Perseverance through study leads to career growth

Eileen Sione
  • Senior Librarian Community Engagement at East Coast Bays Library

Eileen Sione discovered her passion for the library and information sector after gaining experience working in a range of different industries. Knowing she wanted to gain a tertiary qualification, she chose the Open Polytechnic primarily because of the flexibility it gave her and how it fitted around the other commitments in her life.

Growing up, education was always important to Eileen’s family. “My family’s always valued education and that’s been passed down onto me,” she says. “That’s why I really wanted to do tertiary study. I was also a young mum, so I wanted to make my daughter proud when she grew up and show her I achieved something.”

From diploma to degree

Taking small steps, Eileen signed up for the Diploma in Library and Information Studies (Level 5) at Open Polytechnic. She thought this would be a good way to test the waters of study before enrolling in the degree. “I thought it was a great thing that you could move from the diploma to the degree without having to commit to the degree at the beginning.”

After completing the diploma, she then completed the Certificate in Cataloguing (Level 5) and the Diploma in Library and Information Studies (Level 6) before moving onto the degree.

Eileen said her choice to study at the Open Polytechnic over other providers came down to two reasons; the flexibility of online learning and because Open Polytechnic is the only provider to offer undergraduate qualifications in library and information studies.

Eileen knew if she wanted to study, it would have to fit around her other commitments. As Open Polytechnic is an online learning provider, she had confidence it was the right choice for her. “When I first started studying, I was working, I had a child and husband and it just wasn’t a feasible option for me to be doing full-time study in a classroom.”

Deciding to enrol in the diploma was a significant financial decision for Eileen, and one she feels was worth it. She paid the course fees herself while also looking after family and paying off her mortgage.

After finishing the Diploma in Library and Information Studies (Level 6), Eileen enrolled in the Bachelor of Library and Information Studies (BLIS) degree. She was able to cross credit a number of her completed courses towards her BLIS degree. Learners are presently able to cross-credit all six courses from the current level 5 New Zealand Diploma, which make up five compulsory courses and one elective in the degree.

One motivator for Eileen to take her studies to the next level was that on completion of the BLIS she was eligible to become registered with the Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa (LIANZA).

Growing with support

Taking on a new role during her studies as a senior libraries and council services assistant at East Coast Bays Library, Eileen felt very well supported by her employer when undertaking her degree. This included study leave, financial assistance and having someone who checked in with her study progress. As part of her practicum course, she had a mentor at her work who helped provide guidance.

Eileen’s family also supported her study by helping with chores and making sure she had time and space to focus.

Open Polytechnic experience

Having now completed her degree, Eileen says there were many things she enjoyed about her study experience at Open Polytechnic.

“I enjoyed the online groups on the iQualify talk channels. Even though we didn’t meet in person, it was nice to know there were other people out there in the same waka. They often said the same things about what I was thinking, or sharing how they’re going. It was also helpful seeing the questions other learners asked in the talk channels.”

Having engaging course material was a highlight for Eileen. “I found the course materials really interactive. There were many different ways the course material was made to be interesting and also readable. I liked how the modules were already broken down for us. Having the study plan was also really useful too.”

 Study deepens industry knowledge

Eileen mentions some stand out courses in particular that she felt were directly related to her work, including  Empowering People and Communities. “This course was about how the library connects with the people in the community. The library isn’t just an entity, a building with walls and books. It’s actually part of the community people are in.”

She uses many skills learned from her studies in her role. “The skills that I learnt from my studies that I use in day-to-day work were very practical and conducive to the ever-changing library industry that I work in. I think that I understand library and information technology better, along with the library processes that go with the industry. More importantly, I gained skills in how to better connect and understand the needs of people. This I have found invaluable as I am passionate about serving the community as a library worker.”

Another course, Strategy and Planning in Information Organisations, gave Eileen in-depth knowledge into the sector. “The course explained how information organisations strategise and plan. I found that helpful in understanding the structure around how we work.”

The Open Polytechnic course leaders were always there to provide advice and guidance when it was needed, “I found the course leaders really responsive when you needed answers to questions or when life got in the way, they were very understanding of helping me get through.”

By the final year of the degree, Eileen says her understanding of the subject area had grown. “Everything melded together in the last year, falling into place.”

 Overcoming challenges

Studying part time while also managing other commitments came with its challenges, says Eileen. One thing she says that helped her to persevere was the study materials.

“There were many times I found it difficult to keep going. What got me through was the study materials. I thought if the courses were focused on reading textbooks and things like that. I don't think I would've finished.”

Remembering her reason for starting also helped her get through, “I focused on the end goal. I knew there was an end goal for the diploma and I knew there was an end goal for the degree, so that was helpful.”

 Future in the industry

With a recent promotion to a new role as  Senior Librarian Community Engagement, Eileen is now looking forward to her future in the industry. She is considering doing post graduate study and would one day like to hold a managerial position.

She credits her studies with the Open Polytechnic for setting her up for success in the industry, “My completion of a Library and Information Studies degree through the Open Polytechnic has provided the ability to gain a dream job. My new role as Senior Librarian Community Engagement allows me to utilise leadership, networking and strategic skills and knowledge that I gained through my studies. Being able to provide a positive difference to the community I live and work in was always one of the goals I wanted to achieve. Through my long study journey I am grateful for how the Open Polytechnic helped in finding my true passion in the library and information industry and opened up another door for my future.”

 Study tip

Eileen says her top study tip for others going into study is to be prepared and organised from the beginning of courses. “My advice would be to start off strong at the beginning of a course. Do your prep and clear the decks. This way you can start off with everything in place and you can timetable when you have free time for study.”

Going into distance study is not always easy when balancing other commitments in your life, but Eileen shares her final words encouraging other learners on their own study journeys.

“My advice would be to persevere, however hard it is. Life will throw you a million curve balls, but it’s all about you.”


My completion of a Library and Information Studies degree through the Open Polytechnic has provided the ability to gain a dream job. My new role as Senior Librarian Community Engagement allows me to utilise leadership, networking and strategic skills and knowledge that I gained through my studies.