This week our post comes from FLIP’s Social Media Coordinator, Duncan Jones. Duncan tells us about his path into Librarianship, and the distance learning MA LIS qualification he is currently studying through the University of Sheffield. Duncan can be found tweeting as @D_P_Jones
I don’t want to say that I fell into library work, but I did. An English degree and several years of soul (& job) searching led me to apply for a frontline job in a public library. I didn’t know what to expect and honestly, didn’t think it was going to be for me. In fact, I loved it. It was all the nice things about customer service jobs and none (okay, nearly none) of the bad. Getting the chance to help a huge variety of people with a huge variety of things – from writing job applications, to basic IT skills, to finding travel books for holiday planning – it was interesting and varied and felt like a worthwhile way to spend my time. Public libraries are just about surviving in many counties and resources are stretched thin. It’s difficult, but it also means there are plenty of opportunities to use your enthusiasm to improve services. In a year, I redid all of the shelf guiding in the branches I worked in and got involved in event and collections promotion. I saw some brilliant things like the transformation of people in long term unemployment who were helped back into work and children getting excited about the summer reading challenge! I read books on my lunch breaks and drank coffee. It was idyllic.
After about six months, I was starting to think of librarianship as something I could seriously ‘do’ and started to read up about where I might go and the qualifications needed to get there. I knew I wasn’t ready to spend thousands on a master’s degree when I couldn’t see the opportunities in the public sector for qualified librarians. I decided it would be good to broaden my experience with a traineeship in an academic library and started making a list of application deadlines (if only FLIP had existed back then..).
Now, two years on, I’m working for the Bodleian Libraries and taking prospective trainees on interview tours. Lucky enough to wind up in Oxford for my traineeship, I had a brilliant year that convinced me that academic libraries were the sweet spot and that I’d found my ‘career’. I started Sheffield’s new ‘Library and Information Services Management’ distance learning MA last September because I knew that being able to continue working full time was a priority for me. The course is spread over two(or three) years so that we do two modules concurrently in the form of weekly tasks, discussions and reading delivered via an online learning platform. Unlike some of the other distance learning courses, it’s deadline driven which is good for motivation but does make for some busy weeks! I was keen to work at the same time as I think it gives focus to your coursework and also offers some opportunities for practical application (there’s also the money). I will say, you really have to love your job and the library you work in to want to spend another couple of hours studying in it after work. The MA is a big commitment in both time and money and there are arguments for alternative qualifications or delaying it. My current job doesn’t require a library qualification but it’s something that I knew I wanted long term, and when I’ve finished it in two years’ time – hope to need!