Are we there yet? A review of the second term

This week is the final week of the taught part of the course. All the undergraduates are finishing up and getting ready to leave, but I’ve still got til September before I finish. From now until then, it’ll be a countdown to D-Day… Dissertation hand-in.

So here follows a review of the second term, I hope it isn’t too long for you. My review of the first term of teaching can be found here. I figured potential and upcoming students might find this particularly useful.

The modules…

Management for Library and Information Services

This module carried on over the two semesters. It was greatly improved this term, not least by moving to a different classroom – one where we weren’t having to fight computer screens and concrete pillars for a view of the front. The topics covered this term have included marketing and branding, communication in organisations, financial planning, and evaluating the social impact of services. Some of these also involved practical activities; with financial planning we worked out a budget from this year’s spending, using what seemed to me a very complicated spreadsheet! Some of the stuff was very clearly relevant, some of the others a bit too theoretical.

Assessment: 1. Literature Review; 2. Reflective Journal; 3. Service Quality Evaluation – group presentation & report

Research Methods and Dissertation Preparation

Having studied social sciences for five years before starting this course (A Levels in Sociology and Psychology, and undergraduate degree in Sociology), I was already fairly very familiar with a lot of the content of this module. However, that is not to say it isn’t useful, as many of my course mates are not from this kind of background – the majority have studied arts or humanities. It’s also good to have formal preparation for the dissertation project.

Assessment: 1. Initial dissertation proposal; 2. Critique of a previous dissertation; 3. Final dissertation proposal

Libraries, Information & Society II: Academic & Research Libraries

The emphasis is very heavily on the academic libraries side in this module, but there were some really fascinating sessions on a selection of special libraries. Lots of guest speakers also taught on this course, which helps shake things up a bit, and offers a chance to see potential career paths and find out about different areas of LIS.

Assessment: 1. Group presentation on Open Access; 2. Evidence-based briefing paper

Libraries, Information & Society II: Public Libraries

This is one of my smaller classes, and really benefited for it. Discussion was a lot easier in class, and it often felt more like a seminar. Again, there were many guest speakers on this module. However, unsurprisingly, things were often a bit doom-and-gloom, particularly when one speaker informed us of a wonderful project he’d worked on, then proceeded to tell us how there is no chance we’d ever get funding for something like that, and there are no jobs anyway. Perhaps not the best way to inspire future professionals…

Assessment: 3,000 word essay

Archives and Records Management

Another enjoyable module. An introduction to the basics of archives and records management, and quite evenly spread between the two. Best session? Rescuing poor drowned books by constructing a wind tunnel. We also were able to go on a couple of visits in Sheffield, including the city archives and university special collections.

Assessment: 1. 1,500 word essay; 2. Archival/Collections research project

The course overall…

Three negatives

  • Late hand in/feedback turnaround – Turnaround is meant to be two weeks, but for one particular assignment we waited approximately 6 weeks since handing in for feedback. We get penalised 5% for late submission, but the department have no penalisation for late return.
  • Deadlines – I know that time management is an important skill, but with six pieces of work due on the same day (and that’s in no way all of my deadlines this term!), the lecturers could cut us a little slack?
  • Theoretical focus – Some more practical application would be beneficial, perhaps through the organisation of placements, or shadowing.

Three positives

  • Wide range of module choice – Picking my modules was so hard, and I think everyone changed their mind at least once! Sheffield gives the opportunity to study a wide range of subjects, and explore your own interests.
  • Continuing professional development – The lecturers really encourage this. In particular, there is a Facebook group where staff and students post interesting opportunities and events, and these often get emailed round too. That’s how I found out about the SLA ECCA award, and I am sure others have benefitted from the staff’s enthusiasm about CPD.
  • Guest speakers – I said it a couple of times earlier in the post, but I really did enjoy these sessions. A wonderful mix of new professionals, often former students at the iSchool, and more established LIS professionals, whose expertise is obviously gratefully received.


  1. Hi Ruth! Nice post, it’s really interesting to hear how people are getting on with other library courses. I must say that your MA sounds way more intense than my course! I’ve just finished year 1 of my MSc (part-time) and was thinking of writing a kind of reflective piece on how it has all been going. Maybe now I will..

    Anyway, good luck with your dissertation – have you started it proper?

  2. Hi Ruth! Nice post, it’s really interesting hearing how others are getting on with their respective library school courses because I’m quite a nosey soul. Have to say your MA sounds way more intense than my course! (I mean that in a good way, trust me.)

    I had been thinking of writing a reflective piece on my course since I’ve literally (well, last Tuesday) just finished year 1 and it would be good to get down all my thoughts on how it’s all going.

    Anyway, good luck with your dissertation – have you started it proper?

    1. Thanks for the comment! I love a good snoop too, so I’ll happily be reading yours if you write one 🙂

      Haven’t started the dissertation yet, though I really should get a move on with it. Trying to get other assignments done with first.

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