MLIS Internship – Taking the Plunge

Photo Courtesy of dsleeter_2000 (CC BY-NC 2.0)

In a few days, I embark on my fourth semester of library school. It will have been a full year since I started my first days of MLIS work and I am much more comfortable with conducting the rituals and following the regulations on an instinctive level. More importantly, I will finally be starting my first official library internship – in this case, working behind the children’s reference desk at a local public library.

It will not be the first time I have worked in a library: the site of some of my fondest memories during the last year of my undergraduate career was the Interlibrary Loan Department at Young Research Library, UCLA. There, I first developed some sense of what it was truly like to work in a library and, while I did not have direct exposure to the responsibilities of a full blown librarian, I acquired enough to have a realistic sense of the work’s characteristics: multifaceted, extremely busy, and inherently grounded in the life of the academic community from the most prestigious professor requesting books from across the globe to the lowliest grunt, as I often was, trundling off to fetch the required titles. Later on, I acquired some amount of public library experience through volunteering, but this upcoming semester’s opportunity is the first real experience I will have in a number of the cornerstones of librarianship; which thus far I have only read and listened to lectures about.

Taking on this internship has required as much strategizing as finding, applying, and receiving it did. When asked about the balance of responsibilities, I chose the route of participating at least once in as many aspects of public librarianship as possible rather than devoting more experience in any particular sector at the cost of another. The beginning of any career is plagued with uncertainty and, while I am aware enough of my own personal preferences to head in the direction of youth services in the public librarianship sector, many of the classes I have taken thus far have emphasized the huge variety of tasks I may be asked to undertake at any given moment. As such, it is best to dip my toes into everything such as the creation of children’s programming, collection development projects, and reference and reader’s advisory in the children’s section, as a head start in any of these vital librarianship duties will make the learning curve that much easier in future employment. Taking on this internship also meant cutting back on my hours at my current site of employment, something that I had also done in summer but not to as quite a noticeable extent when it comes to monetary concerns. It is a rather scary commitment, but I plan on making the most of the plumped up resume that will result from this balancing of give and take; as I would like nothing more than to bridge the current divide between financial stability and veritable career experience and gain an actual library position during my last few semesters of schooling. Times are tough, but I have heard as many horror stories about getting internships as I have about getting a job. With the first one down, it is hard to not have some amount of reasonable hope that the right application at the right time with the right references and the right experiences will get this slowly spinning wheel of library experience of mine going even faster.

For all my words, nothing has officially started yet, so I am sure I will have a great deal more concrete experiences to write about for my post next month, along with far more clarity regarding the balance of school, work, and internships. However, it is indeed both exciting to get this next foot in the door in my career, especially considering the increasing frequency of emails my program has been sending its students about the need for practical experience. To those still waiting on that confirmatory email, I applied for this internship of mine on the day I was rejected from the one I had pinned all my hopes on. So, you never know how quickly the ball will roll in some cases or how amazingly the energy born of reactionary panic and a hint of desperation can bloom when funneled in the right directions. To those who have participated or, like me, are about to participate in a library internship: it is a rather terrifying chance to take, is it not? But oh, how phenomenally it could work out. To those for whom it has worked out: tell us your secrets, pretty please? And to all and every: I wish you the best on the next leg of your MLIS journey, wherever you may be.

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