Student Whitni Watkins Develops Social Media Strategic Plan during Virtual Internship

Community Profile

As a social media intern at the Santa Clara County Library District during the fall 2013 semester, student Whitni Watkins learned how to create and implement a social media strategic plan for a public library.

“I have a keen interest in social media,” Watkins said. “I use it on a daily basis in my personal life. I wanted to expand my knowledge to include organizational use as well.”

Her duties during the virtual internship included posting status updates and responding to patron comments on Facebook. She also managed the library’s Twitter feed, and she analyzed Facebook statistics to understand which strategies were working. Much of Watkins’ time was spent researching best practices and policies for social media use in libraries to support the recommendations she made to library leaders.  

Watkins created a six-month social media plan for the library, and her strategies helped the organization reach its goal of 1,000 Facebook followers. She also developed staff guidelines regarding effective use of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

“I was able to take all of the data I analyzed and compile a formal document for library leaders to use as they build a social media presence,” Watkins said. The experience gave her a greater understanding of how libraries can use social media to accomplish specific goals.

Watkins feels developing the social media strategic plan was the most significant achievement of her internship. She now has concrete and highly sought-after experience to add to her resume.

As a full-time student in the school’s Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) program and a full-time Integrated Library Systems administrator for the University Libraries at the University of California, Riverside, Watkins needed the convenience and flexibility of a virtual internship. She said self-motivation, communication and passion for the internship are three keys to success for those considering a virtual internship.

Watkins became interested in library and information science while a student assistant at the Von Canon Library of Southern Virginia University, where she earned a bachelor’s in history and philosophy.

“As a type-A personality, the organization that exists in a library was soothing,” she said. “I am also a very social person, so the interaction with patrons was also enjoyable.”

Her supervisor encouraged her to pursue an MLIS degree. Watkins selected the San José State University School of Information because of its reputation as an ALA-accredited leader in graduate education. She began the program in fall 2011, and plans to graduate in spring 2014.

When choosing her electives, she has focused primarily on courses that explore Web technology.

After graduation, Watkins plans to continue working in positions that involve managing the technical aspects of library services. “My current position at UC-Riverside is very close to what I want to continue to do in the field,” Watkins said, “but with more focus on Web design and coding.”

Influential Classes and Instructors

  • INFO 244 Online Searching with Amelia Kassel: “This course taught me search-building skills that I use every day. It taught me how to break subjects down to their simplest elements and build them up to form precise and complex search strings.”
  • INFO 240 Information Technology Tools & Applications with Heather Ebey: “I built my first full website in this course, and my interest in coding and Web design was further piqued by taking it.”
  • INFO 246 Web 2.0 with Lori Bell: “This course focused on the interaction and collaboration of patrons and their libraries. It was a well-rounded introduction to the way libraries can interact with their patrons and vice versa.”

Career Tip

“Just do it. If you find a position you are interested in but may not completely qualify for, apply anyway. The worst thing that can happen is that you don’t get it. Of course, you definitely won’t get the job if you don’t apply.”

Tech Tip

“Back up anything important on a hard drive, external hard drive and cloud drive.”

Professional Affiliations

American Library Association; Library Leadership and Management Association (LLAMA); Library Information Technology Association (LITA); Code4Lib, a volunteer network of library, archives and museum programmers sharing ideas.

Best Conference

ALA 2012

Favorite Blog 

“David Lee King at I enjoy his lighthearted writing style and the topics he discusses, including social Web, emerging trends and libraries.”