In addition to the individual courses I have written about previously, we were also required to complete a 12,000-15,000 word dissertation and a ‘Professional Awareness’ course that involved sitting an exam on current issues in librarianship and writing a case study on a topic of our choice.
Due to the different interests and experiences of students on the course, the topics of the case study and dissertation were very varied. Some students chose to investigate the issues surrounding important recent developments such as social media in libraries, open access publishing, or RDA, while others pursued interests developed over the course, such as those focusing on historical bibliography. My own experiences are therefore very personal to me, but serve as examples of possible approaches.
The case studies were expected to look critically at a recent project or development in a particular library, and therefore most students chose to focus on somewhere they had access to through paid or voluntary work. As I was then working as a Solo Librarian at the NSPC, I decided to examine the cataloging practices used for the retrospective cataloging project which I had just completed in the small library.
The cataloguing project has effected by the use of an open access library management system (OpenBiblio) with limited MARC functionality, time restraints, and considerations of the small and specialist user group. For the case study I looked at how the cataloguing policy compared to AACR2 standards, reflecting on the original cataloguing decisions made by the previous Solo Librarian and my own alterations and challenges.
I found writing a case study quite difficult as it was not something I was used to, and often found myself doubting the value of my re-telling of events. However, having read many other case studies then and since, I can appreciate the valuable role they play in sharing with other professionals and promoting best practice.
For the dissertation I chose to look at academic library subject guides targeted at undergraduate students. I decided to focus my dissertation on one subject, and chose English Literature as I have an undergraduate degree in English and because the subject hadn’t featured heavily in other studies of subject guides. I wanted to produce solid recommendations for the content of subject guides that were subject-specific rather than general. My approach was to study the development of the discipline and its current teaching and assessment methods, to survey current English students, to talk to Subject Librarians, and to compare existing guides. I received over 100 responses from my survey, which I was very pleased with, and found the analysis of the discipline particularly rewarding for identifying areas where subject guides can support research for assignments and background reading. I may post some of my recommendations at a later date.
These opportunities for independent research were definitely some of the most enjoyable parts of the degree, especially as we were allowed the freedom to pursue our own interests rather than directed to particular topics.