The Practical Practicum

As I enter my second year (and final, Goddess willing!) of library school, I’m excited for several things happening this semester. I will be the incoming president of our school’s LISSO board, having a hand in welcoming in our newest LIS candidates. A metadata class will be on schedule for me, moving me closer toward attaining my Digital Humanities certification. On top of all of that, I have a fabulous full-time job as a librarian, allowing me to apply the skills I’m learning in real time. 

But the true excitement for me? My practicum assignment.

As you can see, I love keeping a packed schedule – sometimes to my detriment (I’m working on that, just ask my therapist). There are valid reasons for my insanity. You see, I’m a grad student in my forties who is back in school two decades after obtaining my Bachelors. I feel like I have a lot of lost academic time to make up. Also, I just cannot contain the excitement I have about my practicum opportunity with Iowa City Poetry, a literary collective dedicated to the written word and to creating diverse spaces for expression. That said, having a full school load, a full-time job, and a full-time family means that my decisions about how I navigate my scholastic journey have to be based in reality. 

So how did I make a practical decision about choosing my practicum site?

  • Help Faculty Help You – When the initial email calling for practicum sites dropped in my inbox during my last semester, I promptly ignored it. I was knee deep in final projects as well as event planning at my library. I couldn’t bear to think about anything happening months into the future. Instead of deleting the email, I placed it in an Outlook folder labeled School Stuff I Can Worry About After Finals. While I knew I wasn’t ready to think about my practicum plans, I definitely knew I’d have no idea where to start with a search process on my own. If you are unsure of where to pursue your practicum, reach out to faculty and staff for site recommendations.  I remain thankful for that email from the faculty member; once the smoke cleared from my hellish finals week, I was able to see the options with clearer eyes.
  • Research & Reach Out – After seeing that my practicum site was still seeking a grad school worker bee, you’d think I’d agree right on the spot to the gig? Nope. I held my overachiever horses and did some homework – and not just online. Google can only tell you so much about an organization’s missions and goals. I know our ilk aren’t the most outgoing individuals, but this librarian isn’t afraid to reach out and pick a brain (or ten!). After living in my university’s community for over two decades, I’ve made some connections with most of the literary lovers in town. After reaching out to them in person and online, I asked them their thoughts about the intended site: its reputation with antiracism and sexism, its outreach efforts to BIPOC creatives, and any known partnerships with GLAMs (galleries, libraries, archives, and museums). As a cis female Black public librarian in a predominately white location, all of this was of key importance to me for obvious reasons. I was thrilled to find out that the organization’s profile online matched with the human perspectives offline. My decision was made…almost.
  • Who’s In Charge Around Here? – At this point, I was 95% sure this was the practicum site for me. It ticked all of my boxes: woman-run, antiracist, and – of course – all the written words. My final step before declaring an official commitment was connecting to the organization’s director. Meeting with the director of the site was what clinched the deal for me – she was kind, funny, and extroverted (just like me!). She spoke not only lovingly of the organization but of the Board and those working alongside her to support the site. After a tour of what would be my future workspace in the fall, it was settled. I had selected the practicum site of my dreams with full real-world awareness of my boundaries. 

So as the fall semester inches closer to fruition, I look forward to being at my practicum site first thing on the first day of school. I did the proper legwork to make sure I made a solid decision and didn’t sell myself (or my abilities) short. Fall 2022, bring it on!

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Kellee Forkenbrock is an MLIS student at the University of Iowa (May 2023). She also works full time as the Public Services Librarian for the North Liberty Library (North Liberty, Iowa), assisting with the management of part-time staff as well as serving as the community engagement liaison for the library. Kellee has spoken about library outreach and engagement on behalf of organizations such as the Association for Rural & Small Libraries (ARSL),, the Entrepreneurship and Libraries Conference (ELC), and the American Library Association (ALA) Conference. In addition to pursuing her MLIS, Kellee is also in pursuit of a certification in Digital Humanities. Her twenty-plus years of professional experience includes project management, public relations, and multimedia advertising. Kellee is active in her community, having lent her service to the Iowa City Public Library Board of Trustees, Girls on the Run of Eastern Iowa, and currently as an Ambassador for the Iowa City Area Business Partnership. Read more about Kellee on her LinkedIn profile.

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