Tag Archives: MA LIS

To diss or not to diss…that is the LIS question.

The discussion I participated in on #uklibchat on Twitter last week (1st October – agenda here) got me thinking, not only about the value of the MA LIS in general (some of my thoughts on the course at UCL can be found below), but on the value of the dissertation. One of the questions explored whether it is relevant to employers whether graduates have an MA, MSc or PG-Dip and it got me thinking how important the dissertation really is. I completed the dissertation at UCL and therefore will (hopefully) be gaining the MA. To me the decision was easy – the dissertation is of value, in my opinion, not only to employers, but also to the student in question. What I mean by this is not that I think most employers will discount graduates who have a PG Dip as opposed to an MA, but rather that having the MA can help to increase your chances. One of my fellow students only completed the PG Dip and she now holds a professional post, so it clearly didn’t harm her career prospects. Nonetheless, I stick by my assertion that completing the dissertation is the better route.

My reasons for this belief that the dissertation should be an integral part of the qualification are this:

1.      Completing the dissertation shows dedication to a project, as well as relevant skills such as time management, working on your own initiative, and a variety of research skills which, in our profession, are highly relevant. I know that many of these skills can be developed through the assignments during the course, but the dissertation proves that students can go the extra mile.

research

2.      Undertaking the dissertation shows a dedication, enthusiasm and interest in a particular area or topic which can be highly relevant to your future career. Not only does it benefit the student by allowing them to explore a topic they are extremely interested in, but it can also help students, in the choosing of such a topic, to clarify for themselves in which area of LIS they are interested. The value of this cannot be under-rated on courses which are generally broad reaching. Furthermore, I think that if the topic chosen really is of interest to the student, then the dissertation can actually be enjoyable. I’m not saying I enjoyed every minute of mine – it was stressful at times, very time-consuming and at times I resented doing it, but ultimately I wouldn’t change my decision.

Businessman Carrying Pile of Files

 

3.      The dissertation could well (and I deliberately say “could”, not “will”) help you to land your first professional role. Applying for a job which you can show you are enthusiastic and passionate about, through a relevant dissertation topic, hugely increases your chances of success. I’m not saying that it’s always relevant, but, certainly in my case, I was appointed to my first professional post partly because the subject of my dissertation addressed the way in which the institution is hoping my role will develop. Similarly, one of my friends has just been appointed to a job based largely on the subject of her dissertation.

 

This is not to say that the dissertation is necessarily an essential part of the MA. I understand from the reactions on Twitter during #uklibchat that many people think the PG Dip is enough to gain a professional post, and if it worked for them then who am I to argue? However, I remain convinced, from the point of view of my personal career, that completing the dissertation was the right route to follow.

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The MA LIS – Term Two analysis

So, the teaching part of my course is long finished, I’ve finally handed in the last of my assignments (goodbye, Case Study), and now all that remains to do is my dissertation, which is due in at the start of September. I say ‘all’ as if it’s a tiny, insignificant piece of work. Not so, unfortunately! But this blog isn’t about my dissertation, it’s about my second term of teaching during my MA LIS at UCL. So here goes…

 I took three taught modules during my second term, and one untaught one. The two compulsory taught modules were Information Sources and Retrieval, and Management. The untaught module was Professional Awareness, and for my optional module I chose Manuscript Studies.

 Image  Information Sources

So first, the compulsory taught modules. Information Sources and Retrieval (taught by an external lecturer) was, I must confess, not my favourite module. For a start, it was first thing on a Monday morning which did not endear it to anyone, and secondly I found it too theoretically based for my liking. Although there were a few practical sessions, which were for the large part helpful, the taught theory sessions were, in my opinion, somewhat defunct. I felt that, having experience of working in a library, a lot of the information was not new to me and wasn’t particularly allowing for my having practical experience. That’s just my personal opinion though, I’m sure some of the other students really enjoyed it. Furthermore, the coursework was worth 100% of the mark, which stressed me out quite a lot, especially as I felt the guidelines were fairly broad. To be fair though, once I got started on the coursework, it wasn’t as complicated as I originally thought.

 

Image Management (great picuture!)

The second compulsory taught module, Management, was, to me, far more relevant. I’m aiming to be part of a management team at one point in my career, so it was helpful having sessions which made me consider relevant issues such as budgeting, getting new staff, training etc. Some of the lectures, which were at times shared with Archives people, were somewhat irrelevant, but in general I found the practical sessions helpful. That’s not to say that I always enjoyed them – we were working in teams for most of it, and it’s quite frustrating trying to get a consensus from 7 other people at times! In addition to this, there’s a high workload of coursework to compile a portfolio, so my advice for any future students is to complete each task as a team week by week, so there’s less to do before submission. Nonetheless, I felt like it was, in general, helpful as a module.

 Image A librarian driven crazy by the profession!

The third compulsory module, which was untaught, was Professional Awareness. The assessment for this was 50% exam and 50% case study. I found revising for the exam quite difficult as the questions can basically be about anything that is a relevant issue in the profession – a very broad range of possibilities. Additionally, the exam was in a venue miles away from the main UCL site which made it more difficult to get to, and was three hours long. I don’t know about anyone else, but it’s a long time since I handwrote anything for three hours straight! My wrist didn’t know what had hit it! In addition to this, our exam date (not determined by the department, it should be noted) was in the first possible week, and in the same week as I had three other deadlines (some people had four), so was far from ideal timing. The department did move a couple of deadlines, but only after supplication from students, and after some delay. I don’t think it unreasonable to expect the department to figure out for themselves that giving students several deadlines and an exam in the same week might not be conducive to good marks…

Needless to say, I was not impressed! As for the case study, that was on an issue from work experience, which I enjoyed doing, but given the placement was so long ago now, it was quite difficult to remember some things. Still, it did make me recall everything that I liked about working at the House of Commons, so that’s good.

 Image Manuscript Studies

Finally, for the optional module. As I said above, I chose Manuscript Studies this term (taught by an external lecturer), mainly because it was something entirely new to me (I’ve got absolutely no experience in old books/manuscripts) so I thought I’d give it a try. Overall, I enjoyed the course. Some of it was incredibly challenging (being able to speak Latin would definitely have been a help!) but I actually really enjoyed the challenge of puzzling out the different scripts and deciphering them. That being said, I definitely didn’t enjoy the often breakneck speed of the classes, the lack of electronic aid (such as a Powerpoint) and only being given a five minute break in three hours. While I understand that I am there to learn, (and given the cost of the course, am eager to get my money’s worth) it is physically impossible for people to concentrate that long. Assessment was in the form of a transcription exam and an essay; my main problem with this was trying to find resources for the essay. Thank God for Senate House! This is one of the huge bonuses of UCL – it having so many libraries (and affiliated libraries) ensures that you can almost always get the book you need.

Anyway, that’s my assessment of the second term modules. I know I tend to criticise (who doesn’t?!) but I can honestly say that I’ve really enjoyed doing my course at UCL. I’ve made some great friends, had some brilliant lecturers and been given some amazing opportunities. Now there’s just the dissertation to face…

Images courtesy of Microsoft Word Clip Art

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Library student Day in the Life: Day Four

So, here comes the fourth instalment of the Hack Library School project. In case you haven’t read any other posts/information about it, it’s all about getting a snapshot into life as a Library Student – I’m studying for my MA LIS at UCL. It’s now Thursday, so here’s what’s happened in my life today.

I was working again today – I work Wednesdays and Thursdays every week in my part-time job at an academic library. I was working 10-6 today, which is nicer because I get a longer lie-in in the morning, but is annoying because I have to work later than everyone else in the office! I’m very lucky though, as my job is really flexible, and I can basically work whenever I want to, as long as I do my fifteen hours a week and it doesn’t clash with the other assistants.

My day started off badly today – I attempted to get an earlier train than usual so that I could go to Waterstones before work (which is handily nearby) and buy a Mother’s Day present, but the train was full, as was the next one, and the one after that was twenty minutes late. Grr. I finally arrived at work fifteen minutes late and with no present. Not happy. I started the day as usual with emails, then moved on to the reading list that I’d started yesterday. I think I mentioned that it was largely not in English, so it wasn’t the easiest of tasks as it required a lot of cross-checking. I continued with the list until lunchtime, with a few breaks for Twitter and chat with my colleagues. As a side note, I was never really that interested in Twitter before – I’ve had an account for about a year but have only really started using it a lot in the last few months. I mainly just follow library-related people and I’m finding it a really good tool for maintaining current awareness as well as making some new contacts in the business, so I’d recommend getting into it if you’re not already (and follow me, of course!).

late! Time a-ticking as I get to work late

After lunch (leftover takeaway curry – yum!) I decided that doing any more of the reading list would drive me crazy and so I decided to file some Law looseleaf instead. As I think I’ve said before, my manager is brilliant and is totally happy to let me decide when to do things, as long as there’s no time constraint on them. To those of you who have experience in looseleaf, it may not seem as if it’s that much more interesting than checking a reading list, but I actually quite enjoy it. It’s not fascinating work, but there’s something satisfying about having a job well done at the end of it. Today it was a mammoth task, so it took up a good few of hours of my time. I then did a bit more of the reading list before I went home. One of the (often good) things about working part-time is that if I don’t complete a task then I just email it to my manager, and it often gets passed on to one of the other assistants at the start of next week. This week I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I won’t have to see that one again! In case you’re wondering why I haven’t finished it yet, that’s because it’s fifteen pages of pure text, with no spaces – that’s a lot of books! Not my record though – I had one in January that was thirty-seven pages!

After work, I finally managed to get to Waterstones where I spent a happy half hour wandering around (I’m a typical librarian – surround me with books and I’m happy), before buying something for my mum and then running for the train. Once I got home I cooked dinner, had a catch up with a friend and then wrote and uploaded my part of the groupwork for my Management module (which was started in class – you can see Tuesday’s blog for more detail). And that’s it! I’m going to watch TV now and relax for a bit.

I’ve also realised that I completely forgot to take any photos after the first one, so I apologise for the somewhat text-heavy format today.

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March 7, 2013 · 9:31 pm

Library School Day in the life: day two

So, just a brief post tonight as I’ve been out and I have work in the morning so I want to go to bed! This is day two of my blog for Hack Library School project for the week.

Today I had Uni all day, which started at 10am (thank goodness all of the 9am starts from last term are over!). I had an hour-long lecture for my Management module, which was about HR and the policies you need to think about, such as when employing people. A lot of it was common sense, but I certainly think it’s important to underline these things for when we become professionals. After that we had a half hour break which I spent in the common room with friends, and then a seminar for the same module from 11.30-1pm. In this we had a discussion about the use of volunteers and what you need to think about when considering using them – it was a really interesting discussion and made me consider issues that I hadn’t necessarily thought about before.

We then separated into our groups and started work on our third exercise. To give you some background, as a group we’ve created an imaginary library, which we have been given a budget for. In previous exercises we’ve outlined a mission statement and goals for the organisation, divided up the budget and staffed the library. Today we had to write a job description, person specification and create an advert for the job.

The most frustrating thing that I always find about this is that we don’t have enough time to do it, and working within a group obviously means that a lot of discussion happens – not ideal when you’re pressed for time! I generally find myself in the role of time management – i.e. I hurry everyone up so that we don’t waste time. We did quite well today and ended the session by dividing up the remaining work to do in our own time, with a deadline that we all have to meet. The group work is assessed so it’s important to make sure we’re all working at it.This kind of scenario is, I think, quite important for the course as I aim to be in management one day and it’s nice to consider these issues now, but I do find it a challenge working in such a big group.

After this was lunchtime. Usually I just spend this with my friends, but today I went to talk to one of my lecturers about my dissertation ideas first. One thing I really like about UCL is how approachable the staff are, and how helpful. After the discussion I feel a lot more certain about what I’m going to do for my dissertation now, which is a relief. I can start on my proposal this weekend now; something I’ve been putting off until now!

Then, after a hurried lunch (I bring in something from home and use the microwave in the common room) I went off to my optional module for this term. I’ve chosen to do Manuscript Studies, as it’s not something I have any experience in so I thought I would see what I think.

So far, I’m really enjoying it. A lot of it is based on palaeography, and is, I have to say, a barrage of information at times considering I have little prior knowledge of this. A visiting lecturer takes the class and it’s very old-school; no PowerPoint, but just the odd word or example on the board and lots of talking! Suffice to say that this week, as always, my brain felt like mush after it! Today we did about Gothic script. We always do some transcription as we have a test on this at the end of the term, and todays examples weren’t horrific so I don’t feel too freaked out about the test. My main quibble with the class is that we only get a 5 minute break in a 3 hour class, so I often find myself flagging towards the end. I’m glad I chose it though, as it’s allowed me to try something completely different.

After class I went for dinner and to the cinema with some friends from the course, and then headed home. And that’s day two in my life!

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Library student Day in the Life: Day One

Ok, so the point of this project is to share a typical day as a library student so that anyone who’s interested will have an idea of what it entails as part of the Hack Library School project. I’ll be sharing all of this week as my days all tend to be different. In case you haven’t read anything in my blog before, I’ll just fill you in on the basic details. I’m a full time student at UCL, doing the MA LIS. I also have a part-time (15 hours a week) job in an academic library.

My day today has consisted of going in to Uni for 10am for a lecture in my Information Sources and Retrieval module. This week it was all about medical information sources, which is completely new to me. Still, it was reassuring to realise that actually a lot of the ways to search for sources are the same, so you don’t necessarily have to be an expert in the field itself. I finished at 12pm (we have a practical until 1pm but I couldn’t make that) and went to see if I could talk to one of my lecturers about my dissertation. Unfortunately that was a no-go, so I’ve emailed instead to try to set up an appointment. We have to submit our dissertation proposal in less than two weeks and I’m not really sure what I want to do so I’m starting to stress out about it. After the failed attempt at a meeting, I went and picked up some returned coursework so that I could see the feedback, and also picked up a past dissertation which I’d requested from the departmental office. I’d like to look at one just to get an idea of what I’m aiming for. I have, of course, already completed a dissertation for my BA, but that was nearly four years ago now so I’m a little rusty! Following along this train of thought, I then went to the library to request a book from the off-site storage which I think I’ll want for my dissertation.

Having finished all these errands, I got the train home, had a small lunch of soup at about 2pm (I’m trying out the intermittent fasting diet and today is one of my fasting days) and have then written a blog post on my work experience. I’ve been meaning to get around to it for ages but haven’t managed to squeeze it in until today – committing to writing this blog has given me the motivation that I needed! After this I’ve finished various things around the house which I didn’t do yesterday because I was hungover – washing, sorting out my post, filing my uni work in the correct folder by date…things like that. After that I did some more research for my dissertation, starting looking into an essay I have to write for Manuscript Studies, began reading the dissertation and then did some research into buying my brother a 30th birthday present. After all of that I relaxed for a bit watching TV and then I’ve written this blog. That’s my day!

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March 4, 2013 · 6:23 pm

MA LIS Work experience placement: the House of Commons Library

HoC pic

So, as part of the full time MA LIS students have the opportunity to do a two week work experience placement in January. UCL provides a list of previous placements or you can choose your own place. Given that I’m currently dithering between several different disciplines or field or librarianship I thought that this was quite a difficult decision. Nonetheless, as all my experience is in academic libraries I was determined to try something new. I should point out here that UCL encourage to try something outside of your particular understanding just to broaden your experience a little so it wasn’t entirely me being gung-ho! Anyway, the House of Commons Library was on the list and I decided that it might be an interesting place to check out – I like that fact that it’s kind of like a law library, but is also fairly specialist, so it gives you a good overview of a different service.

UK pic I thought this picture conveyed quite well how broad-ranging the effect of the House of Commons Library is.

Before I even got to the placement I was impressed with it – I was emailed a programme in advance and was asked if there was anything in particular that I would like to do. I found having a programme in advance really helpful as it gave me an idea of what to expect and showed me the variety of things I could experience. Some of my friends on the course didn’t get a programme and I know they wished that they had. When I started on the Monday I had to get a security pass (I’d had to apply for clearance months previously) and then I started in the cataloguing department. I was set up on my own computer, shown around, and given a local cataloguing policy document to start on some cataloguing. Now if you’ve read my previous post you’ll know that I wasn’t originally a big fan of cataloguing, but the House of Commons really helped with this. They use an internal thesaurus (so much better than LCSH) and use what Anne Welsh describes as an ‘agile’ cataloguing system. This meant that there was very little use of AACR2 or MARC, which made it quite simple to use. Phew! I met with Dora, the Head of Reference Services, who had organised my programme, the first day; was bought lunch and tea and generally felt reassured that I was going to enjoy the placement after all!

How can you not love being where people buy you tea?!

The rest of that week was spent in a large variety of places, including visits to the House of Lords Library, Reference Services, Enquiries and the Members’ Centre, and an introduction to binding processes. When I wasn’t visiting other sections I was in cataloguing, putting either books or electronic documents onto the system. It’s amazing how much more satisfying cataloguing is when you’re actually creating real records from scratch, and you know that it will stay on the system as a kind of legacy. That may sound strange, but it’s how I feel! Anyway, the point is that I wasn’t exactly stuck for things to do in my first week, and I settled in surprisingly quickly. Everyone was really friendly to me and I got the opportunity to have a quick chat with most of the departments within LRS (Library Resources Section).

Of course, another big plus of the week was that I got to go around the Members’ Library, which, as you may have guessed from the name, is for Members of Parliament only. Of course Library staff are allowed in there, but no other staff members! It was really nice, with lovely big rooms, towering shelves and lots of cosy looking chairs. I have to confess though that I thought the House of Lords Library was a tiny bit better – mainly because it had original bound copies of The Times from the 1800’s which I loved! The ladders up to the shelves were a bit scary though – the staff have to have training from a former fireman to be able to use them!

HoL pic

The House of Lords Library

Anyway, on my second week I was based in IADS (International Affairs and Defence Section) which is one of the many research sections. One of the reasons I found the Library so fascinating was because of this research culture. Coming from an academic library background, I’m accustomed to users finding everything on their own. Not so here. Research sections exist to provide debate packs, brief summaries, current awareness bulletins, and answers to in depth queries. Quite frankly, the amount of knowledge floating around in there is incredible, not to mention a little intimidating! While I was there I had the opportunity to do some indexing which meant trying to get used to a whole new indexing tool; it was fun but also quite challenging. I also did some weeding, attended some meetings and tried to ‘match up’ the various stages of legislation for collation on a database – that was incredibly complicated, but also quite satisfying when I succeeded!

During my second week I also visited the Parliamentary Archives, Preservation and Conservation, the off-site storage facility, the Indexing Section (who index every Hansard – it’s an incredible amount of work) and sat in on several meetings and talks. All in all, I would say that it was far from lacking! I loved the variety of experiences which I got on the placement, in addition to being able to both learn new skills and practice old ones. I also really loved that Dora met with me three times during my two weeks to ensure that the placement was going well and to get my feedback. I genuinely felt valued as a member of staff, and would highly recommend the placement to everyone.

thumbs up!

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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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