Since the San José State University (SJSU) School of Information launched its virtual internship program in 2012, numerous students in the Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS), Master of Archives and Records Administration (MARA), and Post-Master’s Certificate programs have taken advantage of the opportunity to gain “real-world learning” in an online environment. The virtual internship opportunities expose students to incredibly diverse projects and learning experiences, from analyzing data to community building and everything in between.
In addition, virtual interns gain international work experience. In fall 2014, three MLIS students began internships with Librarians Without Borders (LWB), a non-profit dedicated to improving access to information in developing regions of the world. Maryanne Daly-Doran and Alison Peters are interning as communications assistants, and Elisa Aversa as a program assistant, on a community library project in Guatemala that LWB is working on with partner organization Limitless Horizons Ixil.
The three graduate students recently shared their experiences as virtual interns with LWB, highlighting the skills they have gained, which include assisting with research and developing a communications and social media strategy. Peters summarized her experience, saying, “LWB is organized, professional, and interested in what we’re doing as students and how they can add to our skills, but also using the competencies we bring to the internship. It makes for a beautiful relationship.”
Other MLIS students have found virtual internships provided opportunities to gain in-demand skills, such as data analytics and the creation of multimedia tutorials. Michelle Chimento (MLIS 2014) pursued the Information Intermediation and Instruction career pathway as a graduate student at the School of Information, and said the skills she acquired in the virtual internship applied directly to her career goals. Jane Fry (MLIS 2014) found that a virtual internship with Canada’s Data Liberation Initiative would assist her in gaining skills useful for a career as a data librarian.
The possibilities are nearly endless, as internships in museums, libraries, archives, non-profit organizations, and even in Second Life regularly become available to School of Information students interested in gaining new skills in a real-world experience online. According to the iSchool virtual internship web pages, students also strengthen computer and technology skills in all the various internship opportunities, since “they employ technology to communicate with their site supervisor and conduct their work.”
Currently available internships are listed in the iSchool Internship Database, and additional virtual internship opportunities can be found on the school’s Virtual Internship blog. A Pinterest board even provides “50 tips for Virtual Interns” gathered from iSchool student interns to help new interns ensure their experiences are successful.