Landing your first library internship

I’m a month away from the end of the semester, with only one thing on my mind: the summer internship. Internships are a big deal among students in my program. We’ve moved from the small talk of “So what classes are you taking?” to “I’m sooo busy with X & Y projects” to “So what are you doing this summer?” That dreaded question.

Maybe you’re a current LIS student looking for a summer practicum or internship or a prospective student wondering how to get some professional experience before you start your program. Although you may be facing uncertainty now, securing a library internship doesn’t have to be scary. First off,  HLS has got your back–with an extensive collection of past posts on internships in LIS. You can browse the Internships & Volunteering category for a variety of posts on professional experience from student perspectives. If you’re curious about some of the Hack Library School writers’ past internship experiences, you can check out this post, curated by Micah, or read up on tips and insights for your internship (I wish I had read this one before my internship last summer). Or check out internship stories from our So What Do You Do? series.

If you’re searching for an internship now, Rose covers some great tips for making your internship application better, and I’d also recommend Ashley’s interview with ALA President Courtney Young on Advice from a Hiring Manager. In addition to all these really helpful posts, I’d like to add  a few strategies for the internship-seeking process that I hope will help.

Do your research.

Now is the time to check those listservs, engage in social media, and network. If you’re limited by geography, make a spreadsheet of all the organizations in the area you’re interested in, and research them. Share the spreadsheet with your career office, your academic advisor, your peers and student organizations. If you find that they are looking for interns, go get a feel for the place. Attend an event or chat with someone at their reference desk. If it’s an organization or team you’re already familiar with, reach out to them. Ask them what they need and propose a way you could help.

Also, take some time to reflect not only on the skills and interests that you already have, but also on the gaps in skills or knowledge that you’d like to bolster through a summer or semester-long work experience. Are you intrigued by assessment? Ready to make sense of the chaos that is summer reading? Interested in connecting your preservation skills in an environment outside of libraries? Now is your chance. You don’t have to take the first internship that comes your way, especially if you have a sense of what you want to get out of the experience and what you can offer.

Show your work.

Update your LinkedIn, invest some time in making a professional website or ePortfolio, and use that reflective time to craft your pitch or personal narrative. Where have you been? Where do you want to go? And Why? Maybe you don’t have loads of library experience, that’s okay. Your greatest gift to the organization may be your enthusiasm and openness to new experiences and challenges.

Be hungry.

The internship experience can be one of the most valuable aspects of your time in library school, but you have to really want it. As an intern, your time might be less structured, your professional expectations unclear, and your mentorship spotty. If you can demonstrate the ability to check in with yourself and to build good communication with the organization before landing the position, you may get more out of the experience once you’re in it.  Professional growth may come from the most unexpected places, so be enthusiastic, open, and ready to bring it.

What advice could you give to all those seeking internships? What did you get from your experience? If you’re applying now, what would your *dream* internship entail?


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