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Department of Information Studies


Indie-visits to Libraries: LIS Students Out and About by Ivan Donadello

By Anne Welsh, on 21 November 2014



The one-year spent in the full time Masters course passes by very quickly. You start and, all of a sudden, it is January and Term 1 has gone. Then you find yourself putting together that case study and after a minute you are writing up your dissertation. In all this, visiting libraries is a (very) good idea.


The idea came about spontaneously to my classmates and me. As comprehensive as it can possibly be, a LIS course could never cover all the possible aspects of libraries in all their fields. Academic libraries are the first and most common example for library students, but we wanted to explore a bit more what there was out there. Departments would organise visits as part of their curricula, but self-organised students visits respond more to the students’ natural curiosity. And it was fun!


How? We pulled together the resources we had and we used our contacts. Those who had spent a year in a Graduate Traineeship relied on the relations in the previous workplace: simply, they asked their previous supervisor whether they where willing to host a visit by eager library students. Others used personal contacts and their network to arrange a visit. We have never tried to directly contact a library we were interested in, presenting ourselves as “UCL LIS students”, but I am confident that very few libraries would have turned us down: sharing and teaching are at the core of the profession!


What? Our visits were approximately two hours long: enough time to look around and have a relaxed chat with the staff. The more questions, the more engaging the experience was – and it also helps a lot to think critically about ideas and experiences one might have. We managed only 3: the more the better, but studying full time and in some cases having part-time jobs made it difficult to do any more. For the same reasons, each time the group was not too large: trying to fit a visit into everybody’s schedules was of course impossible – doodle helps a lot. We have been to the library of Lincoln’s Inn, one of the four Inns of Court in London and to the Idea Store in Whitechapel, a new concept of public library that aims at serving at its best their community. We also treated ourselves with a one-day trip to Cambridge to visit the library of Trinity College. Here and there, a couple of pubs.


Why? It has been a great way to think about libraries out of the “write-that-assignment” frame of mind and to build stronger relations among ourselves beyond the university walls. It has been useful in terms of inspiration and a good exercise in planning and organising. Meeting professionals in a more informal situation also allowed us to ask more questions and free up your own curiosity. I believe we gained an awareness of the diversity and the options that exist in libraries.


Ivan Donadello (@ibancelafa) was one of the MA LIS class of 2012-13, and is now Senior Library Assistant at UCL Institute of Ophthalmology.

Image: Trinity College by Laura Newman (@librarylandL), used with permission. Pictured, from left to right: Ivan Donadello (@ibancelafa), Natalie Kent (@natalielkent), Richard Hobart, Fiona Watson, Ella Taylor and Alexandra Kohn.

Note: the appearance of the byline on this post is auto-generated, indicating that it was posted by Anne Welsh. Ivan Donadello is the sole author of this piece, and Laura Newman holds the copyright for the image.