At the time of writing I’ve finished 2/3rds of the Graduate Diploma in Information Management (IM) at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and I thought it would be helpful for people considering whether to do the course to learn about it from graduates.
Out of the 6 people asked for an interview, 4 were willing to answer my questions.
- Anonymous – Finished the IM degree and working as an Indexer. Doesn’t want to reveal their name.
- Janna Jungclaus just finished the Undergraduate IM degree and is now an Information Consultant at KPMG – a major financial audit, tax, and advisory firm. Janna’s personal blog is at Review Your Life
- Justine Carlisle recently completed the Masters IM degree and is currently in charge of the library at the Australian Institute of Music – a private tertiary music college
- Michael Gonzalez is the Information Central Librarian at the University of Western Sydney (UWS) Library. Michael completed the Masters IM degree several years ago and it’s clear from his answers that since then quite a few subjects have been dropped altogether or been completely improved which is a good sign.
Since I’m asking other people to publish their comments publicly, I thought it only fair my comments should be published as well:
- There are too few lecturers. I would prefer a wider variety of perspectives gained from people with different backgrounds and life experience rather than doing several subjects with the same lecturer (however good they may be)
- The course tries to be all things to all people, covering some skills required by “Librarians”, some required by Information professionals etc.
- Instead of having 4 core subjects and 2 electives I think there should be 2 core subjects: “People Information & Knowledge” and “Discovering and Accessing Information”. After doing those subjects students should be free to choose 4 other subjects in a stream which fits in with the career path they wish to pursue eg: Private Sector Consultant, Researcher, Librarian etc.
- Some assessment tasks are not relevant to real life or are out of date although this is not unusual for most university courses 🙂
- More practical assessments and involvement from people in the IM/KM industry both in terms of being guest lecturers and also in advising about suitable assessment tasks would help make the course more relevant.
With all this said I still recommend doing the course, I’ve learnt a lot from it and through course related activities as an unexpected bonus I’ve made many friends/contacts in the Library, IT, Media and other industries.
Neerav Bhatt: Do you feel that doing the UTS IM/KM course was a major factor in helped you gain employment since you finished the course?
Anonymous: I do feel that the course helped a lot in gaining my current position, but only insofar as having an Information degree was required by applicants applying for the position. In terms of my actual work, I don’t feel that having the skills and knowledge developed within the course gives me a huge advantage. I could just as easily do what I do with my degree as without. This is not necessarily a failing of the course – more an overestimation of what is needed in an Indexer by the company.
Janna: Yes. The position was actually advertised via Sue Burgess, the course coordinator, because the manager at KPMG had also completed the Undergraduate course and knew what skills graduates have learnt in the course.
The good reputation of UTS and the recommendation of the professors was also helpful.
Justine: I was still doing the course when I got the job (near completion), but I know it was an essential factor in me getting the job.
Michael: Yes, They had other UTS grads and were impressed with their skills.
Neerav Bhatt: With the benefit of hindsight were the knowledge and skills you learnt from the course worth accumulating a HECS / FEEHELP debt?
Anonymous: In hindsight, No.
While I’ve enjoyed the course, I think there was possibly too much emphasis put on the theoretical side of the subject when what would be of immeasurable use to graduates is practical skills.
I’m talking about the Information stream here. For instance, many information-related positions require skills in say, Dreamweaver, or InDesign, but these were not offered in the course, while topics such as the theory of relevance were given a great deal of coverage. I feel as though the course has given me a rather general set of skills and knowledge.
Janna: I was an international, full fee paying student and have not accumulated any debt with this course. There were a lot of factors associated with choosing to complete this course and altogether it was definitely worth it.
Justine: Yes definitely. Although, I paid some of it upfront and I was working fulltime for the duration so a year after finishing I had paid off my debt anyway. Also, the pay increase since completing the course has more than covered the costs of doing the course – being qualified is a benefit when negotiating pay!
Michael: Yes, in so much that I wanted to be a librarian, it was actually a career goal of mine.
Neerav Bhatt: Which subject that you studied was:
A. The most useful in your work context
B. The least useful in your work context
A: ‘Organising Information’ has been the most useful to me in my current position, for its coverage of thesauri concepts.
B: ‘People, Information and Knowledge’ has been the least useful, probably because what I am doing is very specific and practical whereas the ideas explored in this subject were often abstract and convoluted.
A: Information Design for Communicating, Exploring Information Resources, Business Intelligence, Managing Information.
B: Contemporary Culture 1 and 2
A: Information architecture
B: Database creation subject – ‘Information organisation’, although it was still a useful skill and I did learn things that I have probably used, albeit indirectly. I was never going to specialise in this area in the workplace.
A: Information architecture
B: Information seminars
Neerav Bhatt: Free comment by interviewees about any aspect of the course they feel other people should know about
Anonymous: I would have liked to see some kind of internship incorporated into the course. Many people begin the course interested in Librarianship for instance; an internship of some kind would provide the opportunity to apply the skills gained through the course directly.
Some of the assessments tasks were fantastic and allowed students to develop relevant and applicable skills e.g. building a website in ‘Information Architecture’, and completing a research assignment for a real client in ‘Discovering and Accessing Information’. Others, such as creating and presenting posters, seemed less relevant and more useful for someone interested in becoming an Information academic.
A wider range of electives to choose from would be beneficial. As a large percentage of students entering the course have Librarianship in mind, why not offer subjects on Children’s Librarianship and developing literacy programs, or a version of ‘Discovering and Accessing Information’ that covers a large range of databases likely to be used in the field?
Overall, I got a lot out of the course, but I don’t really feel qualified to do anything specific. :~)
Janna: At the time of doing the course, a lot of the theoretical aspects were focused on a library context. Although this is the main area of research to draw on, it is not very interesting or attractive for those students who do not want to work in a library context. As the degree has since been restructured to attract more young students, I expect this may have been changed, or will be changed as additional research becomes available to support the respective subjects.
I really appreciated the practical component of the course: the various practical subjects, the independent projects and the networking functions. This provided valuable opportunities for those who were unfamiliar with IM/KM professions to explore the paths that are available in this area of work, and build up confidence for the professional environment.
Justine: I agree with Neerav’s comment that there should be less core subjects and more electives. This would allow for more freedom in branching off – the ‘information’ field is fairly broad this would be an excellent idea.
I certainly found myself locked into things as I started in Semester 2, so my electives were kind of forced on me and by the end I had not chosen a single subject for myself which was a little frustrating. I think this is why I enjoyed ‘Information Seminars’ and the Masters Project so much as they gave me freedom to pursue my own areas of interest.
I have heard people complain that the course does not prepare you for entry level library jobs. I think having a lot of theory as well as the practical aspects of the course is beneficial, as these skills and knowledge are more important as you move up the ladder and are required to shape information and library services, not just perform certain daily tasks.
I don’t think you should be doing a postgraduate course in order to learn MARC21, DDC or covering books. If you find it difficult to pick things like this up, or if this is the area you want to specialise in perhaps you should do the TAFE course first or instead.
I also think the industry should place more trust in the courses and hire more new-graduates without specific work experience. We cannot call ourselves a profession if our professional qualifications are not considered worthwhile or ‘enough’.
At the same time I think graduates with no work experience in the field should be patient and go for entry-level jobs to begin with, it won’t take long for you to move up. Even in more established professions their new-grads are not handed huge responsibility from the start.
I also think that it is a cultural cringe to not like using the word ‘librarian’ and shows that the field is young and still finding its feet. The term should be used with pride and it is my belief that it is making a comeback!
Overall I found the Masters course at UTS very worthwhile and I have never regretted it. My career has improved dramatically since doing that course and it is an excellent foundation for life long learning in the field. I learned a lot, and I had had a number of years experience in libraries before entering the course in the first place.
Michael: I think it is a great course because it shows you how things work. You learn how databases behave and why it is we search them in a particular manner. You learn about the nature of web pages and importance of having good data to support the processes. It is very much geared to create professionals that can make high end decisions.
I was 25 when I gradated and got a placement after a year or so in a public library, 8 months after that I started at the library where I am now and I work mainly doing reference work.
I liked the course. I thought it was useful. The staff were very supportive and passionate about what they taught. It can be a little insular at times however it was very productive in advancing my career aspirations.
Thanks to everyone for your comments, I hope UTS take them on board