The School of Ex-Libris

So I had an idea…

Photo by Abby Chung on

I have known a few people to apply and get onto a free postgraduate Fine Art programme School of the Damned.  The purpose is to provide a platform for further free higher education. Why pay for a Masters in Fine Art when you could keep practising for free on your own? However, you miss critical reviews by your peers and a final show. This is where School of the Damned comes in. For completely free. I believe it’s still based in London and you have to pay your own travel costs to get there, but there are regular meet ups/crits and an end of year show.

Whereas I don’t want to copy this idea or think it is, currently, possible to provide a free Masters in Librarianship/Information I think there are things missing from the majority of these courses and they are still very academically focused. There should be more vocational aspects and this shouldn’t be the weighted on the individual alone to ‘fix’ this if their skill set is lacking in one area. We all know the feeling of seeing THAT job, but not having the experience, but being unable to get the experience because you’d get it from THAT job. The catch 22.

My idea… some kind of librarian summer school. Free.

Aim: Aimed at young library workers/professionals with some experience before/during/after their Masters (if they’re doing a Masters).

Purpose: Free sessions and predominantly free workshops arranged on weekends to skill swap, showcase and discuss.

Value: To fill gaps in individuals knowledge of common (and uncommon) librarianship areas.

Result: More informed young professionals going out into the world!

My own personal idea was to run a workshop on repositories, the systems I’ve used, how these work and in real life situations. For example, you’re in a position in a library, working with a repository, a new item is deposited with only a title, an incorrect journal title and the author’s name. What now? What needs to be checked? What problems are there? How does a system work?

I’ve recently completed an essay on Open Access [OA] and I learnt a lot, but this doesn’t actually help me do my job day to day. This can be looked at from the opposite side too. I use repositories in my job every day and assist with OA queries and copyright all day every day 5 days a week. Did this help me with my essay? Not really.

On top of the above we’re getting a new Library Management System [LMS] where I work and even though it is still being implemented I wanted to know more about it. I mentioned this to a student on my course who works at an institution who already has the same system and she briefly showed me around it. Of course it’s important to remember a lot of systems can be adapted to each institutions needs, but I felt more informed and aware, which not only made me feel better, but I felt I would be better at my job and when training is arranged for staff at my library using the new LMS.

In short: I want to bridge the gap between the theory and the practical.

I also think that this can be used in all sorts of areas of librarianship, not just my examples. I’m thinking Information Literacy teaching, Research Data Management, systems librarianship, all sorts.

Wouldn’t it be great to get some practice in of teaching an Info Lit class to a group of library people and having qualified librarians who do that kind of teaching critique you/give you pointers?

My perfect dream for this idea would be providing practical workshops for individuals so when they go for that interview they can say ‘Well I haven’t formally used this system/taught in a work setting, but I did go to a workshop on this and viewed/practised x, y and z and now understand how a, b and c works….’

I recently mentioned this idea to two friends (I’ve been sitting on this idea for some time and wondering if this kind of thing was even feasible) and they thought it was great.

If you’re reading this blog post what do you think?
What have I missed?
Are there issues in doing workshops on things that will vary from institution to institution?
Could it work?

I’d love to hear what anyone thinks about this idea.
Thanks for reading!

3 thoughts on “The School of Ex-Libris

  1. Pingback: Lifelong Learning as a Librarian – Jess Does Teaching

  2. Jess (via the pingback above) does a good summary of professional educational opportunities (same sorts of things here in North America) in her post mentioning yours. I think your concept steps beyond a lot of what tends to be available for professional development for librarians, which is one end of the spectrum. The ideal is to get to the the experience – to do the thing (configure a server, upload and dedupe catalog records, teach about a topic). In between is a bridge approach – here’s how, but exposure rather than experience.

    One of the challenges includes getting an audience – who may see experience as a just-in-time event (I need it because I’m going to use it right now in my job) – for what could be speculative content (when will I use this). A face-to-face experience is ideal but one approach might be to focus on exposure: get your top 10 topics and people and have them do a web-based Q&A or “this is how I work” sort of video. It could dig into the practicalities and be available when it was needed, for asynchronous online recall. Other knowledge workers use things like for this sort of thing, for exactly what you mention: I haven’t done it, but I’ve seen it done and know how it works. Youtube channel or some resource that doesn’t sit behind a professional association’s paywall?

    Like you, I’ve tended to reach out to peers. If I read about their library, I’ll shoot them a couple of questions in a cold email. Sometimes the responses have been great, but they’re not really something that are easy to share without context. And professional development, especially vendor-driven, can end up too generic, lacking both context and detail, since they’re geared to broad learning.

    Your idea is definitely workable with resources. I taught a library school course where we installed a Koha ILS – soup to nuts – so students could get a bit of hands on. It required a full weekend day, having someone preload a computer and tote it to the seminar, and a lot of patience all round. Technology topics may be easier to pull off; softer skills (teaching a topic, for example) might be harder.

    I expect the library world has plenty of people who’d be willing to participate, but I think any synchronous approach will find generating an audience difficult.


    1. Hi David, sorry for this super late reply! Thanks so much for reading and leaving this comment. The idea of 10 topics and a more web based approach sounds fantastic! I really need to look more into web style teaching and sharing. I seem to not focus on it as much because I don’t prefer it, but I do know it works for so many people. I also need to look into Lynda more! I have access via work and via my course so I really should look!
      You’re right about the issue of generating an audience… I really need to think about this and ask what I’d doing, who for, how and why would it benefit people. Thank you so much!


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