My first term at library school has come to an end – and the time has gone so quickly! There’s still quite a lot of work for me to do over the holidays though; at the moment I’m working on a cataloguing policy for my Cataloguing and Classification module which I’m hoping to get finished this side of Christmas. I’ve found that I’ve quite enjoyed the cataloguing element of this module, which has come as a surprise because cataloguing wasn’t really one of my favourite activities when I was a graduate trainee. However, learning the theory behind all the cataloguing that I’ve done in practice has been really interesting – and I have to admit that I now feel really grateful for all those hours spent cataloguing during my traineeship because it’s definitely given me an advantage on this course!
I wish I could say that I’ve enjoyed classification just as much, but unfortunately this has been my least favourite subject this term because I’ve just found it fiendishly difficult. It’s not because I don’t understand the general theory behind it – it’s more that the physical classification schedules for the various schemes, especially Dewey, have seemed so impenetrable and confusing to me. The Dewey classification comes in four volumes which means that lots of page-flipping and cross-referencing is necessary, and Dewey also has lots of complex rules for the correct way to build classmarks. The first book that I classified using Dewey took me five hours!
Although we used Dewey in the library where I used to work, this was the first time that I had ever used it to classify a book from scratch, because when I was a trainee I used to classify books by doing a subject analysis of the book and then searching the library catalogue to see where other books on that subject had been classed. I would also look at other libraries to see where they had classed the same book, and this often helped me to assign a correct classmark.
Sometimes the final choice of classmark would also depend upon the subject for which the book had originally been bought, as it sometimes happened that a book would fall into two possible categories. In this case I would often choose to class the book in the place where it would be of most relevance to the students and where they would expect to find it – I think that this can be a good way to classify books in practice because it shows that you are considering your users’ needs rather than just blindly following the rules of a classification scheme.
My final piece of work for the Classification module will be to create a classification system of my own, albeit on a greatly reduced scale! I’m actually quite looking forward to tackling this piece of work because I think that I will get a lot of satisfaction out of attempting to create a classification scheme which is less convoluted than the ones I’ve been working with – and one which makes more sense to me than devilish Dewey!
My favourite module this term has been Principles of Computing and Information Technology. Even though part of the module involved us learning about binary mathematics, which was quite terrifying, the subject matter was very engaging and it was really interesting to learn all about how computers really work ‘under the hood’. We also had the opportunity to build our own website as part of the assessment, which was fun as I enjoy tinkering with HTML – however, I rather wish that I’d spent a bit more time on this as my final result was a bit 1990s-esque when compared to some of the brilliant websites created by other people on the course. I’m taking a second web-based module next term though, so I may decide to have another bash at creating a website in my spare time.
The optional module that I took this term was Digital Resources in the Humanities. It turned out to be a very interesting module, but I have some mixed feelings about it due to the fact that it didn’t really meet my expectations. A large part of the module was related to the digitisation of artefacts such as manuscripts or museum objects and we explored the different ways in which the digital forms of these objects could be developed into a scholarly resource. We learned about the role that computing has played within the Humanities and we also had some very interesting lectures from guest speakers who explained in great detail the technical processes behind the creation of digital objects. The reason that the module didn’t really meet my expectations was because much of the material wasn’t directly related to libraries. I had expected the module to have much more of a library focus, but it was clear that the content was far more tailored towards students on the MA/MSc Digital Humanities course, which in retrospect is unsurprising because this was a compulsory core module for them.
Nevertheless, I did enjoy the module and I’m quite looking forward to writing the essay for it as I think that I’ve chosen an interesting topic. The assignment is to compare a digital object with its analogue equivalent and I’ve chosen to explore ebook digitisation by investigating Project Gutenberg – should be a fun project over Christmas!
The first two weeks of next term will be spent on a work placement and I have chosen to do mine in a school library. Having never worked in a school library before, I decided that the placement would be a great opportunity to try something different and I’m really looking forward to the experience – expect plenty of blogging from me in the New Year as to how I got on!
In the meantime, this is likely to be my last blog post of 2011 so I will finish up with a festive UCL-themed picture and wish everyone a Merry Christmas 🙂