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Elle Codling is a secondary-school librarian and was a judge for the Carnegie book awards (for children and young adults) in 2022 and 2023.

Choosing to study a Master’s at Reading

Elle decided to study her Master’s in English Literature at Reading following an undergraduate degree in English and Creative Writing at another university:

“While I loved writing and creating my own work, I found that I was most interested in the literary theory and academic analysis I’d been able to work on as part of the English half of the course. I decided there were still several areas I was curious about and wanted to study for a master’s to find out more!”

Tailoring the degree

Elle chose Reading based on a number of factors. She wanted a university near to home, but also one that enabled her to follow her interests:

“At undergraduate level, I enjoyed everything from Shakespeare to contemporary literature, but some university courses asked you to specialise in one area. Luckily, Reading allowed you to take modules from a range of different topics. Plus, the support for MA students was great and a well-established part of the Department; postgraduates weren’t just an add-on to a good undergraduate setup.”

Support and inspiration

Elle was impressed at the range of interests and specialisms within the Department, and she knew she would be able to develop her knowledge of a variety of topics. When asked about her master’s studies at Reading, Elle said:

“The thing that inspired me most was probably being around the staff members and other MA students at the university. Small teaching groups mean you get a lot of time to talk, share ideas and learn from the other students on the course. The staff are great to talk to – they’re experts in things you’re interested in, plus they’re also great examples of what you can do with your degree once you’ve finished. The members of the Department are very knowledgeable about routes into academia, if that’s what you’re interested in. There are also other staff members who are also worth talking to: the subject librarian for English, for example, gave me some great advice about getting into a library career – which is what I’m doing now!”

Hands-on learning

As she explains here, Elle’s favourite part of the course involved getting into the archives and handling the materials:

“The assessment for the module was a project of our own choosing, examining some of the documents we’d come across in the Collections. I was a bit nervous at first, as there was so much choice and I wasn’t entirely sure what I was doing… but once I’d decided on an idea, it was great to book a spot in the Reading Room and spend hours browsing manuscripts. This is partly what piqued my interest in libraries and collections.”

Preparing for a career

After graduating, Elle decided to study for an MA in Librarianship. She worked as a Graduate Trainee Library Assistant in a secondary school to prepare for her additional qualification. Her experience at Reading helped her obtain many transferable skills, and also the Trainee position:

“Having an MA wasn’t a requirement for this role, but it was good to be able to talk about everything I’d learned in the interview. Having a demonstrable interest in literature was obviously a good start, but also skills like working independently and managing my own time really helped me get the role. I also talked about my experience using the Special Collections service during my master’s – which showed my interest in managing collections as well as allowing me to talk about an example of a great library service and good customer service.”

Elle sums up her experience at Reading for future MA English Literature students:

“It’s a great course – you get a lot of free rein in deciding what you want to study, but there’s still a lot of support and advice available if you need it. The staff are fantastic and you have a great opportunity to make friends with similar interests too. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Reading and I recommend it highly!”