Mastering it?

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Back in 2010, when I drafted my initial PPDP for CILIP Chartership, I identified the training and development needs to ‘understand the theory of librarianship’ and ‘understand the principles of cataloguing and classification’. So, almost two years after I noted this on my initial Chartership plan and a whole new job later, I undertook a  module from a LIS Masters to address this (and see what the whole ‘postgraduate librarianship qualification’ thing was all about). From January to May 2012, I spent a lot of time thinking about Organising Knowledge, a subject about as far away from communications and marketing as you can possibly get…

What did I learn?

Well, actually, I did learn quite a few things that I didn’t know before. I now have a very vague understanding of a) what the acronym RDA stands for, and b) what it is. I also have more of an idea about the distinctions between cataloguing, classification, indexing and retrieval, for example.

But I also learnt that actually, I seem to have magically imbibed lots of information and knowledge about this area just from working in a library and being around librarians. I know how to search databases effectively now, apparently. I might not be able to actually catalogue something, but I’ve got a pretty good idea of what a catalogue record should look like, the types of information you might find in one and how to search through them to find the material you need. The Masters module didn’t teach me any of those things, but it taught me that I knew them.

Anything else?

I also found that getting my hands on the right information, quickly, is much easier for me now. I know this because the first assessed piece of work was a task around literature searching, and I decided to cover the same subject I studied for my undergraduate dissertation. When I did my dissertation in 2009, my main method of finding information was by finding a book or article on the subject, reading it, and then getting my hands on every single interesting item in the bibliography (and repeat). Not particularly advanced, but at least it was pretty comprehensive. This time, I was far more selective; I used citation tools to find out the most influential research, I used filtering to find out the oldest material on the subject. And I went way beyond the requirements of the task – ‘you much include one of each of the following: a book, a newspaper article, a journal, a journal article, a conference paper and a web site’ – I found exhibitions, blog posts, YouTube videos, teaching resources and dissertations. I don’t think I’d necessarily have written a better dissertation then if I could find information the way I can now, but it certainly would have made things much quicker.

How would I rate the module?

Well, I thought that the course was well organised and administered, but that the course materials could do with some updating. I would have liked to see more content about new, online technologies, which felt like it was added as an afterthought in some of the sections.

This was also the first course I’ve done via distance learning, and I found the teaching style (booklets, with required reading and activities) quite difficult to get to grips with. I’m not used to being told what to think about when I’m reading an article, or answering prescribed questions to check my understanding. I think I probably would have preferred studying this module if I had been on a full or part time course, with lectures, workshops and seminars.

And what about my performance?

I’ll admit – I didn’t read every page of every booklet. Bad Rachel. But when you’re studying alongside working full time, to go through all of the material comprehensively is tricky to fit in. I also feel like I need to work on writing reports based on the first assignment (I’m an excellent waffler).

So will I finish the MA?

No. Not right now, anyway. I probably have a more positive view on LIS qualifications than I did prior to studying the module, but I’ve learnt more about Organising Knowledge from working in a library (and in a completely different area than that covered by the course) than I would have done from this studying this module. So for me, an LIS MA still seems like an unnecessary, expensive and time-consuming hoop to jump through.

Did this course help me master Organising Knowledge? Not by a long shot. But it gave me a good overview of the history of this area and some of the theories and issues involved.


Written by missrachelsmith

August 23, 2012 at 18:33

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