Hi, my name is Jo and I'm a newly qualified librarian working in several academic libraries in Cambridge.

I originally created this blog as an electronic learning journal whilst participating in an extended shadowing programme prior to starting the MA in Information Services Management at London Metropolitan University.

The views expressed here are entirely my own.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Visit to the Campuses of University College London and London Metropolitan University

While I was in London on Wednesday, I took the opportunity to take a self-guided tour of the UCL campus and to check out the location of the Ladbroke House site of London Metropolitan's North Campus.

Being just 15 or so minutes walk from Kings Cross, the UCL campus is ideally situated close to a number of major libraries including the British Library itself. Before Wednesday, I perceived the course offered at UCL to be very traditional and academic in focus. My impression from reading the prospectuses and university website was that the college is very selective and those who have high academic grades and have completed a graduate traineeship are preferred candidates. After taking the tour of the campus I was left slightly awe struck by the sense of history radiating from the impressive dome of the Wilkin's Building and the redbrick cruciform building. In short, I was pretty intimidated.

However, listening to Vanda Broughton's presentation at yesterday's workshop I was compelled to review my preconceptions. The college's insistence on a written exam and an academic reference (even for those who first graduated over ten years ago) is evidence that the university is very traditional in culture. However, the School of Library, Archive and Information Studies itself seems committed to try and counter this by limiting the number of written examinations to one and trying to make the interview process as informal and relaxed as possible. Although the UCL course is characterised by its core modules in cataloguing, classification and bibliography and its specialist modules in rare books and manuscript studies it also offers modules in new technologies such as electronic publishing and database design. I was also encouraged that while describing the ideal candidate, Vanda made it clear that the School does encourage applications from students with varied backgrounds which suggests that it is much more inclusive than it may first appear.

The course at London Metropolitan University is taught at Ladbroke House which is conveniently located about a 15 or 20 minute walk from Finsbury Park station. I didn't have an opportunity to go into the building or to visit the main campus but from the map it appears to be within walking distance of the Graduate Centre and other university buildings on Holloway Road. I am attracted by the course offered at London Met as it seems to offer the right balance of the traditional, such as cataloguing and classification, and the modern, such as information and communications technologies, with a focus on information services management. I hope to explore the campus further and learn more about the course itself when a suitable open day is arranged.

Applying to Study Library and Information Science and Beyond, CPD25 Workshop

Yesterday I attended the above course which was organised by the CPD25 group and held at Birkbeck College, London. A copy of the programme can be found at http://www.cpd25.ac.uk/extcalendar/1804.

The day was opened with a talk by Michael Martin, Qualifications and Professional Development Adviser for CILIP which included an overview of the accreditation criteria for Library and Information Science courses. I was reassured by the message that no matter which accredited course I should choose to follow, my qualification would not restrict me to one sector of the profession and would be recognised internationally. I was also interested to learn that I could register to charter on graduating as I had assumed that I would have to hold a professional post for a set period of time beforehand.

The most pertinent presentations were from Vanda Broughton, Lecturer in Library Studies at UCL and Briony Birdi, Lecturer in Librarianship at the University of Sheffield. They both gave an overview of the courses offered at their respective institutions, the application process, sources of funding, what to expect from a second degree and what to consider when choosing a course. They also described their ideal candidate and although they had slightly different perspectives, essentially their opinion was the same, i.e. someone with a year's relevant work experience, at least a second class degree, sound ICT skills, an understanding of and an enthusiasm for the profession and the ability to reason and communicate well. This was reassuring as I believe that to a greater or lesser extent I meet these criteria. It was also comforting to know that most of the things they recommended doing in preparation for applying for a course, i.e. joining CILIP, reading Update, subscribing to relevant e-mailing lists, reading graduate trainee websites, obtaining detailed module outlines, I have already been doing.

It was useful to have these views complimented by an employer's perspective in the form of a presentation by Karen Stanton, Chief Information Officer and College Librarian at Kings College London. Karen presented her vision of the Librarian 2012 using the example of the impact that open access publishing of research may have on the current roles and skills set of today's information professional. She forecast the erosion of traditional tasks such as stock selection, preparation and organisation and the provision of a physical library service and predicted the dominance of virtual information services delivered by consortia of institutions and focusing on user support and education, management of institutional repositories, on-demand digitisation, digital preservation and data mining. Her vision reveals the rapid pace of change and innovation that librarianship is currently undergoing and rather than being a cause for despair, suggests that this is an extremely exciting time to be entering the profession. It also confirms my own belief that strong ICT, research and analytical skills are going to be desirable assets to employers in the future and that when I am considering individual courses I should be assessing whether they will equip me with these skills.

The last presentations of the day were from Baljit Boparai, a distance learning student working full time at the University of East London, and Julia Bloxham, a recent LIS graduate from Thames Valley University currently working at Kingston University. Although they chose different modes of study they both stressed that choosing to study a postgraduate LIS course is not a decision to be taken lightly and described the sacrifices that they have had to make in terms of money, free time and the impact on personal relationships. This served as a timely reminder of the hard work and dedication that is needed in order to complete a LIS course successfully. Although this initially reawaken my fears of returning to study, I was heartened by Julia's experience as she was a mature student who has just been awarded a distinction despite not having a first degree. This has made me realise that the study support offered to students, particularly mature students, will need to be a central consideration when choosing a course that's right for me.

Perhaps the most beneficial aspect of the day was the opportunity to talk to other prospective LIS students and realising that they too share some of my apprehensions about applying for a course. It was reassuring to see that they were not all young, recent graduates and that they came from a variety of backgrounds both in terms of their education and their work experience. As a lot of the people I spoke to were also looking to study in London it was also helpful to garner their opinions on the courses that I have been looking at.

In short, this was an incredibly informative and helpful day which I would wholeheartedly recommend to anyone considering applying for a LIS course in the future.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Thames Valley University and City University Open Events

I've now been to two open events, one at Thames Valley University on 20 October and one at City University on 1 November.

The St Mary's Road campus of TVU is located in a relatively quiet suburban area of Ealing and is quite small and in need of some updating. Although the area is very pleasant it is another 40 to 50 minutes travel each way from Kings Cross and would mean additional expenses for tube/bus fares. The staff struck me as being very helpful and friendly and I was left with an impression that they are genuinely committed to doing their best to enable their students to succeed. Unfortunately, as the open day was primarily for undergraduates, the leaders of my chosen course weren't on hand as it is only offerred at postgraduate level. However, the tutor I did speak to was able to answer my general questions and did refer me to the course tutors who responded to my request for more detailed course information very quickly. The university prides itself on the strength of its vocational courses and the high percentage of students that go straight into work in their chosen field. This is reflected in the course content which I would describe as very practical with a focus on professionalism. However, although I believe that the core modules would give me a thorough professional grounding, there is just one speacialist module in indexing and retrieval and no elective modules to allow students to explore areas of particular interest further.

City University is located perfectly for me in the Islington area just 20 minutes or so walk from Kings Cross. It is a large modern campus but with the original red-brick College building. The site has undergone recent refurbishment with a new Student Centre and Careers Office. The univesity prides itself on having one of the highest proportions of postgraduate students of any UK university. The course content appears to be much broader than that offered at TVU with more core modules and a choice from a list of several elective modules. The tutor I spoke to characterised the course as offering its students the opportunity to study information and library issues within a number of different professional contexts. This is particularly appealing to me as I have only worked in an academic library and for a short amount of time. I was also attracted by the flexibility offered via the university's virtual learning environment, CitySpace, which renders attendance not always necessary. I was also reassured that my lack of work experience in libraries would not put me at a disadvantage and that students are rarely turned away. I was also informed that the course is rarely oversubscribed and that interviews are not always necessary. I do, however, have a real concern that the course may be too broad in scope. I was also disappointed to find that there are no detailed module outlines readily available, as they have been from other universities, which makes it difficult to compare this course to others in any significant depth.

My immediate conclusions are that TVU may be too far away to communte to easily and that the broad content of the City University course may mean that it is not for me. However, there is time for further comparision and reflection as I will be visiting the University College London campus on 7 November and will be visiting the London Metropolitan University campus later in November.