As part of the Management for Library & Information Services module of my LIS degree I had to keep a reflective journal, involving 8 entries reflecting on my experiences of management or an exceptional learning experience.
At first I found it a little tedious, but now I can see how it can help keep track of how and what you have learned, and to put down in writing a concrete account of what you have learned.
This tends to be the model I take when writing reflectively; what happened? What did I learn? What will I do differently in the future?
I thought it would be useful for this Thing to actually reflect on something, so I will look at the last piece of work I did for my Masters, which was a research project for the Archives & Records Management.
The project involved researching an area of interest, setting a research question, and answering it using an archive or collection. The final paper was 1,500 word long, and I chose the subject of the views of Karl Marx on women, using the Marxists Internet Archive for the basis of my research.
I enjoyed the opportunity to use an archive for research, as it’s not something I’ve had experience in before. It has always seemed something for people studying Olde English, or family history. However, I do now wish I had chosen a more ‘traditional’ archive, as it, I feel, would have given more focus to my research.
The topic itself was quite straight-forward to research, but the archive was perhaps not the easiest to use. My initial ideas included looking at the representation on capitalism in comic strips, but the documents I found contained no metadata as to the date or providence.
My research project was relatively small, but I can definitely see the problems this might hold for someone doing serious research using this archive.
What can I practically apply from this experience? Well, I was unfamiliar with archives before starting this module, except from a few visits to archives during my traineeship. Now, I feel I could legitimately suggest an archive or special collection to a library user looking for resources for research.
For example, I can recall during my time at Oxford a student asked me to point him to some primary sources for researching something to do with China. I remember giving him some tips with using certain databases and search tools, which I think (and hope) served him well enough, but if this happened again, I would search for useful archives and special collections that might help him.
Reflecting on reflection…
I will definitely continue to reflect on learning experiences and events, as it is a really useful tool for LIS professionals to develop and progress by learning from one’s experience.
In future I will try, when blogging about an event for example, to write evaluatively and think about what I learned from it, rather than simply writing a description of what happened.