Student Joy Rodriguez Develops Library Resources for Zambian Children during a Virtual Internship

Student Joy Rodriguez went from practicing law to serving orphaned street kids in Zambia, Africa during her Fall 2012 virtual internship with the Lubuto Library Project (LLP), an international organization that provides traditional library and educational services to children and teens in need. As their first intern, Rodriguez helped redesign a key website and provided much needed cataloging work.

During the first two months, Rodriguez worked with a virtual team to redesign the Lubuto Library Special Collections website, which contains digitized copies of out-of-print Zambian stories and reading lessons in seven Zambian languages.

“The reading lessons require software called Etoys,” said Rodriguez, who researched different websites implementing Etoys to find best practices for user interface design that would help improve usability. The team determined the website’s target audience and Rodriguez assisted in renaming the reading lessons, which up to that point were not categorized by title or reading level. She provided her research and recommendations to a project manager, and provided website technical support, collaborating via e-mail, Skype, and shared documents.

Rodriguez started an additional project, expanding and improving the subject index for the Lubuto Library Classification System, which she will continue to work on as a volunteer. “I’m also entering books for them on their online catalog on LibraryWorld,” Rodriguez said.

Her interest in international librarianship was strengthened by the strategic plan she completed, along with three other SLIS students, for a Guatemalan library during a seminar class in International and Comparative Librarianship. “I was interested in examining how libraries in areas without a public library system provide services and contribute to community development,” Rodriguez said.

After attending a Fall 2011 Colloquia presentation by Lubito Library Project president Jane Meyers, Rodriguez decided to apply for a virtual internship with them. “One thing that drew me to Lubuto was their emphasis on community development,” she said. “They do this through programs, such as LubutoArts, LubutoDrama and LubutoMentoring, run by Zambians in local languages. I think that public libraries are ultimately about building community and Lubuto does that very well.”

Though her ideal internship experience would have meant working in Zambia, a virtual internship fit better with Rodriguez’ schedule and family commitments. “Even working in a virtual environment, there are many ways that SLIS students can help Lubuto and learn about international development in the process,” she noted. “They have ongoing needs for students with strong technical skills, such as website design, and/or graphic design skills.”

Introduced to library work during her time in law school, Rodriguez decided to switch careers in order to find a better balance between work and family life. She enrolled at SLIS in Fall 2008 and completed her MLIS in Fall 2012, the same semester she did the virtual internship. Rodriguez hopes to combine her legal background with her interests in international and digital librarianship. Her dream job might include work with copyright law, digital rights management, or digitization projects.

You can learn more about Rodriguez by reading an article that highlights her work as a Research Assistant while enrolled in the MLIS program.