For about five months I had been working on the cataloguing module for my course. It was, without doubt, the single most difficult module that I have done to date. Both the assignments filled me with dread when I first saw the outlined requirements. The first of the two assignments in particular had caused me a great deal of stress and fretting. Even the advice of colleagues had failed to relieve the stress I was feeling about completing this module. It was, in short, a nightmare.
One of the main reasons for finding this topic so daunting was that I am not currently involved in cataloguing in any way, shape or form. Consequently, the subject was a bit of a mystery to me. Much of the reading made little sense to me (although I am sure it did to those who have more experience of the subject) and, quite frankly, I was dreading working on the assignments as I feared that I would be found out at last. A fraud amongst librarians. An impostor attempting to muscle his way in to an exclusive club populated by people who understand Library of Congress Subject Headings and suchlike.
The assignment that had me particularly vexed required the analysis of a number of different types of records. One from an OPAC, one from a printed catalogue and one example from a full-text search (eg via an internet search). It was then necessary to create our own record and suggest a suitable retrieval system that could be used in conjunction with it. Having only ever used Dewey Decimal (and with only a rudimentary understanding of that), the thought of trying to comprehend another system caused palpitations. How on earth was I even going to attempt to do this one??
As is now the norm, I finally went for it and made my way through at least six different drafts. At each re-drafting I found myself analysing what I had written so much, that I began to lose sight of what was actually required. I had begun to over-complicate the assignment itself and was tying myself in knots. Heaven knows how many emails I fired off to the module coordinator – no doubt enough to have her tearing her hair out! I don’t know why I always end up doing the same. Maybe because at the back of mind I am thinking that as it is a Masters, the answer must be more complex than my initial gut reaction suggests. Still, nothing wrong with a healthy bout of self-doubt.
Eventually I got to the point where I just needed to send it off and keep my fingers crossed. Otherwise I could see myself re-drafting for all eternity. Chipping away at a little bit here, a little bit there, (foolishly) hoping for perfection. I never took such an approach when studying for my undergraduate degree. I simply handed in first drafts time and time again. This perhaps explains my new found dedication. I still feel I underachieved first time around, so here is my chance to prove that that degree was no mere fluke…I actually might just have been worthy of it (just).
So anyway, I received my marks the other day and was quite frankly shocked to see that not only did I score over 70%, I scored over 70% for the whole module. Needless to say I opened a (very small) beer to celebrate. What is particularly pleasing on a personal level is that I never scored above 68% on my first degree (and I only achieved that twice). So far on this course, I have hit over 70% on at least six assignments – something I never could have imagined when I started the course as although I always wanted to go on and complete a post-grad, I always had the nagging doubt that I was not capable. As I have said before, I have always felt that at some point someone is going to turn around and call my bluff. That eventually someone is going to ask the question: how did I slip the net? Maybe one day they will.
Anyway, as time is progressing I am giving more and more serious thought about the possibility of a doctorate at some point in the future. Given my background, it would be a dream to be in a position to do so. I certainly don’t want to get to the end of my studies and then come to an abrupt halt. I am seriously interested in working on some studies and conducting some research when I do complete the course. Maybe I need to get out more, but I do actually quite enjoy studying. Now I know there is definitely something wrong with me! I really must get out more………