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Interview: Steve’s experience of a long distance International MA

I don’t have a reputation for being a particularly talkative person, but there are a few subjects that I really enjoy enthusing about if you give me the chance. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Gilmore Girls
  • How cheap Aldi is compared to other supermarkets
  • Crisps
  • The Adventures of Pete and Pete
  • Bad football

Once I’ve exhausted these topics, though, I like to tell people about the MA course that I’ve been doing for the last two and a bit years.



I graduated with an undergraduate degree in Librarianship from Manchester Metropolitan in 2011. I wasn’t really a big fan of the course but – full disclosure – I was a pretty terrible student too. I did the very minimum and just about got a 2:1 after three years of faffing around.

In 2012, after a year of working in a library, I became aware of the University of Borås’ part time distance learning course “Digital Library and Information Services”. After looking at the prospectus, I decided that it was different enough from my BA to make it worth doing. And also, it’s free to enrol! (EU-based students don’t pay fees for higher education in Sweden).

I’ve been a bit of a Swedophile for a long time. I am a fan of Swedish indie pop music, Swedish history and have been attending Swedish language classes (with little success) for over four years now. Getting an MA from a Swedish university seemed like a nice thing to do!

After a very simple application process, I was accepted on to the course and started in 2012, determined to be a model student, reading around my lectures and what not. And over two years later I think I’m doing okay! I don’t finish until 2016 (it’s a four year course) but I’m still feeling enthusiastic about the modules and I don’t always leave doing my essays until the last minute.

Lectures tend to be delivered via audio recordings and lecture slides and we’re assessed in loads of different ways. So far I’ve done online presentations, collaborated on group projects using Skype and Google Docs, built websites, digitised some zines and written a whole heap of essays.

The course isn’t delivered entirely online, though. There are two residential study weeks per year and you have to attend at least one (although I couldn’t go this year and they let me off). This is really fun and stressful, but mostly fun. Borås is a nice little town about 30 miles away from Göteborg. On my first day at residential study week, a Swede told me that they call Borås “Bor-ing” because it’s, apparently, “the most boring town in Sweden”. I think this is a bit harsh.

Anyway, the study week was a whirlwind of lectures and workshops and pizza (Sweden has taken the simple concept of pizza to new and sometimes horrifying places – banana and curry flavour, anyone?). I was the only English person there and my very nice classmates seemed very interested in hearing all about what it’s like to live in Manchester. The teaching staff are all really friendly and helpful and seemed to know what they were talking about. I can’t wait to go back in February!

I’d identified a real weakness in my “skill set” before I started my course. I am not a very techy person and this course is quite techy. The module that I attended the residential study week for was “Digitising cultural heritage materials” which was great! We learnt about XML and TEI (Text Encoding Initiative), which was a challenge but an enjoyable one. We also had a go at digitising stuff in a makeshift photography studio with guest speakers from the Swedish National Library.

As part of this module I digitised my favourite zine and published it on my own website*, complete with metadata and lots of interactive features. To be honest, it looked a bit crap for about 80% of the time I was working on it and then I had a breakthrough and it actually worked and looked nice at the end. I’d been on a real journey and I could almost hear euphoric music playing when I submitted it for assessment. *The website was made offline and submitted for the assignment, however, you can look at the zine’s blog here.

Recently I’ve been working on the “Research methods” module, which has involved thinking of two research ideas (one qualitative and one quantitative) and describing how we’d go about collecting and analysing data to answer our research questions. As part of this assignment I wrote a draft for each idea and then presented my methodology in an online seminar. Terrifying! And then a fellow student and the course leader criticised my work. Argh! It went okay though, and I actually really enjoyed talking about my academic interests even though I have no real idea what I’m talking about.

Finding time to do the course has been a bit of a challenge as I’ve been working full time almost all the way through and I sometimes try and have a life too. I feel like I haven’t read a book that isn’t in some way connected to libraries for a while, but that’s okay. It’ll all be worth it when I’ve finished! I feel like I have more than made up for my shoddy undergraduate performance with the amount of work I’ve put into this course and I actually feel like I know lots more about stuff than I did before. Which I guess is the point of education.

I only have one more taught module to complete in Spring 2015 and then I have a whole year to work on my thesis. For those of you that follow me on Twitter, you might want to set a reminder to unfollow me between September 2015 and July 2016. I’m already thinking about what I want to write about and I can’t wait to get started, although I’m sure my enthusiasm will have waned by this time next year.

I have probably talked quite a lot about the course and still not answered the important questions. If you want to ask me anything about it, just tweet me @starshello or email me at and I’ll be happy to tell you more!

Also, while I’m here, I wrote some Great Content about my pet hate – library apprenticeships – over here, so go and read that if you’ve found my writing style particularly engaging and you like reading blog posts where grumpy people complain.

One comment on “Interview: Steve’s experience of a long distance International MA

  1. Pingback: Taking the Road Less Travelled: One Aspiring Librarian’s Journey Through Work and CILIP Certification | Future Library and Information Professionals Network

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This entry was posted on December 18, 2014 by in Interview and tagged , , , , , , , , , .

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