Student Chelsie Harris Turns Internship into Permanent Position

Community Profile

Student Chelsie Harris worked as a paraprofessional at the San Diego County Library before completing an internship there last summer – gaining the experience and professional connections she needed to land a permanent position at the library in September. Harris is preparing to graduate in spring 2011 and now works full-time in the library’s community relations department.

The San Diego County Library (SDCL) is a large system of 33 branch libraries and two bookmobiles, serving the greater San Diego area. As part of the community relations team, Harris writes a range of outreach material, including news releases and newsletters. She also has the opportunity to work part-time providing reference services at a branch library.

Harris’ writing skills came in handy, as she learned to use those skills in a new way during her INFO 282: Seminar in Library Management course, with a focus on grant writing. When she started the course in fall 2010, “I had no experience with grant writing,” said Harris. The course required Harris to choose a real-world library client and develop a grant proposal for that client to help garner funding. With her wealth of connections at SDCL, the organization was a natural fit for her INFO 282 assignment.

Harris’ grant proposal focused on seeking funding for the library’s foreclosure prevention clinics, offered to a community that has been hit hard by the foreclosure crisis, with an average of 1,200 homeowners in San Diego County receiving a foreclosure notice each month. Clinics bring together legal experts, real estate and mortgage professionals, housing agencies, and translators to provide counseling to the public.

“Not only did the course teach me to apply my writing skills in a new way to help my library expand a high-need program, the course also taught me more about teamwork,” said Harris. While many San José State University School of Information students groan when faced with group projects, Harris’ project reinforced that they are a very common aspect of professional positions. “The project taught me that communication with co-workers is a key part of writing a successful grant proposal,” said Harris. “You can’t write a grant proposal by yourself. You need to gather information from a lot of different people.”

As Harris moved from paraprofessional to intern to librarian, her changing work schedule made her really appreciate the school’s fully online MLIS program. “While online learning required me to be extremely organized and self-motivated, it also allowed me to continue to pursue professional opportunities without the need to put career options on hold while earning my graduate degree,” said Harris.

Harris is a lifelong San Diego resident, who went straight from earning her undergraduate degree in English into the MLIS program. “I started working in a library as an undergraduate, and I fell in love with it,” said Harris. Her goals are to work in a public library, such as SDCL. “I really like what I’m doing now, and I’ve enjoyed exploring so many different aspects of librarianship through my MLIS classes.”

Harris has considered working in reference services or as a children’s librarian. She’s thrilled that her MLIS degree offers her so many career options in an “ever-changing field.” According to Harris, librarianship is an “exciting place to be working” as the field embraces new technology. She’s enjoyed her courses that address how new technology is changing the work done by librarians, and she looks forward to completing her final courses in the coming months.