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 Emily Powers, and I am from Massachusetts. I’m about to begin my final semester as a MSLIS candidate at Simmons Graduate School of Library and Information Science in Boston. My undergraduate degree is in English, from UMass Boston. Before attending Simmons I worked at an art museum, a video store and lots of restaurants and cafes.
So what do you do?
Since January 2012, I have worked as an intern in the research and reference library of the Christian Science Monitor. The Monitor is an international news organization, founded in 1908 by Mary Baker Eddy, and has evolved from a print newspaper to an online-first news site that also produces a weekly print magazine.
The library at the Monitor is small, with one full-time librarian and one intern. We assist journalists and editors with reference questions, research and fact-checking, archive photos and magazine pages in a digital asset management system, and maintain a print collection of books and periodicals. We support Monitor staff with access to subscription databases and online publications. We also assist readers and members of the public, who sometimes contact us seeking articles or other content from past issues.
Our days vary, but on a typical day, I might attend an editorial meeting, add metadata to our digital photo archive, locate content for a list story or photo gallery, check statistics cited in an op-ed, and track down data and reporting on topics like the gun industry, the birth rate or foreign aid to Africa.
Are you finding your coursework helpful in that position? In what way?
I keep the textbook from my introductory reference class on my desk (Reference and Information Services in the 21st Century, by Kay Ann Cassell and Uma Hiremath- recommended!), and refer to it for resource ideas when a question stumps me.
An understanding of metadata, from an organization of information course, is helpful for photo archiving. I use HTML, learned in a web development course, to update and maintain the library’s intranet.
What would you say are the lessons you’ve taken away from this job/internship/etc?
I’ve learned so much at this position! I’ll just name a couple of things.
I have learned to juggle multiple tasks and reevaluate their priorities on the fly- very important when you are working with many people who have varying deadlines. I have a much stronger grasp of international politics and global events- and a much more powerful news and Twitter addiction (sorry, family).
I’ve learned to work with some of the vast amount of government resources available online, which I really can’t overstate the usefulness of. (Census data, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, fedstats.gov…)
How do you think this will help with your career?
Unfortunately, positions in news libraries are few and far between these days. As we all know, the newspaper industry is in a time of upheaval, and the trend has been toward librarian positions being eliminated or reclassified as “researchers” or similar. So while I would love to have a career in news librarianship, I am uncertain if that is a realistic goal these days.
While I may end up working in a different type of library, I will leave this internship with better reference skills, research experience and a familiarity with web and print resources- all transferrable anywhere. I consider myself to be a much stronger job candidate than I was when I began this internship, and would encourage anyone given the same opportunity to take it.
Interested in sharing your internship experience? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.