[Series] So What Do You Do? Reference Internship in an Academic Library

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).

Are you finding your coursework helpful in this position? In what way?

Some of my coursework has been helpful. For example, I’ve applied the strategies recommended in my Reference and Online Services class when answering questions through instant messaging. This course served as a good foundation because I did not have experience in virtual reference prior to this internship. Discussions from other classes have motivated me to brainstorm ideas of how to apply what I’ve learned to this internship. One of my ideas that was incorporated was to create a new book shelf in a prominent area of the library. This was done to increase the visibility of the books and attract the students’ attention, which will hopefully lead to higher circulation.

What would you say are the lessons you’ve taken away from this internship?

This internship has introduced me to great online resources. They definitely come in handy when answering tough reference questions! Consulting with colleagues is a huge asset because I learn different research techniques and resources that can be helpful in the future. The Schaffner Library can be very busy at times and this has taught me how to manage multiple tasks. Also, when it comes to reference work, practice makes perfect (as cliché as that sounds)!

 How do you think this will help your career?

Prior to this internship, I was interested in academic libraries but didn’t have any experience. Now I have the experience and confidence as a future librarian. Working at the Schaffner Library has been a great opportunity and everything I’ve learned here, I can take to other library jobs. This internship is ideal to have while attending library school and I recommend it to everyone interested in academic libraries.

Interested in sharing your internship experience? Contact us at hacklibschool@gmail.com.

Categories: So What Do You Do?

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