What I Wish They Taught Me in GLAM School

I only recently completed a Graduate Diploma in Information Management. In fact, I need to register to graduate today! Having said that, I can already make some comments on what I wish they taught me in GLAM school and also what it would take for me to go back and complete a Masters degree.

I completed my qualification at a slow pace while working full time, only taking one subject per semester. While this dragged it out over three years, I was fortunate enough to be working within the GLAM sector while studying which gave me insight into what skills I needed to develop and potential areas of future employment. It also enabled me to grow within my current role as well as pursue development opportunities in other areas of the organisation.

Before I discuss what I wish they taught me, I just want to emphasise how important I think it is to be working in the industry while studying. It doesn't matter if the job is not your end goal or has no relation to what you want to do, or you don't even know what you want to do - in the end, experience counts for a lot and you may be surprised at how transferrable your skills are and how the people you meet can provide pathways to success. This was the lesson I was taught after completing my undergraduate degree in photography - I finished with the skills to take a great photograph but no idea how to make a living out of it.

So, what do I wish they taught me in GLAM school?
  • Project management. While I understand that there are entire degrees dedicated to this, I think it is important to have an understanding of this within the context of the GLAM sector. I know this is offered in some information management courses but unfortunately it was not an option for me. While it was briefly discussed in some subjects I do not think there was enough emphasis on its importance, particularly within the government sector.
  • Less of an emphasis on becoming an academic or librarian. This is a tough one. Perhaps there is an argument that one shouldn't do a postgraduate degree if they don't want to become an academic. It could also be argued that I chose the wrong course to begin with, but I definitely felt that the degree was encouraging students to continue on to a PhD, or become a librarian. In fact I was told that I should only be considering Masters if I was interested in becoming an academic (after trying to work my first point into the qualification).
  • How to engage with workplace and GLAM communities, including how to put together a proposal to attend a conference or development opportunity as well as professional social media interactions and engagement.
With that said, I gained a lot from my qualification. I was interested in most of the content and continued research and gaining knowledge in my areas of interest based on the foundation that the overall course supplied. I met some great people from within my organisation as well as the sector. Even though I went into some subjects thinking they were a waste of time, I gained something useful out of every single one in some way or another. One thing I love about information management is that you can come from any background and still utilise those skills and knowledge, you can find a role within the industry that makes use of your past experiences and build upon those with new skills and knowledge. 

What would it take for me to go back and complete a Masters? The opportunity to complete a research project with practical outcomes for an organisation and the ability to take part in an internship or work placement. Both of these provide practical experience grounded in theory. While I know these are possible, I think at this point I need to take a break from studying and focus on gaining more experience in the workplace as well as taking some time out for myself. Time out for me means personal projects (hopefully some blog posts on that at a later date) as well as continuing to research, learn and participate in activities related to my professional areas of interest.

This post is my contribution to the GLAM Blog Club March 2017 theme: "What I Wish They Taught Me in GLAM School".

Cover image credit: Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library. Library for the Blind, Wrapping Books Retrieved from http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/38d3b870-c5b3-012f-c2fb-58d385a7bc34