Kaitlyn O’Neal is a MSc Library Science student.
What motivated you to pursue postgraduate study?
I knew I wanted to work in libraries from my previous volunteering and internship experiences. I wanted to take the next step in my library career, and I knew that a postgraduate degree would equip me to go further in the field.
What were you doing before applying for a postgraduate degree?
Before applying for a postgraduate degree, I worked as a phlebotomist at a blood bank. I also volunteered a few hours per week at a public library.
Were there any challenges affecting your decision to study a postgraduate degree? If so, how did you overcome them?
The COVID-19 pandemic caused me to delay applying for graduate school directly out of my undergraduate degree. When I went to apply a year later, I was a little nervous about leaving my family to go to another country because the pandemic still made travelling difficult.
Ultimately though, I am glad I started my degree when I did. I gained valuable experience during my time out of university, and City’s international student team was very helpful in explaining my options with the Student Visa COVID-19 accommodations.
Knowing that City had procedures to support international students made me more confident in my choice to move to the UK.
Why did you choose City?
I chose City for two reasons: its reputation and its location! City has a great reputation for preparing people for librarianship. I knew that my lecturers at City were experienced in their fields and that I would be learning the most relevant information available.
I also liked City’s location in Central London, where I can take advantage of the fun cultural experiences and many job opportunities in the area.
How are you funding your studies?
I was awarded a Global STEM Leadership Scholarship through City. The scholarship is immensely generous and has freed me to pursue my education without worrying about being able to cover my tuition costs. The rest of my living expenses are self-funded.
How are you finding studying in the UK?
I love being an international student in the UK! Everyone has been so welcoming. I’ve enjoyed embracing UK culture, like going to pubs and watching football with my friends. There are tons of other international students here, so I have made friends from all over the world. In my experience, London is a great place to be an international student and I’ve had no trouble building a social life here.
One of my favorite aspects of London is that there is always something new and exciting to do nearby. I love going to all of London’s museums and seeing new shows in the West End. I also love exploring all of London’s fantastic libraries and bookshops! London’s arts and culture scene is amazing and I’ve enjoyed taking it all in.
What does a typical week at university look like for you?
In a typical week at university, I have lectures on Mondays and Fridays. On these days I always have lunch with my friends and then do some studying at the library after lectures.
On days I don’t have lectures, I typically study and work on essays. In the evenings, I enjoy trying new restaurants with my friends or going for walks through all of London’s interesting neighborhoods.
I also go to my job one or two days per week. I work at a big library here in London, so I’ve been getting some great experience relevant to my course. Plus, once per week, I take horse riding lessons through City’s Equestrian Society.
On weekends, I always try to find something fun to do. Recently I’ve been to the Horniman Museum, the London Zoo, and a performance of the musical Hamilton!
What has been your aspect of your course so far?
My favorite aspect of my course so far has been all of our guest lecturers. I have appreciated hearing from so many experts who work in different areas of librarianship.
It’s really opened my eyes to the huge amount of opportunities available to me after I graduate, and hearing from guest lecturers helps me see how the things I am learning now will be applied in my future career.
What knowledge and skills has your course helped you develop?
My course has taught me so much about technology’s role in libraries! Before starting my course, I did not realize how relevant things like AI and metadata were to librarianship. My course has definitely helped me gain confidence in an important area of my field that I did not understand previously.
What opportunities and experiences has City offered you so far?
At City, I have had the opportunity to meet and network with other STEM leaders through receptions hosted for scholarship recipients. I’ve enjoyed getting to hear great ideas from other scholars.
Additionally, through my course I got to attend a workshop at the Middle Temple Library. We learned about managing special collections and we also got to handle some rare books. I know I would not have had the opportunity to do this were it not for my course at City!
I have also appreciated City’s commitment to supporting student societies. The Equestrian Society has arranged horse riding lessons in London for City students. This is a rare opportunity - I am so glad that I get to keep up one of my favorite hobbies while completing my course.
How do you see your subject of study changing in the future?
I think librarianship will change in the future to keep up with advancements in technology. Already in the past decade or two, there’s been a huge shift to digital eBooks and online databases.
As newer technologies like AI develop and become more accessible, I think libraries will use these technologies to improve their services, but I also believe this will require careful attention to the ethical values within the profession.
What are your career plans and how has City prepared you for them?
My career plans currently are to go into medical librarianship. City has prepared me by equipping me with knowledge fundamental to the ethics and daily activities of librarianship, and my course has also brought in several guest lecturers who specialize in my desired field.
Through our assignments, I have been able to research and write about medical librarianship to familiarize myself with the field. City has also expanded my network of friends and role models who I can ask for guidance in the future.
What advice would you give to someone considering a postgraduate degree?
My advice would be to take advantage of opportunities to learn new things. Write an essay about an area that you don’t know much about, or attend a workshop about a topic you’ve never heard of before.
A postgraduate course is the perfect time to develop new skills, meet new people, and explore all of the opportunities in your field.