The RGU Experience

Below is our second piece from Jade Justice, reviewing her experience of Library School at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen. Jade completed the course as a full-time student, for other course options from RGU see our guide to their Department of Information Management.

So, you have made the decision to go to Library School! Well done, you have made a choice, which is difficult due to all of the post-graduate routes that are available online, part time and full time on campuses across Europe at the moment.

Robert Gordon University is your first choice for your MLIS journey, you say? Well sit back and jump into this blog post as I will be giving you the inside scoop on all the goings on when you are a full time student on campus (and also part time to finish your dissertation while working) in Aberdeen, the top university in the UK for post-graduate employment.

The course length is 12-18 months, depending on when you complete your dissertation.

There are three parts of this degree;

  • Term 1: Post Graduate Certificate
  • Term 2: Higher Diploma (your fieldwork placement is involved here).
  • Term 3: Masters (this is the dissertation stage).

Exiting this course after each stage is possible, which some of my classmates did as they had job offers, which is a good thing! A key difference between RGU’s course and others in the academic sector is that the “Fieldwork Placement” is included in your second term. I have heard different stories from past and present students who know how difficult it can be to get the placement you want, but if you are able to make choices (like moving country or the like for your MLIS) I am sure you will be able to stand up for yourself and accept only what you want.

Term 1: Post Graduate Certificate (September – December)

The modules I took this term were:

  • Information Studies
  • Cataloguing and Classification
  • Knowledge Organisation
  • The Digital Age

I found these modules great as starting points for the course itself. All four essays were due around the same time but the lecturers were very good at talking to us openly about what level they expected our coursework to be. RGU also has a study skills and writing workshops that you can attend, for free, which can help you with your assignments.

This course is intense. Going back a good few years, it was an undergraduate course. The lecturers do their best to cram it all into the year on campus, but that can put pressure on you and your classmates, be ready for that. During my undergraduate course I was able to work in groups of all different types of people, from all different cultures and social economic backgrounds and it helped me develop good people skills, which you truly need to complete this course. Whereas in this intensive year, you have no “getting to know each other for years” type opportunities, so you will have to work with the groups you are assigned – no matter how much your personality may clash! (And that happens, we are all adults here, not everyone needs to be friends).

The course, as it has been described to me by lecturers in class, is more theory that practice. I have to say here, a lot of my classmates and I found certain “theory” lectures very tedious and frustrating. Yes, you need to be able to work as part of a team and work online with other people in different parts of the world, but I found an entire lecture series on this excessive. I am a straight talker, and like to get my point across so everyone can understand it, but when you are in a post-graduate course and your lecturer is answering your question with “Well what do you think?!” when you required a simple yes or no, you really begin to question the reasoning behind the coursework.

Term 2 – Higher Diploma (January to May)

  • Research Methods
  • Managing Library Services
  • Professional Fieldwork Placement (Month of April)

These modules were the really nitty-gritty, as it were, where you have to prove you can research for your own dissertation (which is what you need to complete to gain your MSc), thus showing you can help any student find information they may need for theirs.

If you have completed a dissertation in your undergraduate course, this will sound very similar while in class, but the support you receive is great and there are a lot of resources only accessible to you as an RGU student through the library website.

The Managing Library Services was a great team work project, which can also be stressful, you learn how to balance budgets between your team and show that you can all work together towards a common goal. The skills I learned from this have been vital in working with different members of my jobs I have had in the library sector thus far.

The fieldwork placement is what drew me the most to this course, and is great to show on your CV. The experience you get is great and you write a diary to make sure you are able to complete your essays about it.

If you know which sector of libraries you want to gain your fieldwork experience in, you need to stand your ground and you can refuse placements that do not suit you. I did this and it was very stressful to find a second one, but if you talk openly to the work placement officer and if needs be your course leader, you can gain invaluable work experience in the area.

I gained great contacts as well with who I still keep in touch with a year later.

Term 3 – Dissertation (took an additional 6 months to complete mine by going part time, but you can complete it between June-October).

You have to submit what you would like to do at the “Research Method” point and it will have to be approved by the board before you can proceed.

This is for legal and ethical reasons, rarely they are rejected but it can happen. You supervisor will be allocated around this point and will give you a nudge in the right direction if your research is not going to be approved.

For me, I had to go part-time, as I had managed to get a full time job as a Library Assistant. You are not charged extra for this, but your deadline is moved to May, results in June and graduate in July, so you will not be with your classmates on graduation day (I was, luckily)!

There are no more classes during your dissertation/MSc stage, but I found this helpful as I could focus on my work from home and research in my own time. Depending on your supervisor, you will have a lot of support and will be able to send drafts for revisions and ask advice, but they are not writing it for you! I found the Study Skills office very helpful, you can email them through 2,000 words to have a look at for you and they give great feedback.

You will most likely not walk into a “Librarian” role after this course, or any course really, as you will need to have the experience to match. It is like any profession, you start at the bottom of the totem pole. The higher up roles are hard to find, and I have found that the majority of ‘Librarians’ I have met, who have completed the same course as me, have been working in the sector for a minimum of 4 years as library assistant, information assistant, senior library assistant and even part time relief assistants before they were given their “dream role”. That being said, the course has helped me get along in my career, even if it was not perfect.


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