Tag Archives: library school

Back to the (enjoyable) grindstone

Wow – what a change this week’s been from last week! Lectures started again on Monday, and it’s been all systems go since then. Getting used to commuting again has been interesting, to say the least. I’ve been so tired getting home every day this week that I’ve just sat on the sofa and stayed there until bedtime. The good news is that I’m enjoying everything that’s going on this week, which helps!

I’ve had two new lectures so far and will have two more new ones tomorrow. The dissertation lecture on Monday was quite good, but also a bit scary – I’ve got to move quite quickly on defining a topic and finding a supervisor. Luckily I’ve already got an idea, and am in the process of setting up a meeting with a potential supervisor, so everything should go fairly smoothly on this. We had a lecture on Open Access publishing today which was also really good, and although there was not a huge amount of new information for me I enjoyed the discussion and left feeling quite energetic and enthused about the whole thing. Tomorrow I’ve got Information Governance as well as Healthcare Information, and I’m really looking forward to getting stuck in to both of those. All in all, the academic side of things is going well and I’m feeling very positive about the choices I’ve made, module-wise.

The other big thing I’ve been doing this week is keeping Library Society going, in many different ways! On Saturday we had our first ever trip, which was to Manchester to see the John Rylands Library and the University of Manchester’s Learning Commons. This was a fantastic day! Although I’d been to the John Rylands before, I’d never had a guided tour, and it surpassed my expectations. We got to go all over the place behind the scenes, which was really interesting, and heard about the history of the building and the stories behind all the various parts. Seeing the Learning Commons was great too – at Sheffield we have an Information Commons, and I wanted to know what the difference is between the two. Turns out there’s quite a big difference! The Learning Commons doesn’t have any book stock in it, unlike the IC, so it’s got a very different atmosphere – very peaceful and serene, with people coming in and staying for a long time, rather than just passing through to pick up some books. It was interesting that even though group working was encouraged, the overall volume levels at the Learning Commons were much lower than the group areas at the IC! My favourite thing about the LC has to be their furniture – they had a huge furniture budget and spent it on sofas with plug sockets in the arms, big armchairs and flexible laptop tables, to name a few things. Everything is portable, and apparently the students really enjoy moving tables, chairs and even sofas between floors! There’s a “reset” once a month where everything gets put back to where it should be, but students basically have free rein to design their own study spaces. I loved it!

John Rylands Library
Books at the John Rylands

Yesterday I had my first experience of running a stand at a freshers’ fair, rather than just being a punter. It was the “Ultimate Fair”, run by the Students’ Union at the start of the second semester to pick up any students who didn’t get round to joining any societies in September. As a new society this was a great opportunity for us to get noticed and find potential new members, so we set up shop in the Union for the day with leaflets, bookmarks and the all-important sweets! It was a very tiring day but ultimately really rewarding – we got 20 new names on our mailing list, which is impressive for a fairly “niche” society! I’m really pleased that we did this and looking forward to getting to know all the new students at the pub on Monday.

I’ve just got back from the Students’ Union Council meeting where our proposal for a Union Policy supporting public libraries was heard. I got the opportunity to speak to the council about the reasons for putting forward this policy, and I think it went really well. Some of the council members said that they were happy to see this policy being suggested, which is really encouraging, and I’m reasonably confident that the vote in two weeks’ time will have a positive result. Fingers crossed!

The final thing I did this week (told you I’ve been busy!) was to pop to Manchester on Tuesday night for a talk about emerging trends in technology, with Martin Bryant from The Next Web, a (really famous) technology news website that I’ve somehow never heard of before despite living on the internet. Martin showed us some of the new apps, websites and gadgets that have the potential to be really big, such as the Narrative Clip, Whisper and smartwatches. I really liked hearing about “contextual” technology, such as Google Now, because I think it’s got a lot of potential to be really useful (while also being a bit sinister, just how I like my technology!). As machine learning improves, contextual stuff’s going to get more and more sophisticated, and I’m looking forward to that, so that stuff like this happens less often:

All in all, it was a great event, and it was nice to go to a “librarians and technology” event that didn’t mention Evernote, Padlet or other productivity apps that I’ve seen hundreds of times already.

So as you can see, I’m pretty busy at the moment, but I’m having a great time, which makes the tiredness all worthwhile! Next week might be a bit quieter, which will be nice. But now I’m off to bed…


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We’ve just finished Week 7 and are about to start Week 8. This means that I’m roughly 33% of the way through the taught portion of the course already, which is a scary thought. It’s going so quickly! We handed in our first piece of assessed work, a literature review, in Week 6, and there are two other essays and a group presentation to do before Christmas. Eek! We also exhibited posters about information literacy during a module last week, which you can read about on our team blog. To say that we have lots of work to do would be an understatement. Despite the workload, though, I’m feeling really positive about life as a library student at the moment. I even had to boast about it on Twitter, I just couldn’t help myself (annoying, I know!).

Last week, as part of our Libraries, Information and Society module, we went to visit Chesterfield Library. It is a fantastic public library and is absolutely enormous! They’ve got tons of resources and space, and even put on free concerts on Saturday lunchtimes! I learned some interesting statistics on the trip as well – did you know that public libraries have more visitors per year than professional football? I certainly didn’t! Derbyshire Libraries apparently get more visitors per year than Manchester United, which is pretty impressive. All the facts and figures, plus the great tour of Chesterfield Library, contributed to a much brighter picture of public libraries than I had had previously. Here’s the obligatory “I visited Chesterfield and saw the wonky spire” picture:

Nice morning visit to Chesterfield.

A post shared by Emily (@heliotropia) on

On Thursday I went to visit a librarian at a law firm. He showed me around the library area and explained about the sorts of things he does as part of his job, which was interesting because I don’t have a great amount of knowledge about what actually goes on in corporate libraries. Some of the tasks are similar to what an academic liaison librarian or a health librarian would do, for example running inductions for the trainee solicitors, finding legal information quickly for lawyers and getting documents from the British Library. There’s a catalogue, subscriptions to journals, and a physical collection of books, just like what I’m used to. The librarian and knowledge managers also contribute to regular bulletin emails, keeping the lawyers up-to-date on developments in their fields, which health librarians also often do for doctors, and which is similar to the sort of work I used  to do producing newsletters for academic staff. There are differences, though; in this company most of the “knowledge managers” are embedded within legal departments, rather than working in the library. The librarian is the only person who actually has an office next to the books and journals, which makes him quite isolated. Also, some of the materials are different, such as looseleaf services, which I have seen but not worked with before. The librarian also collaborates with the libraries in the firm’s overseas offices, sharing information and resources with them, which isn’t something I’ve seen much in the departments I’ve worked in. Overall, I feel much better informed about the mysterious world of corporate and legal libraries, and would definitely consider working in one if the opportunity arose, as the research aspect of library work is something I really enjoy.

Something else has happened in the last couple of weeks which I’m really proud of – I set up Library Society! It’s a University society for all Sheffield students who like libraries, whether they’re historians, architects, scientists, geographers, or anything else you can think of. We’re aiming to go on trips to unusual and beautiful libraries, as well as eating lots of cake and generally having a lovely time. I’ve got the Committee sorted now, so we’ve just got to decide where to go for our first ever trip, and what sorts of cake we like to eat. Oh, and we need to get some students involved. Easy! I’m really excited about Library Society as I think it’ll be a great way to get people thinking about (and hopefully using) libraries, which will hopefully translate into more people fighting to keep their local public libraries open and professionally staffed. Fingers crossed!

What with all these things and #libcampuk13 coming up soon, I’m having a great time with libraries at the moment, albeit an extremely busy one. It’s all very exciting and I feel like I’m doing a lot of things, and meeting a lot of people, which will all contribute to my future as a librarian (hopefully of the Roquefort variety!). Hooray for libraries!


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Applying to Library School

There are probably lots of people who’ve done blog posts about applying to library school, but you can never have too much advice (probably?) so I thought I’d chip in with my own thoughts on the whole thing.

First things first: choose your library school. There are tons of options: part-time, full-time, distance learning, that diploma thing, etc. Do you want to go to London and pay £8,000? Do you want to get a job and take a bit longer doing the course? Have a look at the prospectuses as well to see whether the actual course would suit you. I’ve chosen Sheffield not only because it’s in the North and that’s where I want to be, but also because it’s strongly focused on information retrieval, management and literacy, which are things I’m interested in. Other courses have different strengths that might appeal more to you.

Once you’ve decided where you want to go (and how many you’re applying for – I went for the all-your-eggs-in-one-library-school approach, but other people prefer to apply to a few and see what happens), it’s time to do the application. I only have experience of doing this for Sheffield, but I’m sure the process is similar for most places. So. The first bit of the application is easy – who are you? What qualifications do you already have? That sort of thing. Form-filling. The bit that’s obviously tougher is the personal statement. I hate stuff like this, because I feel like there’s only so many ways you can say “I’m really good, please accept me” before you start hitting the really weird words in the thesaurus. However, I usually find that once I’ve started it, it’s actually not as bad as I was expecting.

The first thing I did when I was thinking about my application was decide what they would want from me. You want to show that you’d be suitable for the job, which in this case is “Masters Student”. What is the job specification for a MA student? You’ve got to have good research skills, be good at independent study but also group work, be an effective communicator and be motivated, for starters. Make a big list of this stuff.

A good tip my housemate came up with once (and which was reiterated by Bethan Ruddock in her presentation to us) is to write down absolutely everything you can do in a big list. You can speak French? Put it down. You can ride a unicycle? Put it down. You once helped put up a marquee? Put it on the list. Then start thinking about how that stuff fits the sorts of qualities you need for the job/course/whatever. Speaking a different language = versatility, good communication skills, ability to think on your feet (when you’re translating), ability to pick up new things quickly, the list goes on. Riding a unicycle = determination and persistence, overcoming challenges, etc. Putting up a marquee = teamwork, communication skills. Seriously. You could probably shoehorn anything in and it’d work. Update your list every time you do something new, so it’s constantly up to date and you’ve got something to instantly refer to when you’re applying for stuff. It’s like a really in-depth CV.

The main bit of writing the application is then matching the stuff from list 1 (what they want) to the stuff from list 2 (what you’ve got). Don’t forget that anything and everything counts as experience. I struggled with writing job applications until I realised I could write about pretty much anything and make it relevant. I always talk about climbing mountains in my applications because it shows determination and motivation.

Obviously you also need to talk about your future plans – MA Librarianship or similar courses are there for career progression. You need to show that you’ve got an idea, even if you’ve not really thought about it a huge amount. As long as you sound convincing – “I intend to do X” rather than “I am considering X” or “I’d like to do X”, it doesn’t matter if your plans change later on. This is also a good place to talk about issues faced by the profession. Maybe throw in something about the economy or new technology or something similar, to show you’re interested in current events and you’re engaged in what’s going on.

Don’t forget to mention why you want to study at this particular place, on this particular course. Don’t let your application sound like you’ve sent it out to ten places without changing any of the words!

The only other tips I have are: have a beginning, middle and end – sum up your statement with something that’s going to make you sound good, like “I feel that this is the right course for me because X”; spellcheck! and read it through to make sure the spellcheck hasn’t missed anything; use a thesaurus so that you’re not saying the same three words over and over; make sure it still sounds like you. Using elevated language does nobody any favours.

I’ve just said “spellcheck” and remembered something I discovered after sending off my application – my CV still had my old address on it. Seriously, people, read your writing carefully.

I hope this is of some use to someone out there! Below you’ll find links to websites I used when writing my applications (and some more that I found on Google earlier). I really like the Newcastle University link (although I may be slightly biased), but they’re all useful. Your own university or workplace might also provide careers guidance that is also helpful here, so do look at their website too.


Here’s a useful page on the Sheffield Librarianship MA http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/postgraduate/taught/courses/sscience/is/librarianship-ma . If you want to sound like you really know what you’re talking about, look at the list of modules, choose one and Google it (try “shef.ac.uk Educational Informatics module”, for example) and you should be able to find the website that describes the actual structure of the module. I’m sure this works for other universities as well.


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