[Series] So What Do You Do? Assessment & Usability Internship

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 Kayla Birt and I graduated from Indiana University’s School of Library and Information Science with my MLS at the beginning of May.  I chose not to work toward a specialization nor a second masters while in SLIS for a few reasons: I wasn’t sure what exactly I wanted to do in the library, I did not want to pigeonhole myself in terms of coursework, and I knew I wanted my program to last approximately two years (I was worried about academic burnout going straight from undergrad to graduate school).  Now I am grateful for the advice that led me to this decision and also for the opportunities it has led me to—including my internship!

Depauw UniversityI am currently working as the Assessment and Usability Graduate Intern at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana.  DePauw is a small, private undergraduate liberal arts institution that includes a competitive music school and strong science presence.  My position is shared between the Information Services and Library offices where I report directly to the Dean of Libraries as well as the Chief Information Officer.

My technical background is rather limited, as is my statistical background.  I received a BA in English Literature from Taylor University (Upland, IN) and avoided science and math like the plague. I am slightly regretful. Slightly.

So what do you do?

As the Assessment and Usability Intern I am working to help create and mold a ‘culture of assessment’ within the DePauw Libraries and Information Services departments.  When I first came in I was completely overwhelmed and terrified of this explanation.  My supervisors revealed that there was no person in charge of assessment at DePauw and I would be sort of in charge of shaping my internship.  Twelve months.  I’m supposed to shape what I’ll be doing for the next year on a topic that I really do not know too much (really…anything) about.  WHAT?

But as time has gone on I have been able to talk to numerous people within both IS and the library about their assessment needs and wants (or lack thereof).  My supervisors have given me plenty of opportunities to speak with contacts at other schools and also participate in professional development through DePauw (including a recent trip to ACRL in Indianapolis!).  Now I am worried I don’t have enough time to finish all I want to accomplish in only a year!

So far I have helped finish national surveys DePauw participates in, which has involved communicating with multiple areas of campus.  I’ve also been able to look at data from previous surveys and analyzed this data for different functions of the IS and libraries on campus.  My current project is contacting institutions similar to DePauw asking about their individual assessment cultures.  This includes designing a survey and determining what method(s) is/are most appropriate.

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

An exciting part of my internship is the ability to not only use various aspects of a few of my SLIS courses but also to look back and wish I had either taken a specific course or paid more attention in a course!  When I first started taking courses in SLIS I thought I was interested in children’s librarianship and ended up taking two different children’s literature courses.  While these may not seem applicable to my internship, the methods of assessing good children’s literature gave me an infrastructure for how to evaluate proper methods of assessing services and surveys now.  This shows that no matter what courses you’ve taken or are planning to take, they can be used in numerous ways!

Another encouraging aspect of my coursework integrating into my internship is the importance of core or required classes.  I was not planning on ever working in assessment (who does?), but my core classes prepared me to accept and succeed in this position: everything from Collection Development (checklists!), Representation and Organization (scaffolding information!), Library Management (project leadership!), and Evaluation of Information Resources and Services.

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

After completing almost half of my internship thus far, the greatest lessons I’ve taken away do not directly concern assessment and usability but instead the community of librarians.  I have quickly realized the investment not only DePauw is making in the future of academic librarians but the greater community of academic librarians that are taking active initiatives to help young librarians gain experience and contacts within the profession.  The staff at DePauw has been overwhelmingly helpful, as has networks that I’m currently in contact with for my long-term project.

Another lesson reflects the path that lead me to this internship: do not think you are not qualified for a position.  It cannot hurt to apply for an internship or job where you don’t meet every single ‘preferred qualification’.  And don’t hesitate to use contacts you have already made to help you through the process!

How do you think this will help your career?

This internship will have a drastic effect on my career, I’m sure of it–for the networking opportunity alone, not to mention the practical, hands-on experience as well.  The professional development experience is also incredibly valuable.  I’ve attended multiple webinars and web workshops with faculty and staff at DePauw where I’ve been able to contribute to current discussions on MOOCs, student technology use, social media, etc.  I’ve also been asked to lead some of these discussions as well.  These small leadership opportunities and participatory situations are already helping me navigate the landscape of academic libraries.

While I still have about seven months left of my internship, I am grateful for the launch into the profession I feel this position has afforded me thus far and will afford me in the future.  I fully believe this internship is not only fulfilling the “1-2 years of academic library experience” we often see on librarian postings, but above and beyond that through the projects and responsibilities I am tasked with and the people with whom I am able to network.

Categories: So What Do You Do?

1 reply

  1. Hi, Kayla. Your internship sounds really interesting! Would you be willing to share any resources/guidelines/survey results from your research on how academic libraries conduct assessment? I’d be very interested in hearing what people are doing. Good luck with the rest of the internship!


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