On internships and trying new things

As I mentioned earlier, this summer I’ve been interning at the Library of Congress office in Jakarta. This internship was great because it allowed me to get a taste of all sorts of different things in the office: I did some acquisitions work, I learned a bit about cataloging, I helped out processing books and compiling databases of materials we had and materials we might want to acquire. Basically, I gained experience in all the areas necessary to become a functioning Southeast Asia librarian.

I went into the internship without much of an idea of what I’d be doing beyond an acquisitions trip or two. While it’s also important to communicate with your supervisor that you want to be given specific projects to accomplish, this openness and flexibility served me well and allowed me to do some work that actually benefited the office. Those books that had been sitting around for months waiting to be sent out? I went through them all and flagged the ones that were still in the system so that they could be sent on to partner institutions.

I was also lucky because my supervisor regularly requested feedback from me about what I was doing and what I wanted to be doing. She also regularly invited me to meetings so that I could see how various things, such as purchasing serials, were done in the office and how the Jakarta office worked in conjunction with other offices in the region. The upside of all this communication was that I rounded out the summer going through boxes of old books, mainly written in Javanese. I made a spreadsheet of them all and offered suggestions on which should be digitized next. This project was particularly rewarding for me because I’d spent the first part of my summer taking Javanese lessons; it was amazing to be able to use my newfound reading skills in a library context! I wouldn’t have had this experience had I not suggested it in the first place.

I also made sure to maintain an open mind with regard to what I was doing. I went into the internship loving cataloging, but after all that acquisitions work, I discovered that there’s more out there that I might enjoy. The internship also radically changed the classes that I’m planning on taking over my final two semesters. Prior to this internship, I had only a passing interest in digital libraries, and that interest extended only to manuscripts and rare books. Because of this internship, though, I’ve realized that there’s a lot that I need to know about how to collect current digital materials. Indonesian universities, for example, are rapidly turning toward open access publishing, but how to preserve this content remains a question. For this reason, I’ve rearranged a lot of my schedule so that I can take more classes focused on digital curation and websites.

Did you do an internship this summer? What were your experiences like? What new things did you learn?


For more internship experiences, see these posts by Kendra, Jessica, and Lauren. Also learn how to solve some common internship problems here.


Zoë McLaughlin is a Master’s student at the University of Michigan’s School of Information. Find her on Twitter, LinkedIn, or at her personal blog.

Featured image by Zoë McLaughlin, picturing a Javanese translation of John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress.

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