Getting Started in Medical Librarianship – Q & A with Katie Eidem
Published: February 22, 2023 by Hannah Nguyen
Have you been curious about medical librarianship? Medical
libraries fit under the umbrella of special libraries and allow
you to support the medical community by improving access to
critical health and medical information. On any given day, you
might be working with patients, practitioners, students, or the
general public. Although many medical librarians have degrees
related to the medical field, it isn’t a requirement. So how
should you get started?
Gaining experience through an entry-level position or internship helps many information professionals get their foot in the door. I interviewed iSchool student Katie Eidem about her experience interning virtually for the St. Mary Medical Center Bellis Medical Library in Long Beach, CA:
The following Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.
What was the application/interview process like?
I found the internship in the SJSU internship website. I wanted to get medical library experience since I live in Rochester, MN, and we have the Mayo Clinic and its libraries here. I’ve applied there since 2018 but was lacking medical library experience. I had experience copy cataloging and working in archives in the past so I was hoping this internship would help. I emailed Judy, the director of the internship at Bellis, with my cover letter and resume. She responded very quickly, and we had a Zoom interview.
She strongly encouraged me to keep applying at the Mayo Clinic and offered to help me by doing mock interviews and introducing me to other medical librarians such as the library director at Mayo. Right before I started my internship with Judy, I was offered a job as a copy cataloger at Mayo Clinic so this internship and the mock interviews helped even before I actually started the semester.
What kind of tasks or projects did you work on?
I did copy cataloging virtually. There were other interns that were in person and taking photos of the print books and entering in each book’s metadata into a Google spreadsheet. From there I would use that data and work with WorldCat to enter the data into Cybertools for libraries to copy catalog. I made sure to add appropriate subject headings and Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) to the books, so they are easily accessible and searchable. I also worked on LibGuides for the Health Equity pages and for Covid info and research.
What was your overall experience?
I learned so much from Judy. She really was a one-woman show in her medical library. She really relied on interns as she didn’t have any other staff to help her. I thought it was a great experience especially since I felt she helped me get an “in” at my current position and gain experience using LibGuides.
Tip for an Entry-Level Interview
It can be intimidating walking into an interview when you have little to no experience, but internship coordinators are aware of where you’re coming from. It is important to assess your experience and highlight where you have transferable skills. Maybe you’ve never worked at a reference desk, but you have experience at a call center. Or maybe you’ve never worked in a medical library, but you have experience handling sensitive information. Come to your interview prepared so that your interviewer can visualize you in the position.
- Learn more about medical librarianship and recommended classes at the iSchool here!
- A little encouragement for job hunters – why you are the best candidate!
Two More Things…
Here are a few opportunities that might be of interest!
- Hospital Librarian intern – St. Mary Medical Center Bellis Medical Library
- Library Assistant III – Circulation – Western University of Health Sciences, Pomona, CA
Remember that internships can be an especially valuable part of your learning experience at the iSchool while also helping you when it comes time to look for jobs. Learn more about the iSchool’s internship program here, where you can check out the INFO 294 Student Handbook as well as the Internship Sites database.