A couple of weeks ago, my friend and I drove for nearly four hours through tiny Welsh towns, rippling hills and the thickest fog imaginable to emerge in the seaside town of Aberystwyth. Barely a week before, we’d had our acceptance letters for the Masters in Library and Information Studies by distance at the university there, and only three weeks before that we’d made the decision to apply. Three months ago we’d met for the first time as we moved to a new city and started our graduate traineeships at the same place, so it’s fair to say things have moved very quickly.
Is it a risk to take on a masters during a traineeship? The very idea of the job is to get stuck in and gain practical experience before heading off to study, making the most of an entry-level position then – hopefully – moving on to a full-time Masters or studying part-time alongside a library assistant-type job. It’s hard work in itself, as you’ve got to be keen, super-visible and hardworking to make an impact in the trainee role and that can be exhausting! Quite often I’ve collapsed on the sofa at the end of the day, reluctant to do much more than watch Pointless with my housemates, or conserved my energy ready to go out again in the evening. Adding a Masters on top could potentially wear down the hardiest trainee, eating up precious socialising and relaxing time and potentially impacting the day job.
So why on earth would we do it?
Many of us came of age during the recession and have lived through years of austerity, gloomy reports of unemployment, and hikes in tuition fees, compounded by the loss of maintenance grants, and means-tested loans making us ever more reliant on our parents’ financial help. Is anyone else getting supremely fed up of the word ‘millennial’ and all the assumptions it’s ended up carrying? Not only that, public libraries – the first thing many people think of when hearing the ‘l’ word – have been clattering like dominoes, and often, announcing to new acquaintances that you’re training to be a librarian invites baffled or pitying facial expressions. (It makes Young Professionals meet-ups especially fun, as you explain to accountants, solicitors and engineers just how much more fun your job is than theirs.)
When I finished university, I struggled to find meaningful graduate-level work, and was drawn to libraries through an unpaid, but thoroughly epic and life-changing, internship at Gladstone’s Library in North Wales. After that ended, still relying on my parents’ generosity, I took a turn as a travelling tea-lady with a pop-up vintage tearoom, touring the UK with a food festival, before securing my library traineeship and finally moving out properly for the first time. I love the work enough that, despite the odds, I want to forge a career in it. You meet the most fascinating people and the cliché is true, no day is quite the same. As a fiercely independent person, I’m more ambitious than ever now I’ve planted my feet on the library ladder, so it seemed natural to want to get ahead even more quickly and aim for a qualification, so by the time our traineeship was over we’d be able to go for better paid jobs with more responsibilities and opportunities.
The fixed period of a year’s traineeship gives momentum for such a mission, and motivation to get going and complete the diploma stage. Many of the people I work with have gone through, or are going through, their own courses and are thankfully willing to share their experiences and knowledge, while the everyday work of a librarian offers endless case studies for assignments.
Plus, it’s interesting stuff! I’ll be studying things like the role of information in society, management, and even dabble in music librarianship which just sounds like so much fun, writing business reports and project plans, which I’ve never done before. I’m hoping the course gives my work even more meaning, enriches the trainee experience and even that it’ll help me understand some of the processes and thinking behind what I do.
Anyone else out there taking on the challenge of a traineeship and a Masters? Have you done it yourself? Leave a comment or head over to the #blogposts channel on Slack to share your experiences.
Featured image provided by author.