While preparing for the end of my MLIS program and trying to figure out my next steps recently, I have to admit that I observed something interesting. As I have actively tried to locate and apply for internships I can complete for credit while still in graduate school over recent months, I have realized that, after graduation, internships may not be much of an option for me as I look for work and try to keep my resumé current in the meantime. To elaborate, while there are many internships available for students to take advantage of while they complete their degrees on both the undergraduate and graduate levels, most of the graduate-level internships out there right now seem to only be available for credit to current students. So, if you are a recent graduate instead of a current student, you likely may be out of luck in getting more professional work experience that way as you apply and interview for paid jobs within the field.
*Cue mild panic*
As Laura Sanders demonstrated back in 2012, library internships can sometimes be a large part of our graduate school experience. So, as someone who is not working by choice so they can finish their program faster and begin working in the field sooner, this realization was a little unsettling for me as I have focused on cultivating a broad skill set to date that I, now, may have difficulty putting into practice after graduation. What am I supposed to do to get more experience in the field if I cannot get hired right away when I graduate next year? How can I continue to cultivate my skill set if I am not able to put it to use? A quick search for “not for credit library internships” within popular search engines and my department’s internship database show that, outside of a small collection of institutions, not-for-credit graduate-level internships seem almost nonexistent for someone in my position to pursue. As evidenced by a 2008 article published by the American Library Association, internships are a great way for current students and recent graduates to get relevant on-the-job experience to elevate their skill sets and resumés as they can provide them with a lot of great benefits during their predetermined short terms. However, how are we supposed to take advantage of these benefits if they are not available to some of us who may benefit from them? How are we supposed to get the experience we need if there are hardly any internship programs that will serve us after graduation; especially as we continue to grapple with the new reality COVID-19 has presented us with?
Now, I acknowledge that internships, regardless if they are offered for credit or not-for-credit, need funding and other resources to be operational; and in times like these, said resources are stretched even further than they usually are. I was actually turned away from a for-credit internship program earlier this year because the pandemic had caused that internship site, among others, to reroute their available resources to more critical organizational needs as we all try to navigate our new sense of what is normal. So, that is a reality I am more than aware of. But, I still wonder why not-for-credit internships were not a part of the larger discussion before the COVID-19 pandemic started overwhelming our lives. As more and more students graduate from library schools every year, there is observably, likely a need for these internships from at least a portion of these recent graduates who may not be able to assume a regular paid library position right away for a variety of reasons; but still need more work experience to become eligible to apply for more paid library positions, alternative LIS careers notwithstanding.
So, why have not-for-credit internships not previously been more of a rule instead of an exception like for-credit internships are? While I admit there may be more not-for-credit internships available to current library students and recent graduates than my research has demonstrated so far as things are always subject to change without notice; the findings I have gathered do not make me very enthusiastic about what my likely unpaid work options may be after I graduate and navigate the currently unpredictable, ultra-competitive job market. Since these internships can allow institutions to receive support while affording recent graduates the opportunity to gain work experience, they definitely have merit; even if they do not provide a paycheck (which is honestly a huge bonus).
However, I refuse to get discouraged. Since I know there are some internship sites who do offer not-for-credit internships already, I will try to remain optimistic and hopeful that more not-for-credit internship sites may be out there after the pandemic subsides as I remain hopeful it will sooner rather than later. Also, I acknowledge that more virtual volunteer and internship opportunities may become available as we continue to adapt to our new ways of life. In the meantime, I will be grateful for the unpaid virtual internship I am in the process of securing for later this year and continue to look for more not-for-credit post-graduate opportunities that I can pursue after graduation next year. At this point, that seems to be my only option.
If you know of any not-for-credit library internships, feel free to share them in the comments section!