Study Skills: Hack Your Degree

I want to straight-up start by saying I am a person who is sick of reading books and blog posts about life hacks and how to achieve your goals from single, straight, affluent, white, American men. As a married, Australian middle-class woman with five kids, most of those suggestions are unattainable at best.

This will not be a blog post like that.

I want to tell you how you can hack your degree and make it work for you.  I cannot promise you’ll get all HDs or get a job at the end, but I can tell you how to make the most of your opportunities as a student, to give you the best chance of success once you get that piece of paper to say that you are a fully qualified Librarian.  (Or library technician, archivist, teacher-librarian or whatever your study is in. Use your imagination).

  1. Join.  Join your local library/records association at the student rate while you can.  ALIA has great student rates (and also offers discount rates to new graduates) as do RIMPA. Not only that, but take advantage of the benefits it gives you.  Members of ALIA can sign up for mailing lists that give them articles to read for professional development, you have access to ebooks and ejournals, you hear about great events and get a discount when you go to a paid event.  When you go to events you meet new people, especially in the industry you are hoping to be employed in.
  2. Volunteer! Volunteer for ALIA – the Students and New Grads group are always looking for new team members.  You can learn great skills, network with other new professionals and students, and it looks great on your CV as you then have proven skills in social media platforms, event coordination and the like.  You can also volunteer at events.  Earlier this year I volunteered at ALIA Information Online 2019 and I got so much out of it.  While the volunteer role is important, most of the time I was still able to listen to the keynote speakers, and participate in workshops. I learnt so much and met so many new people.  NLS9 is currently calling for volunteers – they want you to volunteer a day of your time in exchange for free entry to the conference the other day.  If you’re able to volunteer at a conference like this then take the opportunity.  IMG-7984
  3. Jump in. Join committees and working groups.  While this isn’t something that’s exclusive to being a student, you possibly have more time now as a student than you will as a full time employee, plus its something students feel like they have no place putting their hands up for.  IFLA have working groups you can join from anywhere in the world.  ALIA have sub-groups, working groups and conference committees.  If you see a call out for volunteers to be involved in something you are interested in, put your hand up!
  4. Learn.  Most universities have student subscriptions to online learning platforms such as Lynda. If you look at job ads in your preferred field and notice they are all asking for knowledge of or experience with budgeting, social media marketing, project management or change management, take a look at these platforms to see if there’s a course you could do that can skill you up in this area.
  5. Complete.  Complete your assignments, but not just as an assignment.  When you write that collection development policy or disaster recovery plan, treat it like a piece of work that you would do for an employer.  Have it as evidence of your knowledge in this area.  Treat essays as though they were articles to submit to journals, and then rework them a little and submit them to journals or blogs.
  6. Write.  Beyond your assignments, write.  Write for Incite.  Write for shared blogs.  Write for journals. If people read what you’ve written and like it, they’ll remember you and it may just come in handy one day.
  7. Connect.  Join Twitter, Linked In or another social media platform and connect with librarians around the world, both in your preferred field and outside of it.  Get to know what other librarians are talking about.  Learn the problems with the theories and ideals we are taught in university.  Join the conversation.
  8. Look.  Look out for any free or low-cost professional development activities in your area.  Look for free webinars.  Attend whatever you can, and learn.  You’ll meet new people and learn a lot.  If you’re an ALIA member, even as a student member, you can log your PD hours on the website.
  9. Ask.  Ask for help if you need it.  Ask for recommendations of papers to read, journals to read, libraries and librarians to follow.  Ask for a chat over a coffee with someone you admire.  And don’t be upset if it doesn’t work out first time around.  Librarians are generally generous people and if you ask a few, telling them you’re a student and would like to buy them a coffee and pick their brains for an hour, you’ll find someone willing.
  10. Deviate.  Don’t be afraid to deviate from the norm.  I didn’t like the remaining electives I had to choose from, so I requested permission to complete a different subject (that was in a closely allied field) and was given permission.  So now, I’m studying Game Based Learning.  Don’t assume you have to follow the cookie-cutter course.  I can’t guarantee you’ll get permission to study a subject on pure mathematics or viticulture as a part of your librarianship degree, but if you’ve got a burning passion for something in a related area, it doesn’t hurt to ask.

Maybe you can’t do all of these things.  That’s ok.  Just take one step.

If you’d like to hear more about this, I recommend the final episode of the podcast Beyond the Stacks, which inspired this post.

Written by Liz Parnell


Event Wrap Up: GLAMSLAM19

by Liz Parnell.

GLAMSLAM19 was an incredible gathering of minds from within, and outside, the GLAM sector. It was a great opportunity to catch up with people I’ve met before, and meet new people in the sector.

We were challenged to use our GLAM Power to support the planet and reduce climate change, we examined the idea of value, and were treated to 20+ lightning talks from a wide range of people. My favourite lightning talks were about how to work with Indigenous collections and Indigenous communities, especially as a non-Indigenous person.


The final part of the program involved us splitting into “GLAMJAMS” – small groups that would chat about a chosen topic. The table I joined discussed the future of the catalogue. Our conclusions were – metadata is essential and without it our catalogues are useless. We need to create quality metadata, metadata that acknowledges we cannot fathom all the ways our patrons will want to use our collections, but for that we need funding/budget support. We’d also like to see evidence that the collections are being used.

Personally, I was most interested in the topics which touched on cataloguing, metadata and Indigenous issues – which was a lot. Added to that was my personal exploration of the venue – the State Library of NSW – examining realia on display, the accompanying catalogue record and the card catalogues that are still present in the Mitchell Reading Room.


To hear what others thought of GLAMSLAM19, checkout the Twitter hashtag, #GLAMSLAM19

Study Skills: Academic writing

Study SkillsThe path into a GLAMR profession isn’t always straightforward and it can be daunting to return to study after a few years spent working in another industry, raising a family or experiencing all life has to offer. Here are a few simple tips around academic writing to prepare for next semester.

  1. Clarity over complexity: Always convey your ideas in a clear, concise way to your reader. It can be tempting in academia to write overly sophisticated sentences and get lost in theories. Ultimately, it won’t do you any favours if your writing irritates or confuses assessors. It’s your job to make their life as easy as possible by guiding your reader through your ideas and not making them work too hard to understand what you are talking about.
  2. Explain terms: Following on from the previous tip, it’s always best to avoid academic jargon wherever possible. If you do have to introduce a new term explain it. For example, don’t assume your reader knows what information literacy means, provide a definition. One of the conventions of academic writing is that it should be understandable to everyone not just experts in the field. This also goes for acronyms. Always write acronyms like ALIA (Australian Library and Information Association) or IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions) out in full the first time you list them.
  3. Read the rubric: The devil is always in the detail when it comes to assignments and assessors rely on rubrics to evaluate students’ work. Always adhere to any guidelines provided. The most exciting, original essay won’t do very well if you haven’t followed instructions. Remember that often you are being assessed on your ability to excel at a certain type of writing. A personal anecdote might be appropriate for a reflective journal but it has no place in a literature review of existing academic research.
  4. Plan and revise: Regardless of how confident you feel writing about a certain topic its always best to write out a quick plan for the assignment to ensure your writing flows logically. Even though you might feel like you are back in high school it will improve your writing dramatically. Always reread what you have written as well. What might have seemed like a perfectly crafted phrase when you wrote it can, on second inspection, turn out to be a nightmare sentence filled with grammatical or spelling mistakes. It’s always best to review an assignment a few hours or a day after you have finished writing so you can approach editing it with a level head.
  5. Have an opinion: Assessors like to know what interests you and why you are writing about a certain topic. While its crucial to adhere to the conventions of academic writing –see tip 3 – you should convey excitement and enthusiasm in your writing by choosing a topic that you will enjoy studying. It’s not always possible to choose what to write about but when you do have the opportunity make sure to take it. .