Experience of an LIS distance learner at Aberystwyth University: Jane Morgan-Daniel

Our latest post provides an insight into life studying for Aberystwyth’s distance learning library masters, courtesy of @JMorganDaniel

With ever increasing tuition fees, conflicting opinions on which courses are “the best”, and so many different librarianship career paths – how do you choose a library school? You could think about student satisfaction scores, graduate prospects and league tables…but in the end, you also have to pick the course that best fits in with your everyday life. So that’s how I chose Aberystwyth University. When picking my library school I was in my late 20’s, married and had a job as a Library Assistant that I thoroughly enjoyed and didn’t want to give up. I still have all these things – only now I’m in my early 30’s and I’m about to graduate with an MSc in Information and Library Studies.

The distance learning course through Aberystwyth is absolutely great for people who can’t afford/ don’t want to study full-time. There are no deadlines – the only stipulation is that you have to finish the course within five years of your start date. I also had to attend three study schools throughout the course (now reduced to two study schools for new students). This involved travelling to Aberystwyth, renting a lovely cottage near the beach, attending lectures for a week and making new friends.

But of course, it wasn’t all as easy as it sounds. If you are thinking about applying to Aberystwyth, you should be aware that distance learners need…

  1. Self-motivation – With no deadlines and minimal contact from the tutors, it can be very hard to motivate yourself to write that 3,000 word essay on management theory. Tip – try and stay in touch with other students from study school and set self-imposed deadlines.
  2. Money – At the time of writing, the tuition fees are over £7,000. I was very lucky to get partial funding from my employer; it is definitely worth asking your manager whether they know about any potential funding opportunities. Alternatively, payment can be made on a “pay as you go” basis for different modules, which helps a lot.
  3. Perseverance – As a distance learner you can’t just go and knock on your tutor’s office door if you have a question. Although each student is assigned a personal tutor, I often found it difficult to know which staff member to contact for queries about different modules. For me, email was the easiest way to communicate with the department. But this sometimes meant emailing more than one person and waiting quite a while for answers.
  4. Very understanding family/friends/pets – If you are working full-time while studying like I did, you will be perpetually tired, you will very rarely socialise, and even when you do go out you will constantly feel guilty for not studying 24/7. So, I made a study timetable to make sure that I got some time to relax.
  5. Encouraging and helpful work colleagues – My work colleagues really were an invaluable source of knowledge, motivation, assignment ideas, and tea and biscuits.
  6. An easy, inexpensive way to get hold of reading materials – Some of the core texts are included in the printed workbooks for each module and some are available online. Quite a few are only accessible in print through the University library service. Distance learners are able to borrow books from the University; loans are sent to your home address by post, but students are responsible for the return postage which becomes quite time-consuming and expensive after a while. I was very lucky because I had access to most of the books I needed through my work library.
  7. A dissertation idea that will keep you interested – I chose to research and write about the information needs of Occupational Therapy students. This topic was directly relevant to my job (I work in a health care library), it held personal interest (a member of my family is an Occupational Therapist), and my dissertation advisor was absolutely fantastic throughout (often quickly replying to my questions on weekends).

The course takes between two and five years, is assessed through written assignments and a dissertation, and is structured by the following modules:

Information and Society (what is information, what is an information society, digital libraries, online information seeking).

Studies in Management (what is management, management theory, strategic planning, business planning, human resource management, communication styles, leadership, budgeting).

Information Services: Planning for Delivery (theories of information needs and information seeking, information literacy, strategies for service evaluation, planning and delivery).

Principles for Information Retrieval (what is information retrieval, catalogue data standards, classification schemes, search interfaces, user-based indexing).

Collection Management (selection and acquisition processes, collection development policies, collection evaluation methods, promotional strategies, preservation, conservation).

Research in the Profession (research design, data collection and analysis methods, research ethics, critical appraisal).

Optional module – I chose Publishing and the Web (information architecture, copyright, intellectual property, social media, promotion, evaluation).

Dissertation – 15,000 words.


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