Hello, my name is Jenny, and I am doing a full time MA Information and Library Studies degree at Aberystwyth University.
Why are you doing a Masters in Information and Library Studies?
I’m hoping to further my career in academic libraries.
Taking a Library Masters is one of the more direct routes in becoming a information/library professional. You’ll find that most professional posts in libraries ask for a CILIP accredited postgraduate qualification.
Experience in libraries also plays a big part; you can’t start a Masters without already having some library experience. I spent 18 months working in an academic library before I started the course.
What is a professional information/library position, how is it different from being a library assistant?
There are many different professional positions in the Information/Library sector. A library assistant is a para-professional position that involves supporting the library, mainly front of house, and can include answering basic enquiries, shelving, labeling the spines of books, clearing return trolleys.
An academic librarian is a professional position which involves working with researchers and students to find the information they need. An academic librarian might do any of the following, such as; managing their own subject collections, teaching information skills classes/workshops, supervising library assistants, responding to information/research enquiries, getting involved in conferences and personal LIS research.
More information on Academic Librarians: http://www.cilip.org.uk/cilip/jobs-careers/types-job/librarian-roles/academic-librarian
Does your first degree need to be in English or Library Studies?
Nope! Although a lot of trainee librarians I’ve met have a background in Humanities, there is no particular first degree subject which you need, though I suggest aiming for a 2:1 or above.
I have a First Class Honours in BA (hons) Music Promotion, pretty random subject, but my marketing, digital, and mentoring skills will come in handy in the library world.
Why did you get into libraries?
I really enjoyed the academic side of my first degree. I enjoyed researching vague music topics, scouring the library catalogue and hunting down Dewey numbers. I spent a lot of time in the library doing coursework.
Then I learnt that academic librarianship was a profession, and that I could do that as a fully paid career. I volunteered at a public library, collecting reserved items from the shelves. After I graduated I volunteered at a school library. I eventually got a job as a Library Attendant in an academic library.
What is a Library Attendant?
In my library, a Library Attendant was the same as a Library Assistant, I did things like working on the information desk, helping students find books on the shelves, and prepping and repairing books. My role also included closing down the library in the evenings, clearing books away, and had an emphasis on pushing heavy book trolleys.
What made you choose your MA course?
I chose the course at Aberystwyth because of the library focused modules, the department has been established for a long time, and it was cheaper than moving to London. The Institute also gave me a partial scholarship, which was also very helpful.
What are you taught on a library degree?
I’ve had six modules in all, twelve assignments and one (yet to be written) dissertation. We have covered a range of topics from classification and cataloguing, understanding the needs of library users, considering how information affects us daily in society, studying leadership in organisations and how to manage change in a library environment, the issues faced in developing e-book collections, and uses of Collection Development Policies.
I also chose the module, Rare Books and Special Collections, which gave a history of the printed book in Britain and included a visit to the National Library of Wales.
What do you most enjoy about your MA course?
Just being able to read more in depth about the processes of academic libraries. After working in a library, it’s great to be able to piece it all together.
I’ve also really enjoyed the trips we’ve had, the London study tour was great, we visited the Wellcome Library, Guildhall Library, British Library, Senate House Library, among others. Being able to see the Gutenberg Bible and Shakespeare’s Folio was a fantastic experience.
The fact that the National Library is also next door is really beneficial, especially if you’re waiting to get your hands on a specific novel! The National Library of Wales has the right to own every copyrighted book in the UK.
What do you least enjoy about your MA course?
There’s not much that I haven’t enjoyed about the course. Though public transport to and from Aberystwyth can be a bit tricky if you live in the south.
What do you get up to when you’re not studying?
One morning a week I volunteer within a library at The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, which mainly consists of cataloguing the special collection of pamphlets, and books dating back to 1840.
I work as a student ambassador at the university, helping prospective students out on visiting and open days. I’m also the academic representative for my degree scheme.
Do you have advice for anyone thinking of taking a library course?
If you don’t get a place on a CILIP graduate trainee scheme, it’s really not the end of the world, look for library jobs every where, and when you get that job mold it into your own trainee scheme. Ask if you can attend conferences, ask if you can shadow different roles in the library, and write for your libraries internal newsletter.
When looking at courses, take into consideration the costs involved, location of the course, what subject areas you’re interested in. Try and save up as much money as you can, and try to avoid loans if possible. Check if the university offers full or partial funding for your course, many library courses in the UK have a number of funded places.
What do you hope to do when you leave?
Work! I can’t wait to get back into the working world, very excited to get my career rolling. I am currently job hunting for September. Achieving chartership through CILIP is my next career development goal to tick off the list.
I’m also interested in going back to my marketing roots. I do miss the projects from my first degree and if I can apply those skills to either the library or publishing world then that would be amazing.
Marketing books pretty much seems like a dream job, it’s a job that I never considered on my last degree, otherwise I probably would have done a marketing internship in publishing by now.