Public or academic librarianship? That is the question. Often students participate in a variety of internships during the MLIS program, to gain experience in different library settings and get an idea of what a workplace environment will be like. Jenny Yap is one of those students.
For Yap, the inspiration to obtain an MLIS came after she met a librarian who absolutely loved her job and regaled Yap with stories from the front lines. Even though Yap had always loved libraries, dating back to her youth and the local branch, up to that point it had simply never occurred to her to become a librarian. “I’ve always been a fan of the library, even in high school,” Yap says. “I took a class helping the librarian, and it just didn’t occur to me that it could be a career.”
An educator with a background in both academic and public libraries, including teaching after-school science enrichment courses to elementary students, Yap was also a lecturer at California State University, East Bay, teaching developmental and college-level composition classes, and assisting students with information literacy skills. The library connection was right there, waiting for the right light-bulb moment. “As an adjunct, non–tenure track lecturer, I didn’t feel really connected to my school,” she says. “I felt like the library was a good way to get involved with the whole campus and have an impact across all departments.”
So when she started the MLIS, Yap says, “I took a couple of classes that cemented deep down what I know I love doing: working with kids and working with students.”
A Day in the Life of A Busy Intern
In order to help make the decision about which library direction to take postgraduation, Yap participated in multiple internships through the iSchool, leveraging her time and skills across public and academic library positions.
After an internship at Green Branch Library, an Oakland nonprofit, cataloging and working at community events, her inclination was to work in children’s librarianship because of her background working with children. So with her second internship, Yap moved to Castro Valley Library children’s services, where it wasn’t unheard of for storytime to have more than 100 eager participants. “It was super high energy, and a lot of fun,” she says. “When I came out of the internship I realized I really loved this!” Leading storytime, Yap was presented with a microphone, and says she felt like a rockstar. “I remember coming home after a really awesome storytime that I led, and I said—I want to do this!”
Next Yap decided to give academic librarianship a try, since she had experience working on a college campus. She got another internship with Berkeley City College, and she loves it. “I do all the work that a librarian does: staff the reference desk, teach information literacy courses, work with teachers and go into classrooms.” And it’s paid off. Because of her commitment and skill in the role, this summer and fall Yap will be taking over for her supervisor and working at the library full-time, and teaching for-credit classes in information literacy.
Currently, along with finishing the degree program with her e-Portfolio, taking a course in makerspaces and interning at Berkeley City College, Yap is enjoying her fourth internship. Returning to work in a children’s library, this time Yap is working as a special projects intern with the San Francisco Public Library. “I’m working on a special project that I created with my supervisor: looking at ways the children’s center can reach out more to the community and give them what they need.”
During the course of her work, Yap has run into an interesting glitch: there aren’t a lot of children who come to this particular library, located downtown in the area known as the Tenderloin. “The neighborhood is actually really well served by nonprofits,” Yap explains. “There are a ton of after-school programs that are low cost and provide adult supervision, unlike other neighborhoods with no free or low-cost programs. I’m trying to find out how the library can partner with these after-school programs and bring something that the library has to their programs—like our Lego Robotics.”
From Internship to Scholarship to Librarianship
In recognition of her work, through internships and iSchool studies, as well as her commitment to librarianship, Yap was chosen as the recipient of the $1,000 Ruth Finegold Scholarship, awarded to MLIS students in Northern California who would like to pursue a career in public librarianship. “I felt really awesome,” Yap says of winning the award. “I was really honored that I won it for public librarianship.”
At the end of the day, the MLIS degree from the iSchool will afford Yap opportunities to work in both public and academic librarianship. “I love this work,” Yap affirms. “Even from the first semester, every professor I’ve had has said that they love their profession. And then, writing my ePortfolio, Competency A talks about the ethics of the profession, and I think—these are awesome ethics and values. I’m really proud to be in this profession.”