The Sheffield Experience

I was delighted to be invited to speak to this year’s cohort of Graduate Trainees at the University of Oxford about applying to library school, specifically about my experiences studying at the University of Sheffield. I was one of three former-trainees reflecting on our library school experiences at different institutions, and we were joined by Stephen Pinfield, senior lecturer in the Information School at the University of Sheffield, who discussed the important factors to consider when choosing a course.

The Mappin Building. Sarah Grice, Flickr

The Mappin Building. Sarah Grice, Flickr. CC BY-NC 2.0

My own presentation was biased – I am distinctly pro-Sheffield, but I hope I was balanced enough to give the trainees a realistic idea of what studying there is like. I thought it might be useful to others to include some insights from my talk, as well as reflecting on how it went. Below is an edited version of my presentation. The pictures I’ve included are the ones I used as my slides.

The course

A wind tunnel we built in the Archives module, to dry out flooded books

A wind tunnel we built in the Archives module, to dry out flooded books

I was impressed with the range of modules, allowing me to choose a selection that was some stuff I knew I’d want or need for my career, as well as stuff that’s just interesting.

I did feel, once I was in my first job after the masters, there could’ve been more on teaching. It was covered a little bit, but I didn’t come out feeling fully prepared to take on that responsibility of teaching.

There was a lot of group work, which usually fills everyone with dread. The tasks themselves weren’t that bad (though sometimes felt a bit irrelevant), but inevitably once or twice you’ll get the odd person who doesn’t pull their weight. It can be difficult to fit group meetings with everyone’s schedules, especially if you have group where some are part-time or travelling in from elsewhere. That’s absolutely no one’s fault, it’s just something to be aware of.

Sheffield 10 milesInterview

I did have to have an interview, but it really wasn’t that bad. They gave me a free lunch (and I was encouraged to take cake home with me) – the lunch wasn’t the main reason I chose to go to Sheffield, but it definitely made a good impression – and the interview itself was more of a chat to see if I was right for the course and the course was right for me.

The university

Obviously your interaction with the university and the student union will vary if you’re part-time or traveling in, but since I was full-time I was able to enjoy being a student again. The student union is really impressive and regularly wins awards. And I couldn’t talk about the librarianship course and not mention the library. The infamous Information Commons, or IC – Super modern, bazillion floors, all kinds of work spaces for quiet study, comfy sofas, and everything in between. Open 24/7/365, you can eat in there, it even has showers. It’s an experience. Oh, and the building is bright turquoise. They are constructing another information commons, so I’m interested to see how that turns out. Personally, I wasn’t a big fan of the IC, but it was always rammed so obviously a lot of others are.

The view from Mam Tor in the Peak District

The view from Mam Tor in the Peak District

This was the gist of my talk. On the day I managed to forget to mention most of the negatives of my experience, but many were things mentioned by the other speakers anyway. I also spoke a bit quick. I think I’m out of practice now I don’t do so much training and presenting.

It was lovely to meet the trainees. I got a real hit of nostalgia, especially when I left them at a pub we used to frequent after training. I remember finding this session useful when I was a trainee, so I hope I was as useful to this year’s.

Research in the NHS & the NIHR

Wellcome Library, London A young man conducting an experiment in a chemical laboratory.

Wellcome Library, London
A young man conducting an experiment in a chemical laboratory.

Every month my organisation hosts a Research Club – a chance to hear about research relevant to our work NHS Trust, or current research going on in the organisation. The November Research Club was on the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) – the “NHS of research”.

I wasn’t aware of the NIHR before, so it was a useful introduction, as well as a compelling appeal for closer working between NIHR and NHS Trusts.

Why do research?

  • To improve the experience of care. This is particularly important in mental health because unlike most physical health we generally want people to come back
  • Patients like it. A study by the speaker showed that mental health patients were really keen to get involved in research. And, those involved in research live longer
  • It enriches the intellectual environment, and in psychiatry it’s quite stale

The NIHR is the “NHS of research”. It is made up of 15 regions and 30 specialities, of which we come under mental health. It funds research through grants, for which there are competitive bids, and it puts funding into Trusts to support local research activity. The NIHR also funds the Research Design Service (RDS), which offers support for designing research. It’s a rigorous process, such as picking apart your methodology, but if the RDS has been used, it scores a point for a proposal for funding.

It was inspiring to hear NIHR call for research embedded into mental health clinical practice, in a similar way as in oncology where research is so prominent.

I hadn’t known about NIHR before the Research Club, so I’m really glad I attended. It is a major institution intertwined with the research done in my organisation – of which I am involved in part, as I often carry out literature searches for researchers or advise in how to find evidence.