Finding Internship Opportunities
Most library science degree programs require a specific number of observational hours or some form of internship or both. The terminology used will vary based on which discipline you choose to study; school media students must complete a student teaching practicum, an archives student may need to complete hands-on experience in the form of an internship that culminates in a large-scale project, etc.
While some universities offer assistance in placing you in an internship, others do not. So what do you do if you’ve just learned you’re responsible for completing X amount of hours and you’re unsure where to find an internship in your field of study? Read on.
- Reach out to your connections
If you read my previous post regarding networking, you understand how pivotal it is to start making connections with professionals in your field while you’re still in school. Do you work part-time as a trainee in a public library? Ask your colleagues if they know any libraries accepting interns. Does your classmate already work in a school as an administrator? Ask if the librarian there would be willing to be your cooperating librarian for student teaching.
- Pay attention to your school’s listservs
Since an internship is likely a requirement for ALL library science students, student advisors and department heads are likely aware that many students will be coming to them for guidance on where they might be able to satisfy the requirement. Most graduate schools maintain a daily or weekly listserv where they might detail internship opportunities or even job openings.
- Be aware of online resources
Sites like Archives Gig, The Association of Research Libraries, Library of Congress’s Internships and Fellowships, and National Archives’ Presidential Libraries Internships provide listings or searchable databases of internship opportunities. Are you an archives student who has your sights set on somewhere specific like the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan? Be sure to check a specific museum or organization’s website for posted internship openings.
- Be prepared
Some internships may require an interview with the person who will be your direct supervisor. This is great practice! It will also enable you to “pick the brain” of the your interviewer and help you gauge if this is the right field/place for you. Usually your interviewer will run through the tasks that will be expected of you. You can either mention other requirements, like a large-scale project, during the interview or in the first few days of your internship. Be prepared with questions about the organization/library/school but also be gracious. Someone is willing to give you their valuable time in exchange for some hands-on experience! Make a good impression from the start.
- Understand that an internship is often different than the actual job
One of the most valuable pieces of advice I received was that the coursework in college and grad school is NOT entirely representative of the career you’re pursuing. I’ve found this to be true of internships as well; the tasks you are assigned as an intern only offer a glimpse into the daily workings of that position. Is it practical experience regardless? Of course. But each job is such a unique experience and there are certain things that will arise where you can only act on instinct based on experience – such as handling a difficult patron or dealing with an ILS that has crashed in the middle of a busy school day.
Keep your eyes and mind open to opportunities and you’ll have a library internship in no time that will most assuredly provide you personal and academic enrichment.