – I still can’t fly – and in my current job as an information specialist I am learning skills daily. And that’s a good thing, learning is fun. It isn’t realistic to expect a LIS qualification to teach you everything you need to know to do every possible job in the library and information sector. Technologies change and so does information work. Courses can’t and won’t adapt as quickly. Even if they could they wouldn’t be able to cover everything. I learnt library classification in exhaustive detail, building call numbers using Dewey, Library of Congress and UDC. I could build Dewey numbers in my sleep! Unfortunately my workplace uses the Barnard classification scheme, leaving me to build Dewey numbers in my dreams.
Participate – Treating your qualification as nothing more than a bureaucratic scavenger hunt is a self-fulfilling prophecy. I got so much more out of my modules and assignments when I put the work in and contributed in class and online.
Be pro-active – There’s nothing stopping you from learning something that’s not on the curriculum. If you’re not satisfied with the detail in which a topic is covered, hit the library. Then share what you’ve learnt with your lecturer and fellow students.
Listen to your peers – My lecturers were committed, enthusiastic and knowledgeable yet I probably learnt just as much from discussions with other students.
Hit the ground running – I remember one evening in late February where I had a eureka moment about the things I could do to participate more on our Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) and thus get much more out of lectures; I can still feel the disappointment when I remembered that we only had a few lectures left.
Do more things – Even though I was working part-time while on the course, looking back I probably had much more free time than I do now. Do you want to get involved with committees, write articles, or run/attend conferences? Do it – you will probably never be less busy than you are now!
Don’t get too fixated on your grade – Of course you want to do well (and your lecturers want you to do well) but remember that the marks you get don’t wholly represent your successes or the worth of your qualification. Your transcript is just a piece of paper; your qualification is so much more than that.
Henry Morgan works as an Information Specialist at RCVS Knowledge where he is responsible for serials and e-resource access and discovery. His interests include library systems, open access, and evidence-based practice. He can be found on twitter @htcmorgan