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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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