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from my own experience on my distance-learning course at Aberystwyth which included a lot of course material that felt outdated, but I would encourage anyone interested in a career in academic librarianship to at least consider an alternative qualification path by for instance working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.