On the 9th I journeyed down to Cambridge to learn more about applying to library school. Even though it feels as if the academic year has only just begun I know next September always rolls around sooner than I expected. As a new trainee eager to learn more about university libraries I also feel it’s important for me to learn as much as I can before attempting to draft an application. I was excited to learn that the event was being held at the beautiful and historic St John’s College Cambridge which is definitely worth a visit in its own right. Present at the conference were representatives from Sheffield, UCL, Northumbria and Aberystwyth as well as a sizeable cohort of aspiring librarians. The conference included an informative and engaging presentation from the Programme Director at the University of Sheffield. The talk provided a brief overview of some of the courses available and identified key areas to consider when choosing a programme.
Module content, assessment, location and even the ‘feel’ of a place can all be important when deciding whether to spend a year or more studying somewhere.
One of the highlights of the afternoon was listening to talks given by students who had successfully completed the courses from each of the respective universities. It was heartening to hear that studying on a part-time or distance course is no barrier to being included within an academic community and that those students on less traditionally taught programmes are also able to gain a sense of camaraderie in lectures and seminars, even if they are online. Following on from this was a question and answer session with the programme directors and the opportunity to mingle with a cup of coffee later on. This informal gathering provided a great chance to ask further questions without needing to speak in front of a room of people – and I think most prospective students do have a lot of questions to ask …
With all of the different courses on offer I think it’s easy to feel a bit overwhelmed by the multitude of choices available. Speaking to those at the conference made me think about aspects I hadn’t even considered yet. Do I go for an MA or MSc? Information science or library studies? I also need to consider whether to opt for a research-led or teaching focused institution and to think about the positives and negatives of studying a general or a more specialised programme. The impression I received from those at the conference was that when making such an important decision it’s best to consider “what works for you”. After talking to colleagues at Essex who have successfully completed a long distance or part-time course whilst also working, it seems that flexible arrangements are very much possible if not the norm for those studying on a CILIP accredited course. Attending the event has given me a much clearer idea of the questions I should be asking to create a good application and to find the most appropriate programme.