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Juggling/Slaying the dissertation dragon part 1 – Hack Library School

By uczchum, on 18 February 2015

Image by Luis Alejandro Bernal Romero CC BY-SA 2.0

Image by Luis Alejandro Bernal Romero
CC BY-SA 2.0

The whirl of studies and jobs stopped me from cross-posting my last blog post for Hack Library School on juggling your responsibilities and expectations, so it’s a two for one today with my latest post on dissertations – Slaying the dissertation dragon part 1.  Inspired by the departmental dissertation boot camp this week, I was surprised to learn that the majority of library schools in America don’t require students to undertake a dissertation, so many of them won’t do an extended research project until they reach PhD level.

This is the first in a series of posts taking advantage of our excellent research skills teaching on the MA LIS here, in which I hope to make research seem a bit less daunting.

Networking for Introverts – Hack Library School

By uczchum, on 4 December 2014

My nuntitled - by ashraful kadir, Creative Commonsame is Sarah, I’m a part time student on the LIS course and this year I’m one of Hack Library School’s contributing writers.  I’m the first Brit to write for the blog so I’ll be exploring the differences between UK and US library culture and I’ll try to give the US audience a taste of how we do things here! I’ll be linking my posts here when they’re out in the world, roughly once a month.

My first post, Networking for Introverts, went up yesterday. I’m particularly interested in hearing other peoples’ experiences so please do leave a comment if you’ve got any tips!


Image: Used under Creative Commons Licence, (c) ashraful kadir, untitled

Library Student Day in the Life – Monday

By Natalie Kent, on 6 March 2013

I’m writing this post for the Hack Library School project Library Student Day in the Life. Hopefully it will provide a bit of insight into what life is like at UCL.

I’m a full-time student on the MA in Library and Information Studies at UCL. We are now well into the second teaching term, and almost half way through the course as a whole. In fact, we only have a few weeks of teaching left now and time has really flown.

This morning I had a 10 am lecture for our module Information Sources and Retrieval. I arrived into UCL a bit early and spent the time before the lecture in one of UCL’s computer clusters to sort out my emails and look at my schedule for the week ahead. Today’s session was about medical information sources. We looked at the healthcare information domain, and considered who might need access to information and the changes which have come about in recent years. I realised that ‘medical information’ is wide reaching, and not easy to define. We also looked at the different types of resources available, and where there might be intrinsic strengths and weaknesses. This session lasted 2 hours, and then we all decamped to a nearby computer cluster for a practical session to learn more about the database Medline, and specifically their free service Pubmed from a practising librarian working in neurology – a very helpful session!

After this I had lunch with friends on the course. My day technically could have finished there – I built up enough credits last term so that I don’t have to take any optional modules this term. But one of the great things about UCL is that students are able to audit additional modules, and I’d been given permission to sit in on the afternoon’s advanced cataloguing class.

The 3-hour cataloguing class was split into two halves. In the first half, a professional cataloguer shared her experience of setting up and managing a successful institutional repository. Before this I didn’t have a very extensive grasp of the metadata requirements of institutional repositories, or many of the challenges involved. We were also able to discuss issues surrounding management in cataloguing, and what different approaches might be taken. All in all it was a very interesting and helpful session. In the second half we looked at how to catalogue maps, a skill that might well come in useful at some point in the future!

My day didn’t end there as I then had an evening shift at my part-time job in a law library. Most of the students on the course do some kind of part-time work as well. I’ve certainly found it very useful to be able to apply some of the theoretical knowledge I’m building on the course in a practical way.

At the end of this rather busy day I got the bus back to my flat, feeling very glad that tomorrow morning’s lecture doesn’t start until 10!

Library School Day in the life: Day Two

By Laura J M Newman, on 5 March 2013

This is (obviously) Day Two in this project – for Day One, and for the rest of the week (in case I don’t get around to posting them here), please check out my blog at http://butilikesayingshh.wordpress.com/, or follow me on Twitter @librarylandL.

So, just a brief post tonight as I’ve been out and I have work in the morning so I want to go to bed! This is day two of my blog for Hack Library School project for the week.

Today I had Uni all day, which started at 10am (thank goodness all of the 9am starts from last term are over!). I had an hour-long lecture for my Management module, which was about HR and the policies you need to think about, such as when employing people. A lot of it was common sense, but I certainly think it’s important to underline these things for when we become professionals. After that we had a half hour break which I spent in the common room with friends, and then a seminar for the same module from 11.30-1pm. In this we had a discussion about the use of volunteers and what you need to think about when considering using them – it was a really interesting discussion and made me consider issues that I hadn’t necessarily thought about before.

We then separated into our groups and started work on our third exercise. To give you some background, as a group we’ve created an imaginary library, which we have been given a budget for. In previous exercises we’ve outlined a mission statement and goals for the organisation, divided up the budget and staffed the library. Today we had to write a job description, person specification and create an advert for the job.

The most frustrating thing that I always find about this is that we don’t have enough time to do it, and working within a group obviously means that a lot of discussion happens – not ideal when you’re pressed for time! I generally find myself in the role of time management – i.e. I hurry everyone up so that we don’t waste time. We did quite well today and ended the session by dividing up the remaining work to do in our own time, with a deadline that we all have to meet. The group work is assessed so it’s important to make sure we’re all working at it.This kind of scenario is, I think, quite important for the course as I aim to be in management one day and it’s nice to consider these issues now, but I do find it a challenge working in such a big group.

After this was lunchtime. Usually I just spend this with my friends, but today I went to talk to one of my lecturers about my dissertation ideas first. One thing I really like about UCL is how approachable the staff are, and how helpful. After the discussion I feel a lot more certain about what I’m going to do for my dissertation now, which is a relief. I can start on my proposal this weekend now; something I’ve been putting off until now!

Then, after a hurried lunch (I bring in something from home and use the microwave in the common room) I went off to my optional module for this term. I’ve chosen to do Manuscript Studies, as it’s not something I have any experience in so I thought I would see what I think.

So far, I’m really enjoying it. A lot of it is based on palaeography, and is, I have to say, a barrage of information at times considering I have little prior knowledge of this. A visiting lecturer takes the class and it’s very old-school; no PowerPoint, but just the odd word or example on the board and lots of talking! Suffice to say that this week, as always, my brain felt like mush after it! Today we did about Gothic script. We always do some transcription as we have a test on this at the end of the term, and todays examples weren’t horrific so I don’t feel too freaked out about the test. My main quibble with the class is that we only get a 5 minute break in a 3 hour class, so I often find myself flagging towards the end. I’m glad I chose it though, as it’s allowed me to try something completely different.

After class I went for dinner and to the cinema with some friends from the course, and then headed home. And that’s day two in my life!

#libday8- Sunday

By Minerva K De La Garza Gil, on 5 February 2012

As usual, I woke up rather early. I enjoy the early hours of the day … how quiet they are, especially when it has been snowing, it is in these hours when I get a lot of work done. Being a part time student, and working full time hours during the rest of the week, every single pocket of ‘available’ time is of precious value.

This morning was spent in the company of D.F. McKenzie and Joao & Bebel Gilberto, whilst giving the finishing touches to an assignment due next week. I am now at the point of wrapping up my taught lectures (I am currently in my second year) for the MA LIS and have just planned the skeleton for the two remaining written assignments. Somehow I feel partially ‘free’ to continue my work on the dissertation. I am already looking forward to many hours of research and typing in this rather small space (my secretaire desk), but surrounded by music, and films; how big it feels then!

It is here, in this small cabinet, where I look for and process information, where I organize notes, schedules and action plans. Speaking of which: I have known for some time now, that I work in 1-hour-rhythms … as I am now planning my MA research, I am taking this bit of information into account. I even informally trialled it this past week by setting an alarm in my computer as I was starting a task (I set the alarms slightly over an hour each time, when starting a job) this past week was continuous cataloguing and copy editing (at work), and reading one single topic (at home and reading rooms) I am absolutely convinced this will help both my spirit and my productivity.  Even better! At work it means, that I can consciously intertwine some project planning –or just plain pause from computer work- whilst going through my normal workflows.

Later on the day I organized a forthcoming trip to Cambridge to attend the conference “Incunabula on the move” organized by the Cambridge University Library Incunabula Cataloguing Project and the EIRI Project of Keio University, Japan. I am extremely excited about this event and cannot wait to hear Paul Needham ‘live’ for the first time! I was also surprised (and daunted, of course) to discover I am writing about a topic that he has been thinking about as well. This came as a boost of energy after having to cancel going to another -very interesting- conference in Munich a week and a half from now: “Eine Experimentiertphase im frühen Buchdruck: Blockbücher des 15. Jahrhunderts”

And now I will sit down, pour a glass of ‘freshly bought’ Kölsch, and enjoy the rest of the Sunday in the company of my husband, either continuing reading Homero Aridjis’ “La zona del silencio” … or maybe watching “The fearless vampire killers”.

We haven’t decided yet. (I might have to persuade him with regard to the latter…)

#libday8 – Saturday

By Francine C Wood, on 5 February 2012

This blog entry is written by Francine, as part of a series of posts by DIS students for the Library Day in the Life Project.

Having completed the modules for the Postgraduate Diploma as a full-time student last year, I am currently working on my dissertation to complete the full MA.  As a (nearly) librarian with a History and English undergraduate degree, I am fascinated by the increasingly digital research methodologies being adopted in the Arts and Humanities and Heritage sectors.  I’m particularly curious about the ways in which the Library and Information profession is (or needs to be) responding to digital developments, and the changes in research and information representation. My dissertation aims to highlight the needs and concerns of researchers engaging with Digital Humanities, and consider the implications for the academic library supporting humanities research.  This is, of course, a massive topic for an MA dissertation and I have much work to do.

I structure my study time around work and personal commitments; this week I took leave on Monday to spend the day on my dissertation, and have been trying to blog and tweet for libday8 as much as I can on my personal blog:

This Saturday starts fairly typically for me: I started working as a Senior Information Assistant for the University of Westminster in February 2011 while I was studying full time.  Balancing work and study is quite common for LIS students, and I found this position suited me very well.  I supervise the circulation and enquiries counter at the library, working with two excellent and committed Information Assistants.  As my situation has now changed, I have decided to leave the post in order to dedicate more time to my studies; sadly today is  my last day at Regent Library.

Knowing it would be difficult to blog much, I tweeted much of my day for #libday8 to share some highlights with you here. You can imagine me munching chocolates between tweets:

  • @_cine 4th Feb 2012 We are open! First tasks normally to check email from weekday team, allocate tasks, organise lunches and print requests lists… #libday8
  • @_cine 4th Feb 2012 However- IT services maintenance so systems at risk- spent morning preparing for off-line circulation… #libday8
  • @_cine 4th Feb 2012  All still seems to be working…as far as we can tell. To go off-line or stay live as long as possible; that is the question. #libday8
  • @_cine 4th Feb 2012  Lunch time! If I’m not shopping I take the opportunity to use the library resources. Have 2return bks I borrowed4 diss research… #libday8 https://twitter.com/#!/_cine/status/165774363466018816
  • @_cine 4th Feb 2012 Sometimes I read PDFs of articles on my kindle, today have set up laptop in back office2 make final notes from bks b4 rtning them #libday8
  • @_cine 4th Feb 2012  Am on standby while colleagues serve at the desk in case outage starts. Am maintaining full service levels as long as possible… #libday8
  • @_cine 4th Feb 2012  Readers can request items from the shelves so we share the request list +grapple with Dewey shelf marks to find items 2put on hold #libday8
  • @_cine 4th Feb 2012 And met new line manager for the first time… #libday8 (The timing was unfortunate, but we wanted to carry out a probation meeting for one of the Information Assistants before I left.)


My day finished with a quick glass of wine to say farewell to colleagues who I have enjoyed working with immensely, and a joyful but freezing trudge home as the first flakes of last night’s snow fell in London. Thank you to everyone who has been patient with me blogging and tweeting since last weekend.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series of posts and have had a happy and successful week!

#libday8 – Friday

By uczcjcu, on 3 February 2012

I’m James, a full-time student on the MA Library and Information Studies course. Friday would normally be something of a day off for me, however today it appears to have become the busiest of the week. What follows is a photoblog not only of today, but of this week. I hope it gives some idea of an average(ish) day for me at UCL…

Cathedral Square, Peterborough

Monday, 7:20am: Cathedral Square, Peterborough, on my way to the station.

Endsleigh Street

Monday, 8:50am: Walking to UCL

First stop the Science Library (far right-hand side) then the DIS Common Room (left)

DIS Common Room

The DIS Common Room - rather empty pre-10am.

Information Sources lecture

10:00am: Information Sources & Retrieval lecture.

Information lecture notes

10:45am: Information Sources lecture notes - historical examples of bibliographic control.

Publishing notes

Tuesday, 4:00pm: Publishing Today lecture notes - an interesting talk on copyright (and the hefty problems of the digital age) and the legal issues of publishing. Conclusion: don't publish anything by a character from Cluedo - they're clueless.

Senate House

Friday: Spending today (as I did Wednesday) ensconsed in the Book Studies collection of the Senate House Library. Took this shot on an almost-too-beautiful for Historical Bibliography Wednesday.


Senate House, Book Studies

Friday, 10:00am: Making use of the Book studies collection of Senate House Library - brilliant collection housed in an amazing space. I even got some work done.


Private Press notes

Friday, 12:30: I decamp from Senate House to the DIS Common Room for a quick lunch then back to working on my Historical Bibliography essay. As you might be able to tell it's on the subject of Private Presses, a pretty fascinating (if complex) field.

And so my week ends with a 3:30pm train back to Peterborough.

A special thanks to my fellow MA LIS students for putting up with my camera for the week, letting me photograph them and add the photos here.

#libday8 – Thursday

By uczcwae, on 2 February 2012

This blog entry is part of a series of posts by DIS students for the Library Day in the Life Project.

I’m a full time student on the Library and Information Studies MA. As compatriots Jennifer and Annie mention below, one of our modules for the spring term is Management. For one assignment, we are to examine the legal issues surrounding an imagined scenario encountered by a library. So this morning I have spent my time trying to get to grips with the Data Protection, Freedom of Information, and Copyright acts and how, if at all, these legislations apply to unpublished material authored by deceased persons.

These acts of Parliament embody core liberal values such as rights to ownership, privacy and freedom. Over the past months, we have seen a conflict between these important values exposed and most upsettingly abused to justify private gain by some press. The pursuance of freedom at all costs compromises privacy and vice versa. The key is striking a balance, and for the information professional, weighing up the risks under the constraints of limited time and resources.

For this assignment and others my tutors need not be worried; I don’t attend adopt the ‘lob it in’ method as demonstrated by one distinguished tabloid editor. I can sympathise though, although not wholeheartedly. From my little experience so far working in two high-profile organisations both scrutinised and regulated extensively, important decisions concerning the management of information are made daily. I have been afforded the time for this assignment to research the legal issues surrounding an imagined scenario, but in the real world time is of the essence and there is often little of it to go around. I am beginning to understand that knowledge of the law on these matters and the nouse to weigh risks appropriate to the size and type of the organisation are vital skills for the information professional, especially with fewer barriers to access information and greater expectation than ever before.

From legislation to ligature: students on the MA course are required to choose two optional modules and for one of which I chose Manuscripts Studies. This is unlike anything I’ve studied before and that’s why chose it.  So this evening and to end my #libday8 I will spend it distinguishing minuscule from majuscules, uncial from cursive, the quire from its inserted singleton and appreciating the finer aspects of the medieval Insular script.

#libday8 – Wednesday

By Ellen Allardice, on 1 February 2012

This blog entry is part of a series of posts by DIS students for the Library Day in the Life Project.

I’m a third year modular student on the MA Library and Information Studies course at UCL. This year I am working on my dissertation, having completed the taught part of the course over the past two years.  For the dissertation, I have chosen a topic area that I found particularly interesting – Bibliography.  My choice of the Historical Bibliography module as an option was unexpected, as I had intended to focus on IT related topics.  However a visit to the National Art Library at the V&A (recommended by a librarian at work) inspired me to change at the start of my second year.    I remember being enthralled by the display of the early manuscripts and various editions of Bleak House by Charles Dickens.

For my dissertation, I am exploring the history and development of bibliography as a field of study, and will be looking at its major achievements, for example the Incunabula Short Title Catalogue (ISTC).  Also, I want to investigate if and how the discipline has influenced contemporary digital age projects, to see if bibliography is still relevant today.  This involves a lot of reading!


I start the morning by listening to a podcast of  ‘The Scientific Method’, a programme in the In Our Time series broadcasted on Radio 4 last Thursday (recommended by Lyn Robinson from City University via twitter).  This interested me as it was in the early 20th century that bibliography was first promoted as a distinct scholarly field focusing on a rigorous, scientific approach.   I found the broadcast useful as it was apparent that there are parallels between the evolution of ‘the scientific method’ and changes to approaches in bibliography.  When this has finished, I continue reading up on the history of bibliography until it is time for lunch and then work.

I work part-time for Hertfordshire Public Library Service, and today is my late shift at Hatfield library.  On Wednesday, we hold a Story and Rhyme Session for the under-fives, so the early afternoon is always very busy but rewarding!  Today I also spend time with a colleague that I am supervising for the Frontline online course by Opening the Book Ltd.  The course is designed to “embed the reader-centred approach in the everyday thinking of staff who work directly with books and readers in public libraries”. Today we discuss how best to recommend and promote books that we do not like reading ourselves!

#libday8 – Tuesday

By uczcjye, on 31 January 2012

This blog entry is part of a series of posts by DIS students for the Library Day in the Life Project.

My day at library school began with my usual commute into London from Watford, which is a quick and easy train journey into Euston station, followed by a short walk to UCL. On Tuesday mornings, everyone who is taking the MA in Library and Information Studies attends lectures on Management, and during the first half of today’s lecture we were looking specifically at strategic planning. We learned about the various processes which are necessary for the creation and implementation of a strategic plan, and we identified the ways in which the current economic and political climate was likely to have an impact on strategic planning within libraries.

The second half of our Management lecture usually takes place in a different room, which today meant that we had to brave the cold and snowy conditions in order to make our way to the other side of campus. Once seated again in the lecture theatre, we were given a lecture on professional ethics and on our responsibility as librarians to ensure that concern for the public good underpinned all of our planning and policy-making activities.

During the final part of the lecture, we were set a group work assignment to write a mission statement and a strategic plan for the imaginary libraries that we had created as part of the Collection Management module last term. Each group will eventually have to produce an assessed portfolio on these libraries, which will include details on budget, service planning, recruitment and management structures.

After the lecture, most of us retreated to the DIS common room for lunch and hot drinks as it was still extremely cold outside! I have a free afternoon on Tuesdays because I take my optional module in Web Publishing on a Friday, so I decided to spend the rest of the day in the Library reading up on copyright law in preparation for my Management essay on legal issues in libraries.

Today was a longer day than usual for me because I attended a workshop in the evening on how to run a school book club. The UCL Schools Book Club is a volunteering group which runs lunchtime book discussions at secondary schools in and around London and I have decided to take part in this in order to gain some additional experience of working with young people. At the meeting tonight we were each assigned to a school which had requested volunteers, and so it looks like I will soon be co-running a book club for A-Level English Literature students, which should be both exciting and challenging!