Tag Archives: Librarian

The life of a College Librarian

So I’ve been working in my new job as the Librarian in a Sixth Form College for two months now and I feel like it’s time I blogged about it. This is partly in case there’s anyone out there who’s interested in what it’s like (forlorn hope), and partly just for me to catalogue my own experiences for future reference. I guess it’s kind of a ‘Day in the Life’ post really. So, anyway, I’ve just completed my MA at UCL, and this is first professional post. First things first, I really enjoy my job, and it’s nice to feel justified in having spent all that time and money getting my MA. Having said that, I still don’t feel like I’m being paid enough to have really got value for money from my MA which is a bit depressing.


Nonetheless, my job is good and it’s great experience. One of the things I like most about working in a College is that because the
Library is fairly small (in comparison to University libraries for example), there’s more scope for a broad range of duties, which is brilliant for a new professional like me. My duties, to name but a few, include sole charge of the catalogue (including cataloguing from scratch, importing records, and amending/merging/cloning records and authorities), generating statistics on a monthly basis, student disciplinary meetings, acquisitions, information literacy, acting as departmental link and staff performance reviews. That’s a lot of experience for my future career, all from one post. Plus, a big positive for me is that when there’s such a variety of tasks to do it’s harder to get bored, and therefore easier to enjoy what I do.


So, a typical day for me (if there is any such thing) consists of spending anywhere between three and six hours (depending on staffing levels) on either the Library desk, or supervising the computer room which is under Library control. Working on the desk and in the computer room is pretty standard Library stuff – issuing/returning books, dealing with behaviour, answering enquiries, selling stationary, fixing the printer, helping students work the IT software etc. Some of the duties are a bit more specialist to working in a College, such as proof-reading work, checking personal statements for UCAS, and it helps to have first-hand knowledge of teen fiction, but otherwise it’s fairly run of the mill stuff. The rest of my day can be spent in a variety of ways. I have sole charge of the catalogue so most days I do either some cataloguing from scratch (we have a lot of donations) or importing and amending records, as well as amending records that need it when I’m just browsing the catalogue. Similarly, most days I tend to have some sort of departmental duties. I’m the Departmental Library Liaison for the English, Film and Media and Social Sciences Departments, both of which are rather large. My work for them encompasses a huge range of things
including attending staff meetings, creating resources for sessions such as study help/reading lists/time management, acquisitions, processing new books, researching new resources and delivering sessions to students. I really like this part of my job, as it allows me to reach outside of the Library and demonstrate our importance and relevance to both staff and students who may not otherwise realise this. Other things that I might do on a typical day will be to help students with assignments, run reports from the LMS to determine cataloguing and usage statistics, Imageand analyse stock levels/resources within my departmental areas. I didn’t really enjoy cataloguing that much during my MA, so I never thought I’d take a job that involved a lot of it. I’ve been surprised by how much I enjoy it though, and by how possessive I feel about “my” catalogue now!


Further to this, there are always opportunities for additional involvement in both the Library and the College, which helps to keep the job fresh and interesting. We are currently setting up some Book Clubs, one of which will be run by me, with the aim of encouraging recreational reading among the students. Additionally, I am hoping to go on a School Visit, to promote both the College and the Library to potential students, in the next few weeks. So that’s my job! To me, the best things about it are the interaction with students (although they drive me mad at times), the feeling of positively impacting on the lives of young people, and the variety of tasks I have to do. So become a College Librarian, that’s what I say!Image


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The full time MA LIS – the halfway point: an expose (of sorts)

So, the blog has been sitting somewhat silent and forgotten about for the past 6 months, ever since I went back to uni and started my MA LIS. Well I’m now halfway through the course and I’ve finally got time to write a little post on it, so here goes.

Firstly, I’d just like to put it out there that it’s a lot of work. A lot. So in case anyone is reading this and is wondering about doing the MA LIS then consider it long and hard before you commit to it. That’s the first bit of sage advice. Of course, at this point I should probably point out that I’m doing the MA LIS at UCL, so I can’t really speak for the course at any other university. However, I don’t intend this blog to be all doom and gloom – the course may be hard work but I am really enjoying most of it so that’s a big relief.

 I’ve put in a picture of Panizzi here to emphasise my new knowledge of cataloguing and classification.

One of the reasons I chose UCL (apart from its reputation of course) is because it has Cataloguing and Classification as a compulsory module. Now don’t get me wrong – before I started this course I was in no way enthusiastic about either cataloguing or classification; in fact I was kind of dreading learning about them as I thought it’d be dry and boring. Nonetheless, having had limited experience of them in my graduate traineeship I felt it was important that I should have a grounding of these for my future career. Having said that, I knew it was unlikely that I would choose it as a module if it were optional (as I think it is at other universities) and so I went for UCL. And now I’d like to say how pleased I am that I did! Not only were my lecturers fantastic and entertaining, but I now have the skills I think are essential in a librarian, in addition to having discovered I can actually quite enjoy Cat and Class. Bonus! In addition to this, I did a fair amount of this in my placement (I’ll get to that in a later blog) so it was very helpful to have a good grounding in them.

UCL also have a great range of optional modules on offer (great for someone like me who is dithering between disciplines) and some brilliant staff. In addition to this, I’ve learnt a lot of new things and made some new friends so all in all so far I’d say it’s working out well, despite the extortionate tuition fees.

Now for the sort-of expose. It’s not really an expose at all (don’t scream false advertising, please – I just couldn’t think what else to call it), just a brief run down of hints and tips that I wish someone had told me before I started the course, in addition to a brief run down of the modules.

So, the modules first (and these are just going to be the first term ones at the minute – I’ve only had three weeks in this term so it seems a bit unfair to pass judgement just yet). Firstly, PCIT – I thought some of this module was outdated and a little irrelevant, but some parts of it were very interesting which helped to balance it out. I can’t say that I’m convinced that I’ll ever use all of the XHTML and HTML knowledge that I’ve learnt, but I’m actually quite pleased to know it. This, of course, is after the fact – during the coursework I was cursing it like no ones business! Handy tip – pick up an Idiots Guide to HTML and it’ll help you no end!

Secondly, Collection Management – this had some useful information in it, but it was a bit dry at times, although I quite enjoyed the coursework funnily enough. Top tip – in the group work exercises give yourselves an extortionate amount of money (I’m talking millions) and hopefully that’ll help you out in term 2.

Thirdly, Cataloguing and Classification – as I said before I surprised myself with how much I enjoyed this – they’re both a bit like doing a puzzle; you just have to make sure everything fits together properly. Top tip – for cataloguing, really do find your examples along the way like you’re advised to, it definitely saves time before the deadline. For classification, you start with the hardest scheme (Library of Congress) so don’t despair, it gets easier and more logical in time!

Lastly was the optional module. I chose Services to Children and Schools as this is where my experience lies, and really enjoyed it. It had some really interesting topics, some great coursework and the chance to choose your own essay title. Top tip – don’t leave the essay choice until the last minute. Also (and not that this was a factor or anything…) we were provided with tea and biscuits every week, which as you can imagine helped to make it even better!

Now on to a few tips which are not directly module related.

  1. Be organised with your coursework. I am not naturally an organised person – I generally leave things to the last minute, but I’ve had to get out of this wherever possible this year. There’s just not enough time to be rushing!
  2. If you can possibly avoid having a job (or at the very least only have a small number of hours) then do so, at least for the first term. I started my job in December (fifteen hours a week) and have found my life manic ever since – there are sometimes literally not enough hours in the day.
  3. Go out on a limb for your work experience placement if you’re not focussed on one discipline. I chose to go to the House of Commons Library which is completely outside my comfort zone (all my experience is in academic libraries) and absolutely loved it!
  4. Don’t forget to enjoy it! Although it’s really hard work and quite stressful at times, I can honestly say that if I could go back and change my mind, I wouldn’t. I’m really enjoying being back in academia (despite all the deadlines) and I feel like I’m learning invaluable things for my future career.

And so, to use a much-beloved saying, that’s all folks!

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