I started the MA in Library and Information at MMU in September 2014 after working as Library Assistant at Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust for just over year. I had a place on a Masters in English and American Studies when I finished my undergraduate degree in English Literature but I decided I wanted to work – I’d been involved in public libraries and heritage as a volunteer throughout college and as a volunteer in the archives at the John Rylands Library on Deansgate looking at their Wesleyan collections throughout my degree. I got a job in the public and mental health promotion library at Fallowfield and I loved it. After spending time getting to know what health librarianship was all about and meeting the LIHNN network I knew this was something I wanted to do.
I have always liked learning and being challenged and was keen to keep developing. My manager at the time, Emily Hopkins, suggested ‘Certification’ – the first level of professional registration offered to CILIP members. I if enjoyed that I could then think about starting the three-year masters course, it would be would be a big commitment and I wanted to be sure. ‘Certification’ involved logging a number of CPD hours, setting skills-based goals and gathering evidence to meet CILIP’s three criteria; personal performance, organisational context and wider professional context. I spent about 8 months, starting not long after I was in post, gathering a virtual portfolio of evidence and reflecting on what I had learned and was eventually awarded the Certification which I have since revalidated.
Completing Certification allowed me to dip my toe back into studying; I was still getting used to my new full time job and had only just finished a three year undergraduate course so commitment to a postgraduate course was a big decision, but as time passed my interest in the sector and the job only grew. In August 2014 I attended a ‘Library Assistant Study Day’ in Preston run by Lisa Jeskins and co-ordinated by HCLU and Gil Young. I’d really enjoyed the course and was chatting with Lisa and Gil at the end of the day – they asked if I had considered the MA and did I know there was still time to apply for the course and for funding before September. This gave me about a lot think about and about three weeks to make a decision! I eventually came to the conclusion- why waste any more time? I loved my job and was thinking about doing the Masters at some point so why not now? It would take three years after all so what was I waiting for? Gil Young helped me with my applications and my new manager, Dan Livesey, had completed the same course so gave me lots of great advice and support.
I found myself in an MMU lecture theatre during Freshers week a few weeks later…
2 and a bit years later I am now in the third and final year of the course completing research for my dissertation (thanks to all the lovely people in the North networks who kindly completed my questionnaire!), have just presented at my first conference and am working in my first professional post as a Knowledge Officer at Health Education England. The most rewarding aspect of the course has been learning from, and working with, my course peers. Their varied backgrounds and experiences of working in organisations other than my own has widened my understanding of the information landscape and given me new ideas to bring to my own organisation. Part of the reason I wanted to undertake a taught course was this connection with professors and peers – I like learning from, and with, others. The course offered this part-time, I didn’t want to leave my job to complete the course in a year, and it meant I was lucky enough to be able to put theory into practice instantaneously and call on colleagues for support.
The dissertation is the last stretch, the final year and the last piece of work I’ll need to submit. The end is in sight but there’s a lot to do, and learn, before my deadline in May. When I look back to my first day at Fallowfield 3 years ago and see how many opportunities I’ve been given, the support I’ve had and how much I’ve learned it’s exciting to think about what’s still to learn.
In the meantime I’d appreciate your thoughts as I carry on with the dissertation…
Knowledge Officer, Health Education England