A little while ago I wrote a guest post for the Library Trainee Network, a new website which aims to curate people’s views and experiences of their traineeships, qualifications and first professional posts. My post, which is about my experience of the MA Librarianship course at Sheffield, just went live yesterday and you can read it here. It’s been getting quite a good reaction on Twitter and I think this might be because it’s an overwhelmingly positive post, which is (dare I say) a little bit unusual. A lot of the stuff I’ve read about the various LIS courses on offer in the UK has been a lot more negative and there seems to be a strong feeling out there that the qualification is “just a piece of paper” or “just a hoop to jump through”, with little in the way of redeeming qualities. I do understand where this feeling has come from – this is a qualification you have to get if you want to “unlock” the next level of job (I know there are other routes, but this seems to be the most-used one if you want your career to progress quickly), and so it can feel like it’s just something that needs to be ticked off a long list of qualifications, training and development on the journey to becoming a fully-fledged library/information professional.
However, I also believe that it’s far too easy to focus on the negatives and forget that there are any positives at all – and I don’t mean this just about your MA/MSc, but about all areas of life. It’s much easier to have a moan to your friends, whether it’s face-to-face, on social media or by other means, than it is to celebrate small positive points about life. I know it’s true for me, at least; I often find that when I get together with friends over coffee or food, our conversation will become a stream of gripes and complaints about work, study, home life, other friends, etc. It’s far more common for me to log on to Twitter to post a moany tweet about trains than it is to say something positive. Of course this can be useful and constructive – friends and Twitter followers can help you work out what to do about a problem, or see a different side of a story, or sympathise with you, or remind you that it’s not all that bad. They can just sit and agree with you as well, and that’s ok too. Getting stuff off your chest and letting off steam are things we all need to do, and should do. I’m not saying there’s no place for having a bit of a moan now and then, but I think it’s a shame if all anyone ever hears about a certain topic (e.g. the MA course) is its bad points.
I suppose what I’m trying to say is that I don’t believe that there’s anyone who gets to the end of their Masters course and honestly says, “well, that was a complete waste of time (and money)”. We all benefit in some way from choosing to study on this course – whether it be new knowledge, new opportunities, new skills or new friends. I know that it would have taken me a lot longer to build up the knowledge and abilities that I have now, if I hadn’t done the course. In just 20 weeks of teaching I’ve developed as a person and as a professional, and I’m really proud of what I’ve achieved. No, I haven’t learned everything there is to learn – but I’ve got the rest of my career to do that!
Of course there are some things I didn’t enjoy about the course. Of course there are! These courses are designed to fit a lot of very different people who all want slightly different things from the same set of modules, and you can’t please everyone all the time. I think that there’s something to be said for the whole “change the things you can change, accept the things you can’t” idea, though; when we were unhappy with how a module was going, we gave lots of feedback to the Information School, and they’re completely overhauling it for next year. Granted, this doesn’t affect my experience of that module, but it does (hopefully) mean that the people who come after me will have a better time of it. I’m pleased that as a year group and a community we didn’t just resort to complaining about it amongst ourselves, but actually did something about it and got things changed. Out of a negative experience came positive action.
I know that this all might come across as a bit moany in itself, and I do see the irony in that, but I’m going with the defence that this is something I’ve been wanting to get off my chest for a while. It’s not directed at anyone specific, it’s just the result of hearing a lot of complaints about people’s courses during the last couple of years, and getting a little bit tired of the seemingly endless negativity (about all aspects of life) on Twitter. I don’t want to be controversial or to spark a huge debate about who exactly is too negative or bitchy or whatever. I’m just resolving to be a more positive person and to share more of the good stuff than the bad stuff about the course, about librarianship in general, and about life. (Cheesy!)