Thing 10: Graduate traineeships, masters degrees and chartership

I’ve really enjoyed reading everyone’s comments on traineeships and masters degrees.  I don’t know whether this means I’m just nosy and more interested in reading about people’s lives than I am about what they think about Google Calendar? It’s great to hear that there are so many different paths into the profession; traineeships straight after graduation, traineeships later on, library assistant jobs, MAs or MScs, full time masters, part time masters, distance learning, certification, chartership with and without a masters, traineeships at the same time as the masters, the permutations are endless!

Here are some of the most interesting Thing 10 posts I’ve chanced upon:

Emma has been doing a traineeship alongside a distance learning Masters programme.

As Jen is already working in an information role, she is going to do a traineeship as well as working towards certification with CILIP.

Katrina came into librarianship after a career change from publishing and is now working towards chartership.

Ruth has taken the traditional (although increasingly uncommon) route of a traineeship after graduation and then a full time MA.

Judy took a distance learning postgraduate diploma whilst working as a library assistant.

As Lorna works in legal librarianship, she has an HNC in legal studies as well as an MSc in Librarianship.

Sarah is an archivist so the qualifications are a little different, but with a similar route in.

It was interesting to read about Sheila Webber’s first library assistant job in the 70s, and the circulation system that went ‘kerplunk’.

However, there is also a worrying ‘darker’ undercurrent to Thing 10 posts – graduate trainee posts are being cut, MA fees are going up, MA funding is very scarce, library assistant posts are fairly low paid so doing a distance learning course plus working full time is a big decision to take.  Does this mean that loads of talented trainees and library assistants who would make great librarians will be priced out of doing the postgraduate qualification?  Is the postgraduate qualification even useful in terms of what you actually learn, or is it outdated and overpriced?  Does there need to be an overhaul of the system, so that there is more on the job learning in the style of certification and chartership rather than having to do the MA or MSc?  So many questions without real answers being discussed and debated at the moment. Siobhan, Jen, and Rosie talk a bit about the confusion surrounding postgraduate study in their Thing 10 posts.

But on to my own experience:

Graduate Traineeships

I am sad to say I’m coming to the end of my graduate traineeship at the Bodleian Law Library in Oxford.  We had our ‘Year in Review’ session yesterday with all the other trainees, and it seems as though the year has just flown by.  The traineeship has been a really positive experience for me – I’m lucky to have landed in a library with a supportive supervisor, lovely colleagues and lots of different things for me to do.   I’m based in the information resources department, which means I generally help out with cataloguing, serials and acquisitions, as well as spending time on the enquiry desk and joining in with any other projects they’ve got going on.  We’re very much occupied at the moment with a huge reclassification project, so it’s all hands on deck with reclassifying, labelling and reshelving, but that’s because it’s the long vacation – the time for getting things done when not so many students are around.  Earlier in the year I was working on anything from cataloguing and boxing a collection of government papers from commonwealth countries, writing a LibGuide on Swedish Law, taking part in a legal research course, making a massive spreadsheet of reading lists and going through the library web pages as part of a web page redesign project.  So I’ve come from knowing virtually nothing about how libraries function to knowing several notebooks-worth of things!

I would say that trainees do have to be prepared for the fact that some of the work will be repetitive and boring – after all, as a trainee you haven’t really developed any skills yet, and you are at the bottom of the library heap.  Everyone knows more about how the library works than you do, especially at the beginning.  My advice would be to be enthusiastic and friendly, and willing to take on lots of new tasks even if you find some of the day-to-day work a little dull.  Take advantage of any extra training offered, go to outside events organised by CILIP, or to an unconference – I found that it was the mixture of my day-to-day role plus all the extra stuff going on that made my trainee year a really useful and enjoyable experience.

Oxford trainees on a visit to the Bodleian book storage facility – the only time we got to wear lovely orange jackets.

I would recommend the Bod traineeships because of the training programme that goes along with them – on Wednesday afternoons we got to attend talks on subjects as varied as e-resources, special collections, conservation and subject consultants.  We visited a medical library, Oxford Brookes Library, the British Library, the University Archives, a tiny little library especially for conservators, and probably some other libraries that I’ve forgotten, to see how different they all are, and what different librararians’ roles involve.  We had training in presentation skills and customer service (although the customer care workshop was a little bit cringeworthy – we had to do role play, horror of horrors).  We got the chance to present on aspects of social media, and on the projects we’d been working on – see my write-up here for more info on that.  Oh, and we were encouraged to arrange tours of each other’s libraries around Oxford.  I’ve seen more libraries and eaten more biscuits this year than ever before in my life!

Photo from a trip to the Radcliffe Science Library

I feel very lucky to have been able to benefit from the Bodleian scheme, and I don’t think I would have had such a fun and interesting introduction to librarianship if I hadn’t done a traineeship.  That said, I had come from knowing nothing at all about librarianship, so if you were in a different position – say you had already worked as a library assistant for a few years – I can see why the traineeship wouldn’t be so useful.  They’re also usually less well paid than some library assistant posts, and you may have to be willing and able to move to a place where there are traineeships for just a year (bloggers in Scotland and Wales seem to be saying that there aren’t so many to be found there).  In the end, as for most things, it all depends on your circumstances – as the links above prove, there are lots of ways into the profession without doing a traineeship.

2011/12 Oxford Trainees. Taken from the trainee blog


Masters Degrees

I just got my ‘Welcome to the University of Sheffield’ pack through the post this morning – how exciting!  It seems like ages ago that I applied, and I’ve not really had time to think about it as there has been so much going on in Oxford, but in reality it’s only a couple of months till I start studying in Sheffield.  It won’t be a big move for me, as I grew up near, and went to sixth form in Sheffield, but it will be a bit of a shock to start studying again after a two year gap.  Hopefully I haven’t forgotten how to do it – I’ve taken a language qualification this year, to keep my studying hat on.

I should say that I realise that I am in an extremely fortunate position in that I got funding from the AHRC to study for the MA full time.  It wasn’t my plan at all to go to Sheffield – I applied on the off-chance and was really expecting to stay in Oxford and study the Aberystwyth course by distance learning.  This would have had its advantages – I would have been able to stay in the Oxford Libraries system, and gain more work experience by working full time – but with the funding I will be able to save a lot of money, and get the qualification done a bit quicker.  Plus the Sheffield course looks really interesting.  There are pros and cons either way, really – and despite my own ‘traditional’ route in, I would argue for some more options for entering the profession, as I’m sure the amount of funding available is only going to go down, and the fees are only going to go up.

I’m sure I’ll blog more about the course when I start.  For people thinking about Sheffield, another former Bodleian trainee, Ruth, has written about her first two terms at Sheffield here and here.


Let’s just get the MA over with first, and then try and get a job before thinking about Chartership.  One step at a time is the way to go!  I’ve heard on the grapevine that it’s a lot to do with reflective practice, so I’ll probably try and get better at that in the meantime.  I’m sure it’s something that I will want to do later on, although I can imagine that it might fall by the wayside if you end up in a job that doesn’t require it.  We’ll see…

I’ll leave you with an interesting thread from the LISNPN forums where graduate trainees in my year say what they’re going to do next in terms of working/studying.