The Big Issue – Postgraduate Qualifications in Librarianship?
The latest issue of CILIP’s Library & Information Update has a supplement dedicated to the discussion of Master’s courses featuring information about courses, the job market and the skills you will gain if you study for a qualification. The supplement is available on an open access basis here which means that anyone can read it, not just CILIP members. Brilliant but coming a little too late to be helpful to me apart from acting as reassurance that I have made the right decision. However it is a very useful publication for anyone still struggling with the enormous and stressful task of picking a course and deciding if it is really worth it!
For any readers who are in the midst of stresses about applying or choosing courses or even those just thinking about it as a possibility, I thought I’d give a quick run through the main points of the supplement.
- Is it worth it? – This was a huge question of mine, that has mainly been answered now but the articles have certainly helped too. It is important to consider whether a masters will be worth it in long-term, especially given the financial investment required. It is suggested that a LIS (library and information) masters will stand you not only in good stead for a career in libraries but also give many transferable skills applicable to more diverse sectors. Essentially a masters will prepare you to be a manager, something that is useful in more than just the librarianship profession.
- How to choose a ‘library school’ – Again this was another huge stress for me personally as I was unsure about how important academic ranking and research assessment tables were when chosing this type of course. The advice in the supplement is not to worry too much about academic status, instead think about the overall experience. Consider the geographical implications, the social and economic factors and the content of specific courses. Don’t get too hung up on academic prestige, as long as the course is accredited and you work hard you will succeed. There is a nice bit about the strengths of accredited courses in the supplement, should anyone need reminding about which ones are accredited by CILIP. The supplement even has a very handy table of LIS school courses!
- Funding – My least favourite topic of the moment is covered by the supplement. Funding is a stressful thought; once you have found your dream course and gained a place you have to think about paying for it. I don’t have a magic money tree and doubt many people do apart from those from extremely rich families, so what are the options? The well-known routes of research council funding and bank loans are covered but there is also information about a range of other grants and awards that you might be very lucky and receive.
- Will a masters get you your first job? – Another huge issue for those of us considering spending tens of thousands of pounds on a course, we would like some job security as a result. The supplement is quick to point out the current trend for job cuts and depressing economic facts however there is still hope. According to some of the leading recruitment agencies for the profession, entry level jobs are still steadily available, though anyone looking for a big first salary has come to the wrong career path. The good news is that those transferrable skills you will gain make things easier as long as you are flexible. Warning to those with their hearts set on a niche career in rare books or something, it won’t be easy going! It is important in this job market to be flexible and think outside of libraries, remember to open your mind to the jobs without the library label in business and government sectors. Essentially though, a masters should be a good investment and open lots of doors.
So that’s the main points covered, if it sounds interesting and relevant then take a look at the electronic copy of the supplement. As someone who hasn’t yet actually started a masters but has only done the application and funding stress bit, my own views are somewhat limited. Hopefully the advice of CILIP will be helpful though!