If you want something done, ask a busy person


If you want something done, ask a busy person, or so they say. However, what if that something is pursuing a MSc in Library and Information Management, or any masters degree? Is employment a drain on time and energy or does it focus the mind and improve efficiency as the proverb suggests?

In 2013 Ross et.al. carried out a cross-sectional survey on Australian undergraduates to measure the effects of juggling full-time study with part-time work. Three hypotheses were tested, with the objective of finding associations between paid employment in students and (H1) time spent on studies, (H2) levels of intrinsic motivation and (H3) levels of Information Literacy (IL) self-efficacy.

Initially, this study supported what one may intuitively assume; that working students spend less time outside of the formal schedule on study (13.7 hours per week for working students as opposed to 16.96 for non-working). Troublingly, a significant proportion of all students in this group (24.1% of working and 15.5% of non working students) were reported to spend 5 hours or fewer studying in a setting where 28 hours per week were recommended.

The second hypothesis was also supported. There was a significant difference between the groups in their motivation to gain knowledge for personal satisfaction; their intrinsic motivation. Working students displayed lower levels than their non-working counterparts.

Be that as it may, there was no distinctive difference between working and non-working students in their extrinsic motivation, i.e. desire to develop a career or to achieve status, or in their motivation. (Males showed more apathy compared to females, but no difference was evident between employed and unemployed students).

I would suggest that regardless of the type of motivation, be it career progression or achieving a more in-depth understanding of a subject, the same end goal may be achieved.

This survey measured IL self-efficacy and not actual IL skills. It is well documented in the literature that one’s abilities in IL can be quite significantly over estimated. Keeping this in mind it is unsurprising that there was no difference between working and non-working students in their estimations of their IL.

The third hypothesis tested for this treatise was unsupported:

“Apparently, among non-working students, time spent on their studies significantly improved their IL self-efficacy, but not, it would seem, for working students.” (Ross et al., 2013).

This occurrence is counterintuitive. Working students showed lower levels of intrinsic motivation, and reported equally well in IL self-efficacy. Meanwhile, a strong positive correlation was established between intrinsic motivation and IL self-efficacy!

Although the survey and its results were interesting in its choice of subject, it was somewhat limited in its remit. It is clear that there are many areas of further study to be investigated regarding student achievement, IL and employment. It is also evident that librarians and libraries are perfectly placed to carry out these studies to strive towards student engagement and sense of achievement.

Challenges of combining employment and study are made easier by honing IL skills; revision, reading and assignment work become more enjoyable, less taxing and grades can be improved. I feel that it is essential for librarians to reach out to scholars and tutors within all academic pursuits to champion this message.

Ross, M., Perkins, H., & Bodey, K. (2013). Information literacy self-efficacy: The effect of juggling work and study. Library and Information Science Research, 35279-287. doi:10.1016/j.lisr.2013.04.008

Image courtesy of Damir Kotoric at Unsplash


Beth Whitney is an aspiring librarian. She is a part-time MSc Library and Information Management student at DBS. She has worked in the office at a veterinary hospital for the last eight years.

You can follow her @bwhitneybeth

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Philosophically inclined librarian.

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