Working, Volunteering, or Interning Before Library School

23/09/2013 § 6 Comments

If you’re considering library school, if you’ve been accepted, and especially if you’re already there, I would strongly recommend getting hands-on experience as soon as possible. An internship or even just a bit of volunteering will help you to build a foundation of knowledge and skills as you pursue your degree. Other hackers have written on finding opportunities and making the most of them, but I’d like to address some key benefits of getting pre-library school experience in the first place:

Identifying Interests and Goals

Before starting library school I had never been paid to work in a library. However, I had spent considerable time interning and volunteering in them and had been an enthusiastic patron for as long as I could remember. During college, I spent two summers in a small academic library and one semester in my college archives, building an understanding of various kinds of library work. In addition to providing me with a basic ’how things work’ familiarity with many areas of academic libraries, my internships helped me to identify some of my interests and strengths, and to identify areas of librarianship I wanted to explore further. For example, after spending a lot of time by myself with boxes and files of papers in one internship, I decided that it would be important for me to pursue positions with more collaboration and patron interaction in the future. Figuring out what you don’t enjoy can be just as useful as discovering what you do.

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Obstacles & How to Deal with Them

23/08/2013 § 2 Comments

As I finish up my MLIS (August graduation!) and start my certificate program, I find myself wanting to share a little library school wisdom. So things might get a little feelings-heavy, but bear with me; also, this advice goes to both new and returning library students:

Library school is a journey. You will encounter numerous experiences, guides, and opportunities along the way. But you will also almost certainly encounter a number of challenges, hurdles, and roadblocks. As Joanna wrote in her fabulous post, Apply Yourself, so many lovely opportunities are just waiting for you to take the initiative and grasp them! We’ve also featured numerous posts about how to do proactive things like changing your curriculum or doing an independent study. As you navigate numerous challenges and opportunities on your library school journey, here are some obstacles you may encounter and some productive ways to overcome them:

(CC licensed image from Flickr user rcstanley)

(CC licensed image from Flickr user rcstanley)

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Start reading job ads now

24/05/2013 § 7 Comments

One piece of advice that multiple people gave me around the time I started library school is: it is never too early to start reading library job ads (especially if you’ve already started library school). Of course the library hiring process is not so lengthy that you need to start actually seeking jobs if you aren’t within a few months of graduation. Rather, looking at job ads is a great way to discover a lot of things about yourself, your library school, your career goals, the job market, and the field that you have entered. While it can sometimes be disheartening (because you’re still far away from graduation) or strangely inspiring (because of the totally amazing opportunities and positions that are waiting for you) or even confusing (why would I need to know how to do that), reading library job ads will almost always prove to be an enlightening and worthwhile use of your time.

Now's the time!

Now’s the time to start looking! Image Source

Here are some of the key reasons you should be reading library job ads now and how you can use them to shape your path:

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How to Survive and Prevent a Bad Internship

29/03/2013 § 8 Comments

There’s a good chance that you’ve had a bad internship or job experience. Maybe it was mundane tasks, unfriendly co-workers, or damaged expectations that did you in. Many MLS/MLIS programs require, or at least strongly recommend, an internship or practicum before graduation. Internships are great ways to taste-test a type of librarianship, network, and get practical experience. The unfortunate reality is that we don’t always know what we’re walking into when we begin an internship. So, how do we survive or prevent a bad internship?

Frustrated man at a desk (cropped)

Alternative title: How to avoid looking like this.

Survival
If you’re already going through a bad internship experience or find yourself in one later, you’ll need to know how to surive. Take a deep breath, remind yourself it is an opportunity to learn that will only last a few months, and use the following tips to better your internship experience.
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[Series] So What Do You Do? Reference Internship in an Academic Library

06/02/2013 § Leave a comment

This post is part of a new series called “So What Do You Do?” in which LIS students talk about their experiences as interns. We want to showcase the wide range of things people are doing in the world of library and information science.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Magdaleno Castaneda and I’m from Chicago. I’m a student at Dominican University’s Graduate School of Library and Information Science. This is my final semester and I’m very excited to graduate! My interest is in academic libraries and I have been a Reference Intern at Northwestern University’s Schaffner Library since March 2012. My undergraduate degree is in communication and media studies from Northeastern Illinois University. Prior to entering the library world I worked in banking and not-for profit industries.

So what do you do?

This internship is a part-time position and my main responsibility is to assist students with their research needs, for example, finding a book, placing an interlibrary loan request and searching databases. In the afternoon I monitor the instant messaging account and answer questions submitted by students. The library is an integral part of Northwestern’s Chicago campus and even though we mainly serve students from the Kellogg Business School and the School of Continuing Studies, the library is in fact open to all students. The Schaffner Library is also open to the public and I provide any assistance needed to these patrons, which usually consists of computer/technical support. There are a variety of projects to work on and they range from recordkeeping to weeding. The library staff consists of three other Reference Interns, five student workers and three full-time employees (Reference Librarian, Facilities Manager and Patron Services Supervisor).

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