Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Trials, Tribulations and Applying to Library School: Part 3

Trials Tribulations and Applying to Library School - A talk by 3 former library school students

Post contributed by Katherine Burchell, English Faculty Library (@katherinehelen_)

When I was asked to speak about my experience of Library School I jumped at the chance. I saw it as a great opportunity to talk in more detail about why I chose to study at Sheffield and my recommendations for those who are thinking of going to Library School. It was also a chance to gain more experience of public speaking, which I plan to use as evidence in my later my Chartership portfolio. 

Deciding to apply to Library School was a very early decision that I made in my career, after only having worked in libraries for 3 months. I had always known that I wanted to do a Master's, so it made absolute sense for me to pursue a course in the area that I was extremely interested in and in the field that I knew I'd most likely end up working in and enjoying. I chose to study with The University of Sheffield as I knew that I wanted to continue to work full-time whilst studying and a distance learning course was the only way that I'd be able to do this. The course also had been recommended to me by a few people that I already knew in Cambridge were doing it and the way that the course was taught through "live" lectures appealed to me as a good way to learn. 

There was a good selection of optional modules to choose from, such as Academic and Workplace Libraries to Public Libraries, as well as core modules, which were of interest to me. Although there were good modules, there did seem to be a lack of "practical" elements, such as teaching and information literacy on the course. These are things which I am now seeking to learn more about and gain experience of through work and outside of the course. 

After having completed the course in September 2018, it has given me a lot of time to reflect on the course and its usefulness. I overall would definitely recommend doing a Master's in Librarianship, however, I wish I'd known that there were other ways in to the profession, without having the Master's. If I had known about CILIP's Certification or Chartership options, then I may have explored these and then considered a Master's in a slightly more focused area of Librarianship. That having been said I would not change anything about doing the Master's and now doing Chartership, I see this as an opportunity to guide me into the next stage of my career.

Once again, thank you to the CLG committee for their continuing support and for giving me a platform in which to speak and grow in confidence. I would be very happy to answer any questions about the course and library school, so please do contact me via my Twitter, linked above.

Friday, 24 May 2019

Trials Tribulations and Applying to Library School: Part 2

Trials Tribulations and Applying to Library School - A talk by 3 former library school students

Post contributed by Matthias Ammon, Modern and Medieval Languages Library (@DrMammon)

Matthias works as Research Support Librarian in the Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics Library, where he also manages the German and Film Studies collections. He was previously Project Coordinator in the Office of Scholarly Communication and has worked as an invigilator and Library Assistant in several faculty libraries. Matthias recently submitted his final assignments for a Postgraduate Diploma in Information and Library Studies at Aberystwyth University. He tweets @DrMammon
I would like to thank the Cambridge Library Group for giving me the opportunity to talk about my experience of library school. For me personally, in hindsight doing the degree was probably not the right decision. I started it out of a desire to learn more about librarianship and in order to qualify for higher-level positions. About halfway through my course, when I had worked in library assistant roles for about five years, I got a (higher-level) job in Cambridge’s Office of Scholarly Communication (what one might call a library-adjacent position) on the strength of having done a PhD and some voluntary PPD. This then turned into my current role as Research Support Librarian in the arts and humanities. Working in this area, I would have liked at least the opportunity to learn more formally as part of my degree about some of topics that I had had to learn ‘on the job’; a non-comprehensive list would include teaching (in its broadest sense), digital humanities, scholarly communication (for instance the academic publishing and rewards system), data management, data visualisation etc. These are all perfectly viable topics for a mostly academic Master’s course and are all librarianship issues of increasing importance – without wishing to sound heretical, it is perfectly possible today to be an academic librarian without knowing how to catalogue or how to write a collection development policy.

My scepticism may in part derive from my own experience on my distance-learning course at Aberystwyth which included a lot of course material that felt outdated, but I would encourage anyone interested in a career in academic librarianship to at least consider an alternative qualification path by for instance working towards CILIP certification and chartership first and figuring out which area of librarianship you might want to go into and then doing a more focussed further degree relating to that area a bit later, whether it is in teaching, special collections or scholarly communication. Of course, it may not be possible for everyone to get a foot in the door in the first place or to get a position where it is possible to experience a variety of aspects of librarianship but the broad ‘library degree’ may not be the best kind of preparation for your dream library job.

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Trials Tribulations and Applying to Library School: Part 1

Trials Tribulations and Applying to Library School - A talk by 3 former library school students

Post contributed by Piotr Czosnyka, Medical Library (@PiotrCzosnyka)

It was exciting and a bit scary to be asked to speak to the members of the Cambridge Library Group (CLG) about why I choose to apply to University College of London (UCL) to peruse a MA in Library and Information Science. Public speaking is never a walk in the park, no matter how many times I done it. It is an opportunity to further or develop skills, and this is partly what CLG is about. It is a platform that amplifies the voice of information professionals. On a selfish note, participating in CLG events gives me yet another iron on the fire, maintaining my personal career development. It is also essential to highlight the changing role of a librarian into an informational professional. So, debunking the delusion that many still have in our society that a room full of books is a library, nothing can be further from the truth. An empty room with a librarian is a library.

It’s not just about ME (as the ego is not your amigo), because here in Cambridge we work as a community in a rich landscape and it is not often that we get to meet our colleagues in an informal capacity. What do I mean? Working with someone who was a stranger before simply for the joy that that the labour brings is a good way to get to know somebody. Therefore, after the work is done you have a pro bono feature of knowing a new person.  Working alongside my esteemed colleagues Katherine and Matthias was a gas and a hoot, because we are different, we all did slightly different courses. Hence we aimed to present a balanced set of arguments for why you may wish to choose to attend Information School. This decision is not to be taken lightly, the financial burden alone is enough to put anyone off, because of the context of austerity, brexit, economic uncertainty, the digital divide, and did I mention the Chinese and American trade war? Times are hard, everybody is feeling the pinch.

I choose to attend UCL, because my core values of promoting literacy, knowledge, civil rights matched up with that of the institution, and I believe that in the information age of the 21st century information professionals are responsible in providing equal access at the point of entry to knowledge and thus power. UCL was founded on the ideas of meritocracy and the philosophy of Jeremy Bentham. To advance as a civilized species we need librarians, information professionals, but remember this: how you wish to call us is not as important as what we do. Simples.

Thank you to the committee and the chair of CLG.