CPD25 'Applying To Study Library And Information Science ... And Beyond: A One-Day Conference

CPD25 conference report.

By Katherine Quinn (IHR)

On Friday graduate library trainees from across the country trooped down to the cpd25 conference on applying to library school (and, added in a slightly Buzz Lightyear esque vibe “and beyond!”) armed with two months of trainee experience and a complementary canvas bag full of pertinent questions. Delivered in the form of several presentations by library professionals, lecturers at library schools, and ending with a panel discussion by recent library school graduates, the day’s objective was to leave us better informed about the Masters qualifications that are available and about what life as a professional librarian might be like. From my own point of view, I was most interested in getting an impression of the realistic prospects of employment post Masters and whether the financial commitment of a library masters would be worthwhile. I was also obviously keen to catch up with the other trainees!
After a predictably awkward coffee and name badge donning session in the venue’s foyer we all piled into the presentation room and kicked off with a keynote speech by Sarah Maule on her journey from an English degree in Sheffield to becoming Physical Resources Manager at Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication in North Greenwich. As well as showing us that it wasn’t obligatory to be called a librarian when working in a library, Sarah gave a really engaging and informative view of what to expect during the Masters programme at UCL, and how her studies had gone on to inform her career. The fact that Sarah had taken librarianship seriously as a career option since day one of her undergraduate degree, had worked up to 3 part time jobs during her Masters, and had taken the trouble to create a (really very nice looking) numeric representation of key aspects of the course (including total number of words written, number of times she’d cried down to the phone to her mother, total number of books read etc.) all pointed to the fact that she was a highly disciplined and energetic person who clearly loved her job. Rather than being totally daunted Sarah’s dedication and enthusiasm, I definitely came away from her speech feeling motivated not only look again at UCL’s masters programme but also to investigate ways in which I might enrich my training year by badgering colleagues and different departments for work experience, as she had.
After Sarah came Vanda Broughton, Programme Director for the Diploma/MA in Library and Information Studies at UCL, who gave a presentation combining practical information regarding course content and assessment with informal advice on making a successful application to library school (– note to self, she’s amused but not influenced by achievements in overcoming water phobia). As an academic insider and someone with years of experience working in academic, public and school libraries Vanda made several really interesting points:
-          Unlike some taught Masters (such as Brighton) UCL’s programme  combines compulsory units with optional ones that would allow a more personally tailored experience.
-          When being interviewed for a place UCL (something they currently do for all applicants) it is important to mention particular career interests we have so that the tutors can better advise us on course options.
-          She was keen to emphasise the continued relevance of traditional skills such as Cataloguing and Classification.
-          The value of working part time in a library alongside studying in order to better engage practice with theory was also underlined.
After another talk extolling the virtues of Twitter by Sarah Ison, a lunch break and a course fayre (with stands provided by UCL, Loughborough, Sheffield, Aberystwth, UEA and Brighton – I think…any others?!) we settled back down to more talks from recently qualified librarians. Sophie Pattison was a health care librarian currently working at UCL’s Biomedical Science’s department, and Helen Murphy worked at Trinity College Cambridge. Without wishing to bore on with too many details, my main impressions from these two speakers included, again, their job satisfaction, and also the diversity of roles available in academic libraries. Although it’s not an avenue I see myself going down, it was interesting to hear about Sophie’s transition from a career as an occupational therapist to working in medical libraries since it highlighted the degree of specialisation possible in a library and information sciences career.
I definitely left the event feeling more optimistic and energised about librarianship, but I still don’t think I will be doing the Masters next year. There was a huge emphasis placed throughout the day on the importance of volunteering in order to get first in line for future employment opportunities and promotions and while there may well be time for a bit of this within a full time working week, I fear that this culture of working for free can not only be sometimes unrealistic, but also can lead to the exclusion of those people who are not wealthy enough to fund themselves while they volunteer. It also seems pretty clear that while some grants and bursaries for Masters still exist, the opportunities for such financial help are narrowing with every year. All in all, however, it was a valuable and interesting day, rounded off nicely by a drink at the Marlborough Arms where we discussed our commitment to the ‘noble cause’ of librarianship (...but just don’t call it a business... should we? Hmm...).
To round up this rambling first visit report, I would like invite everyone else that went to comment on what they got from the day and what bits they found most/least helpful.
What did everyone think?


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  2. Great account of the day, thanks for this Katherine! I completely agree that the event left me feeling more optimistic about librarianship and more positive about the opportunities available. It inspired me to plot my own career and to consider applying for a Master's next year.

    I also agree that the emphasis upon volunteering and work experience was a little daunting - I'm now trying to find things to boost my own applications but it doesn't seem very realistic. I'm also considering studying outside London, where there may not be as many opportunities to be a part-time shelver or to volunteer in other libraries.

    However, the information on where qualified students are now working, and their job titles, was very useful. There does seem to be a great deal of variety. It was encouraging to see that the Master's courses are directly relevant to a professional career, opening the door to employment.

    Overall, it was useful, interesting and inspiring - definitely worthwhile! And it was lovely to chat to other trainees and professionals, developing a nice sense of community.

    Catherine Gregory - Graduate Trainee at City University London


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